The dog ate your what?!?

Hey, whats up everybody. I have to make this fast because we have a ride out of town in an hour. This section of trail has been incredible. Stormy and wet for a portion — how long, I can’t really say as I forget the bad quickly (a must when adventuring in the wild)  —  but the views have been stunning. I’ll post the photos and writeup in a few days when we get to Front Royal.

Yesterday was one of the most draining days I’ve had on trail (off trail actually). It started out well, really well in fact. We woke at 4:30am and climbed to the top of Hawksbill Mountain to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful of course, but heavy cloud cover from the previous days storms obscured most of the color.

We then hiked 14miles as fast as we could to make it into Luray before the Post Office closed at 4:30pm. The rush was exciting and made me feel like a thru-hiker again. Actually going somewhere and with purpose! It was awesome, but then the world dropped out from under me.

We made it into town with time to spare only to find my package had not arrived. I had it forwarded from Harpers Ferry and someone did not cross out the old barcode. Tracking indicates it left Harpers Ferry only to return days later. Its out there in the world somewhere right now. Hopefully, it will arrive Monday where it will be forwarded, again, to Harpers Ferry.

We walked from the post office to a little hostel. We arrived – tired, starving, and stinking – to find the owner not at home. A guest let us in where we sat talking for an hour before the owner arrived. She said she would drive us to food after she made a shuttle run.

We showered leaving our bags on the bag porch. We planned to camp (we’re poor), but were waiting for a storm to pass to set up our tent. I called my brother. Firecracker went to get something out of her bag.

“Kodak, get your bag off the porch, NOW.”

“I’ll call you back in a minute bro.”

Firecracker comes walking through the house carrying her bag. Her tent is out of the stuff sack and in her hand. I follow suit bringing my stuff to the front porch.

“What happened?”

“The dog ate my tent.”

Earlier, the dog was acting up so the owner put it out on the back porch. It chewed on my hat and, yeah, it shredded her home. The dog was a pain. Soaking wet from the rain, it jumped on us every time we went outside. Not something I wanted to deal with in my condition but, whatever. I like dogs; even bad ones.

The owner of the hostel dealt with the situation as best she could. We were assured immediately that we would be compensated and she let us stay for free (inside in a real bed). Then, this morning, the two worked it out with the owner handing Firecracker cash for the online price of the tent.

As for how to continue, my mom is sending my old tent to Front Royal where we’ll pick it up (hopefully) on Tuesday. We’ll shelter hop and cram in my tiny tent until we get there.

Was this my worst day yet? Probably not, but being tired, STARVING, and so chaffed that even sitting hurt is enough to make even the smallest problem worth going home over. Our group early in the hike adopted HALT as a motto for a reason. Halt and examine your situation: are you Hungry, Anxious or Angry, Lonely, or Tired. If you understand the reason behind overwhelming emotions, they are much easier to handle. It’s incredible how many problems can be solved with food or sleep alone.

Moral of the story? Be vary careful around dogs —— The chair just collapsed on me!!!! It’s time to go. Anyway, don’t give up without careful consideration of your current circumstances. Eat. Chug water. Talk to friends. Call friends and family back home (have trusted people back home that you can rely on to urge you to continue hiking. DO NOT call someone that will welcome you home too quickly).  Sleep. So many problems disappear with food, rest, and sleep. Don’t make quitting a spontaneous decision you’ll later regret.

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Day 35: How We Handle Rain on the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail: Day #35

Bald Mountain Shelter –> Big Bald: -1.2 miles

Total AT Miles: 324.1

Rain drops onto the tin roof as we sleep adding ambient noise that drowns out the twisting, turning, snoring people packed into an Appalachian Trail shelter on a rain day. I wake feeling rested but not ready to face the day.

“Want to zero and watch a movie?!!”

“Duh.”

We lay around the shelter watching the diehards don their wetsuits. They voice their anger at mother nature and curse their ill fortune. The stoic slip silently away into the dreary day.

By evening, the rain has passed and the sky has cleared. Our heads are now fuzzy from a break in routine. It is hard to stay in one place when you are used to moving somewhere new everyday.

Two of our group move on down the trail. The rest of us backtrack to watch the sun set from the top of the bald. I take my pack planning to sleep up there.

The top turns out too cold and windy for a proper nights sleep. I watch the sun sink below the horizon in a dazzling display of stunning colors with my friends. Then, I retreat a bit towards the shelter and a covered rock with a built in fireplace.

Dinner cooks in the coals of a crevice through the rock. The full moon floats above the overhanging boulder. I play with long exposures. Resting the camera on a rock, I set the shutter speed to 30seconds. The two-second self-timer ticks away tripping the shutter. I paint the boulder with my headlamp for ten seconds then I sit beside the fire and flash my face with the camera on my phone freezing my digital, almost ghostly, image.

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Mountain Goat journaling in the shelter while rain falls outside.
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The Big Bald Shelter on a dreary, rainy morning.
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Dr. Kool-Aid’s Zpack tent.
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My TarpTent Moment. It’s been home for ten months now and still going strong.
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Further journaling by Mountain Goat.

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Finch updates her journal as well.
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My Shadow playing in the mud outside the shelter.
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Really glad we’re not walking today…
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Until we do. Hiking to the top of the Bald, Dr. Kool-Aid walks the blazes a little too literally.
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Exiting the forest into the lower bald.
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Someone decided it would be fun to camp on top. Going to be a cold night albeit a beautiful one!
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The sun setting atop Big Bald.

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Cooking rice and beans in the crevice of a rock. 
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A hole in the back creates a perfect fireplace acting as chimney to draw away the smoke.

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Sitting beside the fire after dinner playing with long exposures. I really wish I had a tripod!
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The full moon behind the rock ledge where I sleep.

 

 

 

Day 34: Making Miles and Blazes

Appalachian Trail: Day #34

Shelton Gravesite –> Bald Mountain Shelter: 21.7 miles

Total AT Miles: 325.3

(Current Whereabouts: Pearisburg, VA @ Mile 634.6)

Yesterdays funk cleared making today all about the miles. I hike fast but still stop for photos and to meet new folks.

I met Breezy at the Shelton Graves campsite. She began hiking Sobo (southbound) last year and had to get off trail for a while due to fractured feet. Ouch!

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The trail crosses this road and climbs the stairs over the barbed wire fence.

Messages from the trail.

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I found this bag hanging in a tree. Trail magic oreos!!!
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Making a white blaze!
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A trail maintenance crew.

The trail crew behind the oreo magic. Thanks guys!

The Appalachian Trail winding through the countryside.

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Dr. Kool-Aid left me a note so I’d know where they were headed. I love trail notes!

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Signs on shelters direct us to water and privies; the only things we need in life!

The trail crosses the road next to the Tennessee welcome center then heads back into the woods. Welcome to Tennessee! We’ve been walking it’s border with North Carolina for a while now.

I run into Dr. Kool-Aid again up on the hill. What’s up buddy! Long time no see.

We see this shack down a muddy road. Curiosity draws us closer and we take some photos. After walking back up the hill, and sitting to catch our breath, we ponder what we were thinking…

 

Views and poo?! I’m not sure of my obsession with poo photos… maybe someone can tell me what it is.

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Walking up Big Bald on a cloudy, threatening day.

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Thankfully, the weather is kind once more and we only deal with occasional bouts of drizzle.

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The trail winds off Big Bald and through the odd shaped bald below.

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Blazes on posts.
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Clouds cowering in the sky. Can clouds cower?! For alliterations sake, eh?

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We arrive at the shelter at dark and I sleep like someone who hiked 22 miles!

Day 33: Rocks that Speak

Appalachian Trail: Day #33

Jerry Cabin Shelter –> Shelton Gravesite: 3.5 miles

Total AT Miles: 303.6

(Current Location: Pearisburg, Va – 634.6 miles)

I walk through the woods in a daze when I stumble upon rocks that are the ground we walk on. A white patch of clean granite(?) looks like a blaze. I know the trail leads on but I wander up the slick rock anyway to find an overlook not marked on the map. I drop my pack as a voice as cold and distant as the mountains yonder beckons me to stay. I think of another hiker who says the trees commune with and guide her. I stay.

I know the voice is my own mind, an instinct or my subconscious, yet I ponder why it would speak to me though the rocks and not directly. Perhaps it knew I may not listen. I am attuned to myself though my mind still wanders. I do not always listen.

I find a nook in the rock to fit my butt. I sit, crossing my legs, and I breathe. I become aware of birds fluttering and chattering in the trees surrounding me. I hear the sounds of civilization in the valley far below.

When my mind stills, I dredge up the thoughts that plague my mind. I inhale them to the top of my conscious then, on the exhale, release them into the world. After a few rounds of breathe my body tingles. I am no longer troubled. I am fully in the moment.

Hours later after meeting many hikers stopping for the view as well, the rocks speak to me again. With urgency, they tell me it is time to go. I previously planned to stay cowboy-camping in this beautiful place. I listen once more and I walk.

It is late, an hour from dark. I see smoke rising through the trees. A drizzle begins to fall. I thought I would hike on until dark but whatever this voice is, obviously not the rocks, guides me to the camp. I walk up the path to Shelton Graves and meet a south-bound hiker. She built a bonfire. I cowboy camp here and we talk into the night around the warmth of the blaze.

Morning in the camping area at the Jerry Cabin Shelter. I lay around my tent. Dr. Kool-Aid joins me for coffee.

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We walk through open fields of red plants and still lifeless trees.

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The rocks that spoke to me.
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Lino, a thru-hiker from California(?). His family is from El Salvador.
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Kristin, whose trail name is now Arrow, and Firefly. Both thru hiking.
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Sun tea with honey brewing in the sun on this rock.
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Rice and beans for dinner cooked in sun tea. It was the only water I had.
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I cut the hair out of my eyes with my knife.
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Earl Grey!
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Bright Bags who is also from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh!!!
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Stairs holding the slope together in the mud. Imagine this in the rain…

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Day 32: Two Paths Diverged in a wood. I chose the one more trodden.

Appalachian Trail: Day #32

Spring Mountain Shelter –> Jerry Cabin Shelter: 15.4 miles

Total AT Miles: 300.1

(I made the cover of my own blog! There’s a first.)

We wake in the cold with the ground coated in a dusting of icy snow. We walk into the shelter bundled in all of our clothes and we cook a hearty breakfast that should see us through till lunch.

It is hard to leave when your hands are too numb to pack your bag, but we somehow manage. We pass another trail-magic cooler, this one empty as well. Our luck has not been good on the coolers. Then again, it’s the early bird that gets the worm and we are far from early birds.

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Thankfully, the sun arrives in time for lunch. We eat. Then, still bundled in everything we own, we lay down in the sun for a nap.

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We hike on refreshed and rejuvenated. The guidebook mentioned a view.

What we found was an exposed ridge-line making us feel we walked the edge of the Earth.

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The trail presented us with a choice: The AT or a bad-weather blue-blazed trail. This time when two paths diverged in a wood, we chose the one more trodden.

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The trail is certainly treacherous here. One wrong step and you’re falling a very long way.

Dr. Kool-Aid and myself stop for some fun with photography, staging our own little photo shoot.

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The trail continues along the rocky ridgeline.

Sometimes climbing straight down.

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Dr. Kool-Aid and I hike on into the sunset, arriving at the Jerry Cabin Shelter with just enough light to set up our tents. We fire up our stoves in the dark, both of us starving. I opt for mac n’ cheese. My go-to. Then we crash, exhausted from a long (for us) day.

 

 

 

Day 31: Goodbye Hot Springs

 

Appalachian Trail: Day #31

Hot Springs, North Carolina –> Spring Mountain Shelter: 11 miles

Total AT Miles: 284.7

Morning in the Laughing Heart Hostel on our final day in Hot Springs is a depressing, stressful time. At least before the walking begins. But I always feel like this during the transition between stationary and moving. And it always passes once my pack is swung onto my back or my leg over the bar of my bike.

I cook breakfast for myself, Orion, and Bahala Nah whose birthday is today. I scramble another dozen eggs while the spaghetti ingredients – onion, sausage, and tomato – cook. I fry the eggs and add the filling. To top the omelettes, I add leftover spaghetti sauce made by Orion last night and as much parmigiana as I dare. Delicious, filling, and fun to make. I miss cooking on a “real” stove.

Orion leaves heading up the trail. I spend a while longer working on the blog then walk out of town myself ending the anxiety of the morning. My pack is heavy and the walk is a bit of an uphill slog. We make it to camp before dark just in time for snow to fall.

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Orion made spaghetti dinner for us last night so I cooked breakfast.
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Orion enjoying his omelette.
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Appalachian Trail: Maine to Georgia!
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The hallway of the Laughing Heart Hostel.
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Tie of the Laughing Heart Hostel and her touring bike that a tired tourer practically gave to her. Somebody was tired of bike touring 😦
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These guys are stocking the stream in Hot Springs with trout.
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Flying fish!
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Lindsay and Patrice are filming for a documentary on female thru-hikers. www,thruATdoc.com
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Linsay and Patrice interviewing Lady Catherine.
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The river flowing through Hot Springs.
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Leaving Hot Springs, the trail turns off the road and follows the river.
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Then climbs a rocky mountain.
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Someone drew this on a tree. Art or Graffiti?
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Little flowers along the trail.
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Dr. Kool-Aid taking in the serenity of this pond on a lunch break.

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A bridge crosses the highway. I
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“Love all. Exclude none.”
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Squeezing water through a Sawyer water filter into the bladder of his pack.
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And time for a back-flush. Water filters clog over time. To clear them out, Dr. Kool-AId simply allows water to flow from the bladder in his pack back through the filter into the dirty water bag.
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This mouse looks so peaceful in his little grave: a hollow of a tree.
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The hollow where the mouse lies to rest.
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The view from a tower on top of a mountain.
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Descending in the wet, windy conditions felt a little sketchy.
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Cherokee Nation Forest.