Near a pond [mile 478.7]
Here’s the simple math. A 6-month thru-hike requires a miles-per-day (mpd) average of 12. A 7-month hike requires an mpd of 9.
Miles per day = Current mileage divided by current day
So right now, my overall mpd is 7.98. That wouldn’t be enough to get me to Katahdin—-except that that includes all those snow zeroes (sneroes!) I had to take at the beginning. Now that I have my trail legs and the worst of the winter weather has passed, I’m doing well above my early average. All I need to do is get that mpd up past 9, and I’m looking at a 10/7 finish, more or less. If I can get it to 10, even better: that would be a late September finish. And 11 would be mid-September.
I should have it up past 9 by the next big town, Pearisburg. Look at it this way. When I left Damascus my mpd was 7.91. One short day later, and it’s crept up. I’m thinking things are looking good, trail willing.
OK! Enough of that boring crap! On to the hiking!
I love Virginia, and not just because it was my mom’s name. The trail was so pretty today! Just the kind of beauty I most appreciate: red pine needles, soft green rocks, and water: waterfalls, creeks, brooks and little bridges. The trail climbed quite a bit, as it usually does coming up out of town, but I’m not so worried about the pace anymore, so I just take it slow.
The weather, on the other hand, sucked. Well… not as much as it’s going to suck tomorrow, with more torrential rain in the forecast. But it was cold, gray, and blustery. The wind has roared all day.
Leaving town this morning I ran into Pathfinder. She was the one who gave me the Pringles trail magic when she, Headbones, and OB (‘Old and Busted’; and here I thought he was a gynecologist) did the southbound slackpack at Big Hump. We had a great chat. She also changed packs in Damascus, from a ULA to her old Osprey. We commiserated about having to feel out whether the new setup was working. Headbones and OB are now a day ahead of her.
Later when I stopped for lunch, Gus the dog and his person Sticks passed me. They were in the Coach tribe, but the rest of the tribe is a day ahead of him now. Damas us seems to have done that to a pot of people—-stripped away their groups, at least for a while.
I also ran into 50/50, one of my favorite hikers. He was doing a SOBO slackpack and is already past Mt. Rogers. His knees are really bothering him. I hope it’s just the cold front moving in.
I saw a few other hikers, but mostly the trail seemed populated by dayhikers. That’s nice to see. Beautiful area, relatively warm weather… it’s great to see people of all ages and shapes and sizes out taking a walk. Interesting to note: Up north, dayhikers rarely have trekkng poles. Down here, they’re nearly de rigeur.
I had one incident. I’d been looking for a spot for my 2 PM foot dangle and spotted a nice flat rock about 6 feet ip the hillside to the left of the trail. I checked meticulously for poison ivy and spiders, then climbed up and plonked myself. I unhitched the pack, and boom! It slid off the rock behind me… into a patch of poison ivy.
I froze. I touched nothing and reevaluated. No, there was no poison ivy in front. I wasn’t sitting in it, my sticks weren’t laying in it. And in fact, neither was the pack. It had fallen near three small plants that were an offshoot of a patch farther up the hill.
Nothing to be done about it. Where I think the pack made contact was mostly the pack cover, and hopefully that contact was minimal. I’ve got one small packet of Tecnu in case I get some spots. But maybe I dodged the bullet. I’ll know in two or three days. It was a lesson learned, though. Gotta remember to start watching out for the summer menaces, too.
I made some errors in Damascus. For some reason I was really behind the ball there. I forgot to get tent stakes. I forgot to get trash bags. And I just found a tear in my compactor bag/pack liner that’s going to require some logistical alterations given the coming rain.
Now… the pack! The pack seems OK. But it’s hard to judge because I have SO MUCH FOOD. It’s not biting into my collar bones anymore, but it still hurts my shoulder blades; that’s because of the weight of the pack and because with the slightly smaller volume I had to put the tent outside again, which is part of the problem. I think it’ll be fine, but I won’t know until I eat away some of this weight.
So. New pack. New shoes and socks and insoles. New pants and new shorts. New sleeping mat. New phone charger. That’s a whole lotta new for me. I like my stuff to be stodgy and comfortable. 😉
So I stopped after 12 miles to rest and recover. I’m mostly concerned about the mat, to tell you the truth. Up til now I’ve been using a down mat with an R-value of 6 (good down to 0 or colder). The mat I have now only has an R-value of 3. And it’s still freezing cold at night! We’ll see how it goes.
Oh, I screwed up my geography. Mt. Rogers wasn’t today. It’s tomorrow! In the rain! Highest point in Virginia—-up around 5500 feet, I think. I’ll be glad to get that over with!
And here’s a picture of my last morning at the Lazy Fox, with Miss Ginny and her grandaughter. Plus the usual pics from the day.