Daily Archives: May 17, 2013

Day 73: Record breaking

Pearisburg [mile 630.4; mpd 8.64]

Here’s my new dilemma: I hate sleeping on plastic when it’s sweaty-hot out. Before now I always had on my thermasilks. It’s too hot for those now, and my skin is touching the air mattress. Yuck. I also don’t like the feel of the sleeping bag on my skin, nor the silk sleeping bag liner. It all makes me feel like I’m wrapped up in a shower curtain. I’ll have to play around. It’s going to be a long summer, thankfully; might as well get it right!

I was up and out by 7:05. Somebody told me the terrain was easy all the way to Pearisburg. They lied! But more on that later. First, let me say, today was one of those days in which I made a bad mistake. I was concentrating so hard on miles to Pearisburg and where to camp and when to camp that I was halfway up the morning’s mountain, having sucked down half my water as I panted in the heat, when I checked and realized there was no more water for 8 miles. I had 24 ounces of water and I had to stretch it for 8 miles.

That was tough.

The first stage of the morning was through a great swathe of forest where the trees are apparently late-leafers. I could see the tiny leaves just sprouting, but they were babies. Not enough to provide any shade. Thank gods I had plenty of water. Oh, right. I didn’t.

After that, the trail got creepy. It passed through a 2- or 3-mile stretch of burned-out forest near Big Horse Gap and Sugar Run Gap. It felt like Mordor. I thought I smelled a hint of old fire, but that could have been my imagination. The only thing poking up from that blight were little fernlings, and they were only in a couple of areas. I want to know who started that fire. I want to know how the firefighters were able to contain it. I want to know how long ago it happened. This winter? Last year? I hope it was an intentional burn rather than a campfire accident. The forest was so scarred. Will it come back? I imagine it will… but what devastation.

Beyond that came a rocky stretch then a road crossing with trail magic! A box of candy bars left on the stairs up to the next section. Only on the AT do you find food by the side of the road and dig in gratefully and without reservation. 🙂 But you can tell it’s Trail Days weekend. The last three days have had trail magic, and in every case the treats were hardly touched; most hikers are down in Damascus.

I had lunch at Doc’s Knob Shelter. There was a hiker named Slacks there; he wears a pair of dress slacks that look like wool. LOL. Slacks tented near Wapiti last night and came face to face with a bear; it nosed around his tent for two hours. Scary.

Slacks was pretty much the only hiker I saw all day. The trail feels so deserted!

After lunch came decision time. I already had hamburger feet. To get all the way into Pearisburg would have meant a total of 18.2 miles, plus a mile to get to a motel—19.2 miles. I decided I’d just go 13, maybe 15, then camp and do the rest in the morning. But you know, once I got within 4 miles, the thought of a shower and bed and clean laundry were just too much. I booked it for town!

And I made it!

My feet are screaming, but here I am. Emperor and another hiker are here (shin splints). The Holiday Lodge is great. Sure, people live here; but it’s clean and well maintained and has a laundry room. And it’s home for the next two days while my feet heal up! (And thank gods they had a room; the proprietor said they’re usually always booked, and if it weren’t Trail Days, I’d have been out of luck. Have to keep that in mind going forward.)

Plus there’s a Food Lion across the street. That’s a great market. And there’s a microwave; I wonder if I can make a sort-of-baked potato in it?

I’m so happy to be out of the buggy, thundery, rainy woods at the moment! My hundred-mile reward. 🙂 Whatever gets the miles done!







Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 7 Comments

Day 72: Snakes on a plane

Wapiti Shelter [mile 613.2; mpd 8.52]

Aside: The first time I heard the word wapiti was in the eighties. I’d recently gotten a job in publishing, and one of the editors had a book on his shelf: Farming Red Deer and Wapiti. I laughed! Wapiti! Wapiti? And here I am at Wapiti Shelter, and the word still makes me giggle. Woppity.

Anyhoo. It was another dry overnight—not even a drop of condensation on the footprint. That’s what I like to see! Got packed up early and said goodbye to Jenny Knob. There was only Mouse there. It feels so odd to see a shelter with one inhabitant. The other night at Partnership there must have been twenty. And back on the day… you remember. Thirty people, easy (including the tents)!

I hit the trail at 7:05. It was a weedy morning, and overcast. The floor was dirt for the most part, with patches of rocky areas, and, of course, the day started with a climb.

Poison ivy was everywhere. Great granny plants with fangs and bony fingers, little baby plants lying in wait and pretending to be harmless, whole jungles of it flanking the summer-narrow trail to brush your legs or poles.

The plan was to get to Trent’s by 11 and have lunch there. But guess what? On the way to Trent’s, on a long weedy section of trail with not enough white blazes, I almost stepped on a snake. A snake!

I know the AT is classified as rain forest or somesuch, and I know I see turtles in Pennsylvania (which also always makes me laugh, for some reason; I just don’t think of Pennsylvania as the wild turtle capital of the world); and I know there are snakes all over the AT. I just figured they were like ponies—mythical and invisible.


It was four feet long and nearly as thick as my wrist. A big black snake meandering across the trail.

How cool is that?

I don’t think there are any poisonous black snakes in the US, or this part of it, anyway. (Edited to add: Another hiker told me it could have been a water moccasin, which makes perfect sense given that we were within a mile of a river. Oops.) It wasn’t molting or angry-looking. Still, I couldn’t walk around it—voluminous poison ivy on both sides. So I stuck my pole near the middle of the trail and sproinged, pole vault style, over it. Tada!

Trent’s was a tiny hole in the wall with a grill—kind of like a 7-11 with two little tables on one side. The store had three aisles: hardware, camping stuff, and fishing supplies. I stocked up on two days’ worth of candy and chips (my food bag is almost empty, so for once I can afford to carry some snack weight) and ate a cheeseburger, fries, and an excellent vanilla milkshake. There might even have been some milk in it. 🙂

For the afternoon, the trail was like a trip to Florida: creeks, waterfalls, and rhododendrons. Well… I don’t think they have rhododendrons on Florida, do they? But the whole atmosphere was warm and succulent and tropical and shadowed. Alligator country! (And very little poison ivy in that section.)

Today’s theme might have been bridges. There were foot bridges everywhere! Yesterday’s water issues weren’t a problem today. I even had to cross a suspension bridge over a river. It wobbled and rolled and twitched with every step. Actually, that bridge made me much more nervous than the poor snake.

At the end of the day, I had another dilemma. If I’d had phone service, I might have called somebody, lol. The dilemma was this: Pearisburg is at mile 631. Do I stop at Wapiti? Or do I try to go on past and make it to Pearisburg tomorrow night? In the end, I decided I’m just not familiar enough yet with stealth camping in Virginia. If I was sure I could find a site, I’d have pushed on. But a big hill is coming, which means I might be on a shelf again, if I were lucky. I decided to get up ridiculously early tomorrow. I’ll plan to stealth camp within 5 miles of Pearisburg, and if I can’t find a poison ivy–free site, well, at least the end of the road at that point is town, rather than an emergency shelf. Although it would be an 18-mile day, and I’d be near death (or feeling like it!)

So here I am. Woppity!

I think it’s going to rain tonight or tomorrow, maybe even thunder—the kind of thunderstorm that breaks the back of a heat wave. We’ll see.






Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 19 Comments

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