Hotdog camping at Dickenson Gap [mile 645.3; mpd 8.49]
The night before I head out again is always slightly terrifying. Back into the rough unknown. And I never sleep very well… but that could be the coffee, which has become a hardcore town treat, now that I’m stoveless. I drink a lot of coffee in town. Including this morning, on the way out.
Yesterday I finally met a pair of German hikers I’ve been hearing about in passing. I recognized them because I had an on-trail chat about packs with one of them, the sister, a couple of days ago. There are a lot of Germans on the trail, but this pair, brother and sister, have great trail names. Hers is Mufasa something (which, having never seen anything related to The Lion King, I’ll never remember—but she translated it as ‘Take It Easy’). And his is… Stinky Feet! LOL! But he said he got new boots, so maybe a change is in order.
Take It Easy and Stinky Feet were at Trail Days, but they weren’t at the parade. Glad they’re OK! (Rainbow Bright from Day 46 was trapped under the car; but she’s been released with nothing worse than a broken toe. I’ve seen a picture of her and she looks great—happy and healthy. I heard from another hiker today that she’s sidelined for 4 to 6 weeks while the bone heals. Then she’ll rejoin her friends and hike to Katahdin, then flip-flop back down to take care of the bits she missed. Good luck, Rainbow Bright!)
Wonder of wonders, yesterday I also managed to eat until I felt utterly full. That’s kind of a miracle. I’m never really hungry, but when I’m eating, the shut-off valve seems to have been disabled.
Got my resupply done, and once again I have too much food! Damnit! I’m still resupplying as though I were going shelter to shelter—8-mile days—like at the beginning. In other words, I’m buying about twice as much food as I need. And I have to carry it uphill out of town, and I’m miserable for two to three days. I wonder if I can go all the way to Waynesboro with only a couple of top-offs? That would be outstanding.
I heard the next leg is tough. Uphill and very rocky. I’m hoping that’s an exaggeration.
I got up early and got hopping. The first part of the morning was interesting. The trail was a narrow band between two banks of crazy weeds—and I mean narrow. Last night it rained so hard that there was a flood warning; all that weedy foliage was heavy and saturated and hung right into the trail. But the real problem was the poison ivy. Dear gods, it was everywhere. With the trail being only a few inches wide in spots,walking required a lot of concentration. There was even one spot where a grandmother mean-green was hanging down like a curtain, while both sides of the trail were choked with the ground-cover type. If you avoided one, you’d walk right into the other. I used a stick to nudge the vine out of the way.
Then came a roadwalk over a long bridge, and I ran into Son Driven. Haven’t seen him since the first week! He posted a bit on WhiteBlaze. We started hiking the same day.
A ton of hikers passed me today. Had to be twenty or so. Most were strangers. That puzzled me a little. If they were Trail Days hikers, they would have passed me before. Then I realized they’re probably the last big bubble, catching up to me.
Early in the day, Pathfinder, Blackhawk, a hiker named Violet, and Sparky and Orange Peel went flying by. They were doing a slackpack and had to get 20 miles in. Later in the day I saw the other Sparky; he took two days off trail because of shin splints.
So. The morning was hot, humid, and overcast—not a bad combination, actually. There was water for the first mile of forest, then boom! No more water for miles. That was bad. But it would have been worse if it had been sunny.
The morning forest was just that: forest. The ground was rocky but green with ferns uncurling. Boston ferns. Asparagus-looking ferns. They made the place feel primordial—which was perfect, because I almost stepped on snake number two!
That forest was a long, long climb. With the food weight, my feet were actually killing me after only five miles.
When I hit the ridgeline, a fog blew in. That was interesting, because yesterday I was watching The Mist on TV, and I kept waiting for giant monsters to fly at me.
Speaking of flying monsters, Virginia isn’t for lovers. It’s for freaking bugs! Especially flies! I’m sure that’ll get worse as the summer wears on.
The fog didn’t linger and the day cleared up. The trail eventually came out of the forest and onto a series of green hills. I saw a frog! Er… toad! It jumped into the brush before I could snap it. Later, after the trail slipped back into the forest, I spotted a 4-inch millipede. I hear they keep getting longer. That was the longest one yet, though.
My original plan was to try for 15 miles (16 if you include the town walk up to the trail), but I knew by lunchtime that I wasn’t going to be able to make more than 12. My feet were just too sore. The Guide listed a couple of campsites at around 12 miles, so I decided to settle for one of those.
Don’t you know, they never came. That or I missed them. I was doing a rocky ridgewalk along a dragon’s back, and there was literally no place to camp. I was ready to cry. Where the hell were those sites? Then I came across a sign and realized I’d gone farther than I’d intended, by 2 or 3 full miles.
Down a steep hill were some flattish-looking spots, so I bushwacked myself down there and hunted for a place to pitch my tent. And I found a turtle shell! No turtle in it. I took it as the other kind of sign, and pitched my tent right there.
This is my least favorite way to camp. The area seems ivy-free, which is good. But I’m no Grizzly Adams. I like it when people are around. At the campsites listed in the book, at least there’s a chance somebody else will come. When you just go into the woods, you’re alone. It’s scary and creepy. Glad I have earplugs.
I decided to call this ‘hotdog camping.’ It’s not really cowboy camping, which would be tentless under he stars. Not that I’m anticipating many stars tonight. It’s thundering in the distance!
But my feet are so happy to be horizontal!