7 September, Friday: I sat here typing until 11 am (for two hours !!) the Courthouse Cafe in Pearisburg, Virginia after about 350 miles of trail, feeling fine and healthy without foot problems or footwear issues (as long as I keep my toenails trimmed and filed to extinction). I spent last night at the Holy Family Hostel here and am resupplied and ready to go ASAP after an inexpensive breakfast here. Bill is the latest of many very nice people whom I've met on this trip. Jeff, Bob, Richard, Robb & Jacqui are most memorable among the others.
On the latest leg of the trip a 35-pound fawn licked my legs & hands, overnighted with us, and followed three of us hikers for two miles.
My body is holding up well and strengthing now that I've reduced my pack weight to 18 pounds + 15 pounds of food for a week and 7 pounds of water due to drought. (Why doesn't that add up the the 37 pounds that the scale read for the whole thing?) I did have one day of shooting pain from my bad knee (cartlidge removed circa Vietnam) which prompted the radical reduction of weight. No further knee pains since, no lower back pains except fleetingly. The legs are MUCH stronger and I'm hiking 13+ miles a day "easily", especially with MORE food (gorp good) and a short afternoon snooze.
Only one more week of hiking until the 14th and I'm due to meet cousin Cynthia in Waynesboro. She is making her first ever research trip - good timing so I can help her. I have another 93 miles to hike this week, but have been averaging about 13 miles a day "easily", so should not have trouble reaching Troutdale and I-81 by the 14th.
Apparently a brother of one of the Gowdy co-workers will be driving down to his sister's party in late September, so I should be able to make arrangements to meet him for a ride back to Columbia.
25 August, Saturday: Wow.!! Are trekking poles ever worthwhile - not to mention reducing weight. My pack weighed in at 23 pounds here in Damascus, Virginia and I've been able to maintain a brisk walk for several hours at a stretch - yesterday I covered 16 miles (to get to a spring by nightfall for a shower). Thanks, thanks, and thanks again to Robb and Jacqui for the gift of poles. Today's primary objective (now that I've breakfasted, stocked up on food, and collected the package mailed to myself from Kincora) is to buy a new set of hiking sneakers and mail "home" the old boots. I wanted sandals like the Keens that Robb had, but there are none available here. Damascus Eats is a great breakfast place and I'll see what they have to offer for dinner after the new shoes and packages are set to go.
I am in sooooOOO much better shape now that I am awakening with anticipation and planning for earlier morning hikes to avoid mid-day heat (and perhaps catch up on my journal after afternoon naps in shelters).
Fun, fun, fun. I am just delighted that the old body is finally adjusting to these demands although I still have a bit of extra weight around my middle. No telling if I'll lose that "pouch" in the next three weeks or not. I'm looking forward to starting the trail next year ASAP after the trail clears of snow & ice in the Smokey Mountain Nat'l Park.
I had the very best blackberries of the trail to date on the approach to Iron Mountain a couple of days ago. Nothing else of significance in terms of wildlife or companionship to report. Despite the lack of significance, mother nature continues to amaze me with the variety of things, circumstances and adoptations out there. I saw two trees with roots intertwined that looked to be "floating" a foot above ground level.
21 August, Wednesday: Bob and Pat Peoples at Kinkora are another couple of lovely people who host hikers and maintain the AT. I helped install a bridge yesterday and even had time to mail 12.5 pounds back to South Carolina. My pack is probably down to about 30 pounds for the next 45 miles to Damascus, Virginia. I enjoyed nearly a week of moderate distances with Robb and Jacquie since we HAD to stop for tea mornings and mid-day and HAD to stop early enough for Scrabble every evening. (I think Bob won the most games - they are tough competitors.) Now I'm off solo again so might be able to catch up on my "daily journal."
Lots to report and learn about AT hiking for fun and pleasure. 1) hostels and fellow hikers are a lot of fun 2) absolutely NEVER carry more than you need to carry 3) you can mail stuff that you might need ahead to yourself. and more in the next post.
?? Aug: Blueberries and views atop Hump Mountain and Grassy Ridge were marvelous. Robb, Jacquie and I apparently stopped to camp only ten minutes behind Stephen. Fortunately he caught us again after we shuttled ahead to Kinkora.
11 August, Saturday: Richard is an inspiration. He's about five years "ahead" of me, and I'm about five years "ahead" of him. Shelly is also "good people." Today I hope (Hah!) to catch my journal up-to-date, and send ALL the postcards I've been carrying the last 100 miles, so this post will be "short." I don't get any writing done at the hostel because it is much more fun to converse with Richard, and yesterday's food stop did not have Hagen Dazs or Ben & Jerry's, so today I'm bicycling across town to the Walmart for both.
10 August, Friday: in Erwin, Tennessee. The VIEW of the Nolichucky River from the AT overlooks coming into town were terrific !!
After only 10 days on the trail, I've almost forgotten how to type !!
Tonight I'm tent camping at Uncle Johnny's Nolichucky Hostel in Erwin, TN. For $6 I also get a shower, up to three shuttles into town and use of a bicycle.
So far so good. My boots are at the Tony Baker's shoe repair. Feet are good, but boot repair will help my heels. I've hiked 100 miles to date, including 70 miles since the last food stop - and I still have a couple of days worth of oats & seeds left. Erwin Buritto is already a favorite place for good food and its sign: "All hippies enter through back door - no exceptions."
No problems worth mentioning although a couple of days were exhausting after poor sleep. It has been hot, so staying "hydrated" has been absolutely necessary. I now fill up to overfull at every spring or stream during the day. Bugs are still no problem - what a refreshing surprise!
To answer a brotherly question: No planning Dean. I just got the Appalachian Trail "Data Book" which tells miles to next spring, shelter, camping spot, road, & groceries. (Thanks to Walt Maurer for that birthday present.) If I'm not accompanying someone else along the trail, I look at the data book to see where to find water next. Late afternoon I look at the Data Book to see where to camp next. Shelters often have picnic tables where I can update my journal easily.
We had the excitement of a bear in camp last night. He had grabbed Richard's pack while my Richard & Robert were getting water. "Supermarket" started yelling & chasing towards the bear as I approached camp. I chased until the bear dropped the pack, so I was a hero for the rest of the day.
6 August, Monday: The GREAT news is that the Bankson book proofs should be on the Gowdy's doorstep by early September - the "design team" conference call proceeded fine from the Camp Mountain summit (4750') with no falderall about signoffs for anything.
4th August, Saturday: Hot Springs, NC. The first 30+ miles of the trail have left me wondering "Why?" Maybe I'll figure it out in the next fifty miles to the next place to buy groceries. For now the important urgency is the laundrymat, ice cream, and a breakfast.
31 July, Tuesday: Donna will drop me off later today at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail with I-40 at the Tennessee border.
29 July, Sunday: I wasn't quite packed and it was somewhat more convenient for Donna to drop me off on her way to the Charlotte airport, so my departure was delayed a couple of days. Whenever a library has internet access I'll update this blog and read Gmail.