Thursday, April 3, 2008

AT Thru-Hiker NB - April 2008

30 April, Wednesday PM, Dragon's Tooth Mountain: It is foggy and cold. His recorder batteries are dead. (to be updated)

29 April, Tuesday, Audie Murphy Monument: Nice View! Barnabus ran shuttle service to a Trail Angel Carnival; weather was freezing! Dinner was served at Sarver or Server Hollow Shelter - 12.2 miles from the previous shelter - a hard uphill hike! Evidently Barnabus has been a Trail Angel for 24 or 25 years (or he is that age?); he brought leftover greasy Hartz Chicken and some potatoes - enjoyed by Ron. A couple of Trail Angels brought 12 packs of sodas - something they have been doing for seven years.

28 April, Monday, War Spur Shelter - 12.7 miles from Pine Tree Branch Shelter - enjoying a magic moment when Cowboy and I opened our eyes to another winter wonderland: snow was on the picnic table!

27 April, Sunday, Onward and Upward: great night's sleep. Early morning vistas are gorgeous. DID talk to everyone he has ever known and the cell phone batteries are nearly dead. This will not be updated until the next shelter with a charger - about Friday or Saturday. Knee is much improved. Spent the night at Pine Tree or Pine Swamp Branch Shelter - running into Major Mike and Captain Jack in a downpour. There is no roof on the shelter. Capt. Jack spread a 10 x 10 tarp for protection but the rain ran down onto him while Major Mike and Ron were inside sleeping bags and did not get wet.

26 April, Saturday, Pearisburg, VA: Chores done - camaraderie high!!! Noisy like a locker room after a basketball team won the state championship. Dispensing advice to the younger fellows about life; no doubt they will heed it. Ate everything in sight today - and stopped at Food Lion on the way out of town to see if they had ice cream on sale. They did not - started hiking on. Earlier this morning, went to an internet cafe and updated this blog but evidently failed to click "publish" and save the update. Planning to phone everyone this afternoon.

25 April, Friday, Pearisburg, VA: Early AM - arose early, hiked about 17 miles reaching Pearisburg about five PM - showered, found a Wal-Mart and downed 1/2 gallon of strawberry ice cream. 10: 30 PM: Food re-supplied, phone charged and ready for sleep at Holy Family Hostel - a very happy hiker. Tomorrow morning (Saturday) will go to the diner for breakfast, do laundry and head for the hills to resume hiking.

24 April, Thursday: 48 minutes over Verizon daytime minutes allotment for this month; calling Verizon reaped rewards after this explanation of the situ: " I am hiking the AT." The rep rewarded not only an extra 100 minutes for this month - but 100 minutes additional for the next two months "because you are such a good customer." Could this be called the Rewards of Being Ron? The knee continues to improve as long as the fast lane is left to Forrest Gump. Hiked about 12 - 15 miles on Wednesday and was in a jolly mood Thursday morning beginning the hike towards Pearisburg - should arrive late afternoon. Thursday PM hiked until after dark using headlight - and spent the night at the Wapiti Shelter.

22 April, Tuesday, 9:30 PM: Bland, VA. Good view of Bland below - in the hammock ready for sleep after two long days. Hiked twenty miles yesterday from 4:30 AM - 9:00 PM; spent the night at the rock shelter, arose early today and hiked another twenty miles, knee is much improved (whew) - , 2 1/2 days food rations left - but four days from Pearisburg. Eager to hike the mile into Bland hoping to find breakfast tomorrow morning and get food supply restocked. Wonderful Trail Angels left juice in a styrofoam container - possibly the same one encountered last year.

21 April, Monday: Crossing HWY 81 into the woods - Five Days from Pearisburg, VA: tried to hitch-hike on Sunday to get breakfast in Marion, VA - but no takers. It was OK because of being full up from a huge "Trail Magic" party on Saturday night thrown by some locals for thru-hikers; lots of beer, wine and food. He decided to hike on to Pearisburg, arriving at the Relax Inn where he found the Trail Magic left for him by Squire: an ER bar. Ron was delighted with that discovery because it means that he has all the food he needs to make it to Pearisburg - the next stop - probably arriving on Saturday. Squire left a vox message to let him know that Drew picked him up and would be off the trail for a few days. Ron is ten days behind Squire.

Knee is causing concerns, quite painful over the past few days - although some improved. Hopeful that the next box of Trail Magic will contain a new knee, please! He is questioning whether it is a good idea to continue hiking the entirety of the AT; hiking with pain is not fun.

20 April, Sunday, Visitor's Center: Closed weekends! NO WATER! NO SHOWER! After reaching Marion, VA yesterday too late for breakfast, but finding Wal-Mart open, Scooter, his girlfriend, Jessie, Chief's Daddy, Ron re-fueled, re-stocked his food supply - and found a turkey hunter who brought him back to the AT. Back at the Partnership Shelter, with no way to shower, he "pack-sat" so that some newly arrived hikers could hitch-hike into Marion unencumbered. They returned about four-thirty in the afternoon during our hour and one-half phone conversation - Ron hoping they brought some beer! Partnership Shelter did have a cell phone plug so Ron is in seventh heaven - he can get lots of phone calls made on Sunday. Jeff (or Jess) showed Ron how to correct some of the problems with the Hennessey hammock (get rid of nylon ties that relax). Going to experiment - and may stay in the hammock if it continues to rain today and listen to old voice mail messages that have piled up.

19 April, Saturday, Six Miles from Marion, VA, a Wal-mart and ice cream: Leaving Damascus Thursday AM, the AT was circular - long and winding around Rogers Mountain - not covering a lot of linear distance, but one with special meaning: the mountain was named for Ben Rogers, an early geologist from Virginia who moved to Boston after the Civil War and started MIT (Ron's alma mater). Vistas are breathtaking; Spring is appearing, too: poision ivy is budding out. His knee was aggravated again so he slowed the pace; but because the trail is not so steep now he still managed to hike twenty miles yesterday. He thinks that he will now slow to "an old man's pace of fifteen miles a day." He slowed down enough yesterday that he did not make the shelter - but had an enjoyable night's sleep and did not start out so early this morning. He will replenish his food supply in Marion and may overnight there for a good breakfast in the morning - besides getting his cell phone battery charged. Passed the five hundred mile marker! Yahoo!!! (R&R)

15 April, Tuesday Appalachian Trail through Damascus, Virginia. I hiked until half past dark last night to get into Damascus so that I could go to breakast at Damascus eats - they were closed this morning. I'm having fun since the restaurant across the road was willing to make me a banana split after the omelette breakfast. Time to do laundry (8 pairs of socks that are still wet from the last two days), then I'm off northward again. Later that same afternoon: Ron is still drying socks in the laundromat and socializing big time; sounds like his departure depends on when he finishes 1) eating more banana splits, 2) socializing! (R&R)

14 April, Monday AM- "... da da .. da da ... Winter Wonderland ... " the tune is keeping cadence with my steps this morning. It snowed last night." said Ron as he reported, "The snow started falling yesterday afternoon shortly before reaching VandeVenter shelter on Iron Mountain when I stopped to assist a man get water and on to the shelter (the man had a painful toe). I took time to eat but kept hiking in the snow another six miles to Iron Mountain Shelter. The wind blew fiercely. My left side looked like Frosty the Snowman. Six hikers I know were at Iron Mountain shelter where we spent the night, mostly comfortable, waking to an awesome winter wonderland and frozen pants cuffs. Ate two peanut butter sandwiches before trekking ahead on the snowy AT early today."

The fog lifted this morning; all day yesterday Ron's head was literally in the clouds (4, 125 feet). The temperature has not yet warmed up. It is amusing to encounter places on the trail that evoke enjoyable memories of last year's hike. At ten-fifteen this morning arrived at the Carter County, TN sign (Cherokee National Forest) on Highway 91 with a view of wide farmer's patches. Two more shelters are between this spot and Damascus: Double Screen and Abingdon Gap. Milestones: 22 miles from Damascus, VA, 428.4 miles from the start at Springer, Mt., GA and 1738.7 miles from the final destination: Katahdin, Maine. The trail will become flatter and easier now to Damascus (R&R).

13 April, Sunday, Kincora - 7:30 AM - Ron overslept. Decision time: take the shuttle to the trail or ... miss the shuttle and eat breakfast?? That's easy: food and flirtation! After eating his fill, fully caffeinated, flirting, sharing result of his faith affirmation with waitresses, he made friends with a most interesting fellow named Paul, entering into a delightful conversation about pursuing one’s passion in life – and ultimately discussed religion. About the time Ron was ready to hitchhike ten miles to the trail Bob Peoples returned from the shuttle run and took him to the trail in the back of the pickup - a favorite place for viewing scenery.

Nine AM: on the trail again, caffeinated and extremely energized, in a tee shirt and wool pants (yes, they are mended!). Walking on the shoreline of a ¾ mile wide or acre lake surrounded by big trees; the water level is about 8 foot low. The cloud cover is both light and dark, with the sun trying to break through – and a beautiful dusting of snow that fell last night.

45 minutes later, walking across a dam 30 feet above the lake - Naturalistic dam made of rocks from the ledges of the surrounding mountains, the grandeur of the big trees and the lake below. Mark W. Peacock’s website with photos of the gorgeous lakes and waterfalls of TN:

12 April, Saturday, mid-AM: Kincora, Bob People's Shelter; Ron enjoys Bob Peoples immensely. He made two shuttle trips to town - got supplies for a one day hike - ate a hearty breakfast - flirted with the waitress who remembered him from last year (he is an outrageous flirt - who wouldn't remember him?), met a hiker named Two-By and he is looking forward to sleeping tonight in the tree house. 1:30 PM: Laurel Falls: cell phone service is improved at this lower altitude. Ron started a ten mile hike from the shelter with a day's provisions about an hour ago. He is walking along the river - magnificent waterfall - about 50 feet high by 50 feet wide - incredible - with wonderful roaring, rushing sounds that he hoped would be heard over the cell phone - but, alas, not to be. Enjoying vistas like this one are exactly why he has retired so many times. He took a picture with his cell phone to E-mail - but he has to learn how to send them! 5:00 PM: Ron is sitting on top of a U.S. Forest Service Dept. sign waiting for Bob Peoples; he is at the ten mile pick up point - amazingly, an hour and one-half early; he is not even tired after climbing 2000 feet for ten miles - having spent the entire time on the cell phone. He may not be tired, but the cell phone batteries are almost dead. Bob Peoples will shuttle Ron back to the shelter for tonight and return him to this stopping point tomorrow morning. Ron anticipates arriving in Damascus, VA by Monday where he will have internet capability (R&R).

11 April, Friday AM: FOREST FIRE!!! A burning ring of fire! Helicopters! Ron survived. Hiking thru a fire was the most exciting part of yesterday's 17 mile trek. Several more hikers passed thru the fire en route to last night's shelter, too. One of the hikers named Marathon started out from Springer Mtn. 18 days ago - hiked 2o miles the first day, 24 the second and 30 yesterday. Ron's hike was long and good - past the scenic Doe River - and a campsite where he did not stop in favor of the next shelter where he had another delightful night's sleep. This morning, the sun is shining, a nice breeze is blowing with temps high enough to hike in shorts sans shirt. 1:00 PM - Mountaineer Shelter - Ron had a nice hour nap, ate all of his food making his pack as light as it is going to get for the last six miles into Kincora with arrival anticipated about 4 PM. He will overnight - re-stock a day's supply in the AM - hike for ten miles tomorrow - arrange for a shuttle back to Kincora for a second overnight. He is getting stronger - and faster - but not yet up to Marathon's speed! 4:00 PM: Kincora - After Ron 's arrival at Bob People's Shelter, several others arrived, Marathon. They missed the last shuttle - but arrangements were made to take the late comers into town for a hearty meal (R&R).

10 April, Thursday, Overmountain Shelter, located near Yellow Mountain Gap (4,682 feet): Ron had an absolutely delightful evening at the shelter also known as Yellow Mountain Barn – because it was once a hay barn. The shelter's name is derived from the Overmountain Men, who passed through the Gap to defeat the British Army at Kings Mountain, South Carolina during the Revolutionary War. That defeat freed the American South from British domination, and was a turning point in the war ( Awesome vistas of the Roaring Creek Valley and Yellow Mountain. But the best view was seeing several local girls, a guy and a dog named Gilbert, appear with venison burgers and beer in their backpacks for thru-hikers; Gilbert was bearing a 12 pack of beer on his back. They enjoyed a lion’s share of the feast that included tomatoes and avocados. Six more guys and a Boston Terrier showed up with varying amounts of food remaining.

The wind was blowing fiercely this morning, making it difficult to catch the names he tried to memorize last night: Coleen and her boyfriend, a dedicated couple who bought fifteen acres, Amy, a horticulturalist who also has a fifteen acre campus (?) and loves flowers. When Ron told them about his Rambo genealogy – and the connection to the Rambos in Damascus, VA, one of the girls said she has a friend named Jennifer Rambo, daughter of John Rambo, who helped with the Trail Magic venison burgers; Ron thinks they may be connected to that same Rambo family (Ron: phone book look up?).

Ron’s feet are stable this morning, not uncomfortable; when he gets to Kincora he will doctor both feet. He was quite pleased to have passed several young guys going mostly uphill – and the discovery that the young guys didn’t catch up with him.

About lunch time - near Doll Flats - the scenery was gorgeous looking down over a view of a farmer's field like green velvet that was mind blowing. As he was heading down towards Kincora he passed the place where he, Rob and Jacquie played their last scrabble game and remembered that Rob won the most scrabble games! Ron should arrive in Kincora by lunch time tomorrow (Friday) (R&R).

9 April, Wednesday AM: Ron is close to Iron Mountain Gap. He had another delightful night's sleep, started hiking early, but do not know the name of the next shelter. After removing the band-aid from his foot, it seems better this morning. About 7:30 AM, spotted three tents ahead. 3:00 PM, MILE HIGH in the Smokey Mountains, passing Roan Falls - and is on Round Mountain, huffing hard up a steep ascent, passing a sign that read 5820 feet. Saw 11 mountain ridges to the left and 5 to the right, with two towns below. Hiked about twelve miles so far today (16 yesterday, 7 the day he left Erwin, TN at 2 PM). Should arrive in Kincora at Bob People's Hostel on Friday. It is delightful to encounter large blueberry patches about six months before they will be ready - with a good description of the green formative blueberry buds and enjoying thoughts of the time with Richard at Erwin and good friends, Rob and Jacquie, passing the place where they played scrabble last year. Snow is forecast for the higher elevations tonight; likely to experience rain instead because he is about ready to begin the descent (R&R).

8 April, Tuesday: Another enjoyable night's sleep. Started hiking this morning with some foot discomfort; athlete's foot returned with a vengeance and the crack in his heel has opened again. Ron was aware of the foot problem at Erwin but did not take time to deal with it. He passed Beauty Spot shelter mid-morning. Feet will undoubtedly be uncomfortable the next four days until he reaches Bob People's Kincora Hostel. If all goes well, he should be able to reach the half-way point at Harper's Ferry WV (Mile 1009.2) by 15 May - or at least Front Royal, VA. Plans are made to be shuttled back to Trail Days in Damascus, VA 16 May - 19 May and do trail maintenance (Hardcore) for Bob until 21 May - then shuttled 22 May to his last AT stop (R&R).

7 April, Monday, Last night Ron enjoyed a good night's sleep outdoors with a clear sky and view of the stars after eating a deluxe Erwin's burrito plus all of the raisins, nuts and peanut butter possible. At two PM today he was ready to leave Erwin with his backpack weighing in at 24 pounds; he sounded very upbeat, jovial and excited about the next leg of the trail. He watched Erwin disappear as he moved past (?) Maple Ridge Gap - but not before getting a photo of the river. He knew he would not make the next shelter, Beauty Spot, tonight - but he was delighted by the distance he traveled today and the discovery of a nice space for sleeping on the ridge top sheltered by a fallen log. Chopped down trees offered a clear view of bright stars in the night sky. Cell phone reception was exceptionally good throughout the day and evening (R&R).

6 April Afternoon: Uncle Johnny's hostel on the Nolichucky River in Erwin Tennessee. Dinner is planned for 6pm at a Mexican restaurant - unfortunately Erwin Burrito is closed. I arrived too late for the noon shuttle into town, so ate my remaining foods and several junk items including sodas. I've dried all my wet gear already, and have showered and washed clothes - oh what a relief ! I did collect the bright yellow Dri Ducks rain gear, and will be interested to see if they work better than what I had. The views of the river & railroad bridge as one descends steeply into town make several pretty pictures - although I doubt that my cell phone camera will do them justice, and the battery died as I was chatting with Wisch - it is still charging. The hike into town today was medium long, about 8 miles, and I arrived about 1 pm. Hi to Squire. I'll try to call you later today.

6 April, Sunday, 945 AM: I slept pretty good, but sleeping bag got wet in middle of night since hammock wasn't pitched exactly right. I was sooo pissed; hammock obviously requires much fiddling to get right. It was cloudy & foggy halfway to town, but views increased as the day progressed so that things were lovely for the final descent into Erwin. It was memory lane remembering Richard and Robert from last year's hike and our bear adventure during the evening at No Business Shelter.

5 April, Monday, mid- morning: Ron is at Interstate 26 on the Ridge Line - beginning the run towards Erwin, Tennessee, strengthened by two nights of good sleep. Sleeping bag and pants got damp. It is chilly and foggy enough that he cannot see far despite being on the peak of the mountain; this is the identical route he took last year when he enjoyed the incredible view of the Nolichucky River. Evening: It was foggy and rainy, hiked past the last shelter, put up the hammock and hung up food just as the rain began to pour down. Hung the tarp (perhaps too tight) across the hammock and discovered water collecting on the tarp; he got soaked in the heaviest rain. Crossed the 300 mile marker. .is still wet; it remains cloudy and foggy; saw a lovely waterfall - top of Big Bald; also Beavis, Dogboy and Free Hugs (R&R).

4 April, Friday AM: Literally having a mountain top experience - glorious 360 degree view of awesome scenery of the lakes and valleys below. Clear, sunny day.

1:22 left on internet. Mention of 2175 Trail Magic box with MZEE and my notes, Spivy Gap & watercourse, more

3 April, Thursday: Ron pushed forward yet another five miles against a hard wind to make it to the next shelter last night. Trail Magic came in the form of a delicious vegetarian chili dinner with fresh ala mode dessert at the home of a couple who offer meals for thru-hikers (Thanks from Ron!). Today he crossed Andrew Johnson mountain arriving at Jerry's Cabin Shelter very tired.