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Appalachian Trail, 2011 – Day 12, Woods Hole

June 25th, 2011 No comments

6/25 – Woods Hole
Hiked – 13.9 miles today, 151.7 total, 613 of AT!

Lexi and I got up a bit later than expected this morning. We had to fight off the rooster again as we took down our tent. We stopped again on the way out at Trents breakfast and didn’t hit the trail till about 10am.

For most of the morning, the trail was flat making for a comfortable walk. We took a short detour to Desmal Falls. Nice falls! We took a lot of photos. It is not very tall, perhaps 8’ but while it was only a few feet wide now, in the early spring it was perhaps 30’ wide. That would be cool to see. It actually is close to one of the back roads so there was a fair amount of trash from locals hanging around.

We got to Wapiti Shelter at about 1pm. We stayed for a quick lunch and to read/sign the log book. Like a previous shelter, there were deer wondering around. They kept their distance but generally ignored us.

The trail after Wapiti Shelter was mostly old logging road however it was surprisingly steep with little breaks or switchbacks. The kind that goes straight up and are often washed out. We didn’t expect this part to be difficult. The map profiles made it looked much easier. It took us about two hours to make the climb to the top ridge of Sugar Run Mountain. The trial on the ridge was rocky and narrow as it wandered through the woods. There were a couple of great photo spots overlooking the valley and the town of Pearisburg. One rock outcrop sounded kind of hollow as we walked out on it. I took a look under it and realized that the whole 6’ overhanging ledge was only 8” think. It sure looked a lot more solid from up top! I took some photos but they don’t show the depth much. Looks like I took some photos of a rock.

From Sugar Run Mountain to our turn towards Woods Hole seemed to take forever. We crossed a number of roads that confused us a bit leading us to think we were closer than we actually were. However the turn to Woods Hole was well marked once we got there.

Along the way Lexi and I discussed if we would hike beyond Woods Hole. At one point Lexi and I even had a spat about it. But in the end, we agreed that we would end our trip at Woods Hole because it would be a great point to start next year.

We got to Woods Hole about 6:30pm. Since it would be our last night, we decided to spend a few extra bucks and stay in private room in the “house” rather than the bunkhouse. It included a real bed with sheets and comforter. And it also included the use of a nice hot shower which we managed to have time to use before dinner.

Dinner is served community style so everyone has to help prepare dinner and setup before and clean up afterwards. Tonight’s dinner was “Pasta”. The dinner started with a short moment of silence and they we all had to say our trail name and something we were thankful for – “My name is “One Boot” and I’m thankful my knees and other body joints have had no problems during my section hike”. After dinner (and Ice cream!) a large group of us retired to the main room to watch a movie.

More rodiesDismal Creek Falls

Dismal Creek FallsHaving some fun

P1010505Friendly deer near shelterBill on rock outcropping on Sugar Run MtnLexi on rock outcropping on Sugar Run Mtn

Panoramic view on top of Surgar Run Mtn

Dinner time!Our room at Woods Hole Hostel

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Appalachian Trail, 2011 – Day 11, Trents Grocery

June 24th, 2011 No comments

6/24 – Trents Grocery
Hiked – 16.3 miles today, 138.1 total

We got up and on the trail early today. It was an easy hike even for 17 miles. The trail was quite flat and often followed old logging roads. We seem to be getting our “Legs” and can walk more miles each day. And while my legs feel good my feet do not agree with them yet.

We stopped at Jenny Knob Shelter and briefly thought about staying there but we could not find any water. I wondered back into the woods looking for water and stirred up something big behind some brush. I did not see it but it made a lot of noise taking off. I’m guessing it was a bear.

Just before the road down to Trents Grocery, we crossed a very long suspension bridge over Kimberling Creek. This bridge is about 150’ long. The creek is prone to flooding and this bridge goes over the entire flood plain.

Trents Grocery is located on RT 606. While this is a back road, there are not a lot of roads thru here so it is quite busy. The store is kind of run down but has a little bit of everything. We bought some snacks and sat down to decide our next move. We decided to park it for the night as it seems like a good spot.

Camping was $6 and included use of the shower and laundry. I’m guessing that at one time they had quite bit of RV camping here, but tonight we are the only ones here and there has not been a lot of traffic around the camping area.

We found a nice grassy area and set up our tent right next to the fence where there are horses. We had to fight off a rooster who wanted to inspect all our stuff.

The store has a deli so we headed back for some sandwiches. They made Lexis’ wrong so she was not happy (she wouldn’t let me take it back) but we bought a can of Ravioli and that seem to help her mood.

We found Titanium and Alki at the store. They had gotten to the previous road crossing, RT608, had no water and decided to hike .8 miles to a store only to find it closed. So they hitched a ride to this store. They are heading back there tonight to hike through in the AM. I’m not sure if we will see them.

Since water was short along the trail, we were drinking lightly all day. I made up for it tonight by drinking two 16oz Gatorades and two bottles of Diet Coke.

We are doing all of our laundry but have decided to hike only 2 more days. One day to Woods Hole and then the second day to Pearisburg (if I can arrange a shuttle to get back to our car.)

Magic of photoshop to remove powerlinesP1010462

Little doeThis is a cool bridge

Our campsiteCampgound at Trents Grocery (with rooster)

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Appalachian Trail, 2011 – Day 10, Helveys Mill Shelter

June 23rd, 2011 No comments

6/23 – Helveys Mill Shelter
Hiked – 13.8 miles today, 121.5 total

I slept really well last night. I guess I was tired! I was actually hot till midnight or so. Pat with Bunions got up every 3 hours to stoke the fire. We slept late and did not hit the trail till 9:15. There were some sprinkles in the morning but after that it was dry and cloudy. At one point we could actually see it pouring rain on the mountain across the valley while we got none. Overall, it was a relatively event free day. We crossed a nice bridge over Laure Creek. We counted no less than 35 of those odd orange newts along the way.

We found our first “trail magic” today. There was a 12 pack of soda along the trail with a note from the local hiking club. It was not cold but it still was good.

We had a drop box in Al’s car down in Bland but since he left, he brought it up to the trail head and left it at a house next to the Mountain Top Holiness Church. I’m not sure what kind church this is but it had the words “Sheep”, “Saviour” and “Goat” below three crosses hung on the front of the church. Our drop package was on the front step of the house. We knocked and thanked the lady for holding it for us. Shortly thereafter, we crossed over I77 as it cut through the mountains. It is amazing how much of the mountain they moved to put the interstate in. This point is a milestone mark as it easy to find on any map.

There are two thru hikers here: “Titanium” and “Alki”. One has been caring a guitar. Both are right out of high school but they told us they had managed to get to the town yesterday and come back with a 12 pack. We can see the empty cans. We have a fire going and found a bit of wood around to keep it going. It looks like it’s going to be a nice night. We may try to make it all the way to Trents Grocery Store tomorrow. This will be 17 miles and put us a full 4 days ahead of my original schedule. This will get us to Wood Hole by Saturday. At this point I’m not sure if we will hike past there or not as I think Lexi is getting tired of hiking or at least wants to get back and deal with some issues with cheerleading sooner rather than later.

Someones idea of a gag (just off the road)P1010440

P1010453Trail Magic!

Helvey's Mill Shelter (yes that hiker is playing a guitar)P1010455

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Appalachian Trail, 2011 – Day 9, Jenkins Shelter

June 22nd, 2011 No comments

6/22 – Jenkins Shelter
Hiked – 19 miles today, 107.7 total

We woke up to sun but it rained last night. After about 30 minutes of hiking it started raining again. It rained for about 2 hours. Did I mention that I hate hiking in the rain? On the way down the hill, we crossed some structured bridges. It is clear that in the spring the water is much higher. The good news is that it stopped raining before we had to climb the big hill to Chestnut Ridge.

The long path up to Chestnut Ridge was not as tough as expected. And the views were great! At some points we had a 180° view. I got some great panoramic photos. It might have been better if there were no clouds but at least it was not raining and below the clouds it was clear so we could all across the valley. As we got to the Chestnut Shelter, the sun had come out and the sky cleared for a bit. We sat and soaked in the sun for a while. It felt great. However, Lexi decided that she wanted to move on to the next shelter seven miles down the trail. After some grumbling on my part (oh that sun felt good) I agreed to move on. From there to Jenkins Shelter was fairly flat and downhill. My feet were like mush and wanted out of the shoes. We would turn a corner hoping to see the shelter only to see more trail. We thought briefly about taking a side trial down to the Davis Farm Campsite but it was not clear if there was water there. It was a 1/2 mile off the trail and did not want to take the risk and have to back track one more mile today.

We finally got to the shelter at 7:45pm. 12 hours of hiking and 19 miles – done! My feet are really tired! The shelter is nice. It is secluded in a pine grove. There is an older hiker here with a big roaring fire going. His trail name is “Pat with Bunions”. I actually think he is “living” on the trial as he has hiked it a number of times. He has been here at the same shelter for a few days. There are deer just roaming around the shelter. That’s kind of cool.

I bit of rain todayBridge over Lick Creek

Panoramic from Chestnut Ridge

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P1010437Chestnut Knob Shelter

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Appalachian Trail, 2011 – Day 8, Knot Maul Shelter

June 21st, 2011 No comments

6/21 – Knot Maul Shelter
Hiked – 13.9 miles today, 88.7 total

We started today at the Comfort Inn. Oddly, even while in a real bed, I did not sleep well. We stood out front of the Inn trying to get a ride for 20 minutes. I think Lexi gets a little embarrassed about hitching. I was just about to give up and start walking when a lady with a pickup saw us as she drove by and then came back to get us. She said she felt sorry for Lexi having a young daughter of her own. I didn’t care what her reasoning was, as long as we got a ride! We got to the trailhead by 8:15. Hike started slowly through open fields.

We were hiking in an open field, and we could see the heads of a few cows just over the ridge as we hiked towards them. Just as we started to get close, they started to move directly towards us, fast. I moved on but Lexi stood still as the entire herd ran right past her! That was cool.

We got to what was left of Davis Shelter by 10am. The only thing left of this shelter is the platform but it was a good point to take a break. Still, we passed thru more open fields and up an over stiles (little ladders that to up and over fences).

The last hill at mile 13 was grueling. It was sunny all day and I think it was about 90° out with the sun on us for much of the trail. I thought we would never get to the top of the last hill.

We did not see many hikers today. We did come across a thru hiker named Hawk. He did not seem to in much of a hurry so go anywhere fast. We passed him at about 3pm and he was just getting up. We also came across an elderly lady “GG” and her grandson. She was attempting to hike 60 miles for her 60th birthday. While she belonged to the local hike club, I got the feeling she had not done much hiking. She was doing a slow hike, only about 5 miles per day. We passed her about 2 miles short of the shelter and it’s been 2-1/2 hours since we got to the shelter and they are still not here. (Update.. Just as Lexi and I thought about going back to find her, in case she needed help, she did manage to stroll in as dusk approached. A bit later, Hawk managed to pop in too.)

Lexi managed to take a good fall today. I did not see it but from what I can tell she tripped and did forward roll with her pack on. By the time I turned around she was laying face down half off the trial. Fortunately she was not hurt except for a small cut on her knee (and a little pride).

Throughout the day we could see and hear single engine prop planes circling and flying overhead. I thought they might be looking for someone or something. Or, perhaps just some training thing?

We are now a full two days ahead of my original schedule and I think if by the time we get to Wood Hole, it will be three. Lexi has hinted that she wants to get back home earlier than planned due to some issues with her cheerleading schedule.

While the hill today was grueling, tomorrow we have a bigger one, 2000’ in 4 miles. I hope I get a good night sleep.

Cool tunnelP1010369

Typical privy along this part of the trail.Lexi living on gummy worms

"GG"

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Appalachian Trail, 2011 – Day 7, Atkins VA

June 20th, 2011 No comments

6/20 – Atkins VA
Hiked – 11.6 miles today, 74.8 total

We got up this morning after a good night of sleep. We slept upstairs where it was dry and warm. The day started off cloudy but with no rain. We headed out to the visitor center and soon afterwards the Taxi Al had arranged for showed up. A short 5 minute ride down to the Post Office and we got our drop box. It was nice to find the kids had snuck in cards for Fathers Day! The taxi gave us a ride back to the visitor center. We said our good byes to Al and Mariah and then “we were two”. It was a bit depressing at first because we had lots of fun with the two of them. We hope they can join us next year.

Milkman was still at the shelter when we returned to pack up our gear. He had decided to take a zero day. We knew we likely would not see him again so we packed up, said good bye and headed off by 10am. The path was a gentle up for the first 3 miles as we followed the ridge of the mountain. After that, it was mostly downhill. We got to the Chatfield Shelter by 1pm, just before it started to rain. I was able to get my cell phone connected enough to get a radar view and it looked like it would clear after a bit so we just hung out at the shelter for an 2 hours. After most of the rain had ended, we continued down the hill towards Atkins. Officially, this puts us a little further ahead of schedule.

Along the way down, there were a number of open views thru fields that gave a nice view of the valley below. We startled a few deer along the way.

Just short of reaching Atkins, we crossed a train track. I could hear the train coming so we scooted across the tracks and waited. We were about 10’ from the tracks when the train came rumbling by. I don’t think Lexi had ever seen a real train up close and I have to admit to myself that it was kind of cool.

At the intersection of the AT and RT11, right next to I81 is the Relax Inn. Now the Relax is (not to be dramatic) a dump. Yet, it is often a place hikers stay at. We had noticed this on last year’s trip through the area and it had not gotten any better. We decided to hitch a ride down to the Comfort Inn. We got a ride in the back of pickup truck. Lexi liked the ride as she had never ridden in the back of a truck before (sheltered life?). It was farther down than I recalled so I was glad we did not have to walk.

The Comfort Inn was of course “comfortable”. We took some well needed showers. Mark, our friendly front desk person called us a taxi and recommended a place to eat. So again we headed into Marion (from the other direction this time) with our laundry in tow. Taxi was expensive for the few miles ($14 each way) but we got to the Laundromat in time to get our clothes washed and then walked over to the Tuscan restaurant to eat. As the name implies, it has an Italian cuisine. It’s a friendly place with good service. I had a beer and ziti and Lexi had a “buffalo wrap”. We both left full and called a taxi to take us back to our hotel.

Tomorrow’s weather looks good but there is still a chance of rain in the afternoon. Did I mention that I hate hiking in the rain? In fact, the forecast is the same for the next 5 days. We’ll get up early to grab the provided continental breakfast and attempt to hitch back to the trail.

P1010331Time to say goodbye to Al and Mariah :(

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Panoramic view on way down to Atkns

Upgraded to hotel tonight!Loud!

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Appalachian Trail, 2011 – Day 6, Partnership Shelter

June 19th, 2011 No comments

6/19 Partnership Shelter
Hiked – 10.6 miles today, 63.2 total

We got on the trail by 9am. It looked like the skies might clear for the day but after the first mile it started to rain. Light at first but then it rained until my feet got soaked. Did I mention that I hate hiking in the rain? We did get a short break from the rain, just enough to tease us but then it made up for it during the last two miles up to the shelter. It was uphill in the pouring rain but since it generally followed what had been light rail tracks at one time it was at least a gradual climb. It felt great to get to the shelter.

This shelter is real nice. It was a new shelter located in the mowed grass field of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area Headquarters. The shelter is two stories, has running water and even a shower (cold water only). It is close enough to the road that you can get pizza delivered.

Milkman managed to catch up to us about ½ hour after we arrived and decided to hitch into town (Marion) to resupply. I’m not sure he really needed any more food though… We told him that we might do the same but would be taking a taxi and he was welcome to join us. He decided to hitch anyway because he had never tried it before (silly him). After getting all our gear in order and setting out things that needed to dry under the overhang we went to the visitor center and called a taxi. On the way down the hill we found Milkman still hitching and gave him a ride. I think he had enough hitching.

The taxi dropped us off at Walmart where we bought a few supplies and some “fun” food. We then walked over to Pizza Hut and stuffed ourselves into happiness. We called the Taxi and got a ride back to the shelter before it got dark and had some time to chill. We wandered around two small ponds that were once used as water for mining nearby. We even found some old line and a hook and tried to fish – caught nothing.

After some thinking, Al and Mariah decided to get off the trail here. It seemed that Mariah’s knee was only getting worse. Our attempts to add a brace and lighten her load have helped but not reversed the inflammation. We are all sad L

Al has arranged for a taxi in the AM to take them to Bland, where their car is, as well as to take Lexi and I down the other side of the hill to Sugar Grove so we can pick up our supply box. It’s Sunday and we have to wait until tomorrow to pick it up anyway. It will save us a bit of time in the morning.

We are hoping to hike 12 miles to Atkins tomorrow. There, we will hitch a few miles down the road and splurge on a real room at the Comfort Inn.

I don't need so stinking raincoat!P1010310

Partnership Shelter (nice)Rare  Red 5 Leaf Lupus (not really)

Resupplied (and had pizza)Time for a trip to town!

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Appalachian Trail, 2011 – Day 5, Trimpi Shelter

June 18th, 2011 No comments

6/18 Trimpi Shelter
Hiked – 10.2 miles today, 52.6 total

It was an easy hike today. As what seems to be typical around here, the afternoon brought clouds. We put our pack covers on but it held off till we got to the shelter. Lexi wanted to go another 10 miles to the next shelter. We thought about it and started to get ready to do at least a few more miles when it start to rain (thunder/lightning) so we canned the idea and parked it here for the night. It will be good for Mariah’s knee as well. We unloaded her pack after the first 3 miles to her along.

We had a good laugh as Carter, who had left the shelter to get a few more miles, in came running back soaked. Guess he did not like hiking in the lighting. Carter is just out of high school. He quit smoking and cut off all his hair just before starting his hike. We noticed that Carter had been carrying a one pound bag of dried milk. From what we could tell he was never going to use it. He just did not want to “waste” it. This earned him the trail name “Milkman”. We coaxed him to give it to some older guy who was tenting nearby. This was the first time I have had the honor of giving someone a trail name. We took a look into his pack and could he could shed at least 10 lbs. of junk but it is kind of “rule” out here that you don’t pry too much into what others carry unless they ask. So we just hinted about a few things. He’s young and only on his 4th day of hiking. What a better way for him to learn!

This is a stone shelter with a fireplace so we found some wood, which was not so easy, and managed to get a fire started even with the green and wet wood we found. After about an hour the rain stopped and the shelter filled up as the evening progressed.

We stayed up late tonight playing euchre with a deck of cards we found at the shelter and some fellow campers. This crew was heading south (father, twin sons, brother in-law).

I hope tomorrow will be dry. I hate hiking in the rain.

Taking a breakP1010288

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We beat the rain to Trimpi ShelterMilkman

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Appalachian Trail, 2011 – Day 4, Hurricane Shelter

June 17th, 2011 No comments

Hurricane Shelter
Hiked – 14.9 miles today, 42.4 total

I slept well last night. Not sure if anyone cares how my sleep is but I log it for my one use. I thought it was going to be cold but it was mostly warm when I got all tucked in. Moon was bright last night. We got up about 7:30am and hit the trail about 8:30am or so. Hiking was light for most the day. Hiking the Grayson Highlands was full of real nice views but there were a lot of loose rocks to stumble on. Lexi got to see ponies twice today. One group was lying down just as we left camp and another group at Massie Gap. I’m sure it was the highlight of her trip. We got lots of photos. We got to Wise Shelter by 11am and decided to press on at least to Old Orchard Shelter at the 10 mile mark. Today we saw an Osprey (plane) flying at low altitude over us. Perhaps there is some training going on related to the jet we saw yesterday.

Old Orchard Shelter came and went as pressed to Hurricane Shelter and now we have completed our first 15 mile day! The location of the shelter was not quite correct on our maps so we had an unexpected long downhill to the shelter. This shelter is nice and looks new. Some fellow hikers, “Rocky” and “Carter” who we at Rogers Shelter, are also here. There is a guy with a guitar here (heading south). He is writing one song for each day. Looks like it may storm tonight (at least on my phone radar) so I’m glad to be in the shelter. We are officially 1 day ahead of schedule.

All important joints are doing well so far. No blisters! Lexi has a blister on her heel but it does not seem to be bothering her. Al and I split up some of Mariah’s weigh today to help her knee and I gave her my knee brace. She seemed to be doing better today.

This is milestone point as this is the 500 mile point on the trail. I now have completed a little less than ¼ of the AT! Another 40 miles and it will officially be ¼ of the 2174.6 miles of the trail.

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Al and Mariah looking up at us.P1010236  

P1010251Sniff

P1010238Stiles get up up and over fences

Mariah get my knee braceLong day of hiking!

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Appalachian Trail, 2011 – Day 3, Thomas Knob Shelter

June 16th, 2011 No comments

6/16 Thomas Knob Shelter
Hiked – 9.9 miles today, 27.5 total

Sleeping in the tent was nice. Sometimes it is a bit more cramped and sometimes you find that one rock sticking out that you missed setting up and it just pokes where you don’t like it. But overall, it is softer and warmer than a shelter. I was a bit sore on my sleeping side in the morning. We broke camp by 8am. The hike was a steep uphill to start (2000’ over 2 miles). The rain held off but it was very foggy in the morning. There would have been a great view near the top at Buzzard Rock but all we saw was fog. In fact we had a hard time finding the rock! After the first climb the rest of the day was fairly good with the last climb up Mount Rodgers.

Just short of Elk Garden, we came across a series of long clear plastic tubes wrapped around trees covering a large area. After careful examination, we determined that they were tubes to collect sap for syrup. It was not operational this time but it seemed kind of high tech.

We took a break at Elk Garden. They might want rename the pace as there has not been an elk there for over 150 years. It was a nice resting spot along Route 600. There was even a restroom there! From there we walked up through some more fields and were followed by old #32. (That is what the tag on the cow said.) She seemed to follow behind us for a while until some other cows started to bellow aloud and she changed course.

We got to see some ponies today! This made Lexis’ day as she has been waiting to see them since last year. We dropped our packs and walked ¼ mile down to Brier Ridge where some horseback trails also cross. The ponies would lick us for the salt. The bigger ponies just ignored us but the little ones would come over and prod you with their nose. Lexi loved this. It was sunny and warm so we took a nice long rest.

As we got close the shelter, Lexi and I took the extra 1/3 mile hike to the top of Mount Rogers. As properly described in the books, there is nothing to see other than a big rock with a marker on it (5729’). Al and Mariah had stayed back on the trail, as it seems Mariah’s knee might be giving her trouble.

We got to the shelter at about 4pm. Unlike most other shelters, this one is located up on top of the mountain and quite exposed. Given the altitude and nice views south, it seems to be common place to camp for “everyone”. There are lots campers in the area tonight. Some thru hikers (2) and a camp group (6) are staying at the shelter. There is a large church group of about 20 that used big tents down the trail a bit.

Sun was out and the water source was fair so we got to wash a few things before they got too stinky.

We saw a military jet (F18?) make a high speed bank turn right over our heads. It couldn’t have been more than 1000’ feet up. It was real cool!

We hope Mariah’s knee will be better tomorrow with rest. We have shelters at 5 and 11 miles down the trail and it should be easy hiking thru the Grayson Highlands. We hope to see more ponies.

Attempt to get group photo through fogGroup photo!

Smile for the cameraTime for a nap!P1010200Heart to heart chatThomas Knob ShelterA typical setup in shelter.

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