Archives for the month of: May, 2013

Waynesboro is a very hiker-friendly town.  We didn’t know how friendly when we arrived but quickly found out.  For starters there is a trail angel network that is very active and helpful.  The trail is about 4 miles from town but a ride can be had in minutes by just calling and asking.  Call who?  One of multiple folks – they post a list in several locations.

The YMCA has free camping and shower access.  The Lutheran church has a free hostel with showers, cots, AC, TV, full kitchen, etc…  Everyone here is very friendly.

We’ve stayed for a total of 3 nights.  One in the hostel because we came into town earlier than planned, and two that we had reserved at the Quality Inn while we swap out for summer gear.  We had to replace both our platys due to leaks along the seams which involved two trips to the outfitter – but it was manufacturer warranty so it was totally worth it.

We’re about to enter Shenandoah National Park tomorrow.  It has funky camping rules so our miles will be adjusted daily to accommodate the regulations. 

While in town we met with one of InProgress’s former interns and got a tour of the wildlife rehab center where she works.  They handle a high volume of animals and do a lot of good works.  I took a couple of pics of some of the permanent residents.

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WE HIKED OVER A MOUNTAIN CALLED “THE PRIEST” THIS WEEK.  ON THE MOUNTAIN IS A SHELTER OF THE SAME NAME.  HIKERS ARE KNOWN TO WRITE CONFESSIONS, MOSTLY SPURIOUS IN NATURE, IN THE SHELTER LOG.  I DID NOT LEAVE A CONFESSION BUT I PERHAPS SHOULD HAVE.

***WARNING*** DELICATE PERSONS MAY WISH TO JUST SKIP TO THE NEXT POST.

I DO NOT POOP IN THE WOODS.  THERE.  I HAVE PUT IT IN WRITING.

THOSE SEVEN LITTLE WORDS DON’T MEAN MUCH IN A NORMAL LIFESTYLE.  AFTER ALL HOW OFTEN IS THE AVERAGE PERSON CALLED UPON TO POOP IN THE WOODS?  THEY GROW IN IMPORT WHEN ONE ENDEAVOURS TO HIKE THE ENTIRE APPALACHIAN TRAIL.  BOWEL CONTROL BECOMES ALL IMPORTANT.  COMMAND OF THE. RECTAL SPHINCTER IS MISSION CRITICAL. 

ABOUT DAY FOUR OR SO OUT OF TOWN WHEN ONE IS EXERTING MOST OF THE BODY IN ROCK SCRAMBLES AND JOLTINGLY LARGE STEPS FOR THE ENTIRE DAY ACHIEVING A ZENLIKE STATE OF MIND WHILE FIGHTING OFF INTESTINAL CRAMPING IS ESSENTIAL. 

AND FOR MORE THAN EIGHT HUNDRED MILES I HAVE BEEN SUCCESFUL IN THESE EFFORTS.  HOWEVER MY ILLNESS IN DALEVILLE LEFT ME A BIT OFF SCHEDULE, INTESTINE-WISE.

CONFESSION:  I TALKED MY WIFE INTO GOING INTO GLASGOW INSTEAD OF BUENA VISTA BECAUSE IT MEANT THAT I COULD GO TO TOWN AND POOP A DAY EARLIER.

IT WORKED OUT BECAUSE GLASGOW WAS AWESOME BUT MY MOTIVATION WAS IMPURE.

I HAVE MET HIKERS WHO DESCRIBE THE HANGING OF THE ASS OVER A LOG TO POOP AS A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT IN TIME.  THEY TALK ABOUT A FEELING OF ONENESS WITH NATURE AND AN OVERWHELMING SENSE OF TRANQUILITY. 

NUH-HUH, NOT FOR ME.  THE THOUGHT GIVES ME A CASE OF THE ASS-CLENCHING HEEBIEJEEBIES.

I HAVE MET HIKERS WHO WILL HOLD IT UNTIL THEY GET TO A SHELTER THAT HAS A PRIVY.  ON AVERAGE ABOUT EVERY TEN MILES OR SO IS A SHELTER AND MOST DO HAVE PRIVIES. 

A PRIVY GIVES ME THE SAME SENSE OF SUFFOCATING WRONGNESS AS HANGING IT OVER A LOG, PLUS BEING TRAPPED IN A SHITTY SMELLING BOX.

NO CAN DO. NOTHING WORKS BUT A FLUSH TOILET. MAYBE I NEED TO SEE A SHRINK ABOUT MY FINCH SYNDROME.

WHICH LEAVES ME IN QUITE THE QUANDARY FOR HIKING PURPOSES.  THUS I HAVE DEVELOPED THE ABILITY TO HOLD MY BOWELS FOR QUITE A WHILE.  AT TIMES IT’S BEEN SIX OR SEVEN DAYS.

BUT I LOST TOO MUCH WEIGHT TOO EARLY IN THIS HIKE AND I HAVE BEEN MAKING A SINCERE EFFORT TO EAT MORE.  SO ABOUT DAY FOUR OUT OF TOWN I AM A TEENSY BIT HARD TO LIVE WITH.  MAYBE IT’S THE WAY I GET DISTRACTED AT TIMES IN MID TASK OR CONVERSATION.  MAYBE IT’S THE FACT THAT I GET SNAPPY AT ODD MOMENTS.  NO MATTER THE CAUSE IT IS CERTAIN THAT THE RESULT IS TRUE.  I BECOME AN ANNOYING BITCH.  MY WIFE DESERVES SAINTHOOD.  SHE HASN’T KILLED ME YET.  EMPHASIS ON YET.

SO, DAY FOUR OUT OF GLASGOW I BEGAN TO HAVE SOME REAL TROUBLE.  I HAD POOPED THOROUGHLY BEFORE LEAVING TOWN BUT MY GUT WAS SENDING MESSAGES OF CRITICAL FULLNESS.  I HAD FOUGHT OFF THE SAME FEELING ON DAY THREE BUT THIS WAS SOME SERIOUS PRAIRIE DOG ACTION COUPLED WITH PAIN THAT JUST WOULDN’T STAY DOWN WHEN I FOUGHT IT TO THE MAT.  EACH TIME IT CAME BACK STRONGER AND MORE INSISTENT LIKE ROCKY BALBOA.  KICKING MY ASS, PRETTY LITERALLY.

I SOMEHOW MANAGED TO COMPLETE OUR DAY’S HIKE BUT BY THE TIME WE SET UP CAMP I KNEW THAT I WASN’T GOING TO MAKE IT TO DAY FIVE, MUCH LESS THROUGH IT.

I ACCEPTED A ROLL OF TP AND SOME WIPES AND WENT OFF IN THE WOODS TO FIND A LOG AND DO THE DREADED DEED.

I WALKED ALONG AN UNMARKED TRAIL AND AFTER ONLY FIFTY YARDS OR SO I RAN INTO HOUSES.  WTF???  I AM HIKING THE AT RIGHT OFF THR BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY.  WHAT ARE HOUSES DOING HERE?  IT WAS A WHOLE FRIGGING GATED COMMUNITY BACK THERE.  RIGHT BESIDE THE TRAIL WAS A HOUSE WITH A CAR IN THE YARD.  RATHER THAN POOP IN THE BACK YARD I FIGURED “WHAT THE HECK” AND KNOCKED ON THE DOOR.  DID NOT GO WELL.  I SCARED THE LADY.  I APOLOGIZED AND LEFT.  I TRIED ANOTHER HOUSE THAT HAD TWO CARS IN THE DRIVE.  NUH-HUH.

I GAVE UP AND HEADED BACK TO OUR CAMP AND ALING THE WAY FOUND SIGNAGE INDICATING THE TRAIL I WAS ON WAS THE “OLD AT.”  GUESS THEY HAD TO MOVE THE NATIONAL SCENIC TRAIL SO THAT THESE PEOPLE COULD HAVE HOUSES UP HERE TO RUIN THE VIEW AND NOT LET HIKERS IN DESPERATE NEED OF A FLUSH TOILET USE ONE. FUCKERS.

WHEN I GOT BACK TO CAMP I CONFESSED MY FAILURE AND LAUNCHED THE DESPERATION PLAN. ONE POINT THREE MILES NORTH WAS A SIDE TRAIL. JUST POINT THREE MILES LONG, IT LED TO A PICNIC AREA WHICH WAS PURPORTED TO HAVE “FACILITIES.” I DROPPED ALL MY ACCOUTREMENTS THAT I HAD FAILED TO USE AND TOOK UP MY HEADLAMP. LEAVING INPROGRESS JUST SHAKING HER HEAD I SET OFF AT THE BEST CLIP I COULD MANAGE.

ABOUT A HALF AN HOUR OR SO LATER I ROLLED INTO THE PICNIC AREA AND FOUND IT. THERE WERE NO OTHER PEOPLE AROUND AT ALL.

CLEAN.
HAND SOAP AVAILABLE.
PAPER TOWELS FULLY STOCKED.
THREE ROLLS OF TP IN THE STALL. GOOD PLY, TOO.
FLUSH TOILET.
CAN I GET AN AMEN?

I ALMOST DIDN’T MAKE IT. MY GUT WAS IN FULL REBELLION AND NOT WILLING TO ACCEPT ANY DELAYS AT ALL WHATSOEVER. NOTHIN DOIN.

I GOT MY PANTS DOWN AND MY CHEEKS HIT THE SEAT JUST AS I EXPERIENCED A FULL BLOWN ASSPLOSION. IN ONE SECOND I EXPELLED A BOWL FULL.

WHEN YOU’RE IN SO MUCH PAIN HOLDING BACK AN INCIPIENT LOAD OF FECES YOU DON’T DARE OPEN THE GATES FOR ANYTHING LEST IT CAUSE A CASCADING FAILURE ENDING IN PANTS FULL OF POOP.

SO MY INITIAL BLAST WAS BACKED BY FORTY-EIGHT HOURS WORTH OF FARTS. GOOD THING THAT THERE WAS NO ONE ELSE AROUND.

ASSPLOSION.
FLUSH.
REFILL BOWL IN URGENT BUT LESS EXPLOSIVE MANNER.
FLUSH.
REFILL BOWL IN LESS URGENT MANNER.
FLUSH.
REFILL BOWL IN VERY UNSTRESSED MANNER. WIPE.
FLUSH.

AFTER A GOOD HANDWASHING SESSION I EXITED THE RESTROOM AND NOTICED THAT I HAD COMPLETELY MISSED A WATER FOUNTAIN ON MY WAY IN. I TOOK A MOMENT AND CAMELED UP TO REPLACE SOME OF WHAT I HAD SWEATED OUT IN MY WAY THERE. THEN I HEADED BACK OUT – THE SUN WAS GETTING VERY LOW AND I WANTED TO GET BACK TO CAMP.

AROUND FIFTY YARDS UP THE TRAIL OR SO I HEARD SOMETHING IN THE BRUSH BEHIND ME ON THE LEFT. WHEN I GOT A GOOD LOOK I WAS SURPRISED TO SEE A BEAR RUNNING AWAY. I COULDN’T GET A PICTURE BUT I DID GET A GOOD SHOW. ABOUT A HUNDRED POUNDS OR SO.

WHEN I GOT BACK ON THE TRAIL I RAN INTO MR. GIGGLEFITS AND PAISLEY WHOM WE THOUGHT HAD BEEN AHEAD OF US. AFTER A SHORT DISCUSSION WE PARTED WAYS SO I COULD GET BACK AND THEY COULD FIND A PLACE TO CAMP.

WHEN I FINALLY GOT BACK TO CAMP INPROGRESS WAS IN THE TENT. SHE’D BEEN AWESOME AND SET UP ALL MY GEAR WHILE WAITING. A SECURITY GUARD HAD BEEN BY, LOOKING FOR SOMEONE MATCHING MY DESCRIPTION. FUNNY, BUT NOT FUNNY.

I BUILT A CAMPFIRE AND WE HAD MARSHMALLOWS AND S’MORES.

ANY DAY IN LIFE CAN BE AN ADVENTURE IF YOU HAVE ENOUGH POOP PUSHING YOU INTO ACTION.

****THE USAGE OF ALL CAPS IN THIS POST IS DEDICATED TO BO BRYANT, WHO UNDERSTANDS THAT SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO LOCK THAT CAPS BUTTON, AND NETTIQUETTE BE DAMNED.

It took 6 days in Daleville before we made it back onto the trail – sort of.  The doctor I saw at the clinic had an idea about which bug I might have but without doing a culture it’s hard to know for sure.  He used the hammer approach and threw a Z-pack at it for which I am duly grateful.  The pack was a 5 day prescription and we left town on day 4. 

Our plans were tentative – we were aiming to make it only a bit over 5 miles to the first shelter and then stay there.  We made it there by lunch without too much strain and no unfortunate incidents and decided to push on.  The day ended at the next shelter, which put us at a bit over 12 miles.  We were completely inundated with an afternoon thunderstorm and had to ford several streams that were out of their banks.  The day ended nicely as the rain was all done by the time we set up camp.  Our gear was all about dry by morning. 

We encountered a group of college kids and ran into them off and on for a couple of days – and they were just plain ludicrous.  Tents hanging out of packs haphazardly, loaves of bread in hand, gallon water jugs dangling from pack extremities and even a 5 pound bag of celery carried by one girl.  They were missing tent parts, had no real group leadership and no idea of who was carrying what.  They were out for a 5 day hike and ran out of iodine for water purification on the first day.  It was just the most amazing clusterfuck.  But they seemed to be having fun and in the end that’s what counts.

We struggled a bit on our 2nd and 3rd days out and didn’t really make that many miles – 14 and 16 after much effort.  I had picked up new shoes in Daleville and am experiencing pain in my tarsal area.  No blisters, though.  Hopefully my feet will get used to the shoes.  Salewa is the brand and I do like them.

We have seen several good views and I will try to remember to upload some pics.  After getting my phone replaced I bought a waterproof sleeve for it and I think it fuzzes the pictures a bit so I am taking pics with our camera and then connecting it to my phone to upload from time to time.

I need to mention Glasgow VA.  It’s a small community that treats hikers right.  They had a hotel that closed a few years ago so they built a hiker pavilion. It has room for about 8 to sleep in the pavilion and there is a hot shower that is very nice.  There’s a large picinic table and multiple benches around a nice fire ring with a large surrounding gravel area.  The town has about 50 cords of firewood just sitting there for hikers to use as desired.  There’s room for tenting as well, which we took advantage of.  All of this is within walking distance of a restaurant, laundromat, grocery, gas station and Dollar General.  We patronized all of the above.  The pavilion area is incredibly comfy and provided without cost, though there is a donation box.  We enjoyed the facilities and gladly donated.  Thanks, Glasgow

This year as is true on many other years, lots of hikers have become sick for one reason or another while on the trail.

Many hikers are pushed off the trail each year due to injuries.  If examined without prejudice the situation is frankly one that begs for a high injury rate.  People go from living in houses and pretty standard routines to working under physical load all day and living in tents and shelters while simultaneously  the quality of their diet generally goes downhill.  Many people carry between 30 and 50 pounds for 8 to 10 hours a day 6 or 7 days a week.

Crash and burn is common.  Most years the completion rate for thruhikers is around 20%.  Attitudes go South.  The trail is often not what people expected.  (See my bitching about rock scrambles).  Money runs out.  Time runs out.  Very occasionally someone even croaks.  Two so far this year that I have heard of – one hypothermia and one unknown causes (but he was 71 years old).  Nonfatal illnesses vary from knee and foot stress injuries to giardia and other intestinal maladies to heat stroke and dehydration.  Taking note of and responding to your body’s limitations is critical.

This year so many hikers have been sick out on the trail with norovirus-like symptoms that the CDC was out getting samples.  Yeah, that many.  Like most.  It seemed to be most active between the Smokies and Hot Springs and I thought it was mostly done.  We have maintained high sanitary standards since day one and have not had to deal with the ‘hiker plague’ until now.

We have now spent 4 nights at the Howard Johnson’s in Daleville due to illness.

We came into town feeling fine, planning to resupply, buy shoes at the outfitter, clean up good at the hotel, drink some draft beer and head out the next morning.

I didn’t feel so spiffy when we got moving towards breakfast.  Figured it was just normal morning fatigue.  When we finished breakfast we discussed briefly and decided to take a zero.  We had run a month prior to our last zero and this time we had run a week but we both wanted it so the decision was made.

A couple of hours later I was sitting on the toilet with full blown mudbutt.  As icing on the cake I had stomach pain and nausea for the rest of the day. 

The next day:  mudbutt all day and night.  The next day things gradually slowed down and changed over to lots of gas.  Lots and lots of gas.  Today things seemed better but I had been eating and drinking so much less than my norm that I just wasn’t sure if I was better or just plain empty.

So we went to lunch at a local cafe where I ordered a sandwich and salad.  On the way home we stopped at Wendy’s for frosties.  It took about 15 minutes to get home and 3 more minutes to get back into mudbutt mode.  Yay.

So I headed off to a clinic, got a prescription for a zpack and am now playing round two of the waiting game.  It’s probably not giardia but no way to tell without doing a culture.  Zpack is a good tool to kill many of the potential culprits. 

I can’t hike while pooping nonstop and I have to admit that it’s a downer to just sit around doing nothing.  Quitting and just heading up to Eagle River has crossed my mind, but I am still having fun while we hike so I refuse to let this shit get me too far down.

So the zpack should clear up my symptoms in another day or two and I will have seen every episode of every show on TV by then.  It will be good to get back out in the woods.  And get this shit behind me.

Leaving Pearisburg we had to pay some dues. For four days as we made our way into town and then took our first zero day in a month it rained daily. On the plus side of thing the rain stopped before we left town. On the minus side, rain that falls on mountains runs down them. Damn gravity.

Leaving town always involves hiking uphill. For some odd reason towns seem to be down in valleys instead of on top of mountains. Go figure.

As we made our way to the base of some unnamed mountain we encounters a stream running much higher than normal. The only way to cross was to ford it. Shoes off, socks off and OMFG it was cold! Uphill was a road which made a great place to get the socks and shoes back on.

Umm, we made it a good fifty feet into the woods and had to do it again. After another five minutes of hiking the process had to be repeated. After that we hiked barefoot between streams. Five fordings in a half mile later and each of them cold as fuck we actually got to keep our shoes on and hike.

The terrain was mostly uneventful for several days after our initial departure from town. Ups and downs and some pretty decent views.

Then as Mother’s Day approached we started seeing more memorable things. First was the Audie Murphy Memorial. Audie was the most decorated soldier in WWII and Hollywood made him into a B grade movie star. He was in a ton of Westerns. He died in a plane crash near where the memorial was erected.
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About ten miles after the Audie memorial we came to the Dragon’s Tooth, which is a pretty notable set of vertical rocks. The down side is that the approaching trail was annoyingly rocky and by the time we got to the side trail to the tooth I was happy to drop my pack for a bit to go check it out. Note that checking it out did not include scaling it. I don’t climb stuff like that without a very good reason.
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The climb down after the tooth was simply horrid. Lots of vertical and near vertical descents and generally NOT HIKING TRAIL. I was less than pleased to encounter trail that was actually rock climbing. That’s BS.

We pushed ourselves to get it done regardless since it was Sunday and we wanted to get dinner at a local restaurant that only serves Thur-Sun. We hiked into The Four Pines Hostel which is only .3 miles from the trail. It’s a 3 car detached garage converted into a mancave/hostel. It offers about 6 cots, some couches and chairs, a couple of fridges, microwave and a bathroom with toilet and shower. There’s also a wood-burning stove to take the chill off if needed.

As we arrived Fig greeted us and offered to add us to the reservation at the restaurant known as the The Home Place. We piled a dozen hikers into two trucks and rode a couple of miles.

When we arrived at the restaurant it became very evident that Mother’s Day was definitely their busiest day of the #year. There had to be 200 people outside waiting for their parties to be called. The restaurant is housed in a large country house with wraparound porches and is obviously a restored vintage home.

We got in after about 2 hours and it was so totally worth it. The menu choice was very simple: 2 meats or 3 meats. That’s it. The meals are served family style and are AYCE. 3 meats cost $1 more so we went with that. We had fried chicken, roast beef that was prime rib quality, and baked country ham. Sides were mashed potatoes, pinto beans, biscuits, gravy, baked apples, green beans, and cole slaw. Pitchers of tea and lemonade were kept fresh on the table throughout the meal and coffee was served on request. We finished up with warm peach cobbler a la mode, or in my case switching off to vanilla ice cream. Needless to say, a dozen hikers made for numerous refills on all items.
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When we made our way back to the truck and thus to the hostel I didn’t even mind the lack of cots. I slept on two chairs and a footstool. Happily.

We took our first Zero for a month today in Pearisburg, VA.  It sure has been nice.

Our hotel room has a good WiFi signal, a microwave, a fridge and is generally just damn comfy for a pair of hikers.

InProgress got her new shoes.  I got in to see a dentist and got my cracked tooth repaired.  I got a haircut.  I bought ALL the chicken tenders Food Lion had and ate them.  We sat around and rested.  All our gear got dry.  We thoroughly cleaned our water bladders and the mouthpieces no longer have visible mud in them.  My feet aren’t sore.  It rained for almost the past 24 hours without letup and I didn’t give a damn because I was warm and dry.

On a different note, while we were at Woods Hole I weighed myself again.  I have lost approximately 30 pounds since we started hiking.  Too much for me to be ok with since we have only 630 miles done and around 1560 to go.  I have eaten the whole time we have been in town but not just cramming it in – trying to give my body steady food to digest so maybe I will gain a bit back.  If I finish the hike having lost 40 pounds that’s ok.  50 or more might not be ok.  I want to look victorious on Katahdin, not like a newly released political prisoner.  While I was getting all my errands completed InProgress shopped for food and added more snacks to what we’ll eat than has been our norm.  We’ll see how that works.

Woods Hole is a hostel a few miles outside of Pearisburg, VA.  It is a family run, multi-generation enterprise and they focus on sustainable living while still offering lots of good stuff to guests.  There are a couple of rooms in the house that can be rented as well as the bunks out in the cabin.  The cabin itself dates back to the 1800’s but is homey once you shower all the hikers before cramming them in.  It sleeps around 16 or so in comfort and I imagine that could be pushed over 20 easily.  Many consider it a must-stop location along the trail.  We planned to stay here and the weather reinforced our commitment by drizzling on us for the last 18 hours off and on.

There are chickens, guineas, pigs and goats for sure and possibly other farm animals around.  A couple of the hens are brave enough to come into the hiker kitchen and eat any crumbs a hiker may drop.  A fridge is well stocked with hiker chow and sodas, delicious homemade oatmeal bars are available and the place is very nice despite several inconveniences such as the outdoor shower with the gravel floor and the outhouse.

We couldn’t really do this as a resupply stop as there aren’t enough staples available but we didn’t plan it as such so it’s pretty cool to just hang out while the rain pings on the tin roof and shoot the shit with other folks who are just plain happy to be dry.

We will make it into Pearisburg tomorrow and resupply there.  We will also take a zero day there as well.  I have an appointment to see a dentist.  I cracked a tooth a couple of weeks ago and it has been tough to get an appointment.  Now that I can get it tended to I am eager to get it out of the way.  We are overdue a zero day anyway – the last time we actually took a day off and didn’t hike was in Gatlinburg, while we waited for microspikes to be shipped in.  Seems like forever ago.  To contrast, we hiked about 11 miles the day we left Gatlinburg – the day before yesterday we did an accidental 20.  The plan was to hike as far as a certain shelter and then decide how much farther we wanted to go.  We hit the shelter turnoff at 2:30 (that was 14 miles).  At 5:00 we started looking for a campsite.  Took a while and when we settled in we discovered that we had topped 20.

The terrain in VA is easier.  The temps are trending warmer.  Everything seems to be getting easier.  Even the ‘Ains.’

A hiker called Doc expounded upon the Ains to me one day back in the Smokies.  He said the the Ains were the only things stopping him from making the miles he wanted every day.  When I asked what the Ains were he told me:

The rain.
The pain.  
The terrain.

Ain’t that the gospel?

Grayson Highlands is famous for the wild ponies that live there.  There are herds and herds of them.  They will regularly approach hikers for food or even try to eat your pack straps (for the salt).  Occasionally you hear of a hiker getting too friendly and receiving a bite or kick as reimbursement.  Wild really means that you can’t ride them.  They’re like a herd of beggars.  

As we entered the area we saw one high up a hillside.  He spotted us as well and promptly turned, trotted into some trees and was never seen again.

As we climbed higher the weather changed from cloudy and windy to misty and windy then to drizzling and windy.  And there were no ponies.

We made our way through the clouds for an hour or so and three times I heard a nicker or whinny but no equine forms ever appeared.  There was, however plenty of pony poop on the trail and this remained a constant reminder of ponies lurking around the next corner for the next two days.

We crowded into a shelter as the final sardines that could be squeezed into that particular can and hunkered down as rain fell periodically through the night. The shelter was a double-decker and I became increasingly annoyed with the upstairs occupants as time went on.  Two dads and six or seven kids that were about nine years old.  They left trash all over, left open food out overnight, and the kids were all peeing right up under the shelter front overhang.

We walked out of there while it was still raining.  And there were no ponies.  It rained on us for the next five miles off and on while we worked through some stony terrain with few trail blazes.  We arrived at the next shelter and holed up there.  That’s right folks.  We hiked five miles in the rain just to get away from the brats.  Did I mention the lack of ponies?

The next morning the sky was clearer and we hiked the rest of the Highlands on our way out.  Our bitter, lonely ponyless way out.  Two and a half days, four dump truck loads of poop, and no ponies.

Grayson Highlands can kiss my ponyless ass.

Virginia accounts for about 1/4 of the length of the trail.  Hikers often feel that it will never end.  We haven’t seen enough of it to be bored yet, though.  Just a few days and so far it’s nice.

The elevation is lower, Spring seems to finally making an appearance, and  our average miles are increasing.

We have been meeting more people all along, passing some and being passed by others.  The most notable has been a Southbounder called Chief Sherpa.  His daily regime includes 10,000 calories, and he eats nothing solid during the day.  He drinks malodextrin all day long as he hikes and eats food after he finishes hiking.  He’s been on the trail since October and is definitely odd.

 
Speaking of odd, I should probably explain some hiker vocabulary from time to time.  Here’s a chunk to enjoy…

Up:  uphill climb
Down:  downhill descent
PUD:  pointless up & down
Miles:  distance hiked
Zero:  a day when a hiker does no miles, usually in town
Nero:  a day when a hiker does almost no miles
Trail Zero: when a hiker does no miles but does not leave the trail.
Beero:  a zero day taken due to alcohol or hangover
White Blazing:  hiking on the AT
Blue Blazing: hiking a side trail
Yellow Blazing: hitching or shuttling to another part of the trail
Neon Blazing:  hiking from one hotel/hostel  to the next
Pink Blazing:  Chasing tail on the trail.

smells pretty rough just the same. 

Hikers stink.  It’s just part of the package deal.  You can’t lug a heavy pack around in all sorts of weather for miles and miles for days at a time without bathing and expect anything else.  But since everyone stinks together it’s not so bad.

Hikers use trail names.  It’s not mandatory but it surely is customary.

Jess has used the ‘handle’ of In Progress as long as I have had the pleasure of knowing her.  For any who don’t already know, her site is here: Jessica’s site

She writes well enough that I enjoy reading though I have avoided doing so lately when we may be posting on the same topics or I would surely succumb to the urge to issue some ‘corrections.’  Like THAT would end well…

I made it for over a month on the trail with no name other than Tom.  I didn’t really want to get known as ‘Just Tom’ and that seemed to be coming unless someone stuck a name on me that fit or I did something extraordinarily stupid enough to get an instant moniker.  Since I was also getting tired of ducking the names I didn’t want (Cliffhanger, NTFB, Ground Control, Stoveless, just to mention some of the suggestions) I named myself.  The trick, by the way, of avoiding an undesired trail name is to never, ever, ever, not for one second acknowledge that it refers to you.

I took the name Outfitter.  It’s applicable since we plan to open a Hiking Outfitter when we move AND because I have lost and destroyed enough gear on the trail that it’s the first place I need to visit when we get to town.  When you see Outfitter in the shelter journals for 2013 that is me.  So far I am unaware of anyone else using the same handle.  

I’ve been using it for over a week now and it seems to have stuck.

While I have been not posting we have been hiking.  So far we have completed Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.  We passed into Virginia several days ago.  We met up with Merry who thruhiked last year and was out doing some section hiking.  He and InProgress hiked together some last year and he has been following her blog and keeping in touch.  After his section was done he came to meet us and drove us into Damascus.

This act was magnificent in many ways.  First and foremost we got to hang out with him.  We had dinner and beers at the Blue Blaze Cafe and then spent the night in a great little place called Ruth’s Rest.  Then the next day he drove us back to where he had picked us up and let us back out on the trail.  This created the opportunity for our first slack-pack day.  We left my pack and 90% of the contents of InProgress’s pack in Damascus at the Hiker’s Inn.  So all we carried was some food for lunch and snacks and some water.

We made 22 miles that day going back into Damascus.  Pretty fun.

Other than the Blue Blaze Cafe I found Damascus to be overrated.  There are lots of places to stay and the town is pretty but it is not the hiker mecca that it is made out to be.  Hot Springs was better.

I would like to go back during Trailfest and to do the Virginia Creeper Trail (bicycle) at some point though.