Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dodged the Storm - June 24

If June 21 was Hike Naked Day, today was Amish Hiker Day. Best Wife and Pappy 12 were minding their own business eating lunch at a dirt road crossing when two vans pulled up. Amish men and boys were coming out of them by the dozen. They had showed up to pick up their buddies who were hiking on the AT. Sure enough, 15 minutes later here come another congregation of Amish men and boys out of the woods. Everybody jumped in the vans and were gone before you could say Shoo-Fly-Pie.

All the talk on the trail the past couple days has been about the forecast of lots of rain and wind from a tropical storm coming north from the Gulf. We had planned on staying at the Appalachian Dreamer Hostel (bunkhouse pictured below) on Thursday night. Big time rain was predicted for Friday evening. After a home cooked dinner that filled us to the brim and a clean clean nights stay, we asked the hostel owner to shuttle us north to an AT trail road crossing, leaving our packs and gear at the hostel, hike south 14 miles back to hostel (we call this slack packing) for another knock-your-socks-off home cooked dinner, breakfast and hostel stay.

If we hustled we could make it to the hostel before the rain hit. Our rain avoidance plan worked perfectly. We slept comfortably in the dry all night. We talked to some hikers the next day who had been out in it that night who said the rain was hard enough and loud enough that they thought the world was coming to an end.

Not sure why hikers feel compelled to stack rocks in a pile. Kinda cool, but kinda weird. Often there will be one or two rocks resting on top of a 4x4 sign post. Maybe it has something to do with yoga or pop culture or something else I don't understand.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Yogi - June 21

Adventures in town near the AT are always good. Marion, VA is six miles off the trail on VA route 16. For 50 cents each we rode a 20 passenger city bus six miles from the Mt Rogers Park visitors center to the Marion Walmart. Then we walked about a half a mile to the Marion Econolodge to our luxurious accommodations. During our 24 hour stay here we made that half mile walk three or four times to either buy groceries, eat at a restaurant or catch the bus. 

This morning we had to catch the bus at noon to get to the post office to mail home some cold weather clothes that we no longer need. As we were leaving the motel my watch said we had five minutes to make the ten minute walk. Not good. If we missed this bus we would also miss the last bus for the day taking hikers back to the trail. 

Best Wife, Wayne, and Pappy 12 were hustling across the four lane road in front of the motel, backpacks clearly identifying the three of us as hiker trash, when I spotted a man walking out of a bank toward his rusted out Dodge pickup. He got to his truck at about the same time as I did so I called out to him, "If we hop in the back of your truck can you give us a ride to Walmart?"  He had no problem with the deal so off we went, Wayne and I in the back, Best Wife in the cab. Good looking women can get away with that kind of stuff. 

As we were getting close to Walmart the bus was on the road four cars behind us. So at the Walmart we hopped out of the truck, backpacks in tow, and onto the bus as if the whole thing was planned. 

After mailing our package at the post office, Best Wife used her best Yogi skills to beg another ride back to Walmart. Mr Pugh heard her plea to a women, and the rejection from her, and called out to us to come get in his car. This life long resident of Marion and former principal of Marion Jr High then told us all about Marion on the way to Walmart. Mr Pugh is a saint. 

Plenty of time to buy and eat lunch from an Ingles grocery store deli before we boarded the bus to take us back to the woods. 

We had our boots on the Appalachian Trail by 2:30 p.m.9 miles later we were settling in to our digs for the night in a restored 1800s one room school house that is open to hikers. Great accommodations. 

9 miles for the day, 970 total so far. Friday will be a great day when we hit the 1000 mile mark. There better be some Ben and Jerrys for sale close by to celebrate. 

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Sock and a Smile - June 19

June 21 is Hike Naked day. Not sure how Best Wife and Pappy 12 will handle this one. I think I'll just wear one sock. If anybody has a good idea for June 21 pass it on. Yesterday we stopped for lunch at a beautiful waterfall. My feet were soaking in the water below the falls during lunch. Afterward Best Wife and I were the only two around so I took advantage of the privacy and left my shirt and shorts on a log for a little skinny dipping. No sock, just a smile. Those pictures are for family only.

Had a fantastic hike through Grayson Highlands and the ponies. Beautiful scenery. Pastures with grazing wild ponies. Best Wife got a little too close to one mama. BW knew to stay clear of the rear of the horse because they will kick. As she was standing beside the horse she didn't realize how quickly the horse could move and kick her. One hoof to Best Wife's buttocks made her a believer.

The name of the fella sitting in the shelter is "Two Trails". Most AT thru hikers have trail names, some given to them by other hikers, some hikers make up there own. Some are straightforward like "Bagel" (he eats a lot of bagels). Some are clever. "No Key" sold his car and house before he started his hike so he no longer has any keys. I like it.

I was asked this week if my Pappy 12 name came from the super high dollar whiskey. Not quite.

"Two Trails" name is significant. Last year he and his brother were planning to thru hike the AT together. Before they started their hike, his brother was killed in a car accident. 150 miles into his hike, a fellow hiker heard the story and told him that he and his brother were on two different trails, hence the name.

I've never seen a bat before while hiking. This little guy simply flew into the shelter while we were eating lunch and hung out with us.

What do you do with your pack while food shopping? The last picture tells it. In the shopping cart (or buggy down here) it goes.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Two 16s and a 10 Gets You a Cheeseburger - June 14

Tomorrow we will be in the Big D, and I certainly don't mean Dallas. We hiked two 16 mile days and will hike 10 tomorrow to eat cheeseburgers in Damascus, VA. Damascus is one of half a dozen towns where the trail actually is located on the sidewalk through a 6 or 7 block town. It's hiker heaven with town food at every other storefront.

In Damascus we will hit our 900 mile mark. Getting close to the big four digit milestone. Can't wait.

A few of you have asked how our equipment is holding up. We have had no major problems. In NY Best Wife fell and landed on one of her hiking poles snapping it in two. She bought a new cheap pair which are working out fine. Pappy 12 replaced his pole tips in Johnson City, TN for $6. Simply screw out the old and screw in the new.

Early on, one of the cords that connects the wrist strap to my Black Diamond hiking poles broke. When I called Black Diamond to get a replacement cord they said the best they would do is give me 40% off a new set of poles. Really? I fixed it myself with a piece of para cord which has worked fine the last 800 miles. I've been bad mouthing BD customer service up and down the AT ever since.

Big Agnes customer service on the other hand, gets an A+. When I damaged a segment of my Big Agnes tent pole assembly in NY, one phone call was all it took to BA customer service. They emailed me a drawing of the pole segments so I could reply confirming which segment I needed. It was in the mail that day. That word goes up and down the trail as well.

We used our TarpTent while waiting on the new BA replacement pole segment and are very happy with it. It has two huge vestibules instead of one on the BA tent which is very nice.

Best Wife wore out her Thermarest air mattress. No longer will hold air. Replaced it in Franklin, NC with a Klymit. She misses her Thermarest

Monday, June 12, 2017

Water Everywhere - June 10

Great hiking days lately. Lousy photo days lately. Having major IT problems with Google Photos. Photo storage is so simple for most folks, but not for me. 

Back to the great hiking days. The day we left Roan Mountain, we were in for a real treat - about 6 or 8 miles of balds and green fields up and down Jane's Bald, Little Hump Mt and Hump Mt. it was like the scene in the Sound of Music when Julie Andrews is singing in the Alps. Beautiful, beautiful setting. Wish I could access my pics. 

Lots of creeks and waterfalls the past couple days. Always great to stop for lunch along loud, fast running water. 

I've included one picture here of two thru hikers that we see every couple days. These kind of hikers are in our "hiker bubble". Pictured is Atlas and Natalie. Both are military folks and tons of fun to be with. 

A few nights ago I went from hero to goat in a split second. At home and on the trail when I'm getting in or out of bed to pee, it's always been a personal challenge of mine to do it without waking up Best Wife. I get bragging rights in the morning when she doesn't remember me getting up. 

We each have a zippered door on the sides of our Tarptent. As I woke up in the middle of the night to pee and since I could hear Best Wife's deep breathing, it was challenge time for me. 

Unzipping the screen is the first step. Got it. Still breathing deeply. Step two, rotate 90 degrees on my butt, take my headlamp out of my boot, and place my feet in my boots. No problem. Still deep asleep.

Step three, reach out to the fly and slowly unzip that. Good good. I've got this thing in the bag. Step four, push myself up to a squatting position on my feet but not standing until I can get out from underneath the fly. 

Well, I didn't take into account that I was facing slightly uphill. When I pushed myself to a squatting position I didn't quite make it. So just like the bruised ribs episode a couple months ago, I started on the ever so familiar backward downhill roll. This time instead of coming to rest on rocks and vegetation, I planted my back squarely on my wife's stomach. It's tough to be the goat at 2 a.m.  

The last photo is somebody's crazy idea to walk up and over a fence. Hikers can navigate it but cows can't. 

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Miles - June 7

Best Wife and Pappy 12 left Uncle Jonny's Hostel (Jonny pictured below) in Erwin, TN at  7:45 this morning. 17.1 miles later we were tenting outside Cherry Gap Shelter at 6:15. Biggest mile day on our hike so far. If we make our plan for tomorrow we'll log a 17.6 mile day. I'll count that chicken once it hatches. 

We are at 790 miles total since starting this adventure on march 20. Can't believe we've been on the trail 10 weeks. Seems like 5. We will enter Virginia in 9 or 10 days. How can that be? Wild. 

Hiked through rain most of the day two days ago. Even erected the tent in the rain. First time we had to do that. We keep our sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and clothes bags in plastic trash bags in our backpacks. Sure is nice to have dry dry sleeping gear in the tent. Once inside the tent, let it rain. Makes no difference to me. 

Check out the blow down across the trail in the 6th picture. The tree is fat enough and just high enough to make going over or under a challenge. But check out the crazy branch in picture 5. This branch grew out of the trunk and back into the trunk 18" higher making it a perfect "handle".  "The Handle" is a perfect ADA grab bar. If the ADA inspector had been around he would have approved "The Handle" to meet ADA standards. Using "The Handle", I chose to flop over the tree and be on my way. 

Somebody better put some clothes on that tree before it gets hauled in for indecent exposure. 

Last picture was the most dense Spruce forest we've seen. So dense nothing grows on the ground except moss. It was very strange to. be able to walk through this forest where ever we wanted to. 

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