Monday, November 27, 2017

Pinball Wizard - Nov 24

Hiked 15.5 awesome miles today from Dripping Rock (Blue Ridge Parkway mile 9.1) north to Rockfish Gap (I-64). Beautiful sunshine made the brown forest floor come alive. We couldn't ask for more perfect weather for hiking. I still can't get over how absolutely picturesque hardwood forests are, leaves or no leaves. Never tire of gazing deep into the brown woods.

We have one more day of hiking to complete our journey. Really getting exciting.

Today I scared up three squirrels as I hiked into their territory. Two of them followed the normal squirrel protocol and scampered up the nearest tree to avoid being eaten by some moving thing larger than them. The third one though, must have either been very choosy or unable to make a decision because the instant it made contact with the nearest tree it immediately ricocheted off the tree like a pinball off a rubber bumper and headed toward another nearby tree. No sooner had it made contact when Ricochet Squirrel again careened off the tree toward the next one. The whole time I haven't broken stride which encouraged Ricochet Squirrel to repeat the pinball process five or six times, finally finding a suitable tree to make it's vertical escape. Crazy, crazy.

Meet DeBose Egleston. Of course his nick name is Yellow Truck. As he shuttled us from our car to a trailhead twice this week we had as much fun listening to him talk as we did hiking. Lots of real nice, salt of the earth, colorful folks we run into. Since DuBose is not happy with VDOT's decision about a traffic light near his house, say so on your tailgate. Wouldn't want it any other way.

The Lowe Family Cemetery is the most primitive cemetery we have seen on the trail. Really interesting to see actual relics on the trail. I like to think the Lowes lived in the cabin where only a stone foundation and chimney remain.

And at the end of the day after eating a rotisserie chicken and taking a hot shower at the Waynesboro Comfort Inn (we love credit card camping), it's time to put a hurtin' on a carton of Breyers Reese's ice cream. Wouldn't have that any other way.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving - Nov 23

Best Wife and Pappy 12 have been hiking through Shenandoah NP this Thanksgiving week. 12 miles Monday, then 15.5, 18.1 and 15.5 the next three days. We have 26.2 miles to go to complete this 2190 mile incredible journey. When we finish on Saturdaywe will be terribly excited. It will not be the same emotional high as when we summited Katahdin, but a huge day nevertheless. 

This morning as we began the 3000 foot climb up Three Ridges, with The Priest at our backs, we were a little bummed that everybody was enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner except us. Of course we choose to hike, but we still miss things like family dinners. Late this morning I was talking to our daughter in GA who we will visit in a week or so. She had the idea to have a Thanksgiving dinner the first night we are with her and her family in GA. The rest of the day Best Wife felt much better knowing a Thanksgiving dinner is on the horizon. 

The weather has been amazing this week. Temps in the 20s most mornings. Highs in the 40s. Bright sunshine. Perfect for hiking. 

Why in the first picture do we find a perfectly good pair of jeans discarded on the trail. Go figure. Maybe an inexperienced hiker shedding unnecessary baggage. 

I'd like to meet the aggressive bear described on the sign. As rare as bear attacks are in the East I'll take my chances with this guy. 

This morning we met three thru hikers heading south (third to last picture). Hoot, Johnny Sunshine and Karate Kid started their hike in Maine in mid August. We have not seen another thru hiker for a week or two. We figured as late as it is we would not see any more. It was so exciting to talk with them, only for a few minutes. A whole flood of memories came rushing back. 

Best Wife's hiking poles are strange leaf collectors in the next to last picture. I've been laughing at her poles all day. 

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Bear... Finally - Nov 17

After 2700 miles of AT hiking over the last 13 years Pappy 12 actually saw a bear. Beautiful sight. With all the leaves off the trees the view is clear, deep into the woods making a bear's body easy to spot. It's black body stands out nicely against an all brown background. The bear in the photo below was actually the second one we saw, that time on Skyline Drive from the car. Now I'm expecting to see a bear behind every other tree.

We day hiked several days since I wrote last, from Snickers Gap, Rt 7, south to Rt 522 at Front Royal. We then took a four day trip hiking south from 522 into Shenandoah National Park.

This time Best Wife and I took two cars so we could credit card (motel) camp. Each day we drive one car to the beginning of our hike and hike to the other car. Then drive to a motel (Front Royal or Luray) for dinner, hot shower and a bed. The next morning we drive to the beginning of that days hike and hike to the other car. Then repeat for as many days as we want.

Hiking with only a day pack and credit card camping are a great way to go in cold weather. The downside is we miss the trail society in the evenings. Except that in cold weather there is little trail society available.

The sixth picture is of a large White Oak that I first saw about 6 years ago. As we approached Front Royal I was looking forward to enjoying this giant again, but it wasn't meant to be. The Big Boy has given up the ghost.

The picture of the group of kids on the trail is a school class from Locust Grove, VA on a field trip. They had hiked up to Mary's Rock just south of Thorton Gap. The teacher leading the charge was also the bus driver.

Check out the privy with a fancy Dutch door at Floyd Wayside Shelter. Bottom closed for privacy. The top open so you can do your business and enjoy nature at the same time.

We have 86.9 miles to go from the middle of SNP to 30 miles south of Waynesboro through beautiful woods on relatively easy treadway. Most of the hiking in SNP so far has been on dirt, well graded trail. It's going to be a real fun finish.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Back in the Groove - Nov 2

Summiting Katahdin seems like a dream. Still hard to believe Best Wife and Pappy 12 lived in a tent for six months. It's good to be home, but we miss the woods and the trail culture.

Since we left Maine we played with grand babies for a few days in Boston. Then flew to Utah to see those grand babies (who had asked months ago if they could shave my beard) for two weeks before they moved to Paraguay. (Our son-in-law works for a general contractor who was awarded a project renovating the Mormon temple in Paraguay). As soon as we returned from Utah we got back on the AT to finish up the 200 miles we skipped.

My cousin, John Taylor, met us in Waynesboro, VA and drove us south to VA Rt 60 to start a week long hike back to our car in Waynesboro. The night before we started hiking strong winds had blown many ripe apples off the tree. For three days we were treated to delicious crisp apples laying all over the trail.

The first night out Best Wife discovered her sleeping pad would not stay inflated.

One of the aluminum stays in Best Wife's pack had broken into three pieces (somewhere in Conn or Mass). We didn't know that the sharp end of one of the broken pieces was sticking inside her pack. This sharp stay end had cut a hole in her sleeping pad so she slept on the hard wood shelter floor. How she hiked 500 miles through New England without the stay damaging any equipment in her pack is beyond me.

The next day after we hiked 10.2 miles to Seeley-Woodworth Shelter, I located the hole and tried to patch it with duct tape. It didn't hold so she slept on the somewhat not so hard, but still hard ground as we were tenting that night.

The third day we hiked another 10 to the summit of, and 3000 vertical feet down, The Priest to the Tye River. As we hiked that day Shauna decided that she was not sleeping without a sleeping pad for the third night. It worked out that a hiker friendly guy was able to pick us up and drive us to the outfitter in Waynesboro where we bought a patch kit for the sleeping pad.

During this whole three days we were stressing a little about our daughter, Page because we had little cell service. Page was 17 weeks pregnant but was likely to lose the baby as the baby had developed a huge cyst on her neck. While we were at the outfitters parking lot we figured it was too late in the day to fix the sleeping pad and get back on the trail and set up camp before nightfall. So we drove home with the plan to day hike closer to our house the next day. On the way home Shauna said that maybe the damaged sleeping pad was the event that caused us to be closer to home and in good cell signal range in case Page needed us.

Two hours into our day hike the next day (where we did have good phone service) we got a call from Page saying the doctor had just determined that the baby had no heartbeat. She asked if we could drive to Columbus, GA that day to stay with her four kids while she delivered a dead baby. We turned around and hiked the four miles back to the car, drove home, packed our bags and headed down I-81 to GA.

After a week in Columbus, GA playing with four grand babies we will get back in the woods. 160 AT miles to go.