18-19 May – Damascus VA to Gloucester (825.8 miles)

What?  To Gloucester?!  I traveled for two days to Gloucester, MA from Damascus, VA.  Yes, I am officially ‘off the Trail’. . . I am back with Memory in Massachusetts and will be here with her from now on.  

I hitch-hiked from Damascus and got a ride all the way to Maryland with a fellow through-hiker (Big shout-out to Lauren:  congratulations on completing your own Through-Hike on 7 May! and thanks a ton for the great company and ride to Maryland!)  Then I took a Greyhound bus the next morning all the way to Boston, and Memory picked me up about 1:15a.m. today, the 20th, when I am writing this.  We’re sitting here now with great coffee from her super coffee machine.

But nobody cares about the logistics of all this:  –you want to know why!!
OK. . . here, –for my loyal readers–, in order, are the reasons that I left the Trail:

1.)  I was traumatized by all those morning coffees without half-and-half.

2.)  There is not that much fresh fried seafood available on the Appalachian Trail.   

3.)  I miss sharing my experiences, be they great or small, with Memory.  I’d rather be with her from now on than anywhere else.  I’m crazy in love with her.        

4.)  I’ve done enough to get out of this Trail experience what I wanted to; I’m satisfied that I’ve scratched that itch.

5.)  The Trail Gods told me it’s time to write that novel & screenplay that I’ve been wanting to get out for years.

6.) I didn’t realize that hiking involved so much walking.    

7.)  I’ve lost enough weight to be beach-ready!  

8.)  The devil made me do it.

OK.  Maybe that’s not the real ‘order’.  You decide!
Happy Trails 

17 May – 19E Shuttle to Damascus, VA Trail Days

On 17 May, I split a shuttle with 9 other folks to Damascus, VA to see what Trail Days was all about.    

“Damascus is the home of the annual Trail Days festival, and is known as Trail Town USA due to the convergence of four scenic trails in the town, including the Appalachian TrailU.S. Bicycle Route 76, The Iron Mountain Trail, and the Virginia Creeper Trail. Damascus also is on the route of the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail and the Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail. The Trail Days festival is held around the middle of May each year and draws in excess of 20,000 tourists, making it the largest single gathering of Appalachian Trail hikers anywhere.

Well, it’s a big fun party. . . a parade, games, all the relevant equipment vendors helping people with their equipment (really: repairing [sewing, adjusting], replacing, giving advice, etc.), all kinds of carnival food, etc. . . and many charitable organizations, usually religious, offering free showers, laundry, and food for the Hiker community.  Really, just a nice big ‘Trail’ celebration.

On Friday night, I took a walk into the woods to see the ‘Drum Circle’.  This was actually arranged by some Trail acquaintances of mine and they insisted I go, so on Friday night I marched to the sound of the drums. . . In the (dark) video, -hang with it-, you’ll see that the woods where everyone tented out is a labyrinth of people, lights, sounds, and who knows what else is going on in the dark!  (Not that I don’t trust co-ed 20-somethings with all the time in the world on their hands, a carnival tent city at night, beer, marijuana, and hormones all generously available . . . )  

In the daytime video, you can see the stage where music played all day and night. . . they had performers lined up for the whole weekend and they were all good. . . 

I set up in the supposedly ‘quiet’ section of the Tent City but it turned out to be not so quiet as one might expect . . . 

Emoji

16 May – Bradley Gap to US19E (16.1 miles)

Went up and over ‘Hump Mountain’, (5500 feet or so in elevation) and eventually got to RT19E. From this highway, I arranged a shuttle, as did many other people, to go to ‘Trail Days’ in Damascus, Virginia, the following morning.  Trail Days celebrates all things Appalachian Trail for a few days a year– always the weekend after Mother’s Day and always in Damascus, Virginia. . . 

This was another great day for the weather and I felt strong and good the whole day!

15 May – Little Rock Knob to Bradley Gap (17.3miles)

 As I write this, I’m in a Hiker hostel where there is a TV.  I had MSNBC news on a little while ago and was catching up on the Iran tensions and recent abortion rights paroxysms in the nation.  I left to switch out some laundry, -10 yards away- came back and…(as God is my witness!) someone had switched the channel to Wheel Of Fortune!  And the guy was eating a hamburger—close enough to meatloaf for me!  Oh well… I guess I saw it coming…

(That’s what I get for introducing politics to this blog.  I’ll just stick with death and taxes from now on.)

Had a great day yesterday.  Went up and over a mountain that was protecting a rare ‘coniferous forest’ for these parts.  

Before I came to the sign and big roped off areas, I could smell Christmas very strongly… every memory came flooding back with that lovely fir/pine smell…and we all know, just that smell can induce sentimental thoughts, way out of season or not…

Got to the top of a mountain where the ‘Cloudland Hotel’ stood.  Real interesting big beautiful hotel stood here from 1884 for 20 years or so only.  People could look out over the mountains from a big porch and stay here with three meals a day—all for only $2 per day!  (It was dismantled due to high maintenance costs; only the foundations remain.)

Saw this old spooky chimney on the Trail.  This story is well known; it is addressed briefly in the guidebooks but I also looked it up.

In 1927 a Swede, working in the local logging camps, had a cabin here and one night during the brutal 1927 winter he killed his family in an alcoholic rage.  Wife, daughter and two grandchildren.  Being snowbound at this extreme elevation, and expecting to remain so for weeks, he dragged the bodies out onto the trail to freeze.    Later, he cut them up into ‘log-length’ pieces and tied them up in burlap and hid them in his woodpile.       Eventually, he hiked through the snow to the town of Roan Tennessee and confessed to the authorities because his family ‘won’t leave me alone’—calling out to him at night from the woodpile! (The trail to his cabin later being incorporated into the Appalachian Trail.)   Supposedly, many AT hikers have ‘felt’ the presence of ghosts and sadness at this point and you can see where the Trail is considerably widened out by hikers skirting the ruin.   By the looks of it, and all the intact moss, nobody dares to touch it either—I sure didn’t!   Well, if you made it this far in the story- gotcha!  This is just a chimney I saw on the Trail.  Someone must have lived here I guess…

12 May – Erwin Tennessee to Beauty Spot Gap (11.3 miles)

Forgot to show you this picture of a library I went to in Erwin TN; they converted the old train station into a library!  It is right on the railroad tracks of course.  Adorable inside too…

These entire 11 miles were all uphill, gradually going from 1600’ to 4500’ over the  distance with nary a downhill stretch.  That’s right—I said nary. … That’s why I didn’t set any mileage records today though I hiked hard and strong all day.   Still no blisters, still no return of the litany of previous muscle maladies I seem to attract, and still feeling no sickness since the one bout.  😀

I’ve had a strangely suppressed appetite going on many weeks now…  just not ravenous at any one time though I should be-due to caloric expenditure.  I’m still eating for fuel but the magic is gone somehow… I eat more as a task and am not sure what is happening with the appetite.  A natural metabolic change from the exercise?  Or a subconscious protest against the lack of Friendly’s Neapolitan half gallons of ice-cream out here in the woods?  Or is it that I’m drinking so much water that it is fooling the hunger triggers?  Keith- you studied this stuff in college—what’s your guess?

10-11 May – No Business Knob to Erwin Tennessee (6.2 miles)

Had a good morning run into the town of Erwin Tennessee to resupply; I got a room and waited out the rain the next day while my equipment dried… (I got to clean all of my equipment in a bathtub for the first time and it feels good to get the dirt, smoke, dead bugs etc. scrubbed out!)

Speaking of equipment- time for some analysis this far: 

[First a big thank you to Ashley and Tim Coates of Real Cheap Sports, (36 W. Santa Clara Street, Ventura, California 93001): Ashley and Memory are sisters and I got some great deals on some high-end equipment from them as well as encouragement and support of course!]

Trekking poles.   I got Black Diamond Distance Carbon trekking poles and I use them constantly. It’s hard to believe I have ever hiked without trekking poles; they are always in motion carrying weight, redistributing weight, and preventing slips and falls.   I give them an A+.

Tent.  It is a Seedhouse SL2.  Another great thing and I’m an expert at setting up my little domain every day.  Its the adult version of having a little ‘Fort’ to erect and play in every day except Mom doesn’t deliver grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup when I get hungry.  A

Sleeping bag.  (I got this at REI). I got too lightweight a bag for the task and have been cold more times than I can count.  Oh well… I give myself a D and same for the ‘experienced thru-hiker’ at REI who recommended it.  Have been so jealous of the folks with big fluffy warm sleeping bags. 

Shoes.  Altra Lone Peak 4 Trailrunners have been perfect.  Lightweight, waterproof, good grip on rocks, etc…  I will stick with these not-one-blister shoes… A+. (They are all that and a bag of chips, a pickle and a cookie.)

Rain Jacket and Rain Pants from North Face… a begrudging B.  I dont know if there’s a more breathable version available but when I wear these I sweat too much and end up soaked inside with sweat instrad of rain…  and if it’s cold, I’m in trouble..

Thermarest Sleeping Pad. I punctured this early somehow and dont know if I ever got one night fully inflated… will be trying to fix/correct at an upcoming Trail Days event where all the vendors will be present. (Recuse on grade)

Backpack.  Osprey Atmos AG 65.  Has been excellent with all the bells qnd whistles.  Fellow hikers refer to it as the ‘Cadillac’ of backpacks and it seems to be true.  A

Jetboil Stove.  Amazing technology.  Such a fast boil time that I can’t attend to other tasks while the water is heating up- if I turn my back it boils over! Makes hot coffee and cocoa always two minutes away.  A+

9 May – Hogback Ridge to No Business Knob campsite (20.7 miles)

Long nice day on the Trail.  Lots of water and snack breaks to fuel the machine as I went up and over Big Bald Mountain… about 10 miles on the ascent and another 10 descending to my end campsite for the day… had just enough light to set up properly and make something to eat, hang my ‘bear hang’ food bag, etc… then, into the warm tent to sleep! 

I feel like I really have my ‘Trail Legs’ now…  I rarely stop out of sheer fatigue like in the beginning; usually it’s to take a deliberate food or water break now…

8 May – Flint Mountain to Hogback Ridge (8.8 miles)

Saw this big beautiful but odd ‘moth thing’ today!  Huge and surreal.  Delicate and scary.  A cross between a tropical fish, a kite, and an evil bat that will suck your brains out your ears while you sleep.  

It reminds me of my Mattel Thingmaker when we used to make Creepie Crawlies by baking plastigoop in the little Mattel hotplate machine…best Christmas present ever for kids in the 60’s.  Who remembers?  Who can still smell the goop baking?

Some new wildflowers coming out on this leg…