Friday, May 30, 2014

Daleville: Sometimes You Just Know

Paying attention to instincts has saved my butt several times. As a firefighter there were times I just knew. Just knew to bail or push forward. It's like a voice in the back of your brain that makes no sence when you hear it but you just know that more times than not it's right. That voice started talking on Wednesday night. May be it started on Tuesday and I didn't listen. But it was definitely was there on Wednesday night. 

On Monday I stepped over a log and banged my a Achilles Tendon. It hurt a little but I didn't pay much attention to it. That night I woke up and it was a little stiff. Tuesday it was sore and I popped a couple Advil to help with the inflation. Later in the day I twisted the same ankle. Strange, all soreness in the ankle disappeared. Pain disappeared when I rolled an ankle, that sure was different. 

On Wednesday it felt fine for the first part of the walk but as the miles into Daleville drug on I could tell something was going on. 

Wednesday night it stiffened up again and swelling was evident. So Thursday I came home. The only treatment I've ever found for this kind of injury is RICE. No not the grain, it's an acronym for rest, ice, compression and elevation.  

So for the next week or two I'll be taking it easy on that ankle. I have another adventure planned in the NC mountains starting June 23 and I want it to be ready to go.  I'm sure it will. 

Sometimes you just need to listen to that voice in the back of your head and know it's the right thing to do. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Campbell Shelter to Daleville, VA

The birds were up early again and I was ready for a trip to town. While I stuffed my pack all I could think about was a hot shower. I ate my breakfast bar and started north to Daleville. 

Tinker's cliff was my first stop. Revolutionary War deserters hid out here. A couple of hikers were sleeping under a rock ledge so I moved on quietly. 

I had planned to spend last night in Lambert's Meadow. It has big grassy fields along a
running stream. I guess the heat got to me because I just didn't have the energy to get there. As I passed by, this big fellow made his presence known. 


And just a few yards later his brother showed up. 


I guess the heat is really bringing them out. 

A few miles later I started seeing signs of civilization. I started passing under power lines. These big lines always remind me of rice crispies with the snap, crackle and pop.  It's a shame I couldn't charge my phone here. 


Off to the west I could see a big lake. I've been walking a ridge line around the north of it all morning. I wonder if there is a hydroelectric plant on the lower end. I can't see one from here. 


The decent into Daleville continues another five miles. There are all sorts of rock formations including a wall. This happened when the two plates in the earth pushed over each other  millions of years ago. They were bigger then but time has worn them down. I kind of know how they feel today.  The heat and humidity are building again. 


Finally I reached town. I checked into the HoJo Express and the first order of business was that shower. Sorry no pictures

I heard from Guthook. He is about 15 miles behind me and will get to town tomorrow. His feet are still not doing well. 

After the shower I went to the local Kroger Super Market. There were a couple of foods I had been dreaming about eating. 


Berries and Greek yogurt hit the spot. 

Here is today's profile of the trail from Guthook's app. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pickle Branch Shelter to Campbell Shelter

The morning started off great. Ralph Step and I left the shelter about 7 AM for Dragon's Tooth. It was a tough climb but we maintained a good pace. 


The climb down was a different story. We could feel the humidity building. Soon there was the sound of thunder. I really thought we were going to get soaked. Of course as hot as it was, that would not been an altogether bad thing. 

Somewhere before Highway 311 I lost Ralph Step. I guess he needed a break. I know I did but I also needed water. I skipped the spring at the first shelter. It is down a hill and not always reliable. The Catawba Mountain shelter has a piped spring. When I got there it was dry. I was totally caught off guard. Fortunately another spring had enough flow I could fill my bottle a couple of times to rehydrate. 


I checked the guide book for water up ahead. Lambert Medows was listed unreliable. I remembered a nice stream there last year. Of course that was a really wet year. I began to think about staying at Campbell Shelter. At least there I could check the water supply and have options if it was dry. 

On the way up to McAfee Knob I met Mason. He is a thru-hiker. We took pictures of each other on the knob.


There are two southbounders here at Campbell Shelter tonight. They reported good water at Lambert Meadows so I will not have to worry about water hiking into Daleville tomorrow. 

Here is today's profile from Guthook's app.

Laurel Creek Shelter to Pickle Branch Shelter

As I hiked down the trail this morning I realized I forgot to send a Spot message home last night. Spot is a satellite based communicator that sendS an "I'm okay" message to my wife so she doesn't worry too much about me. This morning she sent me a text that also reminded me I had not written my blog. So I sat on the side of the trail and wrote an entry. Then spent the the rest of the day looking for a signal. No luck today. I'm sure there is one in the section I'm hiking tonorrow. 

Saw some wildlife today but didn't get pictures. First time in awhile since I've seen a red headed woodpecker. I also saw a 5-6 foot black snake. He saw me too and skadadled off the trail. There are notes left everywhere about rattlesnakes but I've yet to see one. I'm okay with that. 

Part of the trail was along the Great Eastern Divide. The rocks are slanted and I was glad it was a dry day. 

The picture really does not show the slant well. 

Toward the end of the day I made a climb up to the Audie Murphy Menorial. I guess that is fitting since this is Memorial Day. 


Today's hike was 22.4 miles. Here is Guthook's profile of this section. 


Tomorrow is another big day. I'm going to Lambert's Meadow so I will only be 10 miles from Daleville on Wednesday morning. I hear a hot shower calling my name. 

The Captain's Place to Laurel Creek Shelter

Okay, I'm an early riser. It's the same on the trail. I like those early morning miles. That didn't happen this morning. The Captain came out and we started talking. When I looked at my watch it was after 10:00. Well I had only planned 17 today. 


Yesterday's miles had definitely made my feet tender. But the rocks on the trail made every step painful. Ater a few miles I stopped and inspected them. No blisters but I taped them anyway. That relieved some of the friction on the balls of my feet. 


Got a message from Guthook. He got new super feet and returned to Woods Hole. He's about 20 miles behind me so a few short days will help him catch me. I thinking we will join back up in Daleville. 

I passed over Wind Rock about lunch. Not much wind and the bugs were bad. 


The afternoon was mostly climbing over one ridge to another. At the top of the last one was Kelly Knob. I was over joyed. There is a strong phone signal there so I used up the charge on my phone to call my wife. I still love to hear her voice. It's really great to still be in love after 40 years of marriage. I can't wait to see her in a couple of weeks. 


After the phone call I hurried down the mountain to the shelter. I had one thing on my mind. No, it was not food. Hidden behind a big rock on Laurel Creek is a natural shower. Trail Trash calls it the "Secret Shower" because when you are in it no one can see you. I washed all the trail dirt off in the cold mountain water. That felt so good. 


So here is the elevation from Guthook's app for today's 17+ miles. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Woods Hole to The Captain's Place

One of Guthook's friends that maintains trails in the area dropped in to visit at Woods Hole. Dino told about a new reroute of the trail a ending out of Pearisburg. I was excited about the possibility of hiking a brand new stretch of trail. However take was not tobe. 

This morning Guthook told me he thought his shoes were the problem. He had arranged a ride to Daleville to buy a new pair. We hope to meet up again but I have my doubts. 

One of the last things Roy Woods did before he left this earth was lay a heart shaped stone at the steps of the cabin. It is still there today. After breakfast, I grabbed my pack and snapped a picture of it as I left Woods Hole. 


The walk along the ridge to Pearisburg was easy. There just a few ups and downs and all were very grassual. Before long I was at Angel's Rest overlooking the New River. 


The climb out of Pearisburg  was hard. No if but or ands about it. This section is the one being replaced   It was easy to tell no maintenance had been done on it in awhile. There were trees down across the trail all the way to the top. 

On the ridge walking got easy again. I moving at a pretty good clip when I heard a noise in the bushes. I small bear ran out on the trail ahead of me and then stopped about 50 yards away. My first thought was "where's mom".  Anyway here is my first bear this year. 


I stopped at the campsite just passed Rice Field Shelter. I got water and talked a few minutes with Gack but the flies were terrible so I moved on. 

About 8:00 I came off the ridge and passed Pine Swamp Branch Shelter. There were a couple of hikers I met at Woods Hole there. They had slack packed from Pearisburg the previous day to the hostel and jumped ahead this morning. I said hello but hiked on a little more. 

About 8:30 I arrived at The Captain's Place. There was nobody here. I knocked at the door and the Captain answered.  He said it was strange not to have several hikers in the yard but to stay. He also invited me to have a soda from the frig on the back porch. I thanked him and set up camp. While I was eating another hiker showed up. It wasn't long before we both were sound asleep. 

Here is the elevation profile from Guthook's app. All 30+ miles. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Woods Hole

I'm here a second day at Woods Hole Hostel. After almost 200 miles in just a week and a half Guthook and I agreeed we needed a short break before pouring on the miles for the next leg of our journey. 


The land the hostel is on is protected by a conservation easment. Michael and Neville operate the hostel and run a sustainable organic farm. In addition to fresh vegetables they also raise pigs, chickens and a few cattle for beef. Many of the meals served at their table, at least in part come from the land they live on. They supplement with additional foods purchased at an Amish market on the other side of the mountain. 



The farm was passed down to Neville from her grandparents who settled in the valley in 1939. Roy and Tillie Woods rented the cabin and later purchased it and the surrounding land. Once careers were established they spent little time here and rented to hunters. After retirement they returned to their mountain home. Occasionally an AT hiker would knock on their door seeking help. Roy decided to open his home to hikers and built a bunk house. The first year of operation was in 1986.  Roy unfortunately passed away the next year but Tillie kept the place open. She continued to welcome hikers until her death in 2007. 


Neville had spent many summers helping her grandmother and decided to continue the family tradition by taking over the operation of the hostel. 

Hikers are encouraged to take part in the Woods Hole experience helping with the preparation and clean up of meals. Breakfast and supper are served daily. In addition locally grown foods, homemade bread, Amish cheese and honey are available. My favorite treat is the smoothie made with ice cream from the Amish market. 


The atmosphere is calm and peaceful here.  A hiker asked if he could just stay and help run the place.  He told me the answer was "get on the waiting list".  I can understand wanting to stay. It will be hard to leave in the morning. 



Rocks and Roots Oh My!

One of the traits of the Appalachian Trail is all the rocks and roots.  Sure, near the high traffic areas the trails are well groomed. In the more remote areas it is constant stepping on rocks and roots. This causes a twisting in trail runners that can lead to problems. On me it leaves the side of my heal at best sore, at worst a big raw blister. 


In 2010 hiking in Pennsylvania I had just that problem. I tried all sorts of solutions including duct tape. Nothing seemed to help. 

Then I remembered on a hike in the Wind River Range another hiker cut away part of an inner sole to relieve pressure on a blister. I decided nothing else has worked so let's try it.  


I cut a sort of half moon out where the inner sole rubbed against the inflamed area. Relief came quickly.  It worked sort of like a moleskin donut around a blister. 

The best time to make this modification is at the first sign of trouble. Once a blister forms here, it will take a while to heal. 

Dismal Creek Falls to Woods Hole

This was a planned short day. We were to walk into Woods Hole Hostel and spend the night. With just thirteen miles to hike it was going to be an easy day. 

Along the way we ran across some great views. One was at an outcropping. Some of my Scouts ate lunch here last summer. 


Another good spot was near a radio tower on the ridge. 


Just after lunch we arrived at Woods Hole Hostel. We were greated by Stone Bear and Neville. Thugs is a really neat place. It's a rustic log cabin and bunk house. They grow an organic garden and many of the meals come from it. 


Supper tonight was a salad with lettuce from the garden and Mexican burritos. The meat also came from their farm. 



Can't wait to see breakfast. 

So here is what the profile of the hike looked like today. 

Laurel Creek Campsites to Dismal Creek Falls

What aong day!  We covered 27 miles of ups and downs. I can't remember more than a coue of flat section all day long. 

Most of the day was through long dry stretches. This morning's lasted seven miles and this adternoon's was  eleven miles. It was aong dry walk. This is a picture of a thru-hiker that didn't make it to the next water. 


We did finally find water late in the day at Kimberly Creek. There is a suspension bridge over it. 


Our camp for the night is at Dismal Creek Falls.  Water was good and cold for soaking feet. Campsites were worn and littered with bits and pieces of trash. 


And here is a look at our elevation change today. 


So far we have hiker 172 miles. Tomorrow we are going to Woodshole to resupply and spend the night. We'll also get showers and do laundry. After a week of sweat and trail dust everything needs washing. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Knot Maul Shelter to Laurel Creek Campsites

As usual I was up and out, ready to go at first light. I didn't bother with water at the shelter. The trip to the stream last night seemed way too long. I found some along the trail less than a tenth of a mile from the shelter. That was less than the designated shelter water. 

At the first road crossing someone had left a bag of garbage. It was all over the place.  Guess they weren't thinking.  


The big climb of the day was Chestnut Ridge. At over 4,000 feet it was not an easy accent. I kept thinking at ever turn that I was at the top. About a mile from the top is an old tree   


At the top I could look. Down into Burk's Garden. It is a valley completely surrounded by mountains. 


Coming down the other side I got to talk with a few hikers. One was from Germany. He thought I must be day hiking with such a small pack. All I could think was if you think mine is small you should see Guthook 's.  

Guthook and I met this evening at Laural  Creek Campsites. There were several hikers there waiting a ride to a local campsite that promised a fun evening.  We passed on the party. Tomorrow is another big day. 


And here is today's profile from Guthook's App. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Partnership Shelter to Knot Maul Shelter

Today was a big day all around. We hiked more miles today finishing up with 26. We hit more trail magic. Once this morning and then again late this afternoon. We resupplyed with mail drops at the Barn Resturant and ate hamburgers!

But today was  about views. We ended the day in rolling pastures. Here are a few pictures. 





And here is the elevation profile we hiked.