Post Trail Blues

It’s been officially 53 days since we left the trail. Those who have done long distance hiking know that once you finish a hike it’s hard to go back to normal life. There are so many thoughts and emotions that you feel coming off a 6-month hike that it’s hard not to feel the “post trail blues”. Cash and I were lucky enough to spend some time in the quiet woods of Maine after our hike. We slept a lot and devoured some amazing home cooked meals thanks to the Bonney’s who let us crash in their cabin. We flew to Tallahassee to see Cash’s family which was quite a shock to the senses. Our flight had a layover in Miami which was completely overwhelming for me. The noise, the people, the speed at which the entire world felt like it was moving just made me yearn for the trail. Cell phones, iPads..everywhere I looked people had their faces in front of screens. I just sat there quietly observing, taking mental notes as people scurried about. As our plane taxied into the airport and the seatbelt sign turned off the rush of people clicking their buckles and reaching for their bags, impatient and in a rush, just made me miss the slow pace of trail life.

Returning home has been a challenge for us both. We left 30-degree weather only to return to a humid, 80-90 degree Florida “winter”. There are no mountains in the distance, no beautiful forests to wander through, no trees to admire. The trail confirmed our desires to escape Florida and make our way out west… where, we are not 100% sure but we know we need to be near the mountains. Once we returned home we purged, A LOT! After living out of a backpack for 6 months with only a few articles of clothing and the hiking essentials you really start to realize how much stuff you can accumulate over your lifetime. We went from room to room picking through boxes of clutter and either threw away or donated most of what we hadn’t used. It felt good to downsize but it’s a process, we are still actively working to remove clutter from our lives.

I have returned back to work which I have mixed emotions about. I definitely appreciate my company giving me my old job back, especially with a much-needed raise, but I am also not excited to sit in front of a computer all day in a windowless room. The trail really got me thinking about my career path and although I love designing and being creative, I also know my body does not appreciate a sedentary lifestyle. I am already starting to experience the problems I had before I left for the trail including daily headaches and fatigue. Working out after work has been my only saving grace. Cash and I have been running and working out thanks to Fitness Blender’s videos which gives me some relief but all I want to do is take a walk in the woods (that is not a reference to the book, it’s just the truth)! PCT 2018?

 

The End of the Trail

We summited Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine at 5,270 ft! We completed the trail. Words cannot completely express how it feels to have completed this insane journey! The last miles through the 100 Mile Wilderness were tough and tiring for all of us. The trail was relatively flat after climbing mountains through New Hampshire and Southern Maine but the slippery roots and large rocks made walking at a fast pace impossible. Bengal John, Scribbles, Cash and myself pulled some larger miles through the 100 Mile Wilderness so we could arrive at Baxter State Park on a specific day. We were all low on food and exhausted. When we finally came upon the sign for the 100 Mile Wilderness we knew we were close to Katahdin, but we still had 10 more miles to Baxter State Park from the Abol Bridge Campsite. We stopped into the convenient store to load up on snacks and grab a few beers to celebrate making it out of the 100 Mile Wilderness. While we snacked outside Storybook and Zen strolled up and sat down at the picnic bench outside with us. We listed to Katahdin tales from Rocky Mountain High, a past thru-hiker who was working at the campsite and bombarded her with questions about the trail. How long would it take? What about the weather? What should we carry? After our break we all packed up and headed out to Baxter State Park.

Cash and I arrived at the park after dark and checked in with the rangers at the ranger station. We talked to the rangers about our weather concerns, the forecast for the next day was looking wet and cold! They explained to us that a storm was going to roll in later in the afternoon but that they would not stop anyone from going up the mountain. I was still pretty concerned about heading up the mountain in such conditions but we were determined to summit with Bengal John and Scribbles who hadn’t arrived at the ranger station yet. We had planned on camping with Bengal John and Scribbles that night so that we could all scheme and then head out in the morning together but our plans were derailed. The rangers placed us at the Birches campsite which was completely empty except for the two of us. Bengal John and Scribbles couldn’t locate the campsite and ended up setting up their tent by a parking lot instead.  We had no idea where they were or what time they were planning on hiking out so we discussed waking up at 5:30 so we could get an early start up the mountain. The next morning we woke up early and walked to the ranger station to check in. BJ and Scribbles had just checked in 30 mins before us so we logged our names in the registry and headed out to the trail head.

We started up the Hunt Trail which is 5.2 miles one-way. The start of the trail was pretty gradual as we made our way through the forest and over the wooden footbridge that gave us a beautiful view of Katahdin Stream Falls. Past the falls we started climbing a series of steep stone staircases. We were still bundled up in our many layers as we made our way up the mountain but as we began to sweat we stared shedding our jackets and pants. The trail narrowed and we made our way along streams and up and over some larger boulders. The terrain was pretty easy through that section so we made pretty good time until we hit treeline around the 3-mile mark.  That’s where we hit the boulder scramble section, the most difficult part of the trail. The wind was blowing pretty hard and clouds were starting to build up all around us. We followed the white blazes up and over the large boulders, some with metal rungs protruding out of the sides. The wind started blowing harder and rain started coming down. As it was falling it started freezing so that it would sting our faces. We stopped behind a large boulder that was shielding us from the wind and rain and discussed our options. We could continue on or turn back. We knew we were only 1.7 miles from the summit but with the encroaching storm, we knew it would be a long way up and a slow process. BJ and Scribbles were somewhere ahead of us but we didn’t know where and we didn’t know if anyone was behind us, we did not want to be the last ones on the mountain heading down so we made the difficult decision to turn around and head back down. On our way down we ran into Cookie, Thor, Storybook, and Redlocks coming up the mountain and we warned them about the worsening weather. They decided to continue on but we knew we were going to head back down. It was a slow downhill, we both felt defeated. We ran into Zen on the way down who also decided to turn back after news of the storm. We finally made it back down to the ranger station and waited for BJ and Scribbles to arrive. Slowly, one by one, the other hikers arrived off the mountain. Everyone was excited and celebrating while we were quietly standing by, unsure of how we felt. We got a ride to Millinocket with BJ and Scribbles and checked into the Katahdin Inn, tired and hungry. We stayed there for 3 days and waited out the weather. We ran into Ryan at the hotel and discussed trying to summit again on Monday when the forecast called for low temps but sunny skies. Then, we waited!

We hopped into a cab Monday morning at 6 and made our way back to Baxter with Ryan. There we met up with Dixie and her friend, Frank and we all started up the mountain together. As we were driving into Baxter the view of Katahdin was completely white. The mountain was covered in snow, this was going to be a long day! The snow wasn’t too thick but the streams along the trail had all frozen the night before and were extremely slick to walk on. Ryan lead the way, followed by Cash and myself and then Frank and Dixie. We made it to the boulder scramble portion of the trail but had difficulty following the white blazes because the snow was covering most of them. A few other hikers had left before us so we tried to follow their path as best we could. Some of the sections were pretty tricky, especially with the snow buildup. We all helped each other pull and push ourselves up and over rocks that had formed slick layers of ice but we managed to make it to the tablelands, a flat expanse populated with rocks and rare alpine vegetation. There the trail is sectioned off with rope but it was difficult to follow because of the thick snow. At some points, we were in knee-deep snow which made it hard to stand upright and slowed everyone down. We followed the snow-covered cairns to the last portion of the climb which was mostly rock steps… And there it was, the Katahdin sign at the northern terminus. We made it! We all took turns taking pictures and admiring the views. It was such an amazing feeling. Our celebration was short as we realized we still had the daunting task of heading back DOWN the mountain. So, we said our goodbyes and turned around. Heading back down pretty difficult, we ended up on our butts most of the way down boot-scootin’ down the snow-covered rocks. Our hands and pants were soaked but we managed to make it down past treeline. The streams we passed on the way up had thawed during the day and then refroze as the sun was starting to go down, making the trail extremely slick but we all managed to make it down off the mountain just at sunset. We hopped into Frank’s warm truck and headed back to the hotel to celebrate with the other hikers! We still can’t believe this journey has ended.

 

New Hampshire, The Whites & Southern Maine

Where did we last leave off? There have been so many miles and so many ups and downs through New Hampshire and Maine! As we made our way north the talk of New Hampshire and “The Whites” was all we kept hearing about. Every south-bounder felt the need to tell us what we were in for and the horror stories kept creeping into every conversation! Would we make it to Katahdin, were we prepared for Southern Maine? The noise and chatter were overwhelming at times. The anxiety of actually getting to “The Whites” was actually worse than actually hiking through them!

We managed to meet up with Happy, Yoga Taco and Spooner in Vermont and hiked with them into New Hampshire. Our plan was to hike in, grab a slice of free pizza and a beer, resupply and then head out the next day but the weather got the best of us. It poured that night and so we had to set up our tent on the outskirts of a baseball field in the rain, everything was soaked! We woke up the next morning and headed to the food co-op to grab our resupply and some coffee and then walked to the community center to lay out all of our gear so that it could dry. We finally made it out of town after procrastinating for a few hours but we were happy to have dry gear!

We had some good days of hiking with the group but the weather was definitely getting cooler at night. We spent one evening in a cabin with about 10 people all sprawled out on the floor and in the morning we woke to chilly temperatures and rain spitting every which way. We managed to get ourselves moving and out the door. In one town we stopped into Bill Ackerly’s house. He is known as the ice cream man! He has been letting hikers enjoy his house for many years. He offers you stories, an ice cream, a place to charge your phone. You name it he is there to help! While we were sitting there a familiar face walked up, Cash’s buddy, Bengal John! We had been trying to catch him for a week or so and finally managed to do so! They were happy to see each other and chatted about the journey and plans for heading north!

Cash, Happy, Spooner and I made it to Hikers Welcome hostel one evening after a long day of hiking. Just as we walked in it started raining, unfortunately for Cash and I, there were no more bunks available due to the high number of “yellow blazers” *cough*, I mean hikers. We had to pitch the tent in the rain again after a few hours of trying to wait it out. We were not happy campers that evening. We did our laundry and watched Lord of the Rings until we finally decided to crawl into our wet tent. In the morning we decided to wait out the rain as much as we could before hiking into the Whites!

Our first big challenge was Moosilauke. Happy, Cash and I set out around 11:00 to hike up our first mountain. The terrain was rocky and wet so we were pretty slow going at first but the climb wasn’t too bad. We hit a carriage trail towards the summit and had only .8 miles to the very top. It was chilly and the rain was spitting but the weather wasn’t too bad.. So we thought. We passed a guy coming down off the summit and we asked him how it was. He quickly replied, “I’m finally thawing out!” We didn’t quite know what he meant by that until we got above the tree line. We quickly noticed the temperature dropping and the rain coming down a little harder so we through on our rain jackets and continued on. Happy was hiking ahead of us and so we hit the summit only to realize that we were not prepared for what we were about to walk through! The wind was so strong that it was pushing us over as we continued to the top! We looked at each other and quickly realized that we had to keep going, and fast! We finally made it to the summit where Happy popped up from behind a cairn with a deer in headlights look! Cash shouted to her that we needed to keep moving and we managed to find the direction of the trail and pushed on through the rain and wind. The hike back down was slow and slippery. The trail followed a waterfall the whole way down that added more water to the already wet rocks!

The next day was the Kinsmans! This was probably our hardest and slowest day. The terrain was rocky and very technical which made the day drag on. You had to watch your every step and by the time we got down to the bottom it was already getting dark. Luckily, a man passed us hiking with his two dogs and offered to give us, Yoga Taco and Shine a ride back into town! We were extremely grateful for the ride after such an exhausting day. We got dropped off in town and walked to Chet’s house (local AT angel who lets people sleep at his house). Happy, Scavenger, Cash and I all went to dinner that night and devoured some burgers!

We got a ride the next morning from Kizmit, our neighbor at the motel we stayed at. Her husband, Beekeeper, was on the trail and she was doing trail magic due to an injury. We actually managed to run into him on trail and at a couple of the huts. Our next challenge was going to be Franconia Ridge. The view was beautiful all along the ridge! We had perfect, clear weather which made the hike pretty amazing! We made it over the Twins and to the Zealand Falls Hut where Cash ran into another friendly face from the trail, Caroline! We chatted with her for a bit and then headed back out on the trail. In the Whites the AMC runs these huts that offer people the chance to sleep in bunks, have meals prepared for them, etc. As thru-hikers, we try to stay in the huts as “work for stays” where you can camp out on the floor of the dinning hall for free if you offer to do dishes or some chores. We managed to make it to the Lake of the Clouds Hut one of the evenings right before Mt Washington, the big dog mountain! We made it into the hut at about 3:00. The weather was still beautiful and clear so we decided to trek up to the summit of Mt Washington and get a good view while we had the chance. We knew the next day was supposed to be overcast with 75mph wind gusts so we left our bags at the hut and hiked up to the top. After all the fuss about Mt Washington, we had finally made it! The climb was pretty easy up the the top, just some boulder scrambling and big rocks but we made it! The view was pretty amazing and we were very fortunate to be able to see it on a clear day! We got back down to the hut that evening and did some dishes after dinner so that we could stay that night on the floor. After a rough night of sleep (lots of people shuffling to a from the bathrooms with headlights on) we woke up to rain, wind and cold! This was going to be a fun day! We already knew the hike up wouldn’t be too bad but we were concerned about the wind, especially after our experience on Moosilauke! We threw on our rain gear and and some gloves and caps and headed up around 11:00. The winds weren’t as bad as we thought they were going to be but it was still pretty cold at the top! We hung out in the visitor’s center at the top with Ryan and Mongoose until we were able to thaw out a bit and then headed back out to head back down the mountain. The hike down was pretty rocky but the clouds rolling through the mountains was pretty breathtaking!

That evening we stealth camped on the side of the mountain with views of the stars up above! In the morning we packed up and headed to Carter Hut. We only made it about 8 miles but I was not feeling well by the time we arrived at the hut. My stomach was in knots and as soon as I tried to eat lunch I got sick. I was extremely tired and feeling pretty awful so we ended up staying at the hut that night with about 9 other thru-hikers. In the morning I tried to eat again but couldn’t keep any food down. Despite the fact that I couldn’t keep food down we had to head out and continue hiking. The hut was closing down for the winter so we couldn’t stay! The climb out was brutal! I had no energy and every step was draining the last bit I did have. At the top we ran into 3 thru-hikers that had stayed at the same hut as we had that night. They mentioned they were getting over stomach problems too and that they were going to take a side trail down to get a ride to a hostel. I was relieved, I hiked the side trail with Hulkspiration down to the road and managed to get a ride to the White Mountain Hostel where I camped out for a day or two, just sleeping an trying to eat what I could! The people there were super friendly and very helpful! That stay was probably one of the best hostels! Cash finished the section to the hostel and we decided I still needed some time to regain my strength. I got a shuttle to the next town over and stayed at the hostel there until Cash showed up a few days laters. Even after those few days of sleeping I was still not feeling 100% but we managed to head out of Rangley and after a few days back on the trail I was feeling better and able to get back into the swing of it!

Maine has been beautiful! The leaves on the trees are starting to change to vibrant reds, yellows and oranges! The terrain is a bit rough, lots of rocks and roots to watch out for! The weather has been getting colder so we have days where we start off with all our winter gear or and then as we hike we strip everything back off! One of the days we hiked it rained pretty much the whole day, we made it to the shelter that night with Bengal John and Scribbles. They slept in their tent but we opted for the shelter so we could have dry gear! Ryan, our buddy from Mt Washington, showed up that night at about 10 and a few more ended up filling up the shelter throughout the evening. The entire night it poured and in the morning the trail was flooded. We were walking walking through ankle to knee deep water all day. At some point the water was rushing down the rocks like a water slide. We knew that there was a river that we were supposed to ford and we anxiously hiked toward it! We knew the water was going to be high at the river, we just didn’t know how high! Ryan has managed to get to it first and waited for Cash and I to get there. The once crossable stream had turned into a waist-deep raging river with fast currents capable of washing you down the river! What was worse was that it was cold and we were all already wet! Bengal John and Scribbles showed up a few minutes later. We walked up and down the river to see if we could find an alternative path but we had no luck, we realized it was getting dark and the temperature was dropping! We walked back to a dirt road and miraculously got service. We called the Farmhouse hostel nearby and they picked us up! We were saved! We got a shower, warm beds, laundry and dinner that night!

We are trucking through Maine and passed the 2000 mile mark! We can’t believe how close we are to the end! We are hiking with Ryan and a girl named Dixie now! We stayed at Pierce Pond Camps last night which was quite a fun experience! The place runs off generators so there is no electricity in the cabins, just the wood burning stove and kerosene lamps! Tim made us an amazing breakfast in the morning of pancakes with fresh fruit, eggs, and sausage! We headed out early to catch the ferry (a guy in a canoe) at the Kennebec River. We are now enjoying town before we head to Monson in 2 days than the 100 Mile Wilderness! Whoa!

 

 

 

 

Pennsylvania to Massachusetts 

We are in Great Barrington, Massachusetts today! It’s been a crazy month of hiking! We have officially crossed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut off the list!

Pennsylvania was quite challenging, not in terms of elevation but because of the rocks! Big rocks, little rocks. You name it, we walked over it! The boulder scrambles were fun and somewhat challenging but the difficult sections were the paths with grapefruit size rocks! It was difficult to keep a steady pace above 2 miles an hour because you had to watch every step you took but we managed to get into Delaware Water Gap without any twisted ankles! We had some awesome trail magic at a couple of intersections which really cheered us up! Our buddy, Gimli, caught up to us in town after we took a few zeros so we hiked out with him to cross the state border!

Once we passed the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border we were in heaven! The NJ section of the trail is absolutely beautiful! There are tons of amazing views and awesome boardwalks through open fields of yellow, purple and white wildflowers! The first lunch break we had in New Jersey was next to a glacier lake where we saw a beaver and some water snakes. We stopped into a couple of towns to indulge on homemade ice cream and delicious bagels (Florida is missing out on real bagels). Not only was the scenery beautiful but the people were awesome too! We both agreed that NJ and NY have been our favorite states so far!

New York was just as beautiful as New Jersey! We had quite a few animal sightings including 2 large black bears, a porcupine, a momma deer with her 2 babies and lots of snakes! We walked through the Trailside Museum and Zoo and then passed over the Hudson River with Gimli! Gimli lived in NY for a while and has friends who live outside of Manhattan so we got to see NYC for the first time! We walked all over the city, ate a ton of food and visited Gimli’s favorite bars. We were only in the city for a day but we felt like we had been off the trail for days! We took the train back out to the trail and ran into a SOBO hiker, Slugbait, who walked with us along the railroad to a local deli. They let us camp behind their store and hooked us up with some amazing food and free goodies!

Connecticut was short but sweet! The elevation gain has definitely increased so we’ve had a lot more ups and downs! There was one section before the Massachusetts border that was absolutely incredible! The trail followed a steam with lots of waterfalls and mossy rocks, we stopped a lot along the trail to soak in the views!

We had three good climbs yesterday once we hit Massachusetts! We are definitely getting prepped for the Whites. There were some pretty open fields and a couple of farms we passed through. We made it into Great Barrington to grab some Mexican food and a shower! We are heading back in action today!

Back In Action 

I am back in action with Mr. Cash and we are currently making our way through the very rocky and buggy Pennsylvania. I flew into DC and was picked up by my aunt and her family. They took me to brunch, showed me around DC for a while and then dropped me off at the Amtrak station where I hopped a ride to Harpers Ferry. Cash met me at the station and we took a taxi to our hotel for the evening. We spent the next day grabbing resupply and doing his laundry. Gimli, Cash’s trail buddy, picked us up the next morning and dropped us back off at Harpers Ferry where we ran a few more errands and then made our way to the trail.

We headed out over the Potomac River on the Byron Memorial Footbridge to the C&O Canal Path. The first day we started off slow so I could ease back into hiking and did a short 10-mile day to Ed Garvey Shelter. It felt good getting back into the swing of things but it was also a little nerve-racking. I wasn’t sure how my legs would hold up and I was overanalyzing every step. After a few miles I felt a little more at ease. In the morning we packed up and made our way to Pine Knob Shelter. The weather was beautiful that day with cool temperatures in the low 80s. 

Cash and I indulged on some wild raspberries that lined the trail while we made our way to the Washington Monument which was unfortunately roped off due to lightning. We decided to push past the shelter and camped at Annapolis Rock where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and dinner on the rock overlook.

The next day we hiked to Raven Rock Shelter, a new two-story shelter. When we arrived there were no other hikers there so we had the place all to ourselves. The water source was a bit of a hike to get to but I was greeted by two large deer on the way back to the shelter. The next day we passed the MD/PA at the Mason Dixon line.

We stopped for a snack and water at Old Forge Park before heading to Tumbling Run Shelter. The two shelters labeled “Snoring” and “Non-Snoring” were in a very well maintained area with a pretty clean privy called the “Alpha Beta Crappa”. The caretakers chatted with us for a while and gave us some tips on the water situation past their campground. We decided to stay in the shelter that night and played rummy with our neighbor, Spider-Man, until it was too dark to see the cards.

We’ve started experiencing some much warmer weather and the gnats have been busy bombing our eyes and ears while we walk. Pennsylvania has been a lot rockier, not just large boulders but the trail is littered with grapefruit size rocks which makes it more difficult to navigate. At mile marker 1094.6 we passed the AT midpoint which means just 1094.6 more miles to go to get to Maine!

We stopped into Pine Grove Furnace for a resupply and the 1/2 Gallon Challenge. Cash consumed a bacon cheeseburger and fries followed by a 1/2 gallon of ice cream. I enjoyed some ice cream myself but spared my stomach and went with a double scoop instead!

After we digested we headed out to the next shelter. We both were still extremely full from our stop at Pine Grove so we skipped dinner and set up camp at the campsite next to James Fry Shelter. As we were getting into bed we noticed thunder in the distance. After 4 or 5 hours the storm was on top of us. Lighting was striking all around us and rain was coming down pretty hard but we managed to fall asleep. We woke up damp and hiked through the day in the muggy weather to Boiling Springs.

That evening we stayed in the nearby town of Carlisle to dry out our gear and then made our way through the farmlands of PA the next day in the heat. We stopped at the Scott Farm for water and a snack and ran into a guy named Will who was heading SOBO. We stayed at the Peters Mountain Shelter last night but had to sleep in the shelter due to poor tenting areas. There were signs posted on the shelter warning of porcupine problems but we did not get to see any. We hiked into Duncannon today and had lunch at the Doyle. We will be heading back out tomorrow!

 

 

When Does Virginia Flatten Out?

The following photos are from Pearisburg, VA to Harpers Ferry, WV, miles 634.9 to 1023.4! It includes areas of Southern, Central, and Northern Virginia (Shenandoah National Park and West Virginia).

-Cash

Harpers Ferry Or Bust!

The dates are booked and I am so excited to get back on the trail! I was trying to get back on my birthday but with Kory’s zero days it was going to be hard for him to make it to Harpers Ferry by the 13th. So, I will be flying into Washington DC on the 19th and my aunt and her family have offered to drive me to Harpers Ferry which is about a 2-hour drive. I am both excited and anxious about my return. I have been working on my physical therapy and my mom has been walking and climbing stairs with me almost every day since I got the ok. I am hoping the rest will be enough once I get back on the trail. Kory’s legs have been feeling the stress of the trail as well. He stayed in Waynesboro, VA for a few days to rest and ice his shins and headed back out yesterday. I’m hoping the R.I.C.E did him some good! He has a little over 160 miles to go before he reaches Harpers Ferry!

Recovery Mode

Hello all! Thank you all for the support and concern as I heal up! While on my way into Damascus I was in a lot of pain and after taking 3 days off I was unable to get back on the trail without the pain returning. A doctor in Abingdon said it was just shin splints but we were not convinced her prognosis was correct. After discussing things with Kory and my family I made the decision to head home so I could get a second opinion. I went to a specialist who did an ultrasound and we found my muscle in my right leg was extremely inflamed and there was no fracture which is what we thought the pain was due to past injuries. The doctor put me in a boot and I am currently doing physical therapy twice a week to strengthen my leg and get me healed up to get back on the trail! It has been extremely hard to sit inside all day when all I want to do is get back to the woods! I talk to Kory as much as possible as he makes his way through Virginia but I can’t help but be envious that he’s still trekking along, especially when he got to see the mini ponies at the Grayson Highlands! I am hoping for a full recovery and the ok from my doctor to head back out in a few weeks! I am a little nervous but I hope this r&r has been enough to get me to Maine! I have enjoyed spending time with my family while I am here but I am counting down the days until I can return! Again, thank you all for the encouragement and concern!

Florida Sunset

 

Damascus, Va to Pearisburg, Va (Mile 474-634)

Damascus, Va to Pearisburg, Virginia

The past 9 days (give or take a couple) have been excellent. I’ve stayed at some great hostels, met new people, and have taken a couple zeros (3).

The shorthand-

Damascus -> Thomas Knob Shelter (Roughly 23 mi)
Thomas Knob Shelter -> Hurricane Shelter (Roughly 15-16 mi)
Hurricane Shelter -> Partnership Shelter (19 mi by 3:30)
Partnership Shelter -> Quarter Way Inn (21 mi Great new hostel – took a zero the next day)
Quarter Way Inn -> Jenkins Shelter (Roughly 26 mi – Long but rewarding day)
Jenkins -> Bland, Va (12 mi in – Took a zero the next day)
Bland, Va -> Trent’s Grocery (0.5 off-trail – roughly 19 mi)
Trent’s Grocery -> Wood’s Hole Hostel(0.5 off trail (roughly 16 mi)
Wood’s Hole -> Pearisburg, Va (1 mi of trail roughly 11 mi)

Expanded Version-

After resting in Damascus and Abingdon, Va I was ready to put both towns behind. I hit it hard that day and cranked some miles. I hiked til 8:30 that evening. The transition the few days after Nicole’s departure was strange/lonely/sad- after roughly 500 miles together. I anticipate her return and love and miss her very much.

Following my first 20+ mile day I decided to do a lower mileage day to Hurricane shelter. There I met a father and his two Daughters. They were hiking from Damascus to Troutdale, Va (roughly a 40-mile hike). After sleeping in the shelter (not setting up the tent) I was able to get an early start the next morning. I hammered out 19 mi to Partnership Shelter.

I arrived by 3:30 P.M. and had planned to push another 7 mi. There I met Woobie and Cypress. They had a female friend coming to pick them up and run them to town. I decided to stay, ride into town, snag some beer and wine at Wal Mart, and crash at the shelter. The next morning I woke up at 5:30 in a fog (thank you Gimli for the Wild Turkey 101). I gathered my belongings ate breakfast and headed to the Quarter Way Inn. Yahtzee had recommended I stay there.

After 21 miles I arrived at the Quarter Way Inn. That night Tina “Chunky” (the owner and 2009 SOBO thru-hiker) made homemade pizza and fresh salads. Only one additional hiker stayed that night- it was quiet. They had a movie room with a projector and VHS setup. I watched Glory and A River Runs Through It.

The day or two before arriving at Quarter Way Inn I felt a discomfort in my knee (only when loaded with weight and at a certain angle). I decided to zero and give the knee a rest. That day I helped Tina paint boundary trees on her property. It was nice to rest but still get out and move around (see the property). In the evening I rode with Tina to Pearisburg, Va (roughly a two hour round trip to pick up Yahtzee at Barraca’s (Mexican restaurant). On our way out of town, I snagged a knee band at the Rite-Aid. Roughly halfway back to the Quarter Way Inn, a black bear darted in front of the car. Tina hit the brakes and pulled the mom maneuver barring her arm across me. We arrived back at the inn and were introduced to her fiancee, Brett. They prepared dinner for the four of us (Venison sausage, kale, noodles, and a veggie salad)- another great dinner – thank you, Tina and Brett.

The next morning I didn’t make it to the trail until 11. That day I hiked a total of 26 miles- my longest day yet. In the afternoon I got caught on a 1.5 mile treeless stretch in a thunderstorm. A bolt of lightning struck close by and I nearly shat myself. I sprinted maybe a half mile to the woods and felt much less exposed. As I arrived at Chestnut Knob shelter the rain started dumping. I mowed down some snacks and pulled out the ole AWOL guide (mileage and elevation profile book). From Chestnut Knob Shelter I still had an additional 10 miles to go (what turned out to be a nasty 10 miles). Water was scarce during this stretch and after roughly 7 miles without water and another 3.1 to go, I took a gamble. A .5 mile side trail (downhill) took me down to a potentially dry water source (there was water). I pounded water and snacked some more.

After the .5 mile trek back to the trail it was approaching 8:45 and still had the 3.1 to go. I pulled out my headlamp and started a podcast. Eventually, there was total darkness (aside from the headlamp). Hiking in the dark and solo is a trip. You are alert and hyper-aware/sensitive to your surroundings (even with a podcast turned on low). With roughly a mile to go, I stopped and paused the podcast. I heard a crashing and realized I had spooked a bear (you get used to the different sounds a bear, squirrel, deer, etc make). I kept pushing and by 9:45 made it to Jenkins Shelter. I was relieved to see multiple tents and a few other hikers setting up camp.

I was lazy that evening and decided to sleep with my food bag. After a couple hours in the tent, I woke up to the sound of a bear in the distance. I listened for roughly 15 minutes as it approached my tent. When it got close enough I made myself known and it took off. Within a half hour, it circled back around and cut through the middle of the camp/shelter area. I could hear another hiker hollering, “Hey bear- hey bear- get out of here.” The next morning I met the hiker “Bengal John” (a fellow Phish fan) and we recounted the evening’s bear encounter. He mentioned that he had crawled out of his tent and saw the ass end of the bear taking off into the woods. Pumba, Dinner Roll, and Big Sexy slept through all of it. In the morning we noticed a sign on the side of the shelter indicating there had been recent bear activity in the area- it all made sense.

From there we hiked an easy 12 miles into Bland, VA. I originally planned to continue hiking but stayed the night. I called Bubba, a local shuttle, and scheduled a 10 o’clock shuttle. The next morning Bubba never showed. I called multiple times and he never answered. Bengal John and I stayed an additional night.

The next day Bubba did show up and provided a shuttle to the trailhead. Around the three mile mark, I noticed a pain in my shin. It turned out to be a shin splint and it kept me company the additional 16 miles to Trent’s grocery. That night Bengal John, Elijah, Carolyn, and I camped behind Trent’s grocery. The following day, after a few miles, we crossed Dismal Falls side trail. A short 0.3 miles lead down to the falls and a swimming hole. We enjoyed the scenery and swimming hole and continued on to Wood’s Hole Hostel.

Wood’s Hole Hostel was an awesome place. They have a huge organic garden, pigs, goats, and a massage studio. After arriving I ordered a 32 oz smoothie- butter pecan ice cream, strawberries, bananas, and whole milk. I signed up for the dinner that evening and ate fresh greens, homemade salad dressings, strawberries, homemade bread, Mexican lasagna, brown rice, and an ice cream cone. Bengal John, Tortoise, and Haire also enjoyed the dinner and hostel. That night I tented on the hill behind the hostel. The next morning, after a short 10-mile day, I arrived in Pearisburg, VA. During the hike, I noticed an awkward feeling in my ankle. The discomfort came and went throughout the day. Today I am zeroing at the Holiday Motor Lodge (Friday 6-19-2015) and plan on it being my last for several miles. At the motel Woobie, Cypress, Big Sexy, Pumba, Dinner Roll, Gimli, Bengal John, Tortoise, and Haire are zeroing.

I spoke with Yahtzee last night and he is roughly 60 miles ahead. He informed me Kimchi had broken her ankle and is off trail along with 5 additional people. I’m going to keep trucking one day at a time. I hope everyone is doing well. I miss my family and friends and think about all of you often.

Cheers,

Cash

Our Appalachian Trials

We last updated from Erwin, TN- Mile 342.9

Monday, May 25th

We said goodbye to Erwin and continued our journey north. Upon reaching Indian Grave Gap, TN we were greeted by Ms. Janet and two gentlemen with trail magic. The magic consisted of brownies, banana bread, bagels, lemonade, coffee, and ice water. Ms. Janet is a trail angel along the Appalachian Trail. She shuttles, provides trail magic, and offers advice to hikers- all free of charge. After a quick rest and chat, we thanked the angels for their noble offerings and hiked on to Beauty Spot Gap.

After lunch, we followed the trail up Unaka Mountain. The climb consisted of switchbacks sprinkled with rocks. Pan (a fellow thru-hiker) left a note on the trail warning of a large rattlesnake. By the time we arrived the snake had moved on. Near the top of Unaka the trail transitions into a spruce forest. The segue was smooth as butter. We ended the day at Cherry Gap Shelter- Mile 360.0

Tuesday, May 26th

We left Cherry Gap Shelter in high spirits. A short seven-mile hike to Greasy Creek Hostel (GCH) and we would score our resupply and a care package from mama Packard. The side trail leading to GCH read 0.6 miles. It was all downhill and the guidebook was missing a 1 in front of the six (so it seemed). We made it, resupplied, and received our care package. The contents included beef jerky steaks, Snickers bars, pistachios, and a few gear items for Little Lady. Thank you, mama Packard! We climbed out of GCH and continued to Ash Gap where we set up shop for the night.

Wednesday, May 27th

From Ash Gap, we climbed Roan Mountain standing at 6194 ft. Our hike started with a light fog in the morning and spectacular views in the afternoon. Following the top of Roan were beautiful views from Round Bald.

For lunch, we stopped at Overmountain Shelter (a converted barn). The Overmountain Shelter is located near the Overmountain Trail. Here is a brief explanation of the Overmountain Trail borrowed from a plaque. “Yellow Mountain Gap is the junction of the Appalachian Trail and historic Bright’s Trace route used by the Overmountain Men to cross the mountains en route to the revolutionary war battle at Kings Mountain, North Carolina in 1780”.

After a huge lunch, we immediately started uphill and climbed Little Hump Mountain Clearing (5,459 ft). At the top, we met a day hiker from the area named “Dozer”. He stood 7’4″ 350lbs and was hiking with a broken toe. He pointed out some peaks in the distance (Hawks Bill, Table Rock, and Grand Father Mountain). We continued hiking and proceeded towards Hump Mountain (5,587 ft). Dozer hiked with us and at one point was following behind me. Little Lady said that we resembled a son and his father out for a hike. From there we continued down to US 19E. 

Our goal for the day was to reach Mountain Harbour B&B/Hiker Hostel. Rumor has it they have the best breakfast on the trail. After a slight detour (almost a mile in the opposite direction) we turned around and started hitching the right way. A truck pulled over to pick us up and coincidentally the driver was Dozer. After dropping us off we paid for tenting and a spot at breakfast the next morning.

Thursday, May 28th

We arrived at breakfast and were greeted with roughly 20 dishes and hikers. The feast included but was not limited to cheesy hash browns, scrambled eggs, french toast, biscuits and gravy, real sausage patties, multiple breakfast pastries, assorted fresh fruits, and unlimited coffee and OJ. From the hostel, we made our way to Mountaineer Shelter. Along the way, we embraced the sun as we hiked through open fields. We continued to Jones Falls and had a snack. Shortly after the falls, we hit our 400-mile mark. We made it to Mountaineer Shelter and whipped up some tuna wraps. There we were greeted by Pumba and Dinner Roll (a couple we had previously met). It was approaching 4 P.M. and a storm was approaching (lightning and the works). We decided to press on and within a half hour, we were caught in a nice downpour. During the rain, we snapped a few pictures along the way. The afternoon/evening rain lasted about four hours. Just ahead, Nettle and Briar, Octopus, and Don Quixote were enjoying the shower. We all made it to Moreland Gap Shelter pitched our tents, changed into dry clothes, made food, and crashed.

Friday, May 29th

The next morning Nicole was greeted with a terrible case of the chafes. Unfortunately, we were still 6.6 miles to the next hostel where we could stop and let her body heal. With pain accompanying each stride she marched on. We made it to Black Bear Resort where we stayed for a nero that day and a zero Saturday (May 30th). That Friday we went to town and caught game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs (Lightning vs. Rangers) with an older character named Double D.

Sunday, May 31st

Between Friday and Sunday Nicole made a quick recovery. On Sunday morning we hit the trail and passed Laurel Falls. Eventually (afternoon) the trail dumped us off onto US 321 where, again, we hiked about a mile in the wrong direction. Once we got back on track we made our way to Watauga Lake and crossed the Watauga Dam.

We continued hiking through the evening to Vandeventer Shelter. There we bumped into Yogi, Kimchi, Stray, Turtle Hawk and a few others. After a quick dinner, we planned to hike an additional 3.8 miles to a campsite located at mile marker 440. Roughly a mile later Nicole expressed to me a possible discomfort/pain/issue in her lower leg. Before we started our trip we discussed the importance of communication especially in matters of fatigue, injury, etc. Shortly after, around 9 P.M., we passed a nice campsite and pitched the tent.

Monday, June 1st

The next morning her leg felt normal and we set out to hit our first 20+ mile day. We got an early start (7 A.M.) and stopped for our second breakfast around 10. There we met Giggles and Woodstock (another couple) and Rue. After an extended break we got back to it and hiked into the afternoon. We ducked from some rain in the next shelter and had a big lunch. Just before we arrived Nicole noticed the discomfort had returned to her leg. She felt comfortable enough to move forward and we did. As the afternoon passed the pain intensified. At Shady Valley Gap she turned her phone and Googled the symptoms on her leg. The first result returned from Google was a stress fracture. We set up camp shortly after in hopes that a long rest would alleviate the ache- assuming it was not a stress fracture.

Tuesday, June 2nd

After waking up and breaking down camp it was clear the discomfort had developed into something more serious. At this point, we were still 13 miles from Damascus, VA. This was by far the roughest morning both physically and emotionally. Again, Nicole pressed on despite the extreme discomfort (she is more machine than man). After a few miles, I took her pack to lighten the load and hopefully prevent further injury and discomfort. As we continued the possibility was setting in that this may be the end of the road. The last ten miles into Damascus were, what I refer to as, “doom and gloom”. The weather was overcast and we both fought back our tears. Prior to our trip, we discussed that in the event of one or the other having to drop out the other would continue. It is one thing to discuss the matter months beforehand and it actually became a reality. Despite our efforts, the tears flowed like the salmon of Capistrano.

Upon reaching Damascus we bumped into Yahtzee and Sarah (his sister). Sarah drove from New Orleans the night before to join Yahtzee for a few days. They offered to take us up the road to a diner. There we stuffed our faces (burgers, nachos, potato salad, crinkle cut french fries, a milkshake, and ice cream scoop) and made calls to several bed and breakfasts with no luck reserving a room. Finally, we decided to get a hotel room a few miles outside Damascus in Abingdon, VA. We both needed some time away from the trail and crowds to assess the situation and plan our next move.

Before checking into the hotel we made a stop at the Wellmont Urgent Care Center (thank you Yahtzee for the ride) to get an X-Ray of her leg. The X-Ray did not show a stress fracture and apparently will not until the healing process has begun.

Wednesday, June 3rd

Rest day at the hotel.

Thursday, June 4th

Rest day at the hotel.

Friday, June 5th

Today Nicole woke up and the pain had subsided. We caught the community transit bus and hit the laundrorama. Afterwards, we resupplied at Food City and rode the bus back to the hotel. The excitement is back in the air and we are both looking forward to resuming our trip north. Although stoked we are not naive. So quickly she (the AT) can chew you up and spit you out. Without notice your trip is short. Currently, we are blogging from the hotel room, drinking wine, and watching Jurassic Park. Tomorrow we will return to the trail and continue north. Today was a good day.

– Cash