Monday, May 30, 2011

1000 miles later....and our first bear!

After 1000 miles

Pace, Porter, Toto and I recently hiked through Shenandoah National Park. Compared to the rest of our hike, the Shenandoahs were flat, so we tore em up! 

5/21- Our first day in the Shenandoahs and we finally saw a bear! Just a small one but with no mother in sight, thank God. We stayed at a park campground, where we received lots of delicious and organic trail magic food! 

5/22- The best part of the Shenandoahs (besides being flat) is that every 20 miles or so, there is a public campground or lodge. Read: FOOD!!! Pace rented a cabin for all of us and after filling up on crackers, cheese, and salami, we drank wine around the campfire. Box wine of course.

5/23- Shenandoahs rule! I didn't eat any snacks out of my pack. We stopped at Big Meadows Lodge for lunch, and ate dinner at the Skyland Lodge, where we spent the night after listening to a live band playing Irish music.

5/24- Slept in a bit, and walked a mere 8 miles to the road crossing for Luray, VA. When we arrived, the shuttle driver was unavailable, so Porter convinced this guy to empty out his car, leave his friend at the trailhead, and take 6 hikers with 6 backpacks into town. ULTIMATE TRAIL ANGEL We stuffed our faces at Pizza Hut, did laundry and checked out the outfitter in town. While walking down the street, the director of a funeral home chased us down and offered us a ride back to the trailhead after we finish our errands. Just a day full of angels :) We didn't spend the night in town, but hiked 6 more miles and stealth camped. Pace carried 3 liters of box wine, so it was a fun night.

Hitchhiking into Luray, VA with Loophole, Upstate, Pace, Porter and Caboose. 6 Hikers, 6 backpacks, and a driver

5/25- Since I wanted to make it to Harpers Ferry Friday to visit my brother Martin for the weekend, we had to do 75 miles in 2 days. This was a 35 mile day, started hiking at 6:45am and finished at 9:15pm.

5/26- What's the best thing to do after a 35 mile day? A 30 mile day! In 95 degree heat, over a terrain called, "The Roller Coaster," 13 ups and downs! We also passed the 1000 mile mark! It was the sweatiest I've ever been in my whole life! You can imagine none of us smelled very good either. My feet were aching by 815 when we made it to the shelter. We had the shelter to ourselves and agreed to wake up at 5 to hike the remaining 10 miles into Harpers Ferry to make the 11am train to DC.

Pace cooling off in a stream

5/27- Harpers Ferry! The psychological and chronological halfway point. Here you get your official picture taken and they keep a register of all the hikers! My train which was supposed to leave at 11, ended up being 5 hours late, so we relaxed and enjoyed lunch and beverages in town.

Getting my picture taken 
Relaxing with other hikers Cayenne, German Shepard, Porter, Pace, Buffalo, Moosehead and River Rat

5/28 DC! My To Do list while on vacation here revolves around eating good food! Chipotle, eggs benedict, sushi and whatever else I can get my hands on. Hung out by the pool all day and Bbq'd, then went out bar hopping around the city.

5/29- Pace and Porter showed up in DC (guess they just can't be without me) so along with Martin, and Porter's sister, Liz, who lives in town, we went to REI and DogFish Head for a delicious lunch (Thanks Porter!) In the evening, we went to the Capitol and watched the Memorial Day concert, featuring BB King! It was very moving.

DC for Memorial Day weekend

Friday, May 20, 2011

Trail Daze

Mr. Black and Capt Planet at the Hiker Parade

I recently backtracked to attend Trail Days, the biggest hiker event along the AT, located in Damascus, VA.
The event has a reputation of being a big reunion celebration, which proved true. I'd also heard horror stories about Tent City (a large field where most hikers pitch their tents). I didn't want my tent peed on, or my gear stolen, so I opted to tent outside a B&B.

Pace, Porter, Toto and I rented cars to return for the event on May 13. After a night of "carbing up" (drinking beer), and singing karaoke (Eddie Money), Pace and Porter drove to DC to meet up with other friends and family. Friday, I hit up the vendor booths for some free loot. I scored an OR hat (pink of course), a few tee shirts, a new penny alcohol stove (Thanks Ray at, a harmonica (which I'm trying to learn to play) and a Granite Gear pint glass. There was lots of free food all weekend, free showers, a talent show, but my favorite part was the Hiker Parade. All the current hikers, and past hikers lined up and marched down Main St. Instead of throwing candy to the locals lining the street, we threw water ballons. The locals were prepared with hoses, water guns and water ballons. The weather was hot, so it was a great event. The Gregory backpack people gave me new shoulder straps for my backpack, and showed me how to wear the pack more comfortably. Then it started pouring, so I ducked under their tent and where they provided me with beer and dinner! I also met some reps from an ultralight company based in Biddeford, ME. Mike and Trey showed me their awesome, ultralight backpacks, tents, stuff sacks, and pillow! Check them out at 2011 Backpacker Magazine named the HMG Windrider the Best Ultralight Pack, and their tent is the lightest!

Saturday, Nature Boy hiked into town (he's attempting to break the record for the fastest unsupported thru hike- 60 days). I met him at Hiker Hostel and mentioned him in an earlier blog. He's catching up to me quickly!

Overall, it was great to make new friends, and see all my friends that I had left behind. Also nice to take two full days off hiking!

I'm in Waynesboro, VA now, mile 854. Today is my 2 month mark! Yesterday was also my longest day ever- 35 miles! I'm almost halfway, and going to visit my brother Martin in DC soon. A few days ago, we were pounded by rain and hail, but hiked 21 miles to Buena Vista and took a hotel for the night. Porter and Pace (though they are REALLY old) have proved to be great company. Lately, they've been packing out liters of wine, jiffy pop, and a wide assortment of candy bars. They always share, so every night is a great time. We had a blind taste test of Oats N Honey bars- Nature Valley brand vs. Kroger vs. Family Dollar. Nature Valley took 1st, then Family Dollar's version, then Kroger's. After two months without sushi, I finally got my sushi fix here tonight.
 Chilling with the Gregory crew

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Don't Feed AT Thru Hikers

Beware: Please do not feed AT thru hikers. A fed hiker is a dead hiker. When hikers receive food and drinks from Trail Angels, they become comfortable around other people and begin to associate day hikers and road crossings with Trail Magic. When there is no Trail Magic, thru hikers may react aggressively. It is recommended you remain in your car and avoid direct eye contact. If you are not in a car, it is safer to give the thru hiker a snack, whe keeping an open palm as there is no antibiotic for Thru hiker syndrome. Occasionally thru hikers must be trapped and relocated or put down. So do your part and keep the wilderness wild and dont feed thru hikers

But seriously, thru hikers love gettin trail magic. Trail magic comes in various forms: rides into town, snacks or colas left on the trail, free laundry, etc. We appreciate it all but it is so disappointing to arrive at a site where trail magic was but is now empty. I've left trail magic bananas and little debbies for hikers behind me and hope to do some serious magic when I finish in Maine. I'm thinking lobster rolls and whoopie pies alone the 100 mile wilderness!

Friday, May 13, 2011


Thru hikers gather at 3 lil pigs BBQ in Dalesville.
Back row: Dreamwalker, Rocket, Spaceman
Front: me, Helm, Porter, Clutch, Glad Gal

Yah! I've been hiking around 23 miles a day, lately with two middle aged guys named Pace and Porter. Pace turned 40 on the trail, and we celebrated with wine and popcorn in the nicest shelter I've seen so far with a huge porch. At Partnership Shelter, Pace and Porter ordered about 8 pizzas and shared with everyone. Partnership Shelter is the only shelter that you can get pizza delivered to! I hiked through Grayson Highlands and got to pet one of the wild ponies. Most of the hikers are men, either fresh out of college (like me) or retired (which means quite a few old people hiking!). Many people hikes with dogs as well, and the dogs have their own backpacks so they carry their own food. I've switched to a summer sleeping bag (my old one was rated to 20 degrees, my new one is rated to 40). It's been a little cold at night, but nothing unbearable. I'm in Dalesville, VA right now, heading back to Damascus this weekend for Trail Days (biggest hiker festival along the trail). We've had some great trail magic- from rides into towns for lunch, apples and oranges, beer, free dinners, etc. I stopped at an Amish grocery store and treated myself with homemade ice cream and whoopie pies. We hit MacAfee Knob (the most photographed place on the trail), saw the 2nd biggest oak tree on the AT, and climbed up Dragon's Tooth. I haven't seen a bear yet, but have seen lots of deer, two big black snakes, woodpeckers, lizards, frogs, and turtles. The flowers are beautiful- lillies of the valley, lady slippers, azaelas, etc. I'll post pictures soon!

McAfee Knob

The most photographed place on the AT. My insurance rates doubled after an agent saw this picture...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The tornado damage from a week ago

Made it to Virginia Today! Three States down, eleven to go. Almost 25% done as well! Its pretty warm down here, so I'm going to start shopping for a summer sleeping bag. I think i finally have my "Trail legs" since im going over 20 miles most days. Im in Damascus now, and a local, Mountain Man, shuttled a bunch of hikers to His house for free dinner. He wouldnt say how man times he's hiked the Trail, but im guessing around 10. He breeds goats and pigs so we got to play around on his farm. Damascus is the home of Trail Days, a big hiker celebration in mid May, so im planning on hitchhiking back for it.

No blisters so far! I've met about twelve other hikers from Maine so far, more than any other state i think, though Ohio is a close second.

There have been major storms. A tornado touched down eight miles from Damascus while I was here, knocking the power out and killing more than five people.Here's a pic of some of the damage.