North to Maine

From March to October 2000, I hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, and it became a defining experience of my life. With this blog, I’m going to try and publish my photos and memorabilia as I follow my hike north to Maine.

Days 80-82: Marathon hiking, marathon eating

Journal Excerpt:

Day 80 - June 6, 17.6 miles, Brown Mt. Creek Shelter
Day 81 - June 7, 8.1 miles, Hog Camp Gap
Day 82 - June 8, 19.4 miles, Tye River
weather: clear, sunny, 80’s

I’ve been lazy in writing the past few days because they’ve been full days, and I’ve been getting to camp simply wanting to eat and sleep. I’ll give you some recent highlights: on the 6th, Mr. Bunker and I had a long day that ended with us camping near a shelter alongside a nice big stream. Earlier that day, we took a long break watching water cascade down Pedlar Dam. It had a very mesmerizing effect on us.

On the 7th, we had an unintentional short day. We hitched a ride into Buena Vista and went to the Triangle Cafe. We ordered “Daddy’s Breakfast,” which was the best breakfast I’ve had on the trail, and perhaps the best pancakes ever. Pancakes, sausage, eggs, toast  and hash browns. We stayed there for four hours, simply digesting, recovering, and emptying the huge thermos of coffee our waitress gave us. Our hike was, uh, a bit slow afterwards, due to our stomachs but also the spectacular views. Then we were waylaid yet again by trail magic. A former thru-hiker named Pop was handing out free drinks and fruit and sandwiches. We ended up stopping there around 5 and then never left! A few of us stayed up around the campfire until about 11pm. That’s late for us!

Then today, our marathon day. I’ve done 19.4 miles only once before, and that was over much easier terrain than today. I’m proud of myself. The last mountain of the day was called the Priest. It was gorgeous on top, but the day ended going down the mountain, a seemingly never-ending four mile rocky descent. We’ve stopped for the night at the Tye River. Archie ran a mile and a half down the road by the river (he’s a maniac) to get to a store before it closed. He brought us back all sorts of goodies for dessert and breakfast tomorrow. He rocks. We’re spending the night not in our tents, but simply in our sleeping bags out on the big slanted rocks that lie next to the river. There’s a halo around the moon, I’m caught up on my journal now, and I need to sleep off 19.4 miles, so good night!

Day 79: Trail a la mode

Journal Excerpt:

14.0 miles, June 5, John’s Hollow Shelter, overcast

Fantastic day today. The trail was so nicely graded, with long, sweeping switchbacks and gradual slopes. Today was not too shabby considering Archie and I did 14 miles, but also spent about 4 hours at a restaurant! Double bacon cheeseburger with fries and cole slaw with apple pie a la mode for dessert. The stuff thru-hiker dreams are made of. It was great hiking with Mr. Bunker - we’ve shared many a good town meal together on the trail and tonight was just like “old times.” After a call home and some coffee, we hiked two and a half miles to get to this shelter area in time to set up our tents by 8:30 pm. Again, great day.

Day 78: No rest for the weary

Journal Excerpt:

13.5 miles, June 4, tenting at Harrison Ground Spring. Cooler, overcast, misty

Last night was a low/no sleep night. 2 hikers at the shelter had dogs. Which is fine, but they were barking and running around. And they were barking at me in the middle of the night when I came back from the bathroom, and they were running around me early this morning before I got up. Between them and the bugs, which are finally getting annoying, I bet I only slept a couple hours. Tonight will be different. I’m tired due to that, and also from the loooong stretches of uphill today. And I’ve got the condo set up next to a nice spring in the middle of nowhere. And the tent means more warmth and no bugs, so I am looking forward to sleep momentarily. Archie’s feeling better, which is good. Not much else to speak of today! Sweet dreams! 

Day 77: Watering hole

Journal Excerpt:

6.9 miles, June 3, Bryant Ridge Shelter, AM overcast, hot, PM Sunny

It’s a trade off. I hiked less miles today so that I could stick with Mr. Bunker, who has almost recovered from bronchitis. It was a great day though. I was submerged in water for the first time since I’ve been out here. There was a great swimming hole near a road and bridge. It sucked in about a dozen of us today. It was a blast, and just the right temperature to cool us off. Archie and I then laid our thermo-rest pads right on the ground for a siesta. Perfect. Then a sweaty, arduous climb up, then down, eventually to this shelter. Bryant Ridge Shelter is quite a place. It’s huge, as far as A.T. shelters go, with three levels and a large covered deck. It is composed entirely of wood, held together by large wooden pegs rather than nails. It should do just fine for tonight’s sleep!

Day 76: Bunker and the Bear ride again

Journal Excerpt:

15.6 miles, June 2, Cove Mountain shelter, sunny and HOT

Today’s hike would have been super awesome were it not for the heat and humidity. I was a walking sweat machine. I was careful to drink a lot and take a lot of breaks. Today was the first time the AT crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway. That’s exciting for me because we’ll continue to cross the parkway and Skyline Drive all the way through the rest of Virginia. 

Durning my lunch break, I was sitting by myself in one of the spots where the trail and the road are right next to each other, eating an apple in the shade of a lone tree facing one of the parkway’s many overlooks. I had been stopped by one minivan already - a couple wanting to learn about the trail - so when I heard a car honk again, I sort of absently waved. But then the car stopped and came back over to me. In the passenger seat was none other than Mr. Bunker, my favorite hiking partner, who I had not seen since Damascus! He apparently was sick for 3 days with bronchitis. I’ve been two or three days behind him since Damascus, so it is a stroke of luck that we reunited here. I’m hoping we’ll hike together for a little bit now.

See how it works? I really enjoyed my hiking time with Bear Behind, and now he’s a day ahead. I spend two - only two - days “alone” and now I’ve got someone else to hike with again. I love it out here. 

Water’s not to be found at this shelter, and I’m really low. There’s a steep half mile downhill to get it… I’m really thirsty after that hot day, so even though it is 7:30pm, I’m going down to get water. 

Okay, I’m back. Remind me not to do that again. That stupid water trip was one of the toughest down/up hills I’ve had out here. There was not even a designated trail. I actually got up the hill with the water in hand and found I had climbed back up behind the shelter somehow. Thanks to McGruff for going with me. McGruff is another welcome face that I have not seen since Erwin, Tennessee. Tonight’s been a reunion of sorts!

Days 73-75: Daleville/Troutville/Cloverdale

Journal Excerpt:

Day 73 - 5.1 miles, May 30, Comfort Inn, Daleville
Day 74 - 0 miles, May 31, Econolodge, Daleville
Day 75 - 8.6 miles, June 1, tenting at Curry Creek

Well, after these three days, I’ll need to step up the pace, but I did need to take it slow for awhile. I hadn’t intended to take a whole day off  at the I-81/220 interchange (Daleville, Troutville, Cloverdale) but I was feeling really run down and a little under the weather. Water sources for the past few days have been sketchy; in addition, it is finally getting hot outside. Whatever the cause, I benefitted from good food and a lot of rest. The Shoney’s breakfast bar was particularly nice! I shared a room at the Comfort Inn with Bear Behind, and then he left the next day. I would like to catch up to him soon. Candy Lady and I bought wine and carried it up to the first shelter out of town. This was in celebration of the fact that the class of 2000 thru-hikers are officially one third of the way done! I wasn’t feeling like drinking wine, though, so I left it at the shelter and hiked on to tent on my own and hopefully get to sleep early and get an early start.