Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 51: fat tire blazing on the Virginia creeper trail

My toe did not want me to walk on it today, so we talked about taking another zero. Owl said she had heard a couple people we had been hiking with talk about hiking the Virginia creeper trail (a rails to trails conversion) up to where it intersects with the AT, because it is really pretty. After we both agreed that sounded like a pretty good idea, it was a very small leap to make the decision to rent bikes and bike down the trail into Damascus. Then tomorrow we will get a shuttle to where it intersects the AT, and hike on from there.

I had a fantastic time biking down the mountain. The trail goes downhill almost the entire way, so it was a very easy ride. The weather was perfect (low 60s and sunny), and we laughed and played like kids all the way down.

Once we got back into town, we rode out to the "welcome to Damascus" sign, where Hammer, Mallet, and friends were hanging out. Mallet threw a frisbee to Owl on her bike, and she *almost* caught it!

I had the most awesome helmet hair ever.

We ate lunch at the blue blaze cafe (gain!), then went back to the room to get the bounce box and box o stuff for home ready, then to the post office. Stopped at the outfitter so Owl could check for more mail - she had 5 more cards yesterday and one more today - then back to blue blaze for happy hour.

Saw m80 and trooper at the outfitter; m80 had the hiker virus so they are taking an extra zero tomorrow. Poor guy!

My toe still hurts but I am hoping by tomorrow the swelling will go down and it won't hurt to walk. Aw yeah, I'm a dreamer!

Day 50: Zero in Damascus

Yesterday was so full of excitement that we didn't have time to get our normal town chores done. So, we went to the laundromat, went by the outfitter and got a new pair of shoes AND a goretex jacket on clearance (woohoo). Then Comet called and said there was an all you can eat chinese place in Abingdon, so I went to eat about 2pm. We had such a good time hanging old lady at the next table walked up to Comet and said "is this your son or your grandson? I am having such a good time just watching you two talk to each other". The short hair strikes again!

As a disappointment to hikers everywhere, I only ate one plate of delicious Chinese food (it was piled super high, though). Stopped at cvs and got a new knee brace...then back to Damascus. I did another load of laundry, then limped back to the room.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 49: Abingdon Gap Shelter to Damascus, VA!

11.3 miles

Woke up around 4am and sat for a bit to watch for Lyrid meteors - saw a few and went back to bed.

We all wanted to get into Damascus for breakfast, so Big Yank set his alarm for 6am (he wanted nature sounds so the alarm was ducks.) We were on the trail at 7.

I knew of a big surprise - OWL's friend Bill was going to meet us in Damascus for her birthday - and so I was doing my best to send texts about our progress. Originally I thought we would be there by noon or 1 but at the pace OWL/Shutterbug/Techie/Big Yank were going, I knew they would be there sooner. My feet hurt pretty bad so I slowed down and didn't even try to keep up. I got to the Virginia border and they were still there! Took a few photos and had a wig of Big Yank's 40 mile beer, then said "Hey Owl, I really want to walk into Damascus with you". She said "ok, you lead". So off we went - me in front with OWL, Shutterbug, Techie, Big Yank, and Smiles behind. We sang songs at the top of our lungs most of the way down...Bohemian Rhapsody, Ring of Fire, etc...had a really good time.

We were really booking it down the mountain and got into town about 10:45. Didn't see Bill but we stopped to take pictures at the "Welcome to Damascus" sign. Bill pulled up in his van, rolled down the window, and said "Hey little girl do you want a ride?" and then laughed. OWL didn't hear him, so he repeated himself. She looked at me kinda confused and said "That sounds like Bill!"....then looked around and saw him. It was awesome.

We went into town and stopped at the Blue Blaze Cafe for breakfast. Bill brought a chocolate cake and candles, so we had cake for an appetizer. Then we all ordered the "Iron Mountain Breakfast" - 5 pancakes, layered with sausage and bacon, 3 eggs on top, with potatoes around the side. An amazing hiker breakfast. I did not finish mine.

Found a place to stay - a room with two twin beds (awesome!), and then went to the outfitter. As soon as OWL asked for her packages, the outfitter said "hey, we are happy to see you have a hand truck?" We went to the back and she had 22! pieces of mail (three of which were our regular maildrop). She was so excited! And the outfitter was also excited because now the mailroom had room for other hiker packages.

We went to the b&b to unpack. OWL took first shower, and after she got out and started opening her prizes I started untaping my feet. My pinky toe on my left foot smelled like death. Very sore and red and swollen and I took a shower and then off to the doctor I went. Thankfully they saw me (even thoguh it was very close to closing time), gave me an antibiotic shot and a prescription, and sent me on my way.

Met up with Comet, a Damascus native I met through metafilter, and we talked for a bit at the b&b. UV and Whole Bean showed up with Mazey (who had attracted a very enthusiastic fan dog)...they were trying to find some place to camp and Comet let them camp in her yard under her apple tree! What an awesome lady.

Went to $1.50 taco night at Blue Blaze Cafe, where I ate 5 tacos and some fries and a beer (Fat Tire, as usual). Comet & I had a little mini mefi meetup! (No shots, though). Super fun to hang out with locals and get to visit a little bit.

Whole Bean ate 12 tacos! - he looked like crap afterwards (hah). The cafe is connected to a bar, and the crew from the shelter was singing karaoke. So we ran over to the bar and sang Bohemian Rhapsody - MUCH easier with the words on a screen!

Said goodnight to Comet - we are going to hang out tomorrow also, I think - and went to bed. What a great day.

Day 48: Iron Mountain Shelter -> Abingdon Gap Shelter

16 miles

Nice and easy (but long!) day. Walked today with Shutterbug. She reminds me a lot of a younger version of one of my friends from back home. We walked through a cattle field today. Shutterbug was nervous but I was just walking. There were baby cows! Apparantly M80 & Trooper had trouble with the cow pasture because of their dog, Willow. M80 picked up Willow, who was growling and baring her teeth, and Trooper walked in front of them hitting her sticks together. Trooper said later that the cows started surrounding them and it was very scary. Yet another reason I am glad I don't have a dog on the trail!

Mom sent a nice email. I'm glad to have such a supportive family.

Just before the trail crossed a road there was a big metal box with crosses on it; trail magic by a local baptist "Girls in Action" church group. Had a first aid kit, some candy, and ice cold sodas.

Met two section hikers; Timberlake & his friend. They are both in their 70s and are section hiking parts of the AT that they like. They had two dogs with them; Max and Chobe. Timberlake said, "tell me where Chobe is and I'll give you a prize"....and I said..."on a map?" which his friend thought was hilarious. I didn't get a prize, though.

Ate lunch with M80/Trooper/Willow/Owl/Shutterbug. I really like meeting up for lunch with a group.

Took my time getting to the shelter - man my feet hurt - but was able to talk with AWE for a while. So there are some benefits to being slow. :)

At the shelter with Owl, shutterbug, big yank, and techie. M80 & Trooper are tenting (as usual), and a British guy named Smiles is tenting also. We are all very excited to get into Damascus tomorrow. Big Yank has a celebratory beer he has been carrying for 40 miles to drink at the Virginia border. And, of course, it is Owl's birthday tomorrow!

Day 47: Watauga Lake Shelter to Iron Mountain Shelter

14 miles

Another cold day so I wore pants again. My legs are doomed to be forever pale!

Today was hard even though the elevation profile looked easy. Went around the lake, then over Watauga Dam & up & down & up & down (this is what hikers call PUD's - pointless ups and downs).

Nice trail magic on the dam by Safety Bob - a worker on the dam from Wisconsin who was handing out fruit to hikers crossing the dam.

Ate lunch with Owl, shutterbug, M80 & Trooper at the Midway shelter. Saw some folks out on a section hike also. This particular shelter was covered in very funny graffiti honoring Bob Peoples the legend. Like, "Bob Peoples Doesn't Get Bit By Snakes, He Bits Them". Or, "Jesus Asks Bob Peoples for Forgiveness". Or, "When Bob Peoples sleeps here, mice bring him food". "Bob Peoples doesn't believe in the periodic table of the elements, because he only believes in the element of surprise."

Stayed at the Iron Mountain shelter with Owl, shutterbug, Big Yank, Techie, and a SOBO, "Boomerang", who pulled a 26 mile day out of Damascus today. For dinner, Boomerang had a 5 layer peanut butter & nutella sandwich, a bag of fritos, some cookies, and some other things I can't remember. He also built a fire super-fast. He was not amused by our NOBO adventures.

Day 46: Kincora to Watauga Lake Shelter

Cold today - I am wearing pants. But it is really nice to have the sun out!

It was hard to leave Kincora - very comfortable and welcoming place - but we did. There was a really cool bridge over the river - nice start to the day. We dropped down into Laurel falls - an amazing amount of water pours over those falls. Saw lots of dayhikers so it must be Saturday.

Saw the CleverGirl parade slackpacking (CleverGirl, DumpTruck, Apollo, HotDog, Whistle, and one guy I didn't recognize). They are slacking all the way into Damascus, lucky dogs!

They stopped at a small overlook so I did too - CleverGirl said "it's mile 420, on 4/20!". Sure enough there was a rock there denoting the mileage. Pretty neat (even though I don't smoke).

The ups today seemed to last forever! But I kept walking...and eventually I got to Watauga Lake. There were two donkeys in a pasture by the road - they ran up to the fence as soon as they saw me but were VERY disappointed that I didn't have anything for them to eat. (One even bared his teeth at me).

Saw a sign about a trail detour - and another about trail magic - so went to check them out. "Knock on wood" (so named because she was incredibly unlucky....she would say "hey it's awesome that it hasn't rained in a while" and a thunderstorm would start) and some friends were there with sodas, fruit, and coffee singles/candy bits. Stopped to talk with them for a while and then went on to the shelter.

The detour was an official detour (not like the Forest Service detour) due to flooding on the trail. So instead of walking the trail along the lakeshore, we walked on the road for about a quarter of a mile before going into the woods. The walk was really peaceful - I love being around water - and I got to the shelter pretty early.

Shutterbug & OWL had already set up in the shelter, so I set up too. Cooked dinner and was even able to FaceTime with AWE. There was a phone in the shelter (although it was not hooked up to anything) - pretty funny.

Half&Half came in pretty late, and M80/Trooper/Willow came in after that. M80's group did over 24 miles today...crazy!

Day 45: Vango hostel -> Kincora hostel

Woke up throughout the night - no rain but LOTS of strong wind. Went outside about 7 (down to the house to connect to wifi) and checked the weather. Storms start at 11. So it was a race to the first shelter - 6 miles uphill - we left about 8.

There was a cold drizzle of rain, and plenty of wind, but no lightning or thunder. Still, I practically ran up the trail and got there just before 11. 3mph uphill! I couldn't believe it, and neither could OWL. She said "I'm not your mom, but I'm proud of you!".

There was a burst of heavy rain at 11, but the real downpour didn't start until 1:30. It lasted until about 3. Steps, ET, Spider, and Dutch all showed up at the shelter during the downpour. Some decided to stay at the shelter for the day, but we started walking after the storm passed. It was still cold rain, but I stayed pretty dry.

Got to Kincora about 5:45pm. This is a great place with a great vibe - basically everything I expected from a hostel on the AT. Good kitchen, a place to hang out, three flushing toilets, a shower room, free laundry, free shuttles to town.

I am officially a creature of the trail. Yesterday I did not take a shower at the Vango hostel, even though there was one available. And today, I went outside and fired up my stove to cook dinner...was talking with this dude named Hammer when someone came outside and looked at me real strange. "Zag, you know there is an electric stove inside, right? Save your fuel and heat up water on the stove!"

There are a bunch of people here. Clevergirl & crew are here. Rusty & Toast, too (it's Toast's birthday and Rusty baked her a cake!). Shutterbug is here, along with Starman (from Hawaii; has hiked the PCT) and lots of others. We are one big weird family.

Day 44: Mountain Harbour Hostel to Vango Abby Memorial Hostel

13.0 miles
Huge amazing breakfast this morning. Shrimp & grits, monkey bread, french toast with toasted pecans and maple syrup, strawberry cake, stuffed strawberries with pineapple, corn casserole, poached pears, keilbasa sausage, potatoes with green beans, biscuits & gravy, egg omlet casserole, coffee and juice. Ate with ET (energizer turtle) and spider who are starting their section hike. Saw Bearfoot, who is still having trouble with his knee and is going to wait for M80/Trooper/Willow to arrive today.

But, time to walk. We took the short blue blaze trail to Jones Falls - absolutely spectacular! Took off shoes and socks and soaked my aching feet in the cold water.

Walked a bit with Human (who is wearing Bunny glasses) and saw a baby rattlesnake. I also saw a black snake a few miles later.

Fairly easy terrain but my feet hurt badly. I can't wait to get new shoes in Damascus.

The trail followed the Elk River for a while, then back up the mountain. Got water from a waterfall - pretty neat. I like this section of the trail a lot.

We decided to stay at the hostel because it is supposed to storm hard tonight. We had called to reserve two bunks but they were full by the time we showed up. So we got the "private" room on top of the house. Saw a girl go up to the house and then turn away super sad, so we asked if she wanted to sleep on the foldout bed in our room. She was very excited to do so and gave us some awesome chocolate (dark chocolate + sea salt + caramel) as well as paying her share. Her name is Shutterbug.

We are going to try to get to Kincora tomorrow. This is the hostel run by Bob Peoples, who is a legendary figure on the trail. I like this hostel-to-hostel thing we have going on.

Day 43: OverMountain Shelter to Mountain Harbour Hostel

8.7 miles (+.3 from shelter, +.2 to hostel)

Woke up to rain, so we decided to take it slow since we only had 9 miles to hike. Got ready to leave about 10am - left the barn and went about 100 feet before a downpour with thunder and lightning started. We turned right back around and went back tot he barn. Found some cards and played hearts with Rusty and Toast until noon. (UV & Whole Bean & Mazey were there, too). It was really neat to watch the fog roll across the valley.

Left - once more - and got hot almost immediately going up the first hill. Took off the rain jacket and ate some Reeses Pieces and pretended to look at the views (visibility was terrible).

Started up Hump Mountain - a big steep bald - and the wind and rain really picked up. No lightning, though, so I put the rain jacket back on and kept going. Stopped for lunch on the other side of the mountain once the weather started to clear. There are lots of rocks on this section of the trail - hard on the feet but kinda fun to figure out the best path along the way - like a jigsaw puzzle.

Had enough service to call the hostel - they still had our "semi private" room reserved! So nice to know we had a place to stay since the weather was pretty crappy.

Saw some bright orange salamanders - really pretty little things that were right in the middle of the trail. Lots of creepy red and black centipedes. Fields of wildflowers - really amazing. Heard an owl when we crossed Doll Flats (at the NC/TN border). Now we are in TN headed for Virginia.

Got to the hostel in time for the "town shuttle" - fairly terrifying experience as the driver was either intoxicated or otherwise shouldn't have been driving. He let us out at a BBQ joint - pretty good BBQ sandwich for dinner. Ate with Dragonfly and Onyx - they are avoiding shelters altogether (Onyx got sick before Erwin).

We should get to Damascus on OWL's birthday!