Thursday, June 27, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Buena Vista, VA To Waynesboro, VA

Like the last leg, this leg was tough.  The weather - specifically the heat and humidity - are beginning to take a toll.  They keep saying it will be easier ahead.  Whoever 'They' are are full of it most of the time. 

There are some views outside of the
green tunnel of Virginia.
Day 81 - The shuttle driver who picked me up coming in dropped me off going out.   On the drive out he said I should have stayed in Lexington and I would agree.  Lexington seems like a nicer place than Buena Vista.  He also told me some hike naked day stories.

As usual, leaving town meant climbing up to the top of a ridge.  It was slow going but I felt ok.  The big green tunnel was pretty evident on this section of the Appalachian Trail (AT).  There was the occasional view but they were few and far between.

As the day progressed the temperature and humidity rose making hiking more difficult.  The humidity is especially energy sapping.  Water sources are fewer in this section so more water needs to be carried meaning a heavier pack and a harder day.

Along the trail I caught up with Red Bush, a thru-hiker I'd met a week or so back.  Other then him, there were few North bound thru-hikers in the area.

I did a 14 mile (22 km) day but the humidity made it feel farther.

Day 82 - I left camp at my usual early time.  I reached Spy Rock and considered doing the rock scramble to the supposed awesome views.  I decided against it since I had to get to my destination.

After I left Spy Rock I mentally kicked myself down the trail.  Why was I doing the AT?   Was it for the miles or for the sights and sounds of the trail?  Why would I pass up a rock scramble?  This isn't the first time I've skipped a viewpoint and regretted it.  Sometimes you have to remind yourself why you are doing something so you do it right.

The shelter log of the Priest Mountain Shelter has become a confessional.
I stopped at the first shelter which is the Priest Mountain shelter for a rest and snack.  The shelter log has become a confessional with people leaving hilarious confessions.  One of my favorites said: "Forgive me father for today I brushed my teeth with a Milky Way. "  I wrote my own confession before moving on.

After the summit of Priest Mountain came a 3,100 ft (945 m) decent.  It was rocky and difficult and was a preview of what was to come after I reached the bottom and crossed over a suspension bridge.

When I reached the shelter I was aiming for I was tired and sweaty.  The humidity was worse than the day before.  Looking at my AT Guide I decided tomorrow was going to be a longer day.  What was I thinking?

There is in fact flat land in Virginia but AT hikers only see it from afar.
Day 83 - I was going to do a 22 mile (35 km) day.  I was going to get as close to Waynesboro as I could get.  I was not thinking clearly.

The day started with a steep mountain climb and then went on forever.  I reached my original target campsite and decided I'd had enough.  My 22 mile day turned into a 14.7 mile (23.6 km) day instead.  The campsite actually had a view which made it nice.  Only one hiker passed by the rest of the day.

That night I regretted not pushing hard when a storm rolled in and I was in my tent listening to the thunder, wind, and rain ... at the top of a mountain.

A copperhead snake about a foot long.
Day 84 - I woke up, packed my wet tent, and made record time hiking to Rockfish Gap where I could get a shuttle to the hostel.  I was going for a hotel but the hostel was perfectly located close to everything.

Several hikers I knew who were behind me, including Spaceman, Sunshine, and Red Bush, caught up during my zero day so maybe I will have company in Shenandoah National Park.

I resupplied for three days of food.  This should cover the next seven days because of multiple opportunities to get a cooked meal and some limited resupply along the trail through the park.  A lighter pack should make it a bit easier I hope.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 863.7 Miles (1,390.0 km)
Section Distance: 55.9 Miles (90.0 km)
Section Elevation Up: 12,743 ft (3,884 m)
Section Elevation Down: 13,035 ft (3,973 m)


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Daleville, VA To Buena Vista, VA

This was when Virginia started getting hard.  The mountains kept coming with only a few interesting views to break up the long green tunnel.

I also entered a void between bubbles this week with the number of thru-hikers dwindling.

Overall a hard week with few interesting things and few people to commiserate with.

Day 75 - I got up early, had my hotel breakfast waffle and hit the Appalachian Trail (AT) early.  I climbed the inevitable mountain out of town and stopped for a rest near the top at Fullhardt Knob Shelter.  This is where I removed and forgot my hat.  I didn't realize my loss until several miles later. I continued on the hope the email address written in the hat would help the hat get back to me.

Along the trail I noticed an odd stone on the top of a rock outcropping.  The stone had text and, as I looked closer, a lid on the bottom.  Inside the 'stone' was a note saying this is not the cache and that I should keep looking.  Seems I found part of a geocache called Old Fart's Knob.  This is not the first time I've found a geocache without the GPS coordinates.  I still had a ways to go so I didn't look for the actual cache.

The AT follows the Blue Ridge Parkway along a beautiful ridge with views on both sides.  Along the way the trail takes you to overlooks (with trash cans!!!).  At one overlook the father of a thru-hiker was giving out trail magic.

I made it to Bobblets Gap Shelter as the air thundered.  It didn't rain though.

One step at a time.  One third of the trail is behind me.
On this leg of the trail I began experimenting with Mountain House replacements.  I packed chicken packets, tortillas, and Velveeta cheese.  I liked making and eating the wraps but my food bag was so much heavier.  My pack felt like a ton heavier.  Mountain House meals are expensive but they are also very light.

Day 76 - Another long day with lots of up and down.  I left the shelter and climbed up and down all day.  I stopped at Bryant Ridge Shelter to rest.  The shelter is at the base of a twenty-four hundred foot ridge.  I thought about stopping here and doing the climb tomorrow but decided against it.  This would have pushed the next day to over twenty miles and the climb would have changed from a twenty-four hundred foot climb to thirty-one hundred foot climb instead.

A view along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The climb was tough and a bit wet due to a burst of rain but I made it to the next shelter.  There I was joined by two young women who proceeded to have the most vapid conversations for the next five hours.  Frankly I am not interested in how many times they have 'hooked up' with guys on the trail or how well proportioned their asses are.

Day 77 - More up today.  A pattern was forming for this part of the trail.  Lots of long climbs followed by lots of down.  Making it worse the humidity was high and I was usually soaked in sweat. My pants were soaked through in sweat and never dried out the last three days on the trail.

The Guillotine.
This day marked the highest peak of this section of trail.  The trail passes under the guillotine before dropping down to the James River.  I stopped in a shelter just before the river. 

The shelters have been fairly empty for the past few days.  I have only shared the shelter with two or three people.  Most of my hiking day has been alone passing other hikers infrequently.

Day 78 - After three eighteen mile days over rather challenging terrain I shortened my next day down to just over twelve miles.  The trail follows the James River until it crosses it over the longest foot bridge on the AT.  Strangely enough the James River Foot Bridge was the brainchild of a Mr. Foot who was very active with the AT.

After the bridge the trail started climbing up again.  I started meeting people I thought were a day ahead of me but they had all stopped for a nearo in Glasgow, VA.  They are now, once again, ahead of me.

The longest footbridge on the AT over the James River.
I stopped at a shelter near the high point of the day and spent the night.  I told a Ridgerunner about my hat.  He told me how he was proud of his clean privies.

Days 79 & 80 - I hiked the eleven miles to a wayside.  I was planning to call a shuttle but I had no cell reception.  I was considering walking the nine miles into town when a shuttle guy pulled up.  He'd been called by someone else but they weren't there so he took me into town.  Dumb luck.

My home for a couple nights.
The motel I was in was a bit run down but it served its purpose.  I took the 50¢ shuttle to the Walmart in Lexington to resupply and I've been filling my belly with fuel.  I'm going back to Mountain House meals.

I received an email about my hat.  It will soon be going home via the postal service.  Hopefully I'll have it back by Harper's Ferry.

Tomorrow I shuttle back out to the trail and in four days should be in Waynesboro, VA.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 808.5 Miles (1,301.2 km)
Section Distance: 81.7 Miles (131.5 km)
Section Elevation Up: 18,098 ft (5,516 m)
Section Elevation Down: 17,274 ft (5,265 m)


Friday, June 21, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Summer Solstice And Hike Naked Day

I woke up this morning and realized that not only is it the first day of summer and the longest day of the year but it is also Hike Naked Day.  This realization came while being in a rundown motel room in Buena Vista, VA.

On the trail it is easy to lose track of time and if I'd payed attention I would have planned to be out on the trail today. Instead I am taking a commuter shuttle to Walmart to resupply.  Talk about piss poor planning.

Happy Summer Solstice!!!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Woods Hole Hostel To Daleville, VA

It was an unusually hard week for me on the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Despite this, moistness, rain, and difficult rocky trails were countered by incredible views.  Some have described Virginia as a long green tunnel, and there are surely sections that meet that description, but Virginia also has the Dragon's Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs.

A brief stop at McAfee Knob to contemplate life.
Day 66 - I left Woods Hole Hostel on a drizzly, misty day after a very rainy night.  The day was an easy one over a short mountain, past a rock formation called Angel's Rest, and down to the town of Pearisburg, VA.  There was no view at Angel's Rest today.  Everything was just white like the world beyond the mountain didn't exist.

The view on most of the rainy bits.
As I came down the hill and took the steps to the road I slipped on the last tread, did a whirling dance to keep from falling, and managed to pull a muscle on my left side, twist my right knee, and reinjure my left foot.  *Sigh*

I arrived at the road at the perfect time since Jug and Phoenix had called for a shuttle to the Angel's Rest Hostel.  The van arrive right after my terrible trail dismount and I got a ride to where I would spend the night.  I resupplied at Walmart, did some laundry, and ate some food while the rain came down.  It rained all afternoon and evening.

Day 67 - The hostel manager, Tramp, dropped us back at where he picked us up the day before.  I'd slept in not leaving the hostel til 9:30am.  The day was overcast, a bit drizzly, and very ... moist.  The climb out of town wasn't too bad but by the time I'd reached my short goal of the first shelter I was soaked through and cold.

The view from the Rice Field Shelter before the fog rolled in.
I only did 7.8 miles (12.6 km).  I wanted to take it easy leaving town and I did just that.  A few more people stopped by the shelter to snack before moving on.  Time passed and I didn't see anyone else walk by.  The rain probably was deterring hikers from leaving town.

At the end of the day I stayed in the shelter alone.  No one was tenting around.  No one joined me in the shelter.  I managed to get the trifecta.  I've camped alone in a campsite, I've stayed in a hostel alone (Hampton, TN), and now I stayed at a shelter alone.  I wonder how many hikers have managed this?  All I can say is it's creepy.

I put on some dry clothes and went to bed.

Day 68 - Another moist day.  I put my wet clothes back on - they didn't dry any over night - and headed out.  I did a long day of 16.5 miles (26.6 km) but my butt was dragging and had to really push myself to finish.

There were no views and the day just drug on.  I didn't even take any pictures this day.

Just a side note on a dull day.  Several rivers and creeks are off limits to drink from.  I assume it's due to pollution in the water.  I've been seeing a lot of these dangerous to drink from streams in Virginia.

Wet clothes came off and dry went on.

Day 69 - The day started off like the last two - moist.  Wet clothes went back on.  We'd actually had been lucky since forecasted hard rain had never materialized.  Today that would change.

Rain came and went most of the day and at times it looked like it was trying to dry up.  The rain we'd had overnight had revived some dead water sources.  It also swelled some streams to the point it was hard to cross without getting wet.  Most stream crossings had stepping stones or logs you could walk across.  At two today I couldn't see a dry way across so I just waded through the mid calf deep waters.  One good thing was the mud was washed off my shoes and feet.

The Keefer Oak:
the largest on the AT in the South.
I passed the Keefer Oak, the largest Oak tree on the southern AT.  Soon after I started climbing up a ridge and the sky opened up and the rain poured.  I put my head down and just kept walking until I reached my target shelter.  I was with one other hiker since this shelter was 0.4 miles off the AT and all downhill.

This was a long day and my butt was dragging after 21.4 miles (34.4 km).  Having said this, this day felt harder than it should have.

The wet clothes came off and dry went back on.

Day 70 - I woke up to actual sunshine!  Wet clothes went on again and I climbed back up the ridge and kept going down the trail.

The trail followed a rocky ridge with sharply angled stones offering gorgeous views of the early sunshine lighting the distant ridges and mountains.  On this ridge I passed the Eastern Continental Divide marked by a sign.

The early morning light on the hills and ridges.
The highlight of my day was a memorial dedicated to Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier during World War II.  He died in a plane crash near this spot.

I ended the day with my butt dragging again.  Despite the sunshine, views, and cool stuff to see I really had to push myself to finish.

My clothes ... we're rather dry at the end of the day.

I crossed the seven hundred mile mark on the way to the Dragon's Tooth.
It was marked twice a short distance from each other.
Day 71 - Another sunny day.  Soon after leaving the shelter I heard a noise which turned out to be my second bear.  This time I got a good look at its face. I hope the deer I saw earlier stayed safe.

The hike was mostly rocky which slowed me down and stressed muscles that had been slacking most of the past seventy days.  At the top of the mountain was the Dragon's Tooth, a large stone monolith.  They say you can climb to the top but I am very good at getting up things and not being able to get back down.  Since I was alone I refrained from attempting a climb.

The Dragon's Tooth.
The way down the mountain was very difficult.  For the first time I had to put my poles in my pack and climb down rock using my hands.  I was tired by the time I got down.

I left the trail to visit the Catawba Grocery (i.e. a convenience store) where I got some BBQ pork, fries, and a pint of ice cream for dessert.  I also resupplied my snacks for the next two days.

On the way to the shelter I saw my first ripe raspberry.  It was still early but I ate it and it gave me a small preview of what's to come.  I've been waiting for raspberries and blackberries ever since I decided to do the AT.  Can't wait to fill a bag with them while I hike.

I reached the shelter, butt dragging, and spent the night listening to the rain that moved in overnight.

Day 72 - I woke to the sound of rain.  I'm usually up by 6:00am and out by 6:40am but today I waited and didn't leave until 8:30am.  Turns out I was lucky.  Today was McAfee Knob day.

The view from Tinker Cliffs including McAfee Knob.
I hiked along the ridge to the left of the knob.
McAfee Knob is an iconic place on the AT.  Hikers get their pictures taken dangling their feet off a ledge.  I played it a bit more conservatively and sat near the edge with my feet planted on the rock.  Pop Rock  and Trail Diva were nice enough to take my picture.

After Dragon's Tooth and McAfee there was one more iconic place along this section: Tinker Cliffs.  I reached the cliffs at the same time as Fish who I hadn't seen since the ponies over two weeks ago.  He'd been a bit down in the dumps back then but now he was smiling and truly enjoying himself.   The views from the cliffs were spectacular.

Since I still was dragging my butt I made the day a short one stopping at the next shelter.

A view of a reservoir near Daleville, VA.
Day 73 & 74 - I did the short and rather easy hike into Daleville, VA.  I checked into a hotel for a couple nights - zero day here I come.

I don't know why my butt drug so much this section.  I guess the rain and the rocks took a lot out of me.  Also going eight days between zero days may have also contributed.

I hope the extra rest is worthy it.  A lot of the thru-hikers I was hiking with along this section are now ahead of me and once again I have separated from my trail family.  *Sigh* Time to meet new people.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 729.7 Miles (1,174.3 km)
Section Distance: 108.0 Miles (173.8 km)
Section Elevation Up: 18,027 ft (5,495 m)
Section Elevation Down: 19,731 ft (6,014 m)


Sunday, June 09, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Food Extra

For those who are wondering what I eat on the Appalachian Trail (AT), here is a typical list for one day's worth of food and a few tidbits of food info:

Food Item
Qty
Total Calories
Mountain House Dehydrated Meal
1
500 - 800
Clif Builder Bars
2
560
Clif Bars
2
500
Belvita Breakfast Biscuits
1 Pack of Four
230
Snickers Bars
2
500
Honey Bun
1
360 - 540
Trail Mix + P.B. Bites
1
900
Tortillas
2
280
Peanut Butter (for the tortillas)
4 Tbsp
360

Total:
3,550 - 4,030

Typical day's worth of hiker fuel.
  • Items change depending on what's available at the store I'm supplying at.
  • The mountain house meal is my dinner.  All other items are eaten during my hiking day or when I arrive at my destination.   The number of calories does vary depending on what I can buy. One thing I may have to experiment with is replacing the mountain house meals with things like mac & cheese, instant mashed potatoes, and knorr pasta/rice sides - basically anything that can be made using only boiling water. These things are more complicated to make and clean up after but they can be cheaper and more compact.
  • Most hikers struggle with getting diversity in their food choices.  I have always been an eat the same stuff every day type of guy so the lack of different foods doesn't bother me much.
  • I take a multivitamin as the food is more calorie oriented than nutritionally oriented.
  • My food bag holds about five days worth.  I may be able to fit more if I replace the mountain house meals.  I really don't want to carry more food since each day weighs over two pounds but some stretches of the AT will require more food.  Of course, the food weight goes down as it is consumed.  So, when you leave resupply towns your pack is heavy and it is much lighter when you go back into town.
  • My favorite thing here is the tortillas and peanut butter.
  • These calories do not make up for the calories burned hiking every day.  The calorie gap is filled when I enter a town and chow down.
P.S.:  Did you know they make Cookie Butter? It looks like peanut butter but tastes like cookies!  How did I not know this?

Friday, June 07, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Marion, VA To Woods Hole Hostel

This section was a week of milestones.  Longest hike, most miles in a day.  Now that I've done three twenty plus mile days in a row, I don't have any reason to do it again.  I just hope the Appalachian Trail (AT) doesn't want me to do it again anytime soon.

A group of alpaca at the Long Neck Lair farm.
Day 60 - Weird day.  The shuttle back to the AT wouldn't arrive earlier than 10:20am so I had a late start.  I woke up early - I never can seem to sleep in when I'm in town - so I had hours of just waiting for my ride.  I hate waiting.

I got back on the AT around 11:00am and headed north.  I was experimenting on my diet a bit.  I added a multivitamin and added a lemonade packet to my water that contained caffeine, B vitamins, and electrolytes for energy and hydration.  It seems to have made a difference.  I felt energetic most of the day and did well on the uphills.  Usually I drag my butt after taking a zero day.  The added B vitamins seemed  to have eliminated the aching from restless leg syndrome. I will continue the experiment.

A one room school house full of trail magic.
I ran into a sign advertising Trail Magic and went to investigate.  The magic was located in an old one room schoolhouse.  There were snacks, fresh fruit, soda and water on ice, and toiletries.  I filled my water bottle and took a banana.

Farther ahead I crossed a bridge over a river and arrived at railroad tracks.  I heard a train whistle and hurriedly crossed over the tracks.  A couple minutes later the train passed.

I arrived at Atkins, VA and stopped at the Barn restaurant (with their 16 oz Hiker Burger) for an early dinner before heading down the road to the Long Neck Lair alpaca farm where I rented a room for the night.  I have to say I have been indulging myself way too much on the AT.  It would have been cheaper to tent here but the room was too tempting.

Soon after arriving we helped one of the owners feed the alpaca.  They are curious and strange looking especially since they had been recently sheared.

This day was a relatively short 11.4 mile (18.3 km) day.  The next few days will be a bit longer and I hope the caffeine helps.

Day 61 - I left the alpacas behind saying goodbye to our hosts and heading back to the trail.  The trail was varied today with forests, rivers, and meadows.

The caffeine didn't help nearly as much as it did the day before.  I did do a longer 14.7 miles (23.7 km) and had more elevation change but I expected more from the stimulant.

Along the way today I say a memorial for the hiker murdered earlier this year.  It was unexpected and moving.

The quarter trail mark.
Today also marked the end of my second month on the AT making my time on trail one third over but I also passed the one quarter distance mark of the trail. This just goes to show that I'll have to start cranking out the miles.  I may also change some zero days into nearo days to speed things up a bit.

Day 62 - A long day with many ups and down and a lot of AT flat i.e. a little up and a little down.  I decided to do a longer stage because my original plan had me stopping at a campsite a half a mile off trail with a questionable water source.  Turns out it was half a mile down hill too so I skipped it and went to the next shelter.  Doing this gave me my first official twenty mile day.

Chestnut Knob Shelter ... Actually has a door.
Near my half way point I stopped at a stone shelter with an actual door.  It looked awesome. It even had cool hiker art.  I ate lunch and used the privy before moving on.

On the last down hill I tripped on a rock and nearly face planted.  At the last second I tucked in my chin and headbutted the AT.  It hardly noticed.  I think I will have a bump on my head.  I was actually lucky.  I could have hit a rock or root when I came down.  Instead I just hit dirt.

Here I met Lucky Strike who was struck by lightning on the trail and returned after only three zero days.

Day 63 - The forecast said rain was coming  in the next few days.  I was supposed to do a thirteen mile day but I decided to do something really crazy and push on to the next shelter to position myself better before the weather turned bad.

A bouncy suspension bridge over a river.
It was a tough day with a lot of AT flat - i.e. lots of little ups and downs - but I arrived at Jenny Knob shelter.    Along the way I  stopped at Brushy Mountain Outpost for a burger, fries, and a muffin.  I also bought water as the next ten miles were dry ones. I was feeling tired but well and I ended up doing a personal best of 23.2 miles (37.3 km).

I was looking at the next day and another hiker, Cory, noted that there was a hostel only 22 miles ahead.  She planted another crazy idea in my head.

Days 64 & 65 - I headed for the hostel.  It was a relatively easy day with a difficult climb at the end.  It was drizzly and foggy most of the hiking day.  I arrived at Woods Hole Hostel in time for a shower and a dinner made with ingredients grown on the farm.

A deconstructed chocolate birthday cake that was delicious.
My feet and legs were toast.  My three day push had knocked a day of my schedule but I took a zero day at the hostel to recover.  In the end, all that pushing resulted in little gain.  But I do know what I am capable of.

Today I will be doing a shorter hike to Pearisburg.  Unfortunately I will be hiking in the rain most of the way.  Bad planning on my part.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 625.3 Miles (1,006.3 km)
Section Distance: 92.9 Miles (149.5 km)
Section Elevation Up: 18,616 ft (5,674 m)
Section Elevation Down: 18,514 ft (5,643 m)

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Appalachian Trail Milestone: Passed My Second Camino Today.

Today I passed my second Camino (615.78 miles - 991 km) making my Appalachian Trail hike my all time high in miles and days hiked.

I broke a few personal records the past few days.  Most miles in a day: 23.2 miles (37.3 km).  Most miles in three consecutive days: 65.5 miles (105.4 km)

I doubt I will ever break this personal record for longest hike.  There are longer trails that could be hiked but I can't imagine any of them will ever be in my future.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Damascus, VA To Marion, VA

I'm approaching my two month mark on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and I am doing well.  My knees seem fine.  My feet have been aching a little but that could be the new pair of shoes I received from home in Damascus - they will be broken in soon enough.  My left foot has been giving me on and off trouble for the past month or so but it's nothing a little ibubrophen can't remedy.  The biggest health related surprise has been the lack of blisters (knock on wood).  I guess my shoes and my toe socks are doing their job.

Mentally I'm feeling up.  I've given up on a trail family.  I just enjoy the people I encounter until it's time for them to move on.  Now that I've come to accept this fact of the trail, I have been doing much better moodwise.

Another gorgeous day on the AT.
Day 54 - I got up really early so I could take a shower before getting back on trail.  Showers are few and far between so they are precious.

I left the B&B I stayed at in Damascus at 6 :10am and walked out of town.  The AT follows the Virginia Creeper bicycle trail for a while.  At one point you are walking into bicycle traffic which was a bit nerve racking since there were a lot of little ones on bikes who didn't quite know what to do when they were heading for a hiker.

After crossing a long bridge the trails diverged and we hikers were safe once again.  Like most other towns, the trail climbed out of Damascus.  I arrived at my stop, the Lost Mountain Shelter at 15.8 miles (25.4 km).  My plan was for this day to be the longest in this section of the trail but things would change as the often do.

One of the Grayson Highlands ponies.
Day 55 - This would be a relatively short day at 12.3 miles (19.8 km).  The trail continued to climb as I drew closer to the Grayson Highlands.

My stop for the day was Thomas Knob Shelter, not far from Mt. Rogers the tallest point in Virginia, and just outside of Grayson Highlands State Park.  The park is famous for its wild ponies.  As I got closer to the shelter I was passing ponies in the nearby fields and stopped to watch a pony licking the salt off a hiker's arm.

At the shelter a mama horse and a couple yearlings came into camp and proceeded to lick salt off of everything they could get their tongues on.  I kept a large rock between me and the horses.

That night a horse stood outside the shelter and stared in most of the night.

The view in the Grayson Highlands.
Day 56 - Today I entered the Grayson Highlands.  Like the Roan Highlands and Max Patch before, these highlands did not disappoint.  It was a blustery day as I rock hopped and admired the views.  The trail took you through our first squeeze - Fatman Squeeze - where the trail narrowed between rock formations.

The trail left the highlands and the ponies behind and dropped down to my stop of the day, the Old Orchard Shelter.  The day was again fairly short at 11.9 miles (19.2 km) but the rocky trail made it a difficult day.

I met my first shelter log groupie here.  He stopped for a rest and asked our trail names.  He'd been following several people by their shelter log entries.  He found Tarzan who was there and then said he thought he was close to Little Hill.  I raised my hand and I thought he was going to jump for joy.  He was very excited.  My entries are not elaborate and just say what I'm doing.  I do have a logo that I use though which probably attracted his attention.

Day 57 - This was going to be another short day but, after talking over the plan with Tarzan, Cali Butter, Sunshine, Sister, and Vagabundo I decided to push for a longer day.  This would allow for an earlier entry into town.

The day went well.  I stopped at the Trimpi Shelter for a snack, a privy break, and a little nap.

I pushed on heading for a campsite next to a water source.  I reached the site but there was no water.  I climb the hill more looking for water and found none.  I dropped my pack at a campsite and headed a half mile back down the hill to a stream I'd crossed earlier and hauled the water back up.  I did 17.0 miles (27.4 km) today not including the running up and down the mountain for water.

A three to four foot Black Snake on the trail.
As I was trying to get my breath back I heard thunder.  I quickly put up my tent and started eating my evening meal but then I felt drops.  I put my unfinished meal in my food bag and looked for a place to hang it before it really started to rain.  I had a hard time finding a place to hang when the rain got stronger so I got in my tent with my food bag.

There had been a lot of bear activity in the area and having your food bag in your tent was not a wise thing.  As I sat there listening to the rain I swore I heard deer, bears, and other hikers putting up their tents.

It poured for an hour or so then reduced to a drizzle.  When it finally let up I got back out and successful hung my bag.   There was no on there.  No deer.  No bears.  My mind likes to play with my head.

Days 58 & 59 - I woke up to an empty campsite.  All the others who planned to join me stayed at the Trimpi Shelter when it rained and hailed over there.  I was lucky I didn't get hailed on.

I packed up and headed out. Along the way I heard a crack of a breaking branch.  I looked down the ridge and saw my first black bear running away from me.  I wasn't very close and it wasn't very big.  I didn't have time to get a picture.

Despite of only hiking 6.4 miles (10.3 km) I was tired when I got to the Pat Jennings Visitor Center probably because I hadn't eaten my dinner last night.  I called for a 50¢ shuttle ride and went into town with everyone else who arrived in time.

I checked into a hotel, walked over a mile to do my laundry, ate, and started planning my next section.  Resupply would be scarce going forward so I would have to find alternatives to carrying a ton of food.  Some of the alternatives may make for good stories next post.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 534.2 Miles (859.7 km)
Section Distance: 64.1 Miles (103.1 km)
Section Elevation Up: 12,578 ft (3,834 m)
Section Elevation Down: 11,379 ft (3,468 m)