Tuesday, July 22, 2014

[Pussel-gut] Smelling Katahdin

At this point I really just want to talk about the Whites. Well, first things first, I suppose.

 Leaving that Hitching Post Motel, Mr. Jingles informed me of the extreme value of stopping early. (Hint: mental health is a good thing.) So we only managed 11 that day. We also had heavy packs coming out of town, we got a late start, and I could really list excuses all day if I wanted to. Then I stopped early the next day, and lost him. Which was fine, since I started reading some books I had bought in town. (Most notably Brave New World). A few days later I ended up at Upper Goose Pond, talking to two people. who I think were called Becca and Jake. We started talking about hiking, then the Adirondacks, then Deerfoot Lodge, and finally Nate Masterson. Small world. The pond was also great for a swim. I got interrogated (or had a conversation with) a guy who drove (boated?) by me in his boat while I was floating in the lake. Of course the first thing he said was "Are you a thru-hiker?" (Technically it was "My son wants to know if you're a thru-hiker," but same thing.) (Do we really smell that bad? I was mostly underwater at the time, and he was more than 50 feet away.)

I was in MA at this point, near the end of it. It's a small state. (Every state other than VA, ME, and PA are small states.) I stayed at Tom Levardi's (sp?), who was a wonderful trail angel who lets hikers camp in his backyard. The next two days I hit two more towns. (Cheshire, North Adams) I got my worst injury of the trail in North Adams, due to common courtesy (I think). There were bikes that a trail angel (again, gotta love 'em) lent out to hikers for resupply in North Adams. I took it and walked it across 2, since I hadn't been on a bike much. After I crossed I wiped some sweat out of my eyes (it was pretty hot that day), and started to bike along the road. Some guy in a car yelled out to me, and I turned to look at him. I guessed he asked, "Are you okay?", so I yelled, "Yeah," kinda confused what he would have done if I had said, "No." Because I turned around, I naturally lost control of the bike and scraped my knee against the guardrail. Ow. In retrospect, I think he thought I was crying due to the sweat running down my face and in my eyes. Oh well.

I stealth camped at the first water source in VT, only making it there before dark since I had to apply first aid, and wait for a few hours in the shade at the supermarket for the day to cool off. It didn't. (I also didn't have to wait.) The next morning the AT went along a gravel road for a little bit. I had the feeling I might be lost, but wasn't about to admit that to myself. I can follow this trail, dammit, I've been doing it for 1600 miles (at that point). Then Mr. Jingles shows up going the other way, and asks, "Are we on the trail?" I answer something to the effect of "IDK," but with more profanity. We weren't. Also, getting 0.5 off trail is apparently enough of an excuse to stop the day at 7 miles...

At this point I was considering going to Luke's house for 7/4, but entered a multi-day long dead zone. I got to the top of Stratton on the 3rd, and of course there was no way he could drive multiple hours to the middle of nowhere and impose my stank on his houseguests. So, I went into town again with Mr. Jingles, at the Red Sled Motel on the 5th. VT is muddy, by the way. I got to stay in a barn loft on the 8th for $10, which was convenient, since it rained like hell that night, It also made me feel more like a character from a book, moving around haystacks to find a comforatble spot to sleep. The next day I caught up my journal. I had been trying to do that since the Shenandoahs, basically.

Then the terrain started to get hard. I stayed at a trail angel's house the night before I went into Hanover. In Hanover I didn't stay, but instead called people (some of whom called me back - looking at you, Robbie) and wandered the internet for a good couple of hours. I hiked out later in the afternoon. That night, my phone decided that living wasn't it's thing anymore. Really? It's made it this far, and then gives out? I hadn't gotten it wet in over a week! And then, Moosilauke.

Well, more like the threat of Moosilauke (1st Mt. in Whites, ~3500 ft climb) was keeping me down. (It was also raining, of course). The day before I entered the Whites me and Mr. Jingles were basically just bitching to each other. (This was also when my glasses decided that they wanted to break, too. One of the straight pieces that sits on my ear just snapped clean off at the joint.) (The way he tells it, I pulled him down. Possibly accurate.) I kept joking how the day was just going to continue to get worse. It was going to end with me on top of Moosilauke in a thunderstorm (above treeline, of course.) Mr. Jingles responded that we should have dropped out at Damascus, like normal people. (Because we obviously can't stop now.) But it was okay, because at the shelter there was a random trail angel who packed in chili. All became better, especially after I had a dream about playing Bear Soccer. The only important things about Bear Soccer are that humans are the goalies, bears take the rest of the positions, and it's vaguely like soccer. I remember the goalie on the other team being female, and I could picture her really well when I woke up, in a much better mood. (I won the game, of course.) Mr. Jingles was still pissed, and more pissed because I wasn't.

And then I met the girl of my dreams.

Well, not really. Not at all. We were hiking behind Jettcat (yes, two t's, I don't know why.) At a distance I thought she might look exactly like the girl I was playing against. (So more like the girl from my dream?) Her hair was the right color, and she had the same build, but her face wasn't quite the right shape and her hair was cut wrong. Still kinda weird, though.

With those odd thoughts running through my head I summit-ted. Silly me, I thought that was the easy part. I then had to descend, and earned a dozen scratches on my right wrist in the process. We managed 16 miles on the day, though. Haven't seen Jettcat since. She was trying to catch up to Wired, and Wired moves fast. The next day, to celebrate, we went 9 miles into town. And then took a 0. (We had plenty of excuses, too.) The main reason was that we wanted to be on Franconia Ridge during a day with clear skies. I fixed up my glasses with duct tape, a stick, and a dime for balance. It's the hiker version of Google Glass.

Franconia was beautiful when we did it, and we managed a 10 mile day, which was respectable, given the terrain, and how slow you hike when presented with the best view of your hike, for 3.5 straight miles. Also, there were a ton of day hikers, which slowed us down to pass, and slowed us down further when we made fun of them. (Mostly not within earshot.)

And Haiku caught up with us at the shelter that night! And pushed us back into gear. We flew the next day (at least over the 5 miles where there was good terrain, we managed over the rest), and then managed an 18 over the Presidentials. I think it would have been an extra mile to hit all of the peaks. (The AT doesn't go over all of them.) (Guess I gotta go back and do the traverse this fall.)The amount of non-hikers was ridiculous at Mt. Washington. The views were fantastic, though. (And of course I got 0 pictures w/o my phone.) After the Presidentials we were beat, but that didn't stop us from hiking Wildcat. (And getting an awesome work for stay at the Carter Notch Hut, my only one.)

One more day of hiking, and then today we walked 2 miles of river walk (really easy terrain) into Gorrham. ME is 18 trail miles away, which I'll try to do tomorrow. I bought a pay-as-you-go phone with 1000 minutes to use in 30 days, so I may be calling around, if I can remember your number. I'm considering this a burn phone. so I don't want to post the number on the internet. Makes me feel all cool and spy-ey and stuff. Also now I feel like the NSA is trying to track me down. They'll never catch me in the woods! (Muahaha?) Alternatively, they could just wait for me to show up at Katahdin, but that would be silly.

826 insects killed
19 falls
Till next time,

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

[Pussel-gut] How many states can I fit in one post? (7)

So, I am going to skim over a lot that has happened since my last post. I've been avoiding this because I know its a big job. Let's see how fast I can do this.

After Daleville, VA, we started an interesting section of trail, where 4 days out of 5 had a 2000+ ft climb. We managed to keep our mileage up through most of it, but the last day we had to descend the Priest and climb the 3 Ridges. When I started the climb, it began to rain, hard. We planned to lunch at 14 miles in, because there wasn't really a good spot before that. We never left lunch. (Well, not until the mext morning.)

The next day was a 21, and we drove into Trail Days, after meeting up with Spyro's parents. It was slightly disappointing to see all of the hiking I'd done for the past month be driven in a few hours. We got in after dark and just set up. Satuday was the fun day. We got the worst service of my life at the Blue Blaze Cafe. (Our first time there it was really good. They were overloaded.) Then we went to the gear manufacturers. I was planning to buy a hammock, and expecting to pay $200-250 on it. Luckily for me Hennessey has a half off sale at Trail Days, so I got the expensive, ultralight one for $135. The parade was fun, and Prom was way too packed, though it was funny to see the different levels of dressed up that all of the hikers were.

On Sunday we were driven back. Jan continued on home, while mtnrunner stayed with us to hike the Shenandoahs. We had some good times spotting day hikers and bears. (And ticks weren't as fun.) I almost walked into a bear at one point. It waited until I was 5-10 ft away without making a sound, then bolted up a tree. My heart skipped a beat and I almost fell over. I backed up a 100 yds, we both then calmed down and went on our way. Also, blackberry ice cream.

We got to mtnrunners car and he resupplied us in Luray, after which social week continued. (As I called it at the time, it was more like social month.) Madison day-hiked with us after bringing us a fruit salad breakfast on Friday. We met up with Brian, who Spyro knew on Saturday morning, and my family came for Saturday dinner.

After that we hiked the Rollercoaster, I finished the Wheel of Time, and prepared for the 4 State Challenge by not getting enough sleep. (Two nights before I finished the WoT and got about 7 hours, the night before I got 4. 10-2)

The challenge was, well, challenging. We were out by 3, and we started with a nice downhill into a boring river walk in WV. I say boring because I was tired and could only see 40 yds. I'm sure it would be nicer in daylight. I took my first break at 12 miles in, and took a nap with it. As some hikers said (who I met that day but don't remember), "Break your own break." Then I was humming along, making decent time past the halfway point, where I could count down the miles and not be too scared by the numbers. The worst part was between 15 and 10 to go, when it had started to rain, but there was no landmarks. The rain blew over relatively quickly, but the landmarks were still not there. My feet hurt really bad, enough that I jogged parts because that used my feet differently. At 10 miles I got excited,  and started counting down the miles. Dark fell around 6 left, and MD had one last surprise to throw at me. A rocky uphill that I accidentally took a side trail off of, and its rocky downhill counterpart. (Side trails should be dark blue blazed,  not with sky blue that looks like white.) The last 3 miles were easy, and I took a break where I seriously considered sleeping where I was. Then I though about how much effort it would be to set up camp, and decided to press on instead. If I had stumbled across a bed, that would have been it. But I made it to the state line where half a pizza was waiting for me.

I was pretty excited to be north of the Mason-Dixon line, and in my home state (PA!). That zero day was great. Two more days of hiking took us to the halfway point, where we both came off. I drove Spyro to his bus home and then went to the beach for a day trip. My dad then dropped me back off in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, and got to watch me walk away into the darkness. Apparently it looked like the start of a horror movie that wouldn't end well for me. I did fine.

Then I decided to book. I wanted to hike the Pinnacle loop with my dad on a Saturday, so I hiked 110 miles in 5 days, waking up at 5 on the laat day to be at the trailhead at the right time. And then my little brother showed up and raced me up the only hill of the day, with his day pack, on fresh legs. He beat me by a little. Dominic Lopez also came out with us, and was talking about a natural bug repellent that he had concocted and wanted me to beta test. I told him I would once the no-see-ums start biting. I may end up not waiting that long. They also resupplied me, and I switched to a Sawyer filter since I couldn't find any Aqua Mira in town. I figure I'm far enough ahead of Norovirus.

My next day was an 11. Got made fun of for that one. (I was hiking with Haiku for part of my 110, and pulled ahead of him at the end. He caught me after my 11. Then I hiked with Joe Toole for a 17, which was good for me, since we did some rock scrambles as side trails and Joe convonced me they were fun again. Haiku congratulated Joe on going 13 that day (I met him after 4), and made fun of me for only doing 17. He pushed on and is a few days ahead of me.

Then it began to rain.

(It's a quote from the Wise Man's Fear that I really appreciate now.)

The next few days were marked by soaking boots and pruned feet. I knew I was going home that weekend, so there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I ended up calling home a day early, while eating a miserabled lunch. (Though at least the bread wasn't soggy.) Lauren and Jimmy picked me up and I was home to 4 walls and conditioned air. When I left the house, it was in a car! Travelling with a roof over your head is a fantastic idea. Also, the weather turned nice again. The next few days I was pretty overwhelmed by social interaction. At some point at Emily's graduation party I was in a bit of a food coma and basically just stopped talking to people. Then there was a Father's Day breakfast, and I went back to the trail, with clean(er) clothes and new shoes, trail runners that looked like they would dry fast.

Then the states really started rolling. I was picked up in NJ, and made NY in a day or two. The start of NY was awful. The first 4 miles took me two hours. Rocky, constantly steeply climbong and falling the same 20 feet. I met back up with Long Haul Trucker, who I hadn't seen since the Shenandoahs. I set up my hammock poorly my first day in NY, and woke up to a puddle of water above me and rain getting in the side. It was easy enough to drain the puddle and go back to sleep, since the worst of the rain had already happened (so I thought). I pushed on the puddle and managed to pour almost all of it out. Into the hammock, that is. I abandoned ship and slept in the shelter that night. You can see the result from the morning below. My phone didn't work for a few days after that. I wonder why?

I got it working again at Graymoor in the morning, so stayed to charge it. My morning routine thus messed with, I managed to leave the SPOT behind, which is why you probably won't see any pings from me anymore...

The next day I ran into mtnrunner again at RPH Shelter, after beer trail magic and a swim in a lake with a concession stand. Good end to a good day. The next day he drove me back to look for the SPOT, but we didn't have any luck. It was nice to see him again. I still owe him a bottle cap.

Right now I'm waking up in a motel room that I split with Mr. Jingles. We Nero'd yesterday, and had all our shopping done by 2. We watched TV with a six pack each for the rest of the day. TV advertising is really hard to ignore when you're not used to it. Anyway, I need to check out and hike.

Oh, and at some point in the last two days I entered CT. 7 states.

Pussel-gut (PG'14)

Monday, June 2, 2014

[Spyro] End of Part 1: Getting off the Trail

I'm writing this post from my home in Connecticut. This will be my last post for this trip, aside from some additional pictures that I haven't yet uploaded.

The decision to end my thru-hike was a difficult one. All in all, I walked 1100 miles - just over half of the total length of the Trail. And at some point, I still intend to go back to the point where I left off (in Pennsylvania) and finish the second half, in Part 2 of my hike. But for some time now, I've been realizing that I need a break from hiking all day, every day, and that I need more balance in my life. I need something else to do. Somebody on the Trail once told me that he didn't know how far he was going, but rather that he would continue hiking while he was happy. So, having found that I was no longer happy, I left the Trail.

What I like least about the decision is that when I come back another year, I will not see anyone I made friends with on this trip - Gazelle, Mio, Tandem, Buzz, and all the others will have finished their thru-hikes already. But I think this is the right choice for me.


Before I wrap up the trip, I wanted to mention some of the things we did and saw in the last few days!

At the end of my "Virginia" post, I mentioned that we were in the middle of a very social week! My dad had hiked with us for a few days, and he and my mom had come to Trail Days with us. Then, after my he left, we had several more visits. Pussel-gut's family came to have dinner with us one night, since they happened to be in the area. Madison, my Sibb and a mutual friend at Olin, hiked several miles with us and enjoyed blackberry sundaes with us. And Brian, someone I knew from Philmont, had breakfast with us one morning. Very exciting!

When we finally crossed into WV, we hit Harper's Ferry, the psychological midpoint of the AT. As I mentioned in my last post, that was where we started the Four State Challenge! My hike that next day went through 4 states, took a little over 17 hours, and totalled 43.3 miles. It was an amazingly tough day, both mentally and physically, but I'm proud that I did it and the fact that Dominoes delivered to the ending point made it a little bit better :).

We took a zero day in Waynesboro, PA that next day to recover from the challenge. Our day mostly consisted of eating and sleeping (at a buffet and a bed & breakfast). It was a well-deserved rest!

After that, we only had 2 more days until we got to the halfway point on the AT, at roughly 1090 trail miles. The sign was a little bit anticlimactic, but it felt good to think back to all of the terrain that we traversed.

Pine Grove Furnace Park is just after the halfway point. The general store there is home to the "half-gallon challenge": consuming an entire half-gallon of ice cream. Mmm! Much more fun than the Four State Challenge. I finished every bit of my Moose Tracks ice cream.

That was where my adventure ended. Pussel-gut's dad picked us up there, and I took a bus home from Philly the next morning. Pussel-gut will be continuing on the trail with the SPOT, and I'm looking forward to seeing a ping from Katahdin!


Thanks for following along with my blog posts. It's been a wild ride, and I'm looking forward to the point when I'm recharged and ready to tackle part 2!

Happy Trails,



Photo Captions
Beautiful view from the Black Rock Cliffs in Maryland
Finish line of the Four State Challenge: MD/PA and the Mason-Dixon line
Appalachian Trail 2014 Halfway Point
Appalachian Trail permanent halfway marker (inaccurate, since the trail changes every year)
Half a gallon of ice cream. Yum!
My last white blaze of the trip.
Going home via Grand Central Terminal

Saturday, May 24, 2014

[Spyro] The Four State Challenge

At long last, we're at Harper's Ferry!

It's a historic town, the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the "psychological midpoint" of the Trail. But it's also the starting point for a hiker challenge.

By starting out just before Harper's Ferry and ending at the Mason-Dixon line, it's possible to go through 4 states (VA, WV, MD, PA) in 42 miles, and doing so in 24 hours or less is called the Four State Challenge. Crazy? Maybe, but we're going to try it anyways!

So starting at 2am tomorrow morning, we'll be on the move! My SPOT will be broadcasting my location live, and I'm going to attempt to live-tweet on my Twitter feed when I have service under the hashtag #4statechallenge (surprisingly, someone has previously used the hashtag for that purpose).

So pumped! Watch for updates!

- Spyro

(this challenge fueled by Elizabeth's Hudson Bay Bread)

The one where I earn my name

(This post only covers to the night of 5/9. Yeah, I know its really late. I wrote 95% of it more than a week ago...)

I haven't talked about my name since I got it on the blog yet. So I'll explain it the way I do when I'm meeting a hiker. (They'll be called A)

A: So what're your names?
Spyro: I'm Spyro.
Me: I'm Pussel-gut.
A: Apostle-what?
Me: No, Pussel-gut.
A: Oh, Pussel-gut. That's a unique name. Where'd you get that one?
Me: A waitress gave it to me in...
Spyro (he has this down really well): Franklin.
Me: We were eating at a...
Spyro: Shoney's.
(At this point Spyro starts talking to someone else.)
Me: And we had just given our order, when the waitress comes up to me and says, "I have a name for people like you. Pussel-gut."
A: That's weird. Why did she say that?
Me: Yeah, it turns out it was for drinking too much sweet tea.

(There are two endings here, one from before I figured out what it meant, and one after.)
Me: I tried to look it up, but couldn't find anything about it online.

After (its a word as pussle-gut)::
Me: I found it in the dictionary of American Regional English. Its a southern regionalism that means potbelly.
A: But you don't look that fat.
Me: Not now, but I assume its because I have a pussle-gut when I leave town.
(A gives a courtesy chuckle. Topic of conversation changes.)

When I left off last, we were in Damascus. We've had some fun since then. We started by putting in some big miles until I complained. Then we put in a 7 mile day after resupplying in Merion. Thats when I met Mio, Tandem, and Buzz. (Spyro met them the night before, when I went to bed early because my feet hurt.)

We saw that someone had been keeping score for a game of Kanasta (sp?) in the log, and 10 mins later Spyro was explaining the rules as we started playing. And I started getting bad sleep. We played 3 nights to finish a game. (IMHO it gets worse the closer one team is to winning.) Then we branched out, playing Yuker (sp?) and Cut and Burn (I do know how to spell that one)

Then we realized that our schedules were diverging. The 3 of them were planning on a shorter day to get to Woods Hole Hostel, which me and Spyro skipped. We celebrated the night by packing out a six pack of Devil's Backbone, and 18 pounders of Bud Light. Upon arriving at the shelter we (obviously) made friends, and Skittles showed us how to play Pass the Pig (not a card game). Then Buzz and Tandem wrecked me and Spyro at Spades, despite Spyro going low blind while also I made my bid of 5 exactly. (That was our only good round.) Afterwards I taught the group President (/ Asshole), which we played until the beers ran out around 11. (Which is really late, by the way.)

We went straight from there to Pearisburg, where I decided to go to sleep early and take care of things in the morning, after eating at an all-you-can-eat Chinese place. After I got into my bed at 8, I realized that I had lost the ability to sleep while a TV was on, and stayed up until the end of whatever baseball game was being watched, at 11.

Which meant another bad night of sleep, and getting out of Pearisburg around 1. Which put us in an interesting spot, since we planned to make 19 miles that day. We did anyway, eating lunch at 4:30 and night hiking for a little under an hour. The moths really bothered me, though. I killed 94 and 95 with Callandor.

Oh wait, that probably made no sense. My old walking stick (unnamed) was broken when it ran into some inclement weather (ie, Boy Scouts). I picked up a new one, and called it Callandor, since it looks sword-like with the guard, and keeping with the WoT and going crazy themes. I'm also keeping a count of the insects I kill, for no real reason. It was slow going at first, but now I'm killing between 3 and 10 a day. They are also doing a pretty good job fighting back. I'm covered in bites.

Oh, and of course I got to bed around 10:30 after my night hike. The next night I got some good sleep, though. I hiked with Gazelle a good bit, and we talked about nothing for hours. It was fun, sonething I hadn't done in a while.

And then we got some great views. The Dragon's Fang (I mean, Dragon's Tooth), McAfee Knob, and the Tinker's Cliffs were all great, though slightly rocky. Coming down from Dragon's Tooth was the worst.

And then we were in Catawba, where the Homeplace is, a all-you-can-eat family style restaurant (not buffet). It was great, and so much BBQ pulled pork. I of course ate faster than Spyro until near the end where I was full and he kept going a little. After that we managed to waddle a mile down the trail to a shelter.

And the next day we got into Daleville, and ate at a BBQ place, where I again got pulled pork. So much good. I had some trouble finishing the sweet potato fries at the end, but I managed. I did not manage to finish the banana pudding that thru-hikers get for free, though.

In Daleville we made sure to get our errands done at night, and we stealth camped pretty close to town. (Stealth camping is camping not at a designated campsite. Its allowed on most sections of the trail.) Gazelle and DaVinci were there with us.

Our next stop is Buena Vista, and we have Trail Days next weekend!


Friday, May 23, 2014

[Spyro] Virginia


We're almost to the end of Virginia now, and I haven't made a single blog post on the subject. And Virginia alone comprises over a quarter of the AT! Let's see if I can summarize...

We entered Virginia the same week as the Boston Marathon. Ari suggested that we do 26.2 miles on Marathon Monday, which we laughed off as a joke. But in fact, we ended up doing 26.3 miles past the TN/VA line and into Damascus, the quintessential trail town, that Friday. I thought I might have sprained my ankle on the way, but it was nothing that a zero day couldn't fix. Pro tip: all you can eat pancakes at the Blue Blaze Cafe, and they will serve them a la mode. MMMM.

We climbed Mt. Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia, a few days after leaving Damascus. I went up to the (anticlimactic) summit to knock off another state high point. Mt. Rogers borders the Grayson Highlands, a beautiful section of trail with many exposed ridges and views... Oh, and wild ponies! These ponies were supposedly left alone in the wild but in practice they had seen so many humans that they were just not afraid of me. Pretty cool.

New friends on the trail
For the better part of a week, we hiked with a few new friends - Tandem, Mio, and Buzz. Buzz and Tandem were a father/daughter pair, and Mio was hiking about the same pace as them. Hiking with this new group changed up our routine quite a bit - every night, we'd teach each other new card games (including Canasta, Spades, Euchre (sp?), and Presidents) and one night we even hiked in an 18-pack of 16oz beers to enjoy and share with the other hikers. The good thing about the trail is that you get to meet a lot of new people; the downside is that your pace will never match up exactly, so you end up moving from group to group.

Pearisburg, VA was about 1.5 weeks after Damascus. The day we left it, we wanted to get to "The Captain's" house, who allowed hikers to camp in his yard. The catch: the yard was only accessible by zipline! Naturally, this only made us want to camp there more, so despite leaving from Pearisburg at 1pm, we still tried to make the 20 miles to The Captain's. Unfortunately, once it became clear that it was going to be a long, miserable night hike to get there, I stopped a little over a mile short to wait for Pussel-gut and make camp there instead - but we still got to play on the zipline in the morning :).

Dining in the Appalachians
One of the restaurants that we had been hearing about for weeks was called the Homeplace. It was an All You Can Eat restaurant in what used to be a nice house on a large plot of farmland. It's so popular that we waited over an hour to get in! The food is served family-style without too much variety - all of the vegetables and sides are set, and you get to choose 2 meats out of a selection of fried chicken, BBQ pork, roast beef, and ham. The dishes are brought to the table to be split among your party, and when the dish is empty, it is refilled. And refilled. As much you want. :). We had chicken, pork, biscuits, red beans, green beans, baked apples, mashed potatoes, and blackberry cobbler a la mode for dessert.
The next town that we hit was Daleville/Troutville (2 towns squished into one). Since we had already hit a "Troutdale", the naming conventions were starting to become repetitive... In any case, we continued the food adventure and had an awesome Southern barbecue dinner there with our friend Gazelle.

"Good View"
Over the course of the next week, we had 1 big climb a morning for 4 mornings straight, starting off easy and getting harder each day. The benefit was that we had some awesome views in that section! (Which was appropriate - in the middle of that week, we went into a little mountain town called Buena Vista.) The downside, of course, was that we finished off with a 3000 foot climb on the last day, with a thunderstorm that dumped down almost 4 inches of rain that day. Everything was soaked! 4 inches of rain is quite a lot, and we got to ford a river (actually, 3 rivers) for the first time the next day.

Trail Days
My parents came to meet us in Waynesboro, VA for the weekend of 5/16 and we all drove down together to Trail Days, an annual hiker bash all the way back in Damascus. I'd estimate there were at least a thousand hikers there, in addition to all the vendors and townspeople. Of particular interest were a hiker parade (featuring water guns pointed both into and out of the parade), food, craft, and gear vendors, a gigantic bonfire at night, and reunions with friends we had lost contact with on the trail. We saw Mio, Buzz, Tandem, Titty Cakes, Solo, and Gargamel, among others. It was tons of fun, and I'll try to go back another year!

Bonding Time
When we got back to Waynesboro, my mom headed back to CT, but my dad (trail name "Mtnrunner") stayed to hike with us for a few days through Shenandoah National Park. The park was a very different experience from the other trail sections, since the trail runs along Skyline Drive (filled with vacationers and day hikers), but we got to reap the benefits as well - I saw 9 bears while in the park, and the park wayside restaurants are known for their blackberry milkshakes! We got some great views from the park peaks as well. A few other hikers commented to me privately that I must have a very athletic dad to be able to keep up at our pace - and all in all, it was a great experience to share with Mtnrunner . :).

Like I said, we're almost out of Virginia - 3 more days will take us to Harper's Ferry, WV, and from there we'll be attempting the Four State Challenge - more info on that soon.

I hear that the students and teachers at the Oxford Center school have been following these posts - hope you enjoy this one!

Photo Captions
State line!
Pancakes a la mode
Grayson Highlands
Gazelle on the zipline
The Keffer Oak (largest tree on AT in the South)
View from Dragon's Tooth (an appropriate place for a Spyro selfie)
Food at the Homeplace
Bears in a tree!!
Turtle on the trail
You mean I have to ford that?
Pussel-gut and I in the Trail Days Hiker Parade
Another bear!
Mtnrunner on a mountain
Father/son selfie off of Mary's Rock
View across Skyline Drive before leaving the park

Sunday, May 4, 2014

[Derek] Progress Chart

Now you can see our progress on a Google Doc as well! It has charts of miles per day and total miles.


We're here in Pearisburg, VA (no, that's not a misspelling) - since I have access to a physical computer I figured I'd update this. Looks kinda cool to see our progress like that.

At this point we're over 600 miles and over 25% of the way to Katahdin - woo-hoo! More updates soon, we promise.