Happy Father’s day! I woke up super early this morning… Well early for me anyways. It was 6:30 and already light out. Everyone else was still busy snoring away, and no sooner than I had unzipped my tent my phone began ringing. Crap, that means I had fallen asleep the night before without turning my phone over to airplane mode….. Sure enough the battery was down to twenty percent. Shoot. I answered the phone and was met with several loud “hello?!”s from my dad on the other end. He’d decided to come down and spend father’s day morning with me before heading back to Richmond and was calling to find my location. ” bark house? Buck hose? ” “no dad its black horse gap” “bucket oar gap got it!” Twenty minutes later dad rolled up in his Toyota rav 4 and we speed off down the blue ridge parkway towards literally the only place to eat that early in the area, burger king. Luckily his car has USB charger ports so I was able to partially recharge some of my iPhone battery along the way. Dad and I drove further down the parkway and spent a half hour or so checking or the awesome overlooks while he tried convincing me once more in vain to get off the trail early. He looked at his watch and jumped up, realizing that it was nearly nine o clock and he had to get home for father’s day plans with my other sisters. A kiss and a hug later and I was waving goodbye from the peaks of otter overlook, several miles down trail from where he’s picked me up at. I gave directions to several day hikers headed the opposite direction from me and before departing down the trail myself spent a few moments chatting with a former 2002 thru hiker who was picking up a friend. I took off down trail about a mile before stopping to switch or of my sleeping clothes. I’d work then into town because they were the last smelly of my clothes and so I reluctantly pulled my sweaty hiking shirt back on. The ripe smell of deet and body odor clung to me like flies on… Well, like flies on a hiker. Suddenly scout began growling and edging towards the bushes. I couldn’t see why but moments later a large does popped out and sprung of down the AT. Scott gave a gruff final growl towards the doe as it retreated into the forest, and then a surprised yelp when another hiker appeared behind him. It was giggles, whom I had not seen since Damascus. I learned that she had sprained an ankle and was of trail for a week healing and that she to has yellow blazed sections. We chatted for a bit, mostly comparing the hard decision to return to the trail and the things we’d missed back home, but I quickly surpassed her and before long had made the few miles to cove mountain shelter. Here I saw gandolf and blaze the dog having a brief snack as well as penguin and Mr toad with squeaker. I tried feeding scout who was apparently still full from his breakfast (dad had bought him a sausage biscuit) and began snacking myself. I knew the crew from the night before was going to try to make it to the swimming hole and so I pushed on the short three miles to the Jennings creek swimming hole where other hikers were already gathering. As is the case with almost everywhere I go, second later a cop rolled up. Although no one had done anything wrong, he informed us that camping and fires are prohibited despite the site being marked as a campground. I might have liked this porky pig look alike had he not threatened to arrest us if we had alcohol. Maybe if he hadn’t referred to us as you people, or maybe even if the officer hadn’t complained about how much he hated both thru hikers and the AT. Nope I didn’t like him one bit. Once officer cranky pants left I dove in for a swim and caught crawdads until Blackbeard and the rest of my camp mates from the night before arrived. I spent ten minutes trying to help swiper find a non existent hole in her sleeping bag, after which point my swimsuit was mostly dry, I’d also met a girl named mouth of the south, who was celebrating her first day back on the trail after two weeks at home. It was a good feeling too know I wasn’t the only one who’d gotten off and to see so many people coming back onto the trail made me smile after so many friends had already left. Mouth and I hiked a final few miles that day to the next shelter where I crashed for the night. She moved on but I spent the night watching fire flies with swiper, biohazard, and some new guys named have to and mogli.
The day I have been dreading had finally arrived. Over 3000 ft climb in just a few miles last ahead of me and I was less than enthusiastic to say the least. Scout lounged around camp that morning too as if he knew what lay ahead and was trying to put it off. After a short breakfast, I rolled out of the shelter and began a long, hot day stretching 17 miles from Briant ridge shelter to marble spring campsite. OK so 17 miles doesn’t sound long but it was mostly up hill the entire day. I collected water at the first shelter I hit, Cornelius creek, and ate lunch at thunder hill shelter with gandolf, blaze, the Alaska couple, mouth and joe, and Mr toad and penguin. I caught a small ring neck snake and passed him around for everyone to hold before letting him go. Almost everyone stayed there for a bit, nervous with the constant thunder cracking in the distance(ironic considering the name of the shelter). Gandolf and I pressed on with the dogs however, not yet ready to call it a day. We never got wet. We hiked together for a short stretch but as is the case with me on every uphill I quickly fell behind. We meet up at the wide clearing where refugee, karate kid, mouth, and several others eventually joined us. We spent a relaxing, storm free night laughing and joking around the fire, complaining about ticks and the need to resupply. I did a little writing and got to bed early for a change. I really began to realize that this was a great group of people whom I wanted to continue my adventure with. 🙂
I always have the strangest dreams on trail. Now it’s lunch time and I can’t for the life of me recall what I was dreaming about, but I remanded it was odd. I was up and packed earlier than usual, a habit is like to continue, and was hiking down trail by seven thirty am. Less than two hours later I hit matts Creek shelter. Six miles in two hours, that’s got to be a personal best in this kind of terrain. I waited for mouth, karate kid and Joe and we set of together to hike the flat 2.2 miles to the 501 road where we planned to hitch into Glasgow va. Hard to believe we’re nearly done with Virginia after how much I was looking forward to getting here over the last three states. The boys planned to drop packs at the James river footbridge and cross back over to jump off the longest footbridge on the AT. Trail magic came at the other end in the form of sandwiches and drinks from a thru hikers parents. With the delicious gifts of munchies came a warning however: rangers were sitting in the woods waiting for bridge jumpers. Despite zero signs prohibiting jumping, there was a $150.00 fine for those caught and our trail angels had seen three tickets issued that morning. Not wanting to cut our trip short due to semi suicidal leaps, we settled for a quick swim before hitching a free shuttle into town, also courtesy of or angels. Scout and I are waiting for our laundry to finish drying now before we had to dollar general to resupply for the next few days. I think the plan one o reconnect with mouth and co is to hit up either the towns shelter (with showers) or to hike two miles tonight to the next shelter down trail. These options mean a either a 16 our 18 mile day tomorrow to brown mountain creek shelter, a medium level day with a swimming hole awaiting us at the end.
I should have stayed in frapping glasgow….. Littlefoots parents came back around six and offered to take two hikers back to the trailhead. Not knowing where mouth and Honeybun’s were and not wanting to give up an easy hitch, I hopped into their now cram packed minivan and before I knew it we were of on the AT. It was a really easy two mile hike to the shelter but the heat made it drag on. The shelter was a cute one, built next to a good sized stream with as new privy built behind it. Mouth and her husband rolled in not long after I did. Seemed like it’d be a good night. False. It was a hot night. Not like “oh id like some air conditioning” but like the “pack her in ice she’s about to boil from extreme temperatures” hot. Awful. To make matters worse, anytime I was put off my sleeping bag the no see ums (winged devil ant things) swarmed at me. I was the only one in the shelter without a bug net so I was THE target for the swarm. It was a no win situation. Staying in the bag meant boiling in my own sweat but getting out of it next any amount of exposed skin was instantly attacked by the tiny black biting insects. I slept maybe an hour that night, constantly drinking water to try to replace what I was sweating out while trying to remain invisible to the bugs. The next morning I got up at five o clock, still dark outside but I didn’t care. I was exhausted and wanted to get as far away from the hell shelter as possible. As soon as the sun was up I was already standing in top of the mountain, angry and nearly in tears. Ate breakfast watching birds fly over a view of the valley below me and the James river footbridge of in the distance. By lunch time I hit the powell memorial, erected in memory of a four year old boy who wandered away from his schoolhouse over a hundred years ago and died on the mountainside. Hurts joke that he haunts this area. I’m not a big believer in ghosts but i did get stung by a bee on the boob while reading the marker where his body was found. Haunting or hilarious coincidence, it sucked. (Mom’s joke was was that it was attracted to my bee cups)….. Soon after my stinging experience I hit a crummy shelter with a brown stagnant pond for a water source The motivation however was the next shelter, brown mountain shelter, was listed in the AWOL guide book as having a swimming hole. Five miles before the shelter however, a rickety bridge hung over a decent sized mini river with mouth and honey buns swimming below and I caved. I swam and soaked my knee in the surprisingly warm water for a half hour before pulling myself out to waddle the remaining few miles to the shelter. I passed the 800 mile marker but never made it to the shelter. Little foot, her boyfriend, karate kid and a few others were camped out just before the footbridge leading up to the structure itself. Knowing there was a clear forecast and after the Buggy experience the night before I elected to tent. What followed was perhaps my best nights sleep in the past three months.