2019 Update: deets to follow edition

Hello from Monson, ME! We made it through the bigelows, paddled across the kennebec river and survived our first few days of incessant school bus sized mosquitoes (headnets were purchased at the earliest opportunity and the smell

of deet is almost comforting now). Tomorrow we head into the 100 mile wilderness to begin the last leg of this crazy state. As predicted, my ability to post and hike AND sleep has been severely compromised by the challenges of Maine, so I will be filling in the gaps from VA to Maine when we are done. Hopefully the long delay between posts and real time events won’t keep you from following along. Stay tuned for a return to overly comprehensive narrative in a few weeks! And forgive me for the bug spray pun in today’s title.

2019 Update: Let the Maine edition begin

REAL TIME UPDATE: we have yellow blazed to Maine! We left VA around 4:40am this morning (7/17) and arrived at the White Wolf Inn in Stratton, ME after mannnnny hours of driving (13.5 to be exact), much of which I spent editing blog posts on my mom’s laptop and trying not to barf because of motion sickness. Here are a few driving pictures:

According to a comment in guthook, Caribou Valley Rd aka Caribou Pond Rd is now closed during the weekdays for logging, so our access point to get back to my exact re-entry point has theoretically been blocked until Saturday. The change happened on Monday, July 15th, so we just missed the cut-off! We don’t want to lose our buffer for hitting Katahdin with enough time to get Oakland home on time. Rather than deal with the logistics of hiking south and shuttling, we made a plan to brave the ski trails of sugarloaf resort to hike to the summit of sugarloaf where there is a blue blazed trail that leads down to the AT. The blue blaze comes out about 2.7 miles north of where I broke my elbow in 2017, which we have plans to revisit. It makes for a complicated and somewhat dramatic way to start our Maine leg, but Oakland is up for the adventure. Very sadly, the complications led to extended planning sessions and phones calls, which sealed the deal for keeping us in VA for an extra day (yesterday), thus making us lose the flexibility to meet up with my hiking friend Halfway. It was a long shot to begin with given his 2.5 hour drive (one-way) to get from family events in a different part of the state, but I’m pretty disappointed about it.

We arrived at the White Wolf Inn around 6pm. It was mind boggling to have breakfast in Virginia…well, technically Maryland because we ate in the car, and then have dinner in Maine across the street from a place that I haven’t seen since I broke my arm. Sadly, the White Wolf’s downstairs restaurant is closed on Wednesdays. After settling in, we zombie walked our way across the street to have a simple dinner at the Stratton Plaza which appears to be part bar, part hotel, and part restaurant. The front area is dotted with pool tables and you walk into a seating area that is likely populated more for the bar than the food. We sat near a handful of hikers that were up to their elbows in a nacho platter. Construction workers talked loudly at the bar and we marveled at their intense Maine accents. At some point, Oakland suggested that we ask the hikers whether they got off trail at the logging road or where it crosses RT 27. I scoffed, saying that no one gets out at the logging road unless they absolutely have to, but it seemed silly not to ask. I interrupted their dinner right as one woman had her mouth full of stringy cheesy pizza. After laughing about that, I asked the question of where they’d gotten off the trail without actually asking if they were hiking because hikers can almost always spot other hikers. They had in fact come from the logging road! And one of them used her car to drive in and out of there today. They turned out to be a jolly and personable group. One of them misheard me when I said that I broke my arm and thought that I’d broken my oboe. She then asked if she could call me oboe, which I of course agreed to should we ever meet again. They very unfortunately got trolled by the construction workers who did the classic “sit down at the table and be completely inappropriate while apologizing for being drunk and possibly inappropriate” routine. I wanted the hikers to tell them to shove off, but I know that’s not really what you do when faced with two men in a bar. You placate and exit as soon as possible, unless by some chance the attention is actually a good thing. We left the restaurant buoyed by the prospect of getting to hit the trail at the road rather than suffer up the steep grade of a ski trail while also feeling anxious about tenuous nature of the road access. For all we know, crews could arrive first thing in the morning and make the road impassable.

We are now settled back into the white horse. Our nerves are a bit on edge, our legs are stiff from the long ride, and I can already tell that I’m going to lose my shit when we take a detour to the spot where I broke my arm, but I’m so excited to show Oakland the wilds of Maine. The hikers at the restaurant didn’t do much to allay her fears of Maine after they despaired about how hard the hiking was from sugarloaf to the logging road. I tried to comfort Oakland by saying I did the hike with a broken arm, but I’m not sure it helped. I’m also not sure how much blog posting will get done while we’re in Maine, but I am writing daily notes and will work on publishing the backlog as soon as I can manage it. I will save some of the stories and emotions from today for the Day 85 post.

A gigantic thank you to my stepdad who braved sitting in the car with me for hours on end and who did the majority of the driving with a healthy chunk also done by Oakland. Tomorrow, we hike! In the meantime, here’s part of tonight’s sunset as seen from the white wolf while swatting mosquitoes and talking to two of the hikers we met at dinner who happen to be a gay married couple. Huzzah!

2019-Day 58: chestnut knob edition

I had a somewhat choppy and sweaty night of sleep. Poor Oakland said she listened to a lot of Harry Potter which means she got less sleep than me. After making her visit to the privy, she crawled into my bunk and we discussed our plan to navigate the rain. Sadly it’s supposed to rain today and then again over the weekend. The strategy of staying another day to Wait out the rain isn’t all that helpful because we’ll still get wet during the next stretch no matter what. Oakland expressed anxiety about having to hike long miles in the rain and hoping to do it in a way that wasn’t as pounding as our rushed trip in to bear garden. We tentatively decided to cut our day short and stop at the chestnut knob shelter if the weather went south. Then we forced ourselves to start the process of packing up. We were in the main bunkhouse eating breakfast by 7am.

Bert and bob arrived in their little farm go cart around 7:15 to close out our bill. Oakland wasn’t up for a drawn out conversation and more unsolicited advice (Bert talked at us for about an hour yesterday), so we kept our interaction as short as we could and said our goodbyes. Then we went back down to our little bunkhouse to brush our teeth and put the last odds and ends away.

We crossed the road to walk back to the trail around 7:50. A few hundred yards later, we took a right turn into the woods, through an overgrown stretch with poison ivy, and up a climb that was a little less than a mile through the occasional blooming rhododendrons.

We Stopped a quarter of the way up so Oakland could take off her raincoat. The footing was relatively straightforward and the woods were on the quiet side. Maybe the birds knew what was coming.

The trail Smoothed out to a roller coaster along a breezy ridge. There wasn’t any rainfall yet, but we were getting dripped on by trees. We walked through blooming rhododendrons and passed the occasional snail. Every now and then an oven bird shared its opinion with the rest of the world. We also saw another red spotted buddy.

We eventually Stopped At knot maul shelter right on the trail to check the logbook looking for banana. I was curious to see if we could figure out where he might be staying for the night, but he wasn’t in there.

The trail took a slight downward turn through periodically muddy rhododendron tunnels of varying widths. There were Mushrooms everywhere and we made the occasional stop for Oakland to take pictures. She has quite the growing collection of amazing fungi shots.

We eventually Crossed a mossy foot bridge and stopped at a tentsite next to a small stream to have a snack.

Planes passing gave the illusion of thunder, but we could see a Patch of blue sky through the thick tree cover. Fat water drops fell on Oakland from the leaves as the wind blew high overhead. It had been a Dark morning thus far between the overcast and thick tree canopy.

We got up from our snack spot and donned our packs to go up the next climb. Because of course there’s a climb after a break. the rain started around 10, and didn’t stop until about 1:30. I didn’t take any notes for the rest of the day because of rain and the sheer aggravation of being soaked but I will do my best to retrace our steps. The rain started when we were near the top of a climb with far less tree cover than usual. I did my best not to resist the urge to walk faster so we didn’t bash our feet into the ground for no reason. We were many miles away from our destination so there would be no point in getting sore feet or falling just to shave off a few minutes of time in the elements. We tromped through the rain down a long descent with the occasional switchback and immediately went back up again. The climb was reasonable enough but the footing was annoyingly banked, putting my right foot on the high side. I complained about the lack of rhododendrons because they tend to block a fair amount of rain. We dropped down into a gentle roller coast with muddy section after muddy section. I felt kind of like a dirt bike navigating the mud and the small twists and turns in the trail. Neither of us fell but we definitely slid our way down the trail at many points.

We forced ourselves to stop for water at a small stream around the halfway point. We had done a pretty decent job of drinking it up until that point. We each took bites of bars as As we stood putting our water gear back in place. We went about 50 yards up the trail so we could both pee.

Not long after getting water, We saw a good snack Log off the trail a few yard. the rain was much lighter so we decided to take an extended snack break. As we set our packs down I saw a bright orange spot across the trail that turned out to be chicken of the woods. I put on my long sleeve shirt in favor of my rain coat because it seemed like a warmer move. I pointed Oakland in the direction of the giant mushroom. She ran around taking pictures of various fungi while I sat and pulled out food items. I scarfed pop tarts, Doritos, and half a babybel cheese. Oakland ate the other half along with a sizable portion of doritos, and part of a cliff bar. It started to rain harder right as we stood up to go. I changed out of my shirt and we stuffed our food bags into our packs.

Then we had a short climb up to a gravel road. I saw a truck parked in a small lot with people standing under the tailgate. We crossed the road and were at the edge of the steps to get back into the woods when we heard our names. We turned to see task rabbit running towards us in a rain coat holding a bottle (maybe beer? Maybe root beer?). She was super excited to see us and I would have been much happier had i not gotten cold at our break. We stood there for a minute not making any motions to stick around and she got the hint saying oh you probably want to keep going. We both nodded as politely as we could and said a rushed but kind goodbye.

Then came the 4.3 miles climb up to chestnut knob shelter, our updated destination for the day. Our original plan was to go to a campsite about two miles past the shelter but I suggested we stop short because of the chance to dry out without having to set up a tent with wet gear.

The climb took us over log steps and exactly zero switchbacks which aggravated both of our trouble spots (Oakland’s Achilles and my right foot, which was already angry because of the banking from earlier in the day). We passed a small stream and a random little gnome village a few yards off the trail.

About a third of the way up, I dropped my pack and suggested we sit for a few minutes on a nice flat rock. I wanted to massage my foot, but I couldn’t muster the energy to take off my brace. The time off my feet was worth the slight drop in body temperature. We continued up the hill in a light drizzle that eventually tapered off. Very unfortunately, right when we started to feel slightly drier (except our feet), we entered a 3 mile stretch of field walking through annoyingly overgrown and soaking wet grass.

We both cursed the overgrown and narrow trail as we pushed our way through the tall grass, slipping and sliding through the mud. Thankfully it wasn’t actually raining as we walked through the exposed field. We stopped at the pond and went down the side trail to get water because there’s no reliable water source at the shelter. Oakland went ahead of down the trail and cursed at the water getting on her pants. I think being behind me up to that point had saved her from some of the sogginess. We each topped off our bags and filled our sawyers about halfway full. We walked back to our packs at the trail intersection and ate a few bites of a bar before heading back into the wet grass. The fringe benefit of the annoying field walk was seeing at least 4 indigo buntings, yellow warblers and that yellow bird with dark wings that I haven’t been able to identify yet.

At one point my movement flushed out about 6 birds, two of which were buntings and the rest were warblers. I stopped dead in my tracks and was saying whoa whoa whoa in excitement when I turned to Oakland and saw a guy behind her hoping to pass. We stood out of his way and then resumed the soggy sloshing through the field.

The sky occasionally cleared enough for us to see down the trail and we even got brief glimpses of blue sky before the clouds rolled through again. The trail finally took us back into the woods for part of the last stretch. I’ve never been so happy to see rocks after all the mud whomping we’d done for most of the day. We walked down a wide trail with yellowing grass on either side and the occasionally soggy rocky stretch.

Right before the shelter, the trail opened back up into an open field. We saw the chestnut knob stone shelter standing in the field with the door shut.

Oakland heard voices, dashing my hopes of having first dibs on the bunks. We opened the doors to find the NOBOs from last night all settled in at the picnic table and a guy I didn’t recognize sitting on the lower bunk to the right of the door. We asked him if he was staying and he sadly said yes (sad because we were hoping to score two bottom bunks). I immediately put my stuff down on the opposite bunk and Oakland grabbed the top bunk by the door. Neither of us was in the mood to be around the NOBO kids but we didn’t have much choice. It was either that or go back into the wind and tent in the rain overnight. We set up our beds and took off our wet clothes. Then we settled into my bunk to play a few rounds of golf. More people showed up and the shelter eventually had as many as 10 people in it. Maybe 12? 3 hammocks and one hiker sleeping on the floor. Task rabbit showed up about an hour after we did. She seemed out of sorts and passively suggested that we sleep on the same platform to free up room. We considered the idea but it was just too tight for anyone to get a decent night of sleep, so we didn’t make the move. Thankfully task rabbit managed to find herself a spot on the wider platform and the last two NOBOs to arrive were not particularly choosy.

The sky eventually cleared enough for us to get a view of the valley so Oakland and I made a combo privy and sightseeing trip. We put our shoes and a few other odds and ends outside in the wind and sat with them so they wouldn’t blow away. it was a fools errand to try to dry anything but we weren’t alone in the attempt. A couple of friendly SOBO section hikers named Chris and rich joined us. They live in Roanoke and are on day 11 of 13, during which time they have clearly not done laundry because they smelled to high heaven.

The wind proved to be too much for us and it was after 5, so Oakland and I moved inside to make dinner at the table next to a gaggle of card players. It was a black beans and rice night with the tortillas that neither of us ate during lunch. We played golf while we waited for our food to cook. We shared covert eye rolls at the idiotic things coming from the High mileage NOBOs. After dishes, dessert and dental hygiene, Oakland went up to her bunk and I played a couple of hands of rummy with task rabbit. The wind howled outside and made the door of shelter flap open. It also slammed like someone dropping a 2×4 whenever people went outside without making an effort to let the door close slowly.

After I beat task rabbit at rummy, I cozied up next to Oakland in her bunk to write notes. The ladder was hard on my feet and is the only reason I don’t aim for top bunks because I love the privacy and birds eye view they provide. Oh well. Here’s a view of the crowd and the ridiculous number of hammocks in such a small space (there are 3 in case you can’t tell):

Oakland snoozed and was generally a lump while I tapped madly at my screen. Around 8:40, I climbed down and went outside to see what would come of sunset. A strong wind gusted through the field as the clouds raced through the sky. I caught a small bit of color in the shifting clouds (today’s top picture). Fingers crossed that sunrise isn’t obscured by a wall of fog. I felt bad leaving the front door unlatched while I was outside and everyone else had tucked themselves into bed. I squatted to pee one more time before heading back in. Oakland whispered to me to latch the door and I did my best but it still blew a bit in the strongest of gusts.

I’m finishing this to the sound of rich snoring from the top bunk, the wind whistling outside, the occasional shifting of someone on their sleeping pad, the creak of the front door when the wind catches it just right, and the beginning of a downpour. I’m glad we are inside for the night because it sounds like a blustery, soggy mess out there. Based on what I heard of Chris’s snoring before I left for the sunset, it could be a long night. It’s an unusually large and crowded place for Oakland’s first shelter experience. I hope she gets some semblance of sleep.

Mile 558.3 to mile 569.7 (11.4)

Checklist total miles: 578.5

Oakland total miles: 98.8

Creature feature: so many birds! buntings and warblers, sparrows, snails, and one little orange friend.

2019-Day 57: bear garden zero day edition

Today is a zero day at bear garden hostel!I slept well enough on my high rise bed. We both decided to put our sleeping pads on top of the bunk mattresses because they were just too hard.

In brief, our day consisted of flannel pajama pants, jimmy dean frozen breakfast sandwiches, planning planning and more planning, picture/blog uploading at drugged hamster speeds, drying out gear, wishing we were hiking in the sunshine but knowing the break was necessary, an indigo bunting sighting, and an unending supply of good company with Oakland around. She went so far as to trim sections of my hiking stick into permanent bear line sticks that we will carry with us.

Here are a handful of pictures of the day and some shots of my Old/new poles for good measure.

Right before bed We saw a thousand flashing twinkles care of the resident lightning bugs.

Mile 558.3 to mile 558.3 (0)

Checklist total miles: 567.1

Oakland total miles: 87.4

Creature feature: so many birds! Indigo bunting, robins, Carolina wren (or a house wren?), buzzards, etc. and the owners’ two goofy German shepherds

2019-Day 56: thunderstorm edition

A Whippoorwill decided to sing the song its people in the middle of the night. I heard but it didn’t keep me awake. Sadly I cannot say the same for Oakland. It rained on and off throughout the night but after the initial downpour and splashing, we stayed dry save the dampness of the air. I turned to Oakland around 6 and we conferred about how our nights went. She headed off to the rhododendrons with her TP and trowel. I lay there willing my eyes to stay open for a few minutes. Then I pulled on my ankle brace and gathered my bathroom supplies to make my own trip to the bushes upon Oakland’s return. In our previous pooping lessons, I told her about leaving a stick upright in the chosen morning location so we don’t try to dig cat holes in the same spot.

On my way back from the rhododendrons, I pulled down our food bags. It was hard on my hands because the bags were on the same line and the wetness of the rope proved a bit tricky with the nubbliness of the stick. I finally managed to get the knot undone and walked back to our tent with my right hand throbbing.

I saw a lightly broken path up to the field behind our tent. I couldn’t resist the morning light, so I carefully dodged the poison oak to check out the view. Walked up to field behind campsite a few yards and saw this misty scene.

After waiting a couple of minutes to watch the evolving light, I went back to the tent to change clothes and help Oakland pack up. The bottom of the tent wasn’t nearly as trashed as I had expected after all the rain. Teatime emerged from her tent and gifted us the bag of s’mores fixings she’d hoped to share the night before.

Oakland and I took our bags and poles down to the fire ring to eat breakfast. We were both grateful for the dry skies while we ate. Blaze let out the cutest excited dog noise when teatime put on his saddle bags, as if to say “hoorayyy hiking!!” If only I felt that way when I put on my pack the day after a resupply.

In our constant fear of poison ivy, we both went through more hand washing and tecnu in order to put our contacts in. Thankfully we managed to have just enough water such that no one had to go back to the spring to collect more for the morning. I went through my foot prep and used the last of the tecnu packet on my hands after handling my gaiters.

The Rain started as soon as we put on our packs. We paused momentarily to get out ziplocks for our phones and made our way into the soggy day. There was a Climb out of camp. Of course. We walked through spacious woods with Little ground cover and Road noise.

We made our way Uphill talking about best parts of yesterday. Little did we know we were actually walking through the territory in which stronghold had been murdered. (We wouldn’t find out that information until a few days later when teatime told us).

After a little while of sweating and trudging uphill we passed the quarter of the way sign. These kinds of milestones always tug at the sadness I still feel about not being able to finish my 2017 hike in its originally intended format.

Not long after the sign, We came across a guy breaking up camp. We Made it to the site of a torn down shelter. We dropped our packs by the shelter steps, which looked like a set of bleachers without the shelter.

Oakland walked off to use the still standing privy right as a clap of thunder sounded two minutes later the skies opened up. I grabbed my bag and put it under a tree for slightly more coverage from the pouring rain. Oakland returned right as I was about to move her bag. I scurried off to also use the privy. As I stood there pulling up my shorts, I contemplated the prospects of hiding out in the Privy because it had a roof. We Decided to just keep walking rather than attempt to wait out the storm. We were Soaked within minutes as we made our way through Thunder and lightning. The flat, soft trail sadly turned into a sloshing mess because of the lack of rocks. We were Passed by the solo hiker but then we passed him again as he stood tucked under a small rhododendron tree on a hill.

The rain eventually tailed off leaving us clammy and wet but not actively soaked for too long. As we made our way up yet another steep hill, we could see misty mountain rops that weren’t quite visible enough for a picture but looked beautiful to our eyes. Oakland stopped to squeeze out her socks. Very sadly her waterproof altras were no match for the downpour and had taken on water. We had a few bites of a probar, looked at pictures from our Catsitters and kept walking.

Once we crested the hill, we had Nice easy footing for awhile. A little while later we stopped for a pee and so I could write a few notes while it was only drizzling. We also saw one of my orange friends, which I believe was Oakland’s first time seeing one in person:

Then came Gentle hills followed by a long descent through rhododendrons some of which were in bloom (today’s top picture). We took another Pee break and then rounded a corner Where Oakland spotted a deer way down the hillside. We Stopped to check the weather with a bit of phone signal. On our way down we ogled the occasional fungi.

Awhile later, we walked past a tent site and I spotted west Texas and ranger smoking on a log with the NOBO from this morning. I Haven’t seen them since hot springs. We Peeled off the trail to say hello but didn’t stick around to take our scheduled break because of their cigarette smoke. Instead we Walked a ways father and came to a campsite where we took a heavy snack break in the event that we got rained out of a lunch stop. Then, per AT rules, we went Up hill for little while after having just eaten. We stopped to Filter water and got passed by west Texas and ranger. Then we decided to listen to HP order of the Phoenix together, which is nerdy but fun to have the same thing playing at the same time.

We went Uphill for a little longer and then down long switchbacks. In the distance, I could see west Texas and ranger on a log with someone’s ground cloth draped over a tree and his shirt off rolling cigarettes looking classy as usual.

We Squelched our way through wide sweeping curves with enough mud to side several inches with each step. I Nearly fell a few times and our pace slowed to a crawl. We were Passed by west Texas and ranger separately. We eventually Came to a small opening with a view of a valley and a bank of clouds hanging over the mountain tops.

We Used our zseats to sit in the mud and ate another hefty hodgepodge of snacks (eg the rest of my Doritos, a dessert, half a bag of cashews and cheezit, and sesame covered cashews). As we snacked, I Saw a dark colored hummingbird land on a twig and sit there for about 4 minutes. Before moving on, We both took a quick pee break basically on trail because the poison ivy was back in full force. There were 3.3 miles To go with some soggy field walking in our near future. Just around the corner from our snack spot we came across a large tree with a crazy cable knit pattern in its trunk:

We eventually Walked through shoulder high weeds filled with poison ivy at our ankles. Then we crossed a small road and Field walked through switchbacks covered in cow patties and waist high scratchy hay.

at the top of the field, we went back into the woods through a cow fence. Shortly after that went Over a slatted wooden ladder that helped us cross a barbed wire fence.

1.6 miles to go, with the occasional drizzle and thunder rumbling nearby. We hoped to reach our hostel before getting pelted by another storm, but we still had too far to go to consider picking up the pace.

We wound through the woods a little longer and came to another slatted wooden ladder that dropped down in front of a wide creek. It looked more precarious than it felt. Here’s Oakland crossing it (picture taken through a ziplock bag because it was too clammy and time consuming to remove it):

Then we went Over bog boards through thick grass. We Heard a crashing sound and saw a flash of brown that turned out to be a large fawn bounding away from us. It must have been bedded in the grass. I had nightmare Visions of it getting spooked again and running into the barbed wire fence to our right. Thankfully when it did get spooked, it ran across the stream and up the opposite bank.

We crossed the creek and went up a narrow trail with a steep drop off to our right. A large blowdown Crossed the trail and we could see a wide curving stream way down the hillside with a cow loitering by its banks.

Then came a walk through a lumpy field as thunder clouds looked overhead. I felt Grateful to not have to think about poison ivy for a few minutes. There were pretty Views to our left and behind us with a carpet of storm clouds hanging overhead.

I Stopped to check mileage and we still had 0.3 miles to go. We Finally went back into the woods for a few minutes before walking parallel to the road and dropping down over a muddy patch to get to the intersection.

We Took a right and thought about walking on the proper side against traffic but there was a bigger shoulder on the right side of the road so we stayed there. Went about 100 yards up the road and came to a collection of small barn red buildings and a giant wooden cross sitting on the lawn. West Texas, ranger and munchies (the NOBO we saw much earlier in the day) sat on a deck with an older woman who turned out to be Bert, the hostel owner I’ve spoken to about 5 times.

They had all finished eating snacks and smoking. Bert got a phone call right as we were going to ask her to show us the lower bunkhouse. It Started to rain so we waited inside the main bunkhouse for her. She showed us to the smaller, separate bunk house which was dark but totally good for the two of us and we wanted the personal space. We Dropped our packs in the bunk room and went back up to the main building to get some food. West text and ranger ended up leaving eventually. It poured about an hour after they left. We Ate frozen breakfast sandwiches for a late lunch. Then we Showered in the bathhouse which has a gravity fed water system which meant a trickle of water pressure but there was an abundance of hot water. We picked out some stellar loaner clothing options (flannel pajama pants!) and Put on laundry. Then we went back to our bunkhouse and Pulled gear out to dry with box fan at our disposal. At some point in the late afternoon, a UPS truck arrived with a long box. My Poles arrived! Bert eventually brought our food boxes down. There were three of them because we ordered 5 days of food and HQ couldn’t stuff everything into two boxes.

Then came a long period of being Social media zombies before We had Camp Dinners in the main bunkhouse. We decided to Share our Nutella, s’mores and graham crackers with munchies who was the only occupants of the main building. Oakland kindly washed our dishes at the spigot outside because there isn’t any running water in either of the bunkhouses. Guess what that means? The only bathroom is a privy!

I did not realize that fact when I made a plan to take a zero day here. Oh well. It’s better than having to dig a hold. After dinner, we retrieved our cleaner clothes and Folded laundry in the bunkhouse.

Then we Got ready for bed, which entailed more privy visits, washing hands at the spigot and brushing our teeth on our little porch. The Sky was a beautiful cotton candy pink on my way back down to the bunkhouse.

We texted a bit with our families and turned the Lights out at hiker midnight. I’m finishing this to the hum of the box fan and the squeak of Oakland shifting in her bunk.

Mile 547.4 to mile 558.3(10.9)

Checklist total miles: 567.1

Oakland total miles: 87.4

Creature feature: cows! Brown thrashers, red wing blackbirds, the fawn, many red spotted newts! the deer down in the woods.

2019-Day 55: schoolhouse edition

REAL TIME UPDATE: we are in Daleville, VA for a zero today (7/5) so there will be a few posts coming your way. I’ve decided to focus more on taking a break for zeroes than trying to get the blog closer to real time, so the posts will continue to lag significantly from where we actually are. It’s too exhausting to spend 7 hours blogging and still be so far behind myself. Hopefully you’ll still visit when new posts arrive at glacial speeds!

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There were so many sounds in the woods last night! We both got a pretty choppy night of sleep. I woke up to the sound of distinct footfalls crunching over leaves around 1:15. The moon was so bright that I put on my glasses and I could see a fair ways into the woods. I couldn’t find the creature so I laid back down hoping not to wake oakland. She stirred and I let her Know what I was listening for. Sadly I had pee REALLY badly, so I finally got out of the tent and took care of that. I eventually drifted back to sleep. Oakland apparently woke up to the sound of something screeching in the 4am range.

Oakland made her trip to the Privy first around 5:45. By the time my watch alarm went off at 6:15 we were both exhausted. I dragged myself to the privy after grumbling about being too tired. Then we pulled our food bags down (another successful food hang!) and continued with the rest of breaking down camp.

We Sat down at the fire pit benches around 7:15 and had breakfast with banana who came over to chat without any food. At some point he fidgeted a bit and said “I have a weird question for you, do you know about any pride events in VA for pride month?” I kept a neutral face to hide my surprise at what I’d just heard (thank you, therapist skills). Admittedly I didn’t have any information about pride events. It hadn’t even occurred to me to check. When Oakland returned from the privy, I repeated banana’s question to her so she would be on the same page as everyone without me having to make a pointed “BANANA IS ONE OF US” statements. She too went with the new information seamlessly (teacher skills).

We stuck around a bit longer than intended and had a short but helpful conversation with banana about how lonely it is out here as a queer person and how incredibly straight it feels on a day to day basis. We joked about how high the bro quotient is and shared some stories from the kids in Damascus throwing around the word bro in every sentence.

We got some unsolicited but welcome campsite advice from The section hiking mom whose name we never actually got because she was too distracted to answer the question. We finally hit the trail around 8 and were immediately slowed down by the sighting of a new-ish bird that stopped right in front of us and hopped along a few feet before flitting off into the trees. It was a Small grey and white bird with a yellow throat. Then we stopped at the visitor center to top off our water bottles at the fountain.

It already Seemed like it was going to be a hot day. We Crossed the road and went up a short hill that led us to a slightly breezy ridge and back down again with the road in sight off to our left. When the breeze died down i could feel the heat of the morning. Oven birds expressed their opinions as we picked our way over rocks. We crossed another road and walked over an abundance of Broken glass in the first few yards of the trail. Whyyyyy. We made our way Up a hill through blooming rhododendrons.

It turned into a Shit kicker of a hill that led us onto a breezy but unfortunately rocky ridge with Rollercoaster hills.

We Passed the woman with dog that we ran into yesterday. She sat on the side of the trail changing her socks while her dog looked at us askance. He came around pretty quickly and gave us a sedate hello sniff while we stopped to say hello. She said she met Someone who saw 6 bears yesterday.

We left her to tend to her feet and Dropped down below the ridge through a sea of ferns. We Walked through waist high ground cover and then up another shit kicker hill with Pinging Raptor sounds high above us. I asked Oakland to lead the way for a minute so I could get the scale of the hill for you because it doesn’t look like much when it’s just trees and path.

The hill just – kept – going. It Wrapped around to the left and continued climbing over rubble. I Tripped and my pole came out of my left hand. My left foot landed on the bottom half of my pole across the rocks. I heard a snapping noise and knew it wasn’t good. I picked up my pole and found that it was broken almost completely in two. I said aloud to Oakland “I just broke my pole.” We stood there in silence for a Moment of panic. I checked my phone and decided to use the bit of service I had to call tomorrow’s hostel to get permission to have poles shipped there (some places don’t accept commercial packages). Then, because you don’t walk away from good phone signal, I Sat on a rock in the middle of trail and ordered new poles on rei with one day shipping. While I fiddled with my phone Oakland found me a good walking stick. In a matter of 10 minutes, the problem was mostly settled, and up the hill we went. Right around the corner, we sat on a nice log in the grass and had a snack. As we ate, An Older woman with scars on both knees came towards us. I said “we aren’t a mirage!” and she said “but are you the top?” Meaning the top of the pesky hill we were still on.

We did finally make it to the top of the hill and back down to a road Crossing, followed by another Small climb up through Burned section on our right.

The charred trees and bright green of the new growth lasted for quite awhile (the new growth is “secondary succession” according to our resident AP bio teacher). Our whole right side was void of tree cover so we had far Less shade and began sweating more profusely. We Passed the older woman on a hill that Gradually led us up to a Rocky ridge covered in waist high ferns.

I could hear a Train whistle in the distance as a Nice breeze blew and Oven birds continued to share their feelings. We saw a new yellow flower:

We went down a Rocky hill to this view:

then we went through a tight laurel tunnel that shortly opened up a bit and Down through open woods easy footing for less than a half mile. Then the trail turned into a rock pile again. We Continued descending Past a couple of streams running through rhododendrons.

We went Down a handful of stone steps and over even more rocks on a narrow trail in a gully between two sharp hillsides. I Felt claustrophobic and like we would never get to our lunch destination (chatfield shelter). We Crossed the same stream twice and the second time was right in front of the shelter. The privy is closed so people have repurposed a tree next to the privy. Oakland reported seeing piles of TP after taking a pee break up there. I decided to pee next to the privy instead the tree.

Then We sat at the picnic table and took off our shoes and socks to air out our feet. Oakland unwittingly bought the waterproof altra lone peaks for the hike, so her feet are nice and warm because the waterproofs don’t breathe as well as the regular version. I spread out my array of lunch foods and felt both excited and horrified by the combination. Pop tarts, Fritos, Doritos, skippy, and 3/4 of a payday.

The older woman passed us again. She asked if we were going to Maine and I explained our circuitous route. She is a section hiker who has only 100 miles Before she will have finished the whole trail. She said it’s been 13 years in the making and she saved 7 miles in the 100 mile Wilderness of Maine as her swan song. Her name is Northstar. I didn’t get her picture but suffice it to say she is a tough one.

After lunch Oakland convinced me that she should get us water while I put my feet up in the shelter. They’re getting pummeled by the rocks. I fought her on it but in the end she won. She announced the presence of a cool salamander down at the stream. We decided to stick around a bit longer to work on the next food list so our amazing HQ doesn’t have to scramble at the last minute and so that the list will populate for them at some point today when my signal improves.

The trail got off to a Slightly rocky start after lunch. We both considered listening to Harry Potter but held out in favor of listening to the woods. We Crossed gravel road that led us to a short Detour for a purportedly “dangerous tree.” We walked about 20’yards past the white blaze and followed blue tape markers back into the woods. There were Blowdowns all over the place and a set of wooden stairs on their side. It looked like quite the scene (but didn’t translate well into a picture).

The trail took us through sometimes Mucky Rhododendron tunnels. We discussed which HP we would listen to on repeat if we could only pick one (consensus was order of the Phoenix with prisoner of Azkaban as a close runner up). Ominous thunder rumbled in the distance as we edged along a stream. Alex and squeaks (the bro-centric guys we met our last night/morning at hikers inn) from Damascus Passed us again. Squeaks wore shorts the color of Texas flag, which I suppose matched his Texas motorcycle license plate that swayed and squeaked from the bottom of his pack.

The Thunder got louder and longer as we walked. We stopped and Pulled out ziplocks for our phones and peed before it decided to rain. Then we Continued through rhododendrons until the forest opened up and led us through two separate power lines, the second of which had a low hum that could be heard from a quarter mile away and was covered in poison ivy.

We Stopped right before a sunny meadow to check email for packaged food order and to check in with HQ.

We eventually came to a small road crossing where we found an old schoolhouse that has been preserved and is part of the Settlers museum.

crows cawed in the distance as we put our packs down to check out the inside of the schoolhouse (today’s top picture). We marveled at the desks and read the teachers rules with horror because of the gender disparity.

we signed the register and headed back out into the heat of the day. The trail

took us across the road, Through a field and back into the woods before going through another field (you can see my fabulous walking stick on the left).

We heard road noise as we made our way to a set of Railroad tracks (Oakland’s first rural track crossing).

On the other side of the tracks we crossed a short Boardwalk.

The Highway noise we’d heard for awhile got louder even though we were still quite a ways from crossing it. We Eventually went through a rat maze of twists and turns through overgrown trail that was covered in poison ivy and lacking in shade. It was a Steamy nightmare of itchy grass and fear of getting poison ivy. I didn’t take any pictures of it because I was so cranky.

After what felt like forever, we Came out to a road and took a long break at the Sunoco across the road. I went inside to buy Orange soda and Pringle’s and to use the bathroom, all of which took quite awhile because of an Annoying child lingering in bathroom. She walked out as if there were no other humans in the world who might need to share the resources she’d just commandeered for nearly 10 minutes. We sat on the bench outside the gas station to eat our snacks and watch The comings and going’s of the somewhat broken Humanity. An older gentlemen we had both judged for his rifle toting sexist T-shirt, said “y’all going back out there before the rain comes?” He was the only person to acknowledge us and we appreciated the sentiment behind his question.

We left Sunoco and took a Road walk up to the left and underneath interstate 81. Cars whizzed by and I asked Oakland if this was her version of a nightmare. She agreed that it was not her favorite way to be on a road. But We did get to see a new purple flower:

We crossed the road near the highway exit and took a Right turn into an overgrown field.

We saw Red winged black birds and a Yellow bird with dark wings. We eventually Crossed small gravel road and went back into an even more overgrown path that thankfully opened up a bit.

Thunder rolled through every now and then. We crossed the last field of the day with views of the approaching storm behind us and cows dotting the yellow hillside to our right.

We climbed a rickety wooden ladder to get over the fence line.

Just on the other side of the fence we came to the memorial for stronghold, the hiker who was killed in the VA attack. There was a picture of stronghold in a ziplock bag that I’ve seen in news articles. Oakland placed a pine pod on top of the memorial where others had placed change and small keepsakes. We both teared up standing there taking in the gravity of the memorial.

Very unfortunately we also had a thunderstorm on our heels so I suggested we walk and cry to keep moving. We wound through dark woods with little ground cover for only a few more minutes before reaching the tent site. The woman who lost the dog bowl yesterday was already setup. We greeted each other and finally got her name (tea time) after having seen her about 4 times in the last 24 hours. We surveyed the scene and determined the best spot to be right at the high edge of the campsite across the way from our company for the evening. Oakland put a rock on top of a small patch of poison ivy and we proceeded to set up the tent to the sound of thunder. Then we walked around in search of a bear line tree. We found a limb that I feared would be too low once it had weight in it but our options were limited for trees that didn’t involve getting our ropes in a morass of poison ivy. I got my line over on the second try (another indication that the limb might be too low). Oakland made her throw onto the same limb on her third try. With that chore successfully done, we grabbed our cooking gear and food bags and joined teatime and blaze (the dog) by a fire ring at a lower set of tent sites. Here they are (it was hard to get them both looking at the camera at the same time).

We boiled water and listened to tea time’s section hiking accomplishments. When she finishes her current section she will have done a little over 1,000 miles in the last 10 years. She’s also a teacher and only does sections during her school breaks. She said she started hiking with her dad who has since passed away due to cancer. Her dog blaze is 2 years old and a gangly fawn colored goof. Oakland and I set up our dinner and both hurried over to the water source to get water while our food cooked. I meant to ask teatime if it was okay to leave her in charge of guarding our food but I forgot. We walked through the rhododendrons to a wide pool of water that from a distance looked like mosquitoe hell and turned out to be a cold, clear spring with great water. Oakland dipped water into her sawyer bag with my scoop and was amazed by the clearness of the water. We each topped off our bottles and filled our sawyer bags. Then we rinsed our faces and I went an extra step and rinsed my armpits. they felt like they were chafing a bit today so I tried to remove some of the salt from all the sweating. Then we took a shortcut back to the tent and dropped off our water. We made it back around the 13 minute mark and enjoyed dinner with tea time and a very sleepy blaze. We made it through dinner and dishes, but right as teatime offered us cold s’mores (Nutella, marshmallow, and graham cracker) we heard the start of the rain that had been threatening for the last two hours.

We grabbed our gear and hunkered down in the tent. Sadly we hadn’t gotten through teeth brushing or hanging our food before the rain. We also had to deal with the stressful quagmire of figuring out how to manage our exposure to poison ivy. Oakland had a bad case of poison oak last year so she was pretty spooked by the prospect of getting poison ivy. We have one packet of tecnu (poison ivy/oak oil removal) but we were both verging on too tired and too overwhelmed to figure out the best process by which to use it. I needed to take my contacts out because my eyes were getting incredibly dry so I voted for using it on our hands first so we could at least touch our eyes without too much anxiety. Then we each did parts of our legs that were exposed. For me that meant all of my calves. With some of what was left over, I did the bare minimum of my gaiters and my hands again because I touched my gaiters. There wasn’t any way to comprehensively treat everything that had been exposed, but we did our best. Oakland closed both of her tent doors and I shortly followed suit. She was dismayed by a dryness and twitching in her left eye, which is near where her previous poison oak case occurred. I tried to comfort her by saying we didn’t know for sure what those sensations were yet and to try not to get too attached to them until we had more information.

Then Oakland went though her bed setup while I tried my best to stay out of the way. I set up my bed while griping about how much water was getting in from the edges of the tent. We were very unfortunately experiencing a fair amount of splashback from the rain into the tent. Thus began MY point of fixation which was how to prevent such bad splashing and being confused as to why it seems so much worse now than it was on my 2017 hike. Oakland did her best to comfort me by saying that we were mostly dry in a very wet place and that we had a place to dry out our gear in 24 hours. I tried to let it go rather than grumble the entire time. Instead, we cozied up as much as we could in the middle of the tent and Oakland dozed while I worked on my notes for the day. I could hear a train whistle far off in the distance as I fussed with my tiny cracked screen.

Around 8:30 we went back out into the rain to hang our food. First we stood under cover of thick rhododendrons and brushed our teeth. Unfortunately the swooping tree we had chosen for our lines was not up to the task of hoisting both of our food bags at the same time. I re-threw one of the lines to get it on a stronger more central part of the tree and managed to get the bags up together. Success! In the rain! After dark! The bag could be higher but it’s not the worst food hang I’ve ever seen.

We walked back to the tent in the light drizzle and settled ourselves back in. As I started to write more, we heard the distinct sound of a whippoorwill nearby. We both laughed at the timing. Thankfully the pesky bird didn’t stick around for too long. I’m finishing this to the sound of blaze shaking his collar in the tent across the way, the rain plopping in the woods and on our tent, and the low whine of road noise from I-81.

Mile 534.0 to mile 547.4 (13.4)

Checklist total miles: 556.2

Oakland total miles: 76.5

Creature feature: a vole, a cardinal and two wood thrushes, blaze the adorable gangly dog, more cows! The yellow bird, and a redwinged blackbird.

2019-Day 54: tunnel vision edition

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I slept so soundly that I thought I was in our bed in CA every time I stirred in the middle of the night. We got up for good around 6:45 and proceeded to do the hiker shuffle of stuffing things back in their respective homes. A loud thumping sound occurred while we were filling our water bottles at the common sink and poor Oakland thought it was an earthquake for a split second. You can take the Californian out of California but you can’t take the earthquake instincts away. I assured her it was a clothes washer or dryer and she recalibrated the sound. 

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Susan made us raspberry pancakes and scrambled eggs. Apparently they are incorporated as a b&b and they are required to provide us breakfast in some fashion, but we aren’t allowed to use their kitchen. If they were legally a hostel, it would be the opposite: Kitchen access but they’re not allowed to cook for us. We had our bags 99% packed by 7:25 and were eating gigantic pancakes, eggs and turkey bacon by 7:40. James Asked us when we wanted to leave by yelling out the question from his seat in the office. When we requested about 10 more minutes, he jokingly called out, okay 9.5 minutes! 

All four of us (Susan included), piled into the SUV around 8:15. We talked about their experiences in Damascus, Syria during the short drive to Dickey gap. They had intended to retire there after having lived there two different time periods, but the conflict became too dangerous and they decided against it. They dropped us off at the gap where we loaded up on Sunscreen before heading into the woods.

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The trail was a Narrow tunnel that took us up a gradual hill for a few minutes. then the woods opened up to blowdowns and a slanted trail, the combination of which gave the impression of walking sideways.

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We were Passed by a seasoned looking hiker going south. A little while later, we Crossed a horse path and went on a longer, slightly more obvious uphill with tiny views of the neighboring ridge line. Here’s oakland taking the rare terrain picture (most of her time is spent stopping for mushrooms). 

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A Nice strong breeze kept us cooler as we made our way with pancake lungs. Then we went Up a short rocky hill and onto a breezy fern lined and deceptively rocky ridge with dappled sunlight.

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I was cranky about the rocks and Feeling clumsy. Thankfully the Trail dropped us down a bit and the rocks eased up every now and then. Then came a More obvious gradual downhill with a hairpin left curve to follow the trail over more Rocks. The path narrowed for a bit and opened up to wide woods with a long sloping forest floor down to our right. The terrain was pretty repetitive, with the trail widening and narrowing as it snaked through the woods feeling as if we were constantly walking back from where we’d just come. The wind picked up every so often and large gusts made loud rushing sounds through the trees. 

We eventually went down a Long gradual downhill that brought out all the aches in my joints. I had a Slight headache and felt tired but happy that we had perfect hiking weather. We Stopped at the trimpi shelter turn off for a snack break on a nice log. 

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Then we had Easy walking through the woods to a gate that led us to a cow pasture.

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We saw a Calf drinking milk from its mother and giant cow patties everywhere. Oakland Called it the poopalachian trail. The field made for Lumpy walking, but it was thankfully not very long. We went Over wooden steps to cross barbed wire fence and back into the woods down an easy gravel lane.

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Then we Crossed an unmarked paved road and went back into the woods for a gradual up and then back down. Oakland discovered one of my favorite ferns that grows in a circular pattern. It was Hard to get a decent picture of them because of the wind, but we passed more later in the day at a more still spot. 

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We Came to a small footbridge over a pretty stream and Signed another trail registry where a travel bible sat in a small ziplock.

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An older man who we saw a couple Of days ago caught up to us and I made a joke about how there was an emergency bible in there if he needed one. He laughed and said he already had one, and I think he was serious. We Crossed the bridge of sparkly water and I Saw a new white flower.

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Then We Crossed a road and went up a small climb that flattened out to a forest full of whirling dark vines creeping up the sides of trees and hanging down onto the forest floor. We Stopped at a small tent site for lunch. The older man eventually passed us with so many things bouncing off of his pack. I wanted to ask him what he had INSIDE the pack given all the things bobbing on the outside but I didn’t want to sound like a jerk. 

We had to spread the honey for our wraps because it’s become completely crystallized. It worked out well enough. We each Ate the last of our baby bel cheeses (a luxury care of my mom in Damascus). Oakland told gnarly stories she heard from our friend who is an ER doc in Oakland. There was a cool breeze as we sat on a comfortable log in partial shade. We made it More than halfway through our day before lunch. 6.7 miles to the shelter!  Per the AT rules, we had a climb after lunch that transitioned into a roller coaster and eventually led us to an annoyingly rocky ridge with a nice breeze.  

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Then came a Long slightly steeper climb. We Passed the guy with the cluttered pack. Then came Another stupidly sharp, but short uphill. I cursed its existence, which made Oakland laugh in agreement. Then came a Rollercoaster with a downward trend. 

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I managed to get a small signal so We sat in the trail and looked at a poison ivy quiz website so I wouldn’t steer Oakland wrong in identifying the plant. As it Turns out, I HAD been telling Oakland something wasn’t poison ivy that probably is. We Walked for a few more minutes and then sat on a log and had a snack in the strong breeze. We each got a little lost in our phones for a few minutes because for one of the first times, we both had a signal. All the cats seem to be holding up well in the presence of their caretakers. And there were Father’s Day texts to be sent. I also checked in on research to see if she’s made it back on the trail. She plans to hike tomorrow! Fingers crossed her feet will cooperate. 

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After the break, We went through a few more rollercoaster hills, during one of which we found a blue dog bowl sitting on the trail. Oakland offered to carry it to the shelter in the event that someone will be there to claim it. then the trail dropped down to a nearly consistent rhododendron tunnel for the last mile and a half, much of which felt uphill (one of the views is today’s top picture). We passed a woman puttering at her tent site. I gave a wave and was planning to walk on by, but Oakland noticed that she had a dog and asked her if she was missing a water bowl. The woman said “yes! I was hoping someone would see it!” We returned the bright blue object to her and continued on our way. I said “isn’t that so satisfying!” to Oakland after we got out of ear shot. We stopped every so often for Oakland to take a mushroom picture. On one of those occasions I flung off my pack and shoved a few bites of cliff bar in my mouth. It was only 4:30 but I was approaching the bottomless hungry feeling. We had just stopped to admire the thick bright green grass covering the hillside to our right when I saw a flash of brown. Out popped a doe and her spotted fawn tromping up the trail. I thought I’d seen tiny deer footprints in the mud but I wasn’t sure until I saw the fawn. Oakland and I watched as they bounded back into the woods. I managed to get a decent video of them wandering away at a reasonably unafraid clip. 

Right around the corner, we came across a pine needle area with a half dozen tent sites and I spotted the wooden shelter through the trees. We made it there about 10 minutes earlier than I’d expected. It’s amazing what a difference terrain makes. We walked past the tenting area and stopped in front of the shelter. Banana (The Dreaded Snorer) sat at the picnic table with a family of four. I said hello and said that we were going to tent when he described the available space in the shelter. I wanted to warn the family about his snoring SO badly but I also didn’t want to make an ass of myself, so I kept my mouth shut. Oakland and I picked up our packs and went back over to the tenting area to scope out a spot. We easily found a nice plot of pine needles that was uncomfortably close to poison ivy, which has been EVERYWHERE since this morning after having dwindled to nothing since southern N.C. 

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After we had the tent set up, Oakland wisely took a giant rock and put it over the sprig of poison oak that was closest to my door. Then I sat outside of the tent swatting gnats and writing notes while Oakland blew up her air mattress. When she found out how buggy it was, she decided to stay in the tent while I bumbled through my bed setup. Then we took on the task of bear lines, which becomes much harder with the addition of poison ivy everywhere. We settled on two adjacent limbs in the same tree with just enough clear space from which to throw. I Went first and made over a half dozen misses before getting the line on the intended branch. Sadly it was far too close to the trunk. Oakland had the bright idea of going to fetch water while I re-threw my line. I managed to get it sufficiently far away from the trunk after only a few more attempts. I was worried about tangling Oakland’s line with mine so I went in search of a different tree and came up empty. All the options were either too thin, too many branches, or too close to poison ivy. I went back to my line and tied the excess off on a broken twig to keep it out of the way. Then i uncoiled Oakland’s line, attached the rock bag and flung it towards my target, which was the limb behind my limb. Success! I managed to get Oakland’s line over both of the branches on the first try. Oakland came back with two full platypus bags that she filled at the mount Rogers visitors center water fountains around the corner. I shared my triumph and showed her the setup.

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Then we grabbed our dinner gear and made dinner at the benches in front of the shelter. As we waited for our water to boil, I heard a pileated woodpecker nearby. I stopped what I was doing to  searched the trees and I managed to spot it landing on a giant tree trunk way down in the woods. Oakland came over to where I sat and looked into the woods and also managed to find it amongst the sea of green. I had hoped for her to get a closer sighting but I’m sure there will be more opportunities. Banana came over to chat while we fixed our food. He’s an amiable and conversational guy, and we made easy small talk with him while we ate dinner. Snapshot (from the Damascus hostel) arrived around 6:30 after having hiked nearly 20 miles from hurricane mountain shelter. Banana apparently came from their as well but he cut off about three miles by walking on the  road. Snapshot sat down with the look of vacant exhaustion that comes from having hiked a very long distance. 

Banana told snapshot about the sleeping options and I found my moment to mention, with care, that part of why we tented was because of bananas awful snoring. He apparently KNOWS HE DOES IT, Which to me means don’t sleep in the shelter unless it’s awful outside. Snapshot went off to get water and attempt a phone call for pizza from the visitor center phone. This is one of the few shelters to which you can get pizza delivered (well technically it comes to the visitor center parking lot). 

Oakland and I did our dishes and had dessert. She kindly gave me a few m&ms to go with my mini snickers. Then she went behind the shelter to brush her teeth. I decided to check out the logbook from the shelter and got embroiled in a conversation with the family from Illinois. Oakland had already told them about my first hike in 2017 so they had a number of questions for me. I also asked the mom what sections she had hiked. She’s done about 500 miles of the trail so far and knew her stuff when I started mentioning locations in Maine. I feel like she is totally thru hiker material but she’s doing her hike in 100 mile increments because that works for her lifestyle. A respectable choice.  

The conversation lasted a bit longer than I intended. Oakland kept herself busy talking to banana and snapshot. Then we headed back to our tent to finish the evening chores. I brushed my teeth and We each rinsed our salty faces. Then we searched for bear hang sticks and went through the nail biting task of actually hanging the bags. It’s always a bit nerve wracking as to whether the branch we’ve selected is actually strong enough for the hang. Tonight’s choices proved up to the task and we had our bags safely in the air in no time. Then we settled into the tent to change into sleeping clothes. Oakland was horrified by how she smelled but I assured her she was not alone. Then I wrote my notes while Oakland scrolled through her picture for the day and looked through tomorrow’s hike on guthook. The woods were very active as we lay in the tent. I’m finishing this to the sound of a bullfrog, a chorus of different birds, Oakland rustling in search of socks, and crickets. 

Mile 520.1 to mile 534.0 (13.9)

Checklist total miles: 542 

Oakland total miles: 63.1 

Creature feature: the doe and her fawn, the pileated woodpecker, the cows! and the calf, a small tan frog, and mysterious hairy poop that may have been from a coyote or bobcat (it seemed too big for a fox but I could be wrong).