2019-Day 83 & 84: VA zero days, stressball edition

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July 15, 2019

My notes for these days are pretty shoddy, but I’ll do my best to fill in the gaps. We were trying to get a LOT of chores done, had some planning wrenches, which I’ll describe in a bit, and we were in the company of a toddler for most of our waking hours. A tricky combination.

At the start of our first zero day (Day 83), we did laundry and spread basically all of our gear out on my parents’ large deck in the blazing VA sun with the intention of making everything smell better. It does work, but it only takes about 20 minutes of sweating to make your pack smell sour all over again, so I’m not sure why we bother. We had some company while we got everything settled:

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Oakland spent some time mending our tent doors. The strain of two people has caused the mesh to pull away from the bathtub more than either of us wants.

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On the drive from Reeds Gap to Haymarket yesterday, I’d noticed a comment about the logging road that we need to access being closed for logging as of the exact timing that we needed it. Bear with me because it’s a little complicated, but in 2017, I left the trail via Caribou Valley Rd, which is a logging road that the trail crosses on the way to the Crockers. In order to be as purist as possible, we intended to get back on trail at the exact point where I left it. With this logging road closed, our options were to use a hostel to slackpack south and double back to cover the miles between Maine Route 27 and the logging road OR we could hike up the sugarloaf ski slopes, find the blue blaze trail that connects with the AT and hike north on the AT towards the my exit/entry point. Another complicating factor is that I had a very persistent itch to revisit the place where I broke my elbow. When would I be in that part of Maine ever again? I have a version of the event in my head, but I really wanted to SEE the what I tripped on and where I landed.

Needless to say, I was spinning out with the information about the road closure. I called the hostel who had posted the guthook comment and spoke to a very helpful person who unfortunately had no way of contacting the logging company who uses the road to confirm their closure timing. He’s the one who gave us the idea to hike up the sugarloaf slopes, which sent me down a rabbit hole of reading people’s trail blogs about that hike. It was a highly unappealing option because the slopes were likely to be lumpy and steep (Maine’s version of steep is another universe). In other words, a foot/ankle nightmare and really difficult to do with newly stocked backpacks. With the extra stress and time commitment to planning, I made the hard decision to cancel our meetup with Halfway so we could take an extra zero day in VA. It was a highly variable plan, and it would have been a long day of driving for him, but Oakland and I were disappointed nonetheless.

Once we had our basic plan (check for road closure and use the ski slopes as a backup), we made hotel reservations for the White Wolf Inn in Stratton, which is the same place I stayed in 2017. We confirmed our departure day with my stepdad who had outrageously and generously agreed to drive us all the way to Maine (~15 hours, one way). In between our chores and rising blood pressure, we played with my niece and had Chinese food with my parents and my brother. It turns out my youngest niece really likes lo mein noodles 🙂

The next day (day 84), we slept in a little bit (luxury!), and had breakfast with the fam. Then we sprayed our freshly laundered clothes with permethrin tick repellent. We left them to dry in the hot VA sun and took a field trip to the grocery store to buy specialty items for HQ to put in our future packages (e.g. summer sausage, tiny cheeses, etc.).

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After lunch with the goober, we watched 1 member of HQ in action (my stepdad opted out of the exercise, probably to steer clear of the anal retentive overload of me AND my mother in the same space). In 2017, they turned a couple of card tables in their basement into an impressive Resupply Zone and it was now in its fully stocked glory (much more stocked than the amount of hiking we had left, but HQ can’t help herself when it comes to backups). See today’s top picture for resupply mania. We packed our boxes for Caratunk, ME with the guidance of HQ’s systems. Given the rural postal speeds, we needed to get those boxes out asap or we would be beat them to the hostel. Then we packed our food bags for the first leg of our trip from the logging road to Caratunk and re-packed most of our backpacks in preparation for a very early departure tomorrow morning.

Towards the end of the afternoon, I had a meltdown because of the stress and uncertainty surrounding the road closure, the stress of Maine in general (a state that literally broke part of me), physical exhaustion, and the self-imposed pressure of being an attentive family member in the midst of all of our chores. Oakland and I took some deep breaths and went into the basement to goof around with my niece while my mom took a shower.

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Then we had a very serious ping pong game. I’m not kidding – my mom nearly took out the toddler with some real zingers.

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After another family dinner, we retreated to our room to decompress, finalize our gear packing as much as possible, and attempt to fall asleep.

Tomorrow: we drive to Maine!

Mile 844.6 to mile 844.6 (0) – haymarket, VA

Checklist total miles: 853.4

Oakland total miles: 374.0

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