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[at-l] HATT Section 3A

As I catch up on my email, I see a lot of folk are posting hear as well as
the HATT site.

So, here is a copy of my report.

The Clan Maxwell Team completed Section 3E  [PEARISBURG VA south to VA ROUTE
611] - albeit we did have a high last minute pre-hike dropout rate.  My son,
who is in the Navy, caught a duty on Monday that he could not get out of.
My step-grandson had a class schedule/reschedule problem at school that had
to be resolved before today, Tuesday the 5th.  Other, folk had less
creditable reasons.  So, come the step-off handshake there were only two of
us - Wilson Long, the 13 year old grandson of good friends of my wife and I
[and Maxwell Clan members also] and me.

Actually the HATT2000 for our section had started Thursday night when the
REDD HATTers of Section 4A were over to my house for ribs & the fixings.  It
went OK - except these guys don't really eat ribs, don't like my cooking, or
something.  I'll let them speak for them selves on that point.  I only had a
rack a person and they wouldn't eat their share.  Not only did they leave
half the ribs, cornbread, potato salad, slaw, etc., they hardly touched the
chocolate cake.   Oh well.

Anyhow, on Friday, 1 September at noon, my wife dropped Wilson and me at the
East end of the US-460 bridge at Bluff City.  After the handshake and a
photo op Wilson and I set off.  I immediately took off the way that I
remembered the trail going, only to notice the lack of white blazes and then
remember that I was headed to the hostel.  So we backtracked about a  mile,
picked up the white blazes and walked along the river through some weed that
were more than head high.  After about a  mile we were back to within a
hundred yards, or so, of where we had turned around on US-460.  The
conditions of the trail in the woods walk from Bluff City to Pearisburg
leads me to conclude that a lot of folk by pass it - as I always have.
Check it out on a map and you'll see why.

After some street walking and white blazes through folks' back yards, we
were on our way up Pearis Mountain toward Angels Rest.  I have read
somewhere that local tradition named it Angels Rest because when the angels
were taking a soul to its reward they were said to stop there for a rest -
it being half way to Heaven.  As you hike up this 2000+ feet elevation gain
in a couple of miles, you begin to believe it.  Shade of Pennsylvania.  The
rock in the treadway make any type steady stride impossible, save for those
few incredibly graceful young folk with an unbelievable sense of balance.
In any case, it was one foot at a time gingerly testing one rock at a time
for this old guy.  As we climbed, the thunderstorms were rocking the world
around us; but by some miracle never on us.  We walked through areas where
the water was still pouring out of the trees.  We walked up into the clouds.

Wilson was developing hot spots that were to exhaust my second skin,
moleskin and duct tape before the weekend walk was done.  So, we stopped to
treat them and let the old man have a breather.

At Angels Rest, we checked the view and then stopped in the shelter of the
rocks for lunch.  We could just catch glimpses of Pearisburg, the river,
etc. in the swirling clouds.  I am sure that I bored young Wilson with my
tales of how when I first hike it this part of the State the AT was miles
East of here along where the Blue Ridge Parkway now runs.  To his credit he
politely listened throughout the trip to explanations of when the AT along
here was a road walk, or the trail used to run straight down this hill to
VA-42, etc.  Also, to his credit he never questioned why the ATC would have
moved a relative level road walk to some of these MUDs.

While we were eating, Wilson got a glimpse of his first mouse of the hike.
One stuck his head out of a hole a few feet behind me.  I'm sure he [the
mouse] was disappointed that we were LNT hikers and he didn't get a handout.

We pushed on without seeing the feral goats that live on Pearis Mountain.
We crossed under the power lines and descended 500 or so feet only to
re-climb them and then down to Doc's Knob Shelter.

Here we found a pair of semi-thru hikers, on a late start hike from Springer
heading for Happer's Ferry or maybe Pine Grove for this year.  Turns out
that they are not only from a nearby neighborhood in Wilson's hometown of
Knoxville, but that he is a retired colleague of Wilson's father.  The AT
world sure is small some times.

We dropped our packs and hiked down to a USFS road to help my daughter Laura
and my 15-month-old granddaughter Nina up to the shelter to join us for the
night.  BTW - Wilson & I had hiked with full backpacks, as this was a Boy
Scout Project for him.  So, this was not a slackpack link-up - with the
minor exception, that Laura just happened to have some steaks and fixings
for that night, and eggs and bacon for Saturday's breakfast with her.

After a big hot dinner, some conversation with our shelter companions, and
playing with Nina, the four of us crashed for the night.  [Pictures to
follow, if they come out.  Shelter Report follows.]

BTW - At some point during conversations with our sheltermates we learned
that Mrs. Tillie's granddaughter had reopened Wood's Hold for the Fall SOBO
season this year.

Saturday 2 September, we had a leisurely start on our easiest full day.
Again a bit over eight miles, but only half the elevation gain and far less
Pennsylvania style walking.

After a breakfast of eggs and bacon, we policed up the shelter site. We then
hauled a bag of trash [mostly other peoples] and Laura's & Nina's gear back
to her van; saw them away; then returned to the shelter for our packs and a
10 am start.  After about a mile, we could hear what sounded to me like a
pack of bear dogs coming our way.  I explained to Wilson that if the bear
came close to raise his arms and stick stand tall and not threaten or run
from the bear - just look as big as he could and not a threat to the bear
and not afraid of it.  Well sure enough, as he was checking for a view from
the overlook between Doc's Knob and Sugar Run Gap the bear passed within
twenty yards of Wilson.  It let forth a growl and plunged down the east side
with a great crashing of brush.  Wilson and I were soon surrounded by a pack
of dogs with radio tracking collars.  About half were too smart [or not
brave enough] to plunge over the cliff after the bear and followed us out to
the road at Sugar Run Gap.

At Sugar Run Gap, I considered walking down to Wood's Hole, just for old
time sake and to show Wilson one of the great AT hostels; but not having
hiked the big Ribble Trail/Wapiti Shelter relo, I was unsure of the treadway
condition and I was also concerned about Wilson's blisters.  I offered to
bail out, if his feet were bothering him too much, as he now had blisters on
both feet.  He wanted to stay the course.  So, we pushed on.

Between Sugar Run Gap and Big Horse Gap we met a couple of hikers who said
they had started late Friday from Lickskillet - strong weekend hikers!

Luckily, once we passed Big Horse Gap we left the Pennsylvania style
treadway behind.  Throughout most the day we walked through mist [clouds]
and light rain - what the Scots call a soft day.  We only heard distant
thunder and did have some clear stretches.  At the Sugar Run Mountain
overlook, between Big Horse Gap and Wapiti Shelter, we finally got enough
break in the clouds to see something.  I took a picture of Wilson looking
down on the clouds that were hugging the Mountains.  [Hope it come out.]

We pushed on, after a lunch of GORP, dried fruit, cheese, and a pop tart for
desert.  We arrived at Wapiti Shelter before 5PM and a good deal fresher
than we had arrived at Doc's Knob, the night before.  We each cooked a
typical backpacker's dinner of pasta and sauce.  We had the shelter to
ourselves and a good night's rest with an impressive Barred Owl serenade to
lull us to sleep.  [Shelter Report follows.]

Sunday, 3 September, we awoke to a fairly clear day after a night of rain.
After a breakfast of oatmeal and pop tarts, we got an 8AM start on our
longest day - about 14 miles w/ only moderate climbs.  At Walnut Flats and
again at VA-606 I offered Wilson the chance to stop.  Again, he wanted to
push on.  So we did.  I knew he was hurting, however, when he didn't want to
take a half-mile, or so detour, to Trent's Store for some cold soda and a

The climb out of the Kimberling Creek watershed was particularly hard on
both of us.  The treadway was badly overgrown and there were lots of blow
downs to contend with.  We had a piece of luck, however.  The semi-thru
hiker that we had meet back at Doc's Knob had lost his pack cover.  We found
it in one piece on a hawthorn tree.  We retrieved it and we will see it
safely home to its owner.

Near the top of Bushy Mountain, we met two members of the RATC, coming our
way with a chainsaw and blazing paint.  The rest of the way to VA-608 was a
lot better - albeit the weed overgrowth was a problem in places.  At the
blue-blazed side trail to the overlook, we met more RATC volunteers working
on treadway.

We got to VA-608 and Lickskillet Hollow in time to wait for both my
daughters and granddaughters to meet us with a re-supply and to join us for
the last of the hike.  While we waited, we struck up a conversation with a
section hiker from the AT-L who was headed north on this section [I didn't
ask permission; so, I'll not post his name.]

When my daughters arrived, there had been a miscommunication.  They had
picked up more Second Skin and Duct Tape, but not moleskin.  As I was about
to have them drive back to Trent's Store to get some, the AT-L'er offered us
some.  The other bad news was that Laura's allergies were acting up, badly,
and she didn't feel she could do the last section.  My other daughter
Rebekah and my other granddaughter, eight month old Ali, did join us,

Without my son-in-law and step-grandson there to share the load we adopted a
new strategy.  We left the in-case-the-shelter-is-occupied tents, all but
mine and Wilson's stoves, cook gear, and some other stuff behind at the van
with Laura.  The plan was that she would wait two hours.  If we got to the
shelter and needed it, two of us would return to VA-608 for it.  Monday
would have required a similar extra trip.  Luckily, we had Jenny Knob
Shelter to ourselves.  So, no one had to make the extra round trips.

BTW -- Rebekah challenged my description of the hike in as being "Easy."  We
settled on "Moderate."

The Shelter Register, the sign, and side of the Shelter all bore negative
comments about water.  One source is listed as being 50 yards away, the
other  mile.  Both were reported as being dry, at various times.  We
checked the 50 yard one and found a seep.  Using the scoop and then filter
method I was able to get four litters Sunday night and two more on Monday
morning.  However, this has been a wet few weeks in a wet year.  We did not
check the  mile down hill source.

We set up camp and cooked typical trail dinners of Pasta and Sauce - plus a
small fresh green salad that I had had them bring w/ the re-supply.

Ali was a stitch and we all enjoyed playing with her.  All, save Rebekah,
had a good night.  She had not brought a sleeping pad and the hard floor was
a bit of a problem.

[Shelter Report follows.]

Monday, 4 September, we were up to a breakfast of dried fruit in oatmeal and
pop tarts.

Rebekah, Ali, and Wilson hiked out the 3 miles, or so,  to the handshake
with Chase at VA-611 w/o problem or incident.  I, OTOH, had problems.

First, I got a crease in my sock under the ball of my foot.  Ali had just
dozed off.  So, I asked Wilson to stay with Rebekah to spot her, if she
needed to take off the baby-carrier/pack and help her w/ overhead
clearances.  I want them to keep hiking, so as to let Ali sleep.

After a couple of attempts, I got my socks straightened out and was making
time to catch up.  Shortly, after a short conversation with a NOBO thru [who
had missed some of this area due to injury, had skipped ahead to rejoin her
partner, summitted the big K, and was now filling in the missed section] I
got into some yellow jackets.

Now, I'm have asthma and am also allergic to some stinging insects
especially some yellow jackets.  So, I did a short sprint - pulling
something in my calf.  After brushing the little devils off, I limped
further down the trail, to put more distance between me and them.  I then
took off my pack; got my inhaler, antihistamine, and epinephrine out my
first aid kit; popped a max dose of antihistamine; and waited a couple of

The swelling spread, but stayed rather local.  No problem breathing.  So, I
saddled up - keeping my inhaler and epinephrine in my short's pocket, not in
the pack - and started limping down the trail.  By the time I got to VA-611,
I knew I was in no trouble from the stings and my leg was better - albeit it
is still tender 24 hours later.

When I got there shortly after 11AM, I found Chase and the rest of the
Maxwell Crew had linked-up.  We waited around for Wilson's mom and dad to
pick him up and also to scuttle Chase back to his car; and for Laura to show
up with the stuff we had left in her van when we adjusted plans back at
VA-608, on Sunday.

All the logistics worked and the HATT2000 was one more good memory in a long
list of good AT memories for me and I hope the first of a long list for
Wilson.  I also hope that the HATT2000 patch in Nina's and Ali's baby books
will also be the start of something for them.



Shelter reports:

Shelter Name - Doc's Knob

Description - Modern material typical three-sided shelter.  Too high off the
ground in the front.  Minimal overhang.  Picnic table.  Iron fire ring w/
adjustable cooking grate.

Condition - Good

Capacity - 6

Tensites - none close by.  Some nice dry one on top of Pearis Mountain.

Platforms - none

Privy - Four wall, in good shape, clean

Bear measure - none

Water [at shelter] - Very shallow spring 20 yards from shelter across a rock
field w/o a discernable path and hard to get to/find in the dark.

Water - [before shelter] - a number of wet weather streams

Water - [after shelter] two miles plus down into Sugar Run Gap or at Wood's
Hold Hostel.

Trail - Blazes - good freshly redone
           Grade - the pits at first, where are the hand rails in short
           Treadway - Shades of Pennsylvania in spots

Road Crossings - well marked, good view to dodge traffic

Trail Junctions - one or two forks in the treadway w/o clear White Blazes
beyond the fork.


Shelter Name - Wapiti

Description - Traditional log construction three-sided shelter.  Minimal
overhang.  Picnic table.  Iron fire ring w/ adjustable cooking grate.

Condition - Good

Capacity - 6

Tensites - Lots close by.

Platforms - none

Privy - Four wall, in good shape, clean

Bear measure - none

Water [at shelter] - Good stream just past shelter

Water - [before shelter] - Good stream less than a mile before

Water - [after shelter] Good stream just past shelter

Trail - Blazes - good freshly redone

           Grade - Moderate

           Treadway - the pits at places to Big Horse Gap - otherwise good

Road Crossings - only USFS roars w/o traffic, well marked

Trail Junctions - well marked


Shelter Name - Jenny Knob

Description - Traditional three-sided shelter.  Minimal overhang.  Picnic
table - in poor repair.  Iron fire ring w/ adjustable cooking grate.

Condition - Good

Capacity - 8

Tensites - Some close by.

Platforms - none

Privy - Four wall, seat broken

Bear measure - none

Water [at shelter] - A seep 50 yards away often dry.
                                A spring  mile down hill - register entries
claim it is often dry.

Water - [before shelter] - Lickskillet

Water - [after shelter] I don't know.

Trail - Blazes - good freshly redone

           Grade - Moderate

           Treadway - fair to good

Road Crossings - well marked, good visibility to see approaching traffic

Trail Junctions - well marked

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