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[at-l] Trip Report or "Don't Walk Backwards While Hitching"

Hi all...

The plan: Leave a car at the Down Home B&B. Catch a bus to Marion. Hitch
up to Rural Retreat. Hike north for 158.9 miles. Meantime, meet up with
Smasher in Pearisburg. Return to Catawba a couple of days before the
Gathering. Go to the Gathering. Return north.

The truth: The Rubenesque Wood Nymph Tour 2000 just completed a whopping
18 miles from I-81 in Rural Retreat to USFS 222. Against all previous
reports, water sources are abundant and easy to obtain. However, no
magical creeks appeared at Davis Path or Knot Maul Shelter except what
was already .2 miles north of Knot Maul.

We got a late start after leaving the Greyhound "depot" in Marion. Trail
magic thrives even off of thru-hiker season. We got an OFFER of a ride
without even yogi-ing from Niki who is managing the Fox Hill Inn in
Troutdale while Mark & Janet Holmes are on vacation! Thanks, Niki! We
left on foot from the Dairy Queen next to I-81 around 3 p.m.  We soon
passed the site of last year's prematurely ended section hike and
stomped and kicked at the rock that precipitated my fall and subsequent
broken shoulder. Then we handily made it to Davis Path Shelter.

VA was experiencing a significant cold snap and we could see our breath
and needed our wool caps to sleep that night! As when i first started at
Springer in '98, my g.d. Whisperlight Shaker Jet refused to work. Being
the proficient Whisperlight user, i dismantled it entirely, thoroughly
cleaned all the lines and received nothing but rapid pressure loss from
the stove and the dirtiest hands during the whole trip. MSR will be
receiving a letter from me while i research an Esbitt or alcohol stove
for future hikes. Thank goodness for Aprilmoon's alcohol stove. We ate
well the rest of the trip!

The following day was quite a stylish day. Up and over a style. Walk a
bit. Up and over a style. Walk a bit. Up and over a style. Walk a bit.
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. We had decided to look for a campsite
at about 4 p.m. but kept coming up to all those signs about the next
0.8, 1 or 1.4 miles being private property and the trail is only a
treadway. When it became apparent that we would go no further, we simply
waited to get out of sight of both the group of steer (they obviously
were steer instead of bulls since they didn't charge at us) and the
farmhouse. And we were home...illegally in a cow pasture...searching for
.2 miles for a good tree to hang food...searching for enough square
footage without cow plops to place our tents. It was great.

Aprilmoon had some sagging of her Nomad and her dime-sized condensation
was in reality, a lake. A lovely night was otherwise had by all and the
herd serenaded us with mucho mooing when we didn't depart soon enough in
the morning for them.

The weather remained exquisite....fairly cool during the day and cooler
at night. Wild fauna remained elusive, wildflowers abundant.  On Monday,
the 18th,  we camped at Lick Creek beneath the rhododendrons. We had a
warm and welcoming campfire. A lovely rain came in that night. Aprilmoon
settled in her Nomad, now pitched much more tautly, and had a blissfully
dry night. It was my best sleep since leaving Arizona on the 13th.

We left Lick Creek the next morning and hiked the mile to USFS 222. It
had been decided that Aprilmoon would leave the trail at that point.
Now, USFS 222 is rather similar to USFS 42 up to Springer...as in...up
and over a mountain, miles and miles and miles of dirt road...in the
middle of nowhere. And now our adventures began. Our first hitch was but
a couple of miles from a man in a pickup who was only going a couple of
miles to work on his hunting cabin. We were careful not to sit on his
fishing rods and break them when we jumped in.

We walked on from where he dropped us off and tried to yogi a ride from
3 other men working on their hunting cabin. Alas, no luck. And...no
electricity nor phones at these cabins, so no way to try to call for a
ride from Bland. So on we walked, now aware that there was a mountain to
cross. I pretended with each rise that that was the "mountain." We
talked with some filthy cows who had flies swarming in their eyes and
continued on when we heard the second car coming that morning. It was
Tina, our savior!

Now Tina is one of those people you LOVE to meet on your hikes. She and
her husband had just moved into their hunting cabin year round with
their twin 7 year old boys. In fact, their home is the only full time
home on the mountain. She shared the details of her life and how they
came to live there and the joy they found. She was impressive in her
self-sufficiency. More than that, she wasn't tooting her horn about
"living off the grid" or acting "back to nature" out of philosophical
concerns. She was matter-of-fact about her simple, but to us, hard life.
Since she was heading to the grocery store in Bland, she took us all the
way to the Big Walker Motel.

Now, i needed to decide whether to continue on to Catawba alone. We were
to meet Smasher in Pearisburg and go on to Catawba with her. So the
decision for me was whether to return. It was a little daunting to
consider a solo hike at a time when there aren't a massive amount of
people on the trail. What if i broke something like i had last year?
We'd only seen 2 southbound section hikers in the time we'd been hiking.
But, i decided i'd head north out of Bland solo up to Pearisburg...then
meet up with Smasher and continue on back to the Down Home B&B in
Catawba where Aprilmoon had left her car and we had reservations for the
end of our hike.

But first, we needed to pick up the maildrop at the post office. We'd
been assured that it wasn't far, so Aprilmoon began trucking down the
road. I felt lazy and felt we should hitch. So as she trucked, I walked
backward with my thumb out. And tripped over the uneven pavement and
fell into the gravel. The bloody scrapes seemed miniscule compared to
that odd soreness in my foot. She (again) picked me up from a fall
(shades of last year!) and i began to hobble down to the post office.
Somehow, i knew this hike was over for me.

Calls were made. After spending the night in Bland, we got a great ride
back to Catawba from Brenda who owns the Rendezvous Motel in Pearisburg.
Hobbling along back in Catawba on the 20th, we determined to seek
medical care. Aprilmoon got medication for her rapidly spreading poison
ivy. And i...well, i got crutches for the broken foot i'd been hobbling
on for 24 hours.

No week-long visit with my family in Connecticut. No 158.9 miles. No
Dragon's Tooth. No Gathering. It was only 96 degrees when i returned to
Arizona yesterday, so i guess fall has arrived. Although i was
disappointed about the plans going awry, it was good to see my husband
who is the ONLY one of family and non-trail friends who is still
encouraging me to finish these sections til i summit Katahdin.

Thanks go out to all of our rides, hitches, people we met along the way.
Highest praise to the Down Home Bed & Breakfast
http://web.rbnet.com/~dwnhmbb/ . Dave & Lucy opened it this past year
and are EXTREMELY hiker friendly. There are only two rooms, but the
breakfast is fabulous, the people friendly, the place exquisitely clean,
the hospitality of the highest. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!  Kudos go to
every splendid piece of delicate fried catfish i ate. Extra kudos to the
Homeplace Restaurant in Catawba where we gorged the night before we left
on the hike. And always my most special thanks to my hiking partner,
Aprilmoon, who is getting too TOO proficient in caring for me and my
broken bones.

Sorry i'll miss y'all at the Gathering and hope all who go have a great
time. The plan is to be back on the trail...next spring during
thru-hiker season...north out of Ceres, VA.

Second Chance
Springer to Damascus '98 (455 miles)
Damascus to Rural Retreat '99 (75 miles)
Rural Retreat to USFS 222 '00 (18 miles)
bad trend of descending miles per year

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