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trip report

Rt 714 to Catawba                 3/16/96 to 3/21 /96

    Time to try something new. I had never section hiked in March. With a
little more clothing, a little more food, and a tent, I headed for Bobblets
Gap Shelter with no sleep in the last 36 hours. By driving all night, I was
at the trailhead a day earlier than I planned. Juanita and Jay said goodbye
and left for Florida as I started down the Trail in a t-shirt. The weather
was exactly as I had hoped.   
   The best views were at the road crossings. I saw fisherman but no hikers.
The shelter was somewhat dissapointing. It was dirty and there was no broom.
At least the water was close by. The last entry in the register was two
weeks ago. Having seen no one all day, this seemed like the perfect place to
catch up on my sleep. A thunderstorm took care of that idea. My foam pad
wasn't making it anymore either. I quess it's time to invest in a more
luxurious air filled one. 
    I decided to take it easy and stop at Wilson Creek Shelter instead of my
plan of Fullhardt Knob Shelter. I was thinking that being nice to my body
now would pay dividends later in the week when the pack became lighter. When
I crossed the Parkway it was so foggy I couldn't locate the trail on the
other side of the road. I was at the shelter before noon and read the
register thoroughly looking for old friends. A entry by AOL Tag Team members
Flash and Hot Flash brought back memories of the many online friends I met
during that event. I got a kick out of the joker that wrote, "Leave Virginia
alone" and signed Rod Stewart. 
    Wilson Creek Shelter was an interesting  contrast to Bobblets Gap
Shelter. It's about water. While Bobblets was a nasty downhill climb off the
Trail, the water was right beside the shelter. Wilson Creek Shelter was
right beside the Trail and the water was a long way downhill. It's a
question of when an arriving hiker starts cursing and complaining -
immediately when they discover the shelter is a nasty climb off the Trail or
5 minutes later when they find out where to get water. I wonder which choose
a consensus of hikers would prefer.
    I saw 4 day hikers and 3 mountain bikers that day. This time the last
entry was only 5 days back. The only sounds I heard were of an owl and a
distant train whistle as I drifted off to sleep.
    Monday, 3/18/96, was a most interesting day. I crossed Rt. 220 and could
not believe how close Pizza Hut was to the Trail. I thought the reigister
entries were an exageration. The meal hit the spot and lifted my spirits. I
headed back on the Trail at 2:30 pm with plans to pitch my tent in another 4
or 5 miles. The last look I took down the road was of a bank thermometer
that showed 59 degrees. In the next few minutes, I met and hiked with and
elderly gentleman that told me the weather would soon be taking a turn for
the worst. Rain was expected at night and possibly snow the next day. I
started counting how many hours of daylight I had. I wanted to try for
Lambert's Meadow Shelter rather than pitch the tent. The panorama from
Tinket Mt took my mind off the weather. With no leaves yet on the trees, I
was constantly looking out left and right at first beautiful Carvin Cove
Reservoir and McAfee Knob and the distant view of the towns of Daleville and
Troutville. Still, at each landmark I checked my watch and noted that it was
going to be very close to dark if I was to make it to the shelter. By  7 pm,
I began to doubt my decisions. I had no flashlight and looked around
carefully at a stream crossing before seeing a couple of signs. I couldn't
read the Campsite #1 sign until I was a foot in front of it. After stumbling
around in the dark a little longer, I gave up and pitched the tent at the
campsite even though I knew the shelter had to be close.  It was a
conservative decision that cost me.
    I woke up to rain.  I stayed in the tent for more than an hour after
waking to see if the rain would let up - no such luck.  In the process of
breakin camp,  I was getting wet and the tent was a mess. Sure enough, I
walked less than a quarter mile to the shelter and I sat in it having
breakfast and watching the rain get heavier. I would be right on schedule
with my itenerary if I hiked only 8.2 miles on this day. I thought I could
start quite late and wait out the weather but  by 11 am,  I gave up and
decided not to move.  I suppose this is the point where all the thru hikers
will stop reading. No rain, no pain, no Maine, right? 
    I admit it was a very boring day. Waking up to snow flurries was also
not very encouraging either.  The payoff was that despite the snow, the
views were outstanding from Tinker Cliffs. I was very glad that I waited out
the rain. It was unique to look back and see the Trail's route back to
Tinker Mt..
   At Catawba Shelter were 3 college kids. I greeted them with "so I'm not
the only crazy backpacker on the Trail in Virginia". When I found out that
they were on spring break,  I told them that they were out of their minds
not to be in Florida like many of their peers. They smiled in semi
agreement.  They were covering only 6 miles a day. I could not imagine that
to be any fun because I was finding the hiking the only fun part of the day
in the bad weather. Camping sucks in bad weather. 
    When the first section hiker I met in 5 days arrived, he brought news of
more rain and snow for tomorrow. I decided to pack it in a day early.  I was
bundled in my sleeping bag, trying to dry out my polypros and having no fun.
I walked into the store in Catawba the following morning and asked about
getting a taxi to the nearest town with a motel. The people there were very
friendly and helpful.  After a hot chocolate,  the proprietoer's daughter
gave me a ride to Salem, were I spent 2 days eating well, watching movies,
and lounging while waiting for my wife and son to pick me up on their way
back from Florida. 

Jim Lemire