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trip report 8/31 to 9/7

Pearisburg to Atkins

    Getting to and from the Trail is now about as much fun as a root canal.
I pulled into the Holy Family Church parking lot at 3 PM on Saturday
afternoon, 8/31/96, and posted my intentions in the log book inside the
hostel. Angel's Rest, on top of Pearis Mt., was my destination for the
evening. After the road walk from the hostel, I struggled up the mountain
and pitched my tent. I was asleep before dark.
    The Trail was a relatively smooth path with easy grades all the way to
Jenny Knob Shelter, but my feet failed me. Somehow I picked up 2 blisters
wearing the same boots and socks that I'd hiked a week section in May
without getting a single blister. One blister was on the ball of my foot,
where I never got one before. What is this all about, I thought. An 8 AM
exit from Wapiti Shelter worked out well for a lunch stop at the store on
Va. 606. I had a hot dog, orange juice, milk and fig newtons.  Then I found
the water dried up at Jenny Knob Shelter and I could see that this trip was
shaping up to be one of challenge rather than a peaceful time in the woods.
    I hiked a short day to Helvey's Mill Shelter and gave my blisters a
rest. The Trail is a well graded, smooth path so far and I was unable to
appreciate it because of my foot problems. I was carrying a pocket recorder
for the first time instead of the usual pad and pen. I'm undecided on the
idea still, but it was interesting to get the sound of the cicadas on it. I
cooked both lunch and dinner to make up for yesterday. It was peanut butter
and jelly at the waterless Jenny Knob Shelter. 
    At times, I felt as if I was walking  in circles. The Trail turned so
much I'm glad I didn't have a compass. It was often dark inside rhododendron
tunnels making time seem irrelevant. I couldn't tell if it was 6 AM, noon,
or 6 PM, by the light of day. I was thinking about the AT-L list and the
blister remedies from duct tape to bag balm as I went along. When I limped
into Jenkins Shelter, my feet were on fire. I was able to relax and read a
copy of Reader's Digest before dinner. A doe and fawn came strolling up to
the shelter and stayed for a long while. Even the flash from my camera
didn't scare them off. Colorful butterflies land on my scattered gear as if
noticing anything that wasn't here yesterday. 
    At Walker Gap, I didn't see any water in the stream bed and decided to
keep going. That was  probably a mistake. The Chestnut Knob Shelter was more
of a cabin  than a lean-to on a grassy peak with and extensive view. A
steady breeze kept the bugs away. It was only a little after 3 PM and there
was no way I would stay here without water. I thought I'd hike another 5
miles or so but quit at the pond shortly after because I needed to get out
of the boots. It was lucky that I stopped rather than pitch the tent in the
woods because I had no idea that hurricane Fran was coming. The wind and
rain woke me up at 2 am. I thought the high wind was only because I was
camping in an open field and my only thought  about the rain was "I hope it
stops before I have to take down the tent."  I stuck my pan outside to catch
a little rain water and got nearly a quart by 7 AM.  I couldn't believe it.
I  decided to try hiking in my running shoes and started out cursing the
weight of my pack.  On day 6 of a 7 day hike, my pack is usually very light.
Now, I had  a wet tent and boots on my back. 
     When I got into the woods, I realized that this was not your average
rainstorm. The trees were breaking around me. A large one's top snapped and
the sound of the branches it was taking down with it, made it impossible to
figure out which way to run. It came down a good 50 feet away but the sounds
were confusing enough to make me duck.  I saw only a few major blowdowns and
a lot of small branches strewn over the Trail on the way to Knot Maul Branch
Shelter. I was very upset with the idea of staying there.  It would be 13
miles to Atkins the next day and I refuse to hitchhike at night. I would
come out 100 miles from my truck and the prospect of being a day late for
work was beginning to seem likely. After expressing some anger toward God, I
decided it was time to pick up one of these bibles I'd seen in the last 5
shelters. I read Genesis and calmed down. My friends and family would laugh,
but it had an effect on me. ( I criticize every religion I know anything
about.) My perspective of the important of getting home on time changed
completely. I would make a solid effort to hike hard to get out early and
whatever happens, happens.  I spent some time speaking to my recorder and
listening to a tape of my son singing and playing with the recorder.
    I awoke in the dark, determined to get a fast start. As soon as I could
see the ground at my feet, I started. The running shoes allowed me to pick
up the pace and I was going without a break until I was near the top of Big
Walker Mt..I got rather scratched up in the   heavy brush in the low area
just north of the mountain. It was 1:30 PM when I was walking in Davis
Hollow and saw a hiker coming my way  with bird watching gear. He was the
first person I had seen since Tuesday. We talked in the cow pasture for a
while and I headed for Rt. 81 and something to eat. I spent an hour eating
and recovering before making a sign for a ride to Christiansburg. In another
hour, the hiker I met earlier walked up to me in front of the truck stop and
said, " You still here?",  and then offered me a ride. I never would have
guessed that this bird watcher in shorts was a trucker. Finally, a trucker
from Maine, 22000 pounds of frozen french fries, and me were on our way
north. It was a relief to get started on my way back to Pearisburg and we
had a lively conversation. I had never even been in one of these big rigs
before. He let me out after starting up the onramp at Christiansburg , I
stuck out my thumb and the first car stopped. I was on my way to Blacksburg
before the truck stared up again. A third ride took me all the way to the
Holy Family Church and my truck. I opened the hostel door and met southbound
thru hiker Satchmo inside. After a shower, we drove down to Pizza Hut and I
talked his ear off. I don't think he minded it though, as he hadn't seen a
hiker in some time. In the morning, I drove him to the trailhead before my
long drive home.
   In 9 days I drove 1600 miles, hiked 86, and hitched 100. I think I've
maxed out what I can do in a week's vacation. Next year I will look into
flying and taking a 2 week hike.
I need to do only 131 miles per year in each of the next 4 years to reach
Springer in the year 2000.