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[at-l] Gypsy's Journal - Volume 12

The latest journals from Gypsy. -Milt


[Saturday, May 10 - Pearisburg, VA (Rest Day)]
Lots of hikers resting today at Pearisburg. We had a send-off lunch for
Grey Bear and Long Pig, a couple from the UK. I first met them at the
hostel in Damascus where they were recuperating for eight days - Long Pig
from a sprained ankle. Since Damascus, he has had additional problems so
they decided to call it a day on the AT. They will visit friends in
Connecticut and then maybe spend the rest of their holiday in the Greek
Isles. It's cold and windy in southern VA right now and I'd go to the
Greek Isles if I could. 

Most of the others are hiking to Catawba this week where they will catch a
ride with Solophile's Mom to Trail Days in Damascus. Hopefully, I'll get
my new pack belt on Monday, and take my time hiking to Catawba next week,
meeting the group when they return. As of today I still couldn't hike if I
wanted to. The guys were all walking a mile or so to a place this evening
for dinner. Hungry as I am, I ain't walkin' anywhere! Solophile stayed
here with the dogs.

[Sunday, May 11 - Pearisburg, VA (Rest Day)]
Solophile and Micah left early this morning and Smoky was frantic that we
weren't leaving with them. I spent the day relaxing and getting the food
supply ready for the coming week. I'm not sure how I'll get everything in
my pack. Solophile and I had spread all our gear over the room and since
we had to share a single room plus a cot, there was little room to spare.
TewTon and Fireball stopped in last night to watch country music videos on
TV with us. As they were leaving one of them hesitated in the doorway and
said, "This room is a mess!"

[Monday, May12 - Rice Field Shelter (7.3 mi.)
I walked a mile to the Post Office this morning to see how I felt. Lower
back still hurts. Fedex came with new pack belt and I left around 12:30pm.
I didn't even get a mile when I started getting the same pains. It's like
being stuck with needles about an inch or so below my hip bone. I can
unbuckle and re-buckle the belt and the pain goes away briefly, but comes
back in a half mile or so. Then the weight of the pack seems to press
against the base of my spine which hurts with each step. I can't get to
Maine like this! I going to try and make it to Catawba by the weekend and
make a decision about staying on the trail. I don't want to go home, but
this is no fun, and I don't feel the need to prove anything. I might go
back and see if I can have my external frame Jansport adjusted properly.
It's ironic - being run off the trail by a Dana pack! I've never been
completely happy with it and dislike it even more now.

I'm spending the night at the Rice Field Shelter, which is relatively new
and beautifully constructed. The first thing that caught my eye was a
white plastic resin chair in front which has, in black lettering, "Friar
Tuck Memorial Chair." Friar Tuck, as may remember, drove me to Springer in
March and helped me lighten my pack.

[Tuesday, May 13 - Pine Swamp Br. Shelter (12.3 mi.)]
I didn't want to get out of my sleeping bag this morning. It began to rain
before daylight, and the field next to the shelter was completely fogged
in. Also, it was cold! I did, though, and we left at 8:30am. We walked in
a light rain for a while, but by afternoon it cleared somewhat. The sun
hid behind the clouds most of the day.

[Wednesday, May 14 - War Spur Shelter (12 mi.)]
Rain, cold, windy, gloomy, demoralizing, rocky.....

[Thursday, May 15 - Niday Shelter (18+ mi.)]
After lightning, thunder and rain all night I woke up to a fairly nice
morning. Have been staying at the last three shelters with Hardcore (the
woman - there is also a male Hardcore on the trail this year). We both
agree we don't want to stay at Sarver's Cabin, an old vacant homestead
which is reputed to have a ghost. The alternative is to hike 18+ miles
today which I'm not up to. Maybe there will be a nice campsite along the
trail. There are usually several of them a day, but never when I'm looking
for one.

[Friday - May 16 - Pickle Branch Shelter (~10 mi.)
Stayed at Niday Shelter last night (after an 18+ mile day). I wondered if
I would make the last few miles, but I did, and we arrived at the shelter
after 7pm. It rained briefly during the night and turned a bit colder.
Today, the sun is shining, but it's very windy and cool. I stopped for
lunch at the Audie Murphy monument. He was the most decorated hero in WWII
and wrote the book, "To Hell and Back" detailing his experiences. I read
it years ago and remember laughing at many of his stories. Though the
entire book was heartbreaking, he managed to add some very humerous
happenings which gave it a good balance. I remember seeing pictures of
him, and think he was probably the most handsome soldier of WWII! He died
in a plane crash on this mountain in 1971.

Going to Pickle Branch Shelter tonight for a little under 10 miles today.
I need a nice short day for a change! The climb up the mountain this
morning was long but relatively easy and well graded. Hardcore decided to
move on further to camp along the trail so as to get to Catawba tomorrow
before the Post Office closes. UltraLight and Falling Apart joined me at
the shelter.

[Saturday, May 17 - Catawba Valley Gen. Store (~9 mi.)]
I left the shelter around 8am, and began the long climb up to Dragon's
Tooth, a huge outcropping at the top of Cove Mountain. The entire climb
was steep and often required finding crevices in huge boulders to gain a
foothold. It was like that much of the way down also. I took Smoky's pack
off him numerous times and carried it myself. Fortunately,  both our packs
were light - he ran out of food last night and I had only a couple of
dinners left. Near the top of the mountain I ran into Southpaw, a '95
hiker. He told me his car was parked at the bottom of the mountain, with a
cooler loaded with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, water and soft
drinks for thru-hikers. UltraLite and Falling Apart were there when I
arrived and we enjoyed lunch thanks to Southpaw. Nothing tasted better!

I ended up at the Catawba Valley General Store for the evening. Hardcore
was already there, and we went to the "Homeplace" for dinner - what a
meal! All you can eat! I had two desserts - peach cobbler and ice cream!
The folks who own the store are extremely friendly. They carried Puppy
Chow, so Smoky can continue to eat. A 4.4lb. bag should last us two days
until we arrive in Troutville! Oh well, he has to carry it.

I spent some time talking to Southpaw this morning about my indecision on
whether or not to leave the trail. He urged me not to leave, or to make a
decision just yet, but to hike on to at least Harpers Ferry. I noticed the
past two days have been much better for me mentally. I'm holding my
mileage to around 12 miles and am carrying a somewhat lighter pack (less
food). Maybe that's the key. I don't know how I can pack lighter when I
resupply about 5 or 6 days food and fuel, but I can control the urge to do
more miles a day. At any rate, I'll stay on the trail for a while longer.
Now if only the sun would keep shining.

[Sunday, May 18 - EconoLodge on Rt. 220 (21+ mi.)]
My friend, Mountain Topper, came by to see me at the Catawba Valley store
last night and offered to slackpack Hardcore and me today. We took him up
on it, and he came by around 7:15am this morning. He even brought several
choices of daypacks for us to use. I let Smoky get by without carrying
anything and I carried his food. We started up the mountain to McAfee's
Knob and the walk was one of the best. The trail is scenic and well
maintained, and the weather was perfect. We spent about 45 minutes taking
in the views from the knob, then went on to Tinker Cliffs where we had a
brief lunch stop. The afternoon turned quite warm and humid (in the 90's)
and the trail was rocky in many places (murder on the feet). All in all,
we hiked 21.4 miles today, easier because we carried only essentials in a
day pack, but my feet say a resounding "NO!" to any more days over 12
miles, with or without a pack!

We finally made it to the EconoLodge on Rt 220 and checked in. Mountain
Topper came by with our packs and drove us to an "All you can eat"
restaurant and then to the grocery store, ATM, etc. Friends like that are
worth a $Million. I have a late start and short day planned for tomorrow,
but don't know how I'll even be able to walk. I have several blisters, but
also very sore muscles, and I'm sure I look ridiculous trying to move. 

One of the best surprises waiting for me was a box of delicious homemade
cookies from my daughter in California, Jeannie. They arrived fresh as the
day they were baked, and intact. I really miss my kids while on this hike,
and it's not easy to connect by phone.


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