Date: September 28 2000
Trail Day: 120
Miles Today: 22
Location: Dahlgren Campground
Section Mile: AT 1105
ECT Mile: 1800
I had not slept much the previous 2 nights, so last night I slept like a baby. The thermal underwear I wore kept me quite warm and cozy. I think I am now prepared for upto 20F. I may have to get additional clothes for the Smoky mountains where the elevations go higher than 6000 ft. Currently we are varying between 500 to 2500 ft. I have not crossed 3000 ft for several weeks.
Today's hike was a little harder. I was winded just climbing the trail to High Rock. It was also up and down quite a bit, although most were gentle. One section ran near electric lines. I saw wild grapes growing in the cleared area. At first I wasn't sure but once I ate them I had no doubts. I was very happy to find them. There's something about finding something good unexpectedly in the middle of a hike.
The companion - a book describing facilities on the trail, said there was an inn along the trail with a campground nearby. Decided to eat dinner there. It was a very fancy place. I sat down at the bar and asked the bartender, "How much is a domestic beer ?" He blinked at me and said, "How much ? Well, I'll have to look it up. Nobody's ever asked me that before." - such a fancy place. Reminded me of the snobbish salesman of an expensive store who says, "If you have to ask the price you can't afford it".
Anyway, the beer wasn't that expensive - 2.85$ but the food was. As it was expensive I did not order the full course (roughly 50$) but just the entree and stuffed myself with bread. After I was done I asked for the check and they said, "Your bill is taken care of. There are some people who are going to pick up your bill because you are a hiker". I was floored. I asked the waiter to lead me to them and thanked them. They were a very nice elderly couple.
On this journey, I have been helped by so many people that I'm quite over whelmed. Living in cities in our fast paced society we become a very cynical lot. We become pessimists and see everyone as bad people. It is only when you get out of the material trance that you can get a different perspective. And all of it has been for the better. I was also strongly reminded of my conversation with Mathew (the 19 year old homeless guy). He was talking about how his mother keeps warning him that there are a lot of bad people out there. "But Ma, I have not met a single, bad person" - he says.
Non hikers, and short distance hikers normally only see the physical aspects of a thru-hike. They are quite fascinated by the miles, the pain and the basic living. Thru hikers see it as mental as in the common phrase, "Thru-hiking is 80 % mental and 20 % physical". I firmly believe that it is mostly spiritual, although it has taken me now close to 4 months to get into this mode. I can almost feel the cleansing that I am going through.
Anyway, it was dark by the time I got out of the inn. Photon light in hand I made my way to the campground and set up tarp. Most campgrounds are designed for tents and not for tarps where you need two posts or trees about 8 feet apart to tie the main string to. I had to rig a make shift tarp by tying one end to the picnic table and another to the grill. It was slanted and broad but it did the trick.
Date: September 29 2000
Trail Day: 121
Miles Today: 20
Location: Near Loudon Heights
Section Mile: AT 1125
ECT Mile: 1820
Fairly cold morning. You would need a jacket if not hiking. After an initial climb it was almost all flat. The miles just flew by. Met Gecko and Moss along the trail. There were also more local and weekend hikers because it was Friday. Plucked an apple that was very sweet - wonderful !
I was hoping to stay at the Hostel just to the north of Harpers Ferry, but they were booked up. I was quite disappointed. Continued into Harpers Ferry. This is a very important point for AT hikers - probably right next to Mt. Katahdin and Mt. Springer. It is roughly the midpoint of the trail and most flip-floppers begin/end here.
Went to a pub. The waiter was an ex-hiker called Badger. He had been hiking till about 2 weeks ago and just decided to live here - amazing. He had been hiking with Razmataz, Torn and Cinderella whom I had met in Duncannon.
Stopped by at the ATC head-quarters. They take photos of all thru-hikers and section hikers. I am # 76 south bound. I think I was 130 or so leaving Katahdin. All places to stay in Harpers Ferry are expensive so I decided to move on. I will thus be passing a big group of hikers - Cicely, Gecko, Moss, Chilly, Brisco, EZE, British Bug, Looking Glass, Hypothetical, Firebreather, Fall Girl, Springer and Still Searchin. I had almost become part of their tribe.
Sleeping in the open tonight and hoping it doesn't rain.
Here's a poem on thru-hiking and thru-hikers.
The trail with life simple and austere,
Pulls us from every sphere.
White, black, yellow and brown,
We trace our trees the world around.
Electricians, Plumbers and volunteers,
Teachers, Firemen and Engineers.
Enter the wilderness with trail names,
There's Go Slo and a Freight train.
Gypsy, Pixie and a Pack rat,
Two brothers - Captain and Acrobat.
But despite these differences and more,
We all share an inner core.
We're reaching out with wide open arms,
For something - we know not its form.
With feeble hands we grope the dark,
To catch a glimpse of life's spark.
You can see it in our eyes all glazed,
That the long, hard path is a pilgrimage.
You can hear it in our voice and speech,
That each of us is here to seek.
Date: September 30 2000
Trail Day: 122
Miles Today: 17
Location: Bear's Den Hostel
Section Mile: AT 1142
ECT Mile: 1837
Stuff kept falling all night - acorns, leafs and twigs. I realized that during fall its not just the leaves that fall but also twigs. They make quite a racket at night. Since I was sleeping with no tarp I did not want anything to fall into my eyes.
The first portion of the hike was fairly easy but towards the end there were a lot of ups and downs and I slowed down quite a bit. Also met and talked to a nice couple - the lady was from Quebec and knew about the IAT. They asked me a bunch of questions about the trail.
There were also different fruits along the trail. I sampled one of each new variety. Some taste quite good, some others are so bitter and strong that they leave a strong after taste. Stopped by at David Lesser Shelter. Took a shot. Got to Bear's Den Hostel. Its a wonderful place. The shower was just heavenly. Ate 4 burritoes and a Ben & Jerry's icecream. It would be a very nice place for a O if it had shops and such nearby.
Today I entered Virginia fully (the trail ran along the W. Virginia/Virginia border for about 15 miles). Virginia is my 13th state and a very long one. I think its about 600 miles, so I will be in it for about a month and a half.
Date: October 1 2000
Trail Day: 123
Miles Today: 19
Location: Dick's Dome Shelter
Section Mile: AT 1161
ECT Mile: 1856
Had a pint of Ben & Jerry's icecream for breakfast. Met a guy from Australia. He is touring the US for 6 months on a motor cycle. Most of the time he camps in people's backyards.
The terrain is getting quite hilly as we head into the Shenandoah's. The first 10 miles were almost all up or down. I have been wondering whether a fruit was edible. Its green about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide and has a very good, sweet taste. I asked one of the day hikers what it was. It's a pawpaw and is edible. I was quite happy. You can fill up on this easily. Also found some wild grapes. I also plucked some of the leaves. I have read that you can cook them. They do that in the Mediterranean.
Saw a turtle feeding on a little mushroom.
Mr. Turtle, red, yellow and black,
Sat on the trail, eating his snack.
A mushroom with a red top,
The recent rains have brought a good crop.
I watched him feed for quite a while,
And continued on with a big smile.
Date: October 2 2000
Trail Day: 124
Miles Today: 10
Location: Near Jim & Molly Denton Shelter
Section Mile: AT 1194
ECT Mile: 1889
Got an early start and got into Linden by 10 AM. Bought groceries and ate. Also got my mail. Kumar had sent me my CD for depositing. Suriyan had sent me another alcohol stove. Look's like he's been experimenting with them for the past month. Thanks Suriyan. Also got the next set of maps from Vivek. Also bought 3 beers to carry on the trail. Decided to take a short day - 10 miles. Drank the beer and ate the sandwiches.
Date: October 3 2000
Trail Day: 125
Miles Today: 18
Location: Gravel Springs Hut
Section Mile: AT 1212
ECT Mile: 1907
Its interesting - every time I try to find a place to tarp off the trail I think I have walked too far, only to find the next morning that I can clearly see a blaze from my spot. Same thing today.
Today was a climb up the Shenandoahs. Its not steep but goes on forever. Found numerous apple trees. Some were nice and red. Started seeing more people after I entered the SNP (Shenandoah National Park). Its very beautiful and I took several shots.
Got to the shelter. H Monster, Sweatbox and Blue were also there. I have been following their journal entries for the past few days.
Date: October 4 2000
Trail Day: 126
Miles Today: 16
Location: Near Mary's Rock
Section Mile: AT 1228
ECT Mile: 1923
Today was the first day on the AT when I could get both lunch and dinner at stores. There are several of these located along Skyline Drive. It is not at all crowded right now. The colors are in the process of changing. It is quite beautiful even now. Took some shots. shot 1, shot 2, shot 3, shot 4. The terrain is OK except for the long climbs up big mountains. Bought a book on proverbs at one of the stores.