Trail Journal

Date: October 26 2000
Trail Day: 148
Miles Today: 22
Location: VA 606 Campground
Section Mile: AT 1519
ECT Mile: 2218

Today's profile looked quite easy, but I had a hard time completing it. I am getting some minor knee pain because of all the slips on rocks. I decided to go a little easy and rest more.

Looks like Firebreather and Fall Girl are ahead while Sweet Cicily and George are behind because of a O in Pearisburg. Also Lil Debbie and Candyman. two sobo's were in Pearisburg. So I have passed them without meeting. Met a day hiker - Old Geezer, who I have met before in New Hampshire. I remembered him quite well. We talked for a while. He was the only person I met on the trail today.

Also last night some animal was prowling near my tarp for food. It did not take anything but tore up the sub wrappers.

The leaves are now almost all off of the trees. It looks quite barren and gray. But on the up side, we get more sun.

Decided to stop at the store on VA 606 and get groceries and call Vivek. They let you camp and take a hot shower for 2 $ ! It's funny - I have to take a shower and get back into the same dirty clothes. Its been at least 10 days since I have done my laundry. The store has pizza, beer, ice cream etc - a hiker's paradise. I finished off a medium loaded pizza and a pint of ice cream.

The local people now have a distinct southern twang.

Looking forward to a deep sleep tonight.

Date: October 27 2000
Trail Day: 149
Miles Today: 17
Location: Kimberling Creek
Section Mile: AT 1536
ECT Mile: 2235

Had a good sleep last night. Also dreamt that someone was walking by while I was asleep and was trying to surprise me. I decided to surprise him/her instead by shouting, but found I could not move or speak. It was odd. It was as though my body was paralyzed. I also tried to will myself to wake up but could not. I realized that the states of consciousness during sleep and otherwise are extremely different and one does not gradually go from one to the other. As a corollary I think that deep personal changes can be made best suddenly - almost a shock.

Had breakfast at the store. This is a very convenient place. There was a lot of fog. My knees were hurting all night. I think the heavier pack (due to winter clothes) and longer climbs are taking their toll. I decided to use sticks. The result was amazing. They made a big difference. I will have to ask Vivek to send me my Leki poles.

Today's profile also looked easy but turned out quite rough. Here the climbs are never over 500 ft but they are climbing or dropping all the time. Decided to do a slightly shorter day as there was no water for 6-7 miles up the trail. I was also quite tired.

Slept early. I have to do 2, 23 mile sections to get into Atkins day after tomorrow night. If not I will be out of food. The terrain looks rougher now, so it may not be possible. Let's see.

Date: October 28 2000
Trail Day: 150
Miles Today: 24
Location: Chestnut Knob Shelter
Section Mile: AT 1560
ECT Mile: 2259

4-5 of today's miles were along Wolf creek. The trail has not followed creeks since Maine. It was a good change. I have now passed Firebreather and Fall Girl. They had gone into Bland to meet Fall Girl's parents. I had passed Sweet Cicily and George in Pearisburg.

The mountains are now getting bigger as we move towards the Smokies. I think doing more than 20 miles is not a good idea anymore. The body may hold for a couple of days but then collapses. Yesterday was quite bad for me. I am also reading other sobo's going thru a similar experience now. I think its better to do a slightly lower mileage but consistently. 20 may be a good target, although I will have to do a 23 or so today to get into Atkins as I am out of food.

I barely made it into the shelter in time. Ate rice and sardines with chilli. It was excellent. Also met 2 guys from Kentucky. One of them is a transportation planner for Lexington. He knows of The Coradino Group (where I used to work) and Ken Kaltenback and Dave Ripple. Small world !

Water continues to be a problem. I picked up another plastic soda bottle on a street to use as a water bottle. Thank God for road side trash !

Date: October 29 2000
Trail Day: 151
Miles Today: 23
Location: Village Motel, Atkins
Section Mile: AT 1583
ECT Mile: 2282

Another long day into Atkins. Last night was cold - perhaps 30 F. The morning was beautiful with clear skies. There was a good view from the shelter - took a shot. It's a very nice shelter built on top of Chestnut Knob, although it doesn't have any water. Some of the trail ran through pretty valleys and meadows.

The register entries show that there are about 5 sobo's within 3 days ahead of me. I think I will see them in Damascus if they take a O.

I was extremely worn out when I got to Atkins. Did my laundry, showered and ate 1, 3 piece chicken dinner with 2 sides, 1 liver with onion dinner with 2 sides, 1 BLT with chips, 2 hot dogs with chilli and 2 milk shakes.

Called Vivek asking him to send me my Leki poles. The walking sticks make a big difference. Hopefully I will have to do very few 20+ days till I clear the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama (another 1000 miles). Now I have another 4 day, 75 miles to get into Damascus. It is considered the friendliest trail town on the AT. Also a very important point as it marks the completion of 75 % of the AT as well as the near completion (3 miles short) of Virginia - a monster of a state.

Virginia is a state where a good number of thru-hikers drop out. Its called the Virginia blues. I have read of several sobo's who have dropped out. Marlin in particular was note worthy. I had been seeing his entries for almost half the AT. He draws a shooting star like symbol with his entries and is hence easy to remember. I draw a little spider web with a spider in mine -similar to the one on the web site (Removed since).

Date: October 30 2000
Trail Day: 152
Miles Today: 23
Location: Trimpi Shelter
Section Mile: AT 1606
ECT Mile: 2305

Got a slightly late start. I did not know that the time had been shifted back. The day just flew by and it was dark by the time I got to the shelter. It was a very good day. Decided to do a 23 as the terrain was fairly easy. I probably should have stopped at 20 as there was a stream there and I could have tarped.

Sobos ahead of me now are 5th Wheel, Mr. Pink, Blond, Apollo, Man on the Moon, Mother Goose and Rabbit. I think I will see most of them in Damascus. 5th Wheel writes obscenities in the trail registers - a copy cat shock jock. The times he doesnt, he's actually quite funny.

I was very well rested after last night. I am now about 10 straight line miles from Tennessee. The trail now does a horrible meander. Its 16 straight line miles from the Mount Rogers head quarters to the town of Damascus but it is 55 miles by trail.

Also found a blaze orange vest just as I got out of Atkins. It is a good idea to wear them during hunting season. I saw 2 bow hunters today. I did not see the second one till I was 10 ft in front of him. I was shocked when he moved. He was in camouflage.

Date: October 31 2000
Trail Day: 153
Miles Today: 20
Location: Wise shelter
Section Mile: AT 1626
ECT Mile: 2325

Today's hike had two 1500 ft climbs - one to Iron mountain and another to Pine mountain. We are now at an elevation of 5000 ft. First time since the Whites. The top of Pine mountain is a bald and is very beautiful.

Met Mr. Pink, Mr. White, Mr. Blond and Fairweather at the shelter. We had a fire going and talked for a while. Also saw ponies on one of the mountain tops. the Forest Service uses them to keep the flats grazed and auctions them off every year.

The top soil has become thin once again at these elevations and the temperature has also dropped. Its going to be a cold night.

Date: November 1 2000
Trail Day: 154
Miles Today: 22
Location: Near Bear Tree Gap
Section Mile: AT 1648
ECT Mile: 2347

Fairweather is having a party at a friend's place. It seems the friend's father told Fairweather she would never finish the trail and if she did, he would throw a beer keg party with a band. Now that Fairweather has come so far he's keeping his word and there's a party on Saturday. So my plans are to do a full day today, a half day into Damascus tomorrow, take a O day, hike 15 miles with the 4 and then go to the party. Sure sounds like fun.

Last night was quite cold. I should have worn my thermal underwear. The days hike started quite sluggishly. I went on the wrong trails twice. I was quite sure I wouldn't cross 20 miles and was surprised that I did. The day was beautiful - very sunny with a fairly cold wind.

Passed Mr. Zip along the way. He's a retired postal employee and is doing a flip flop - Pearisburg - Katahdin, Pearisburg - Springer. He said he does only 13-15 miles a day.

Saw some more ponies on the way. Took a couple of shots. My pace picked up considerably the last 5 miles.

Here's a poem inspired when I was hiking into Atkin's and completed today.

Uphill Climb

A weary traveller,
After a long day,
To the next shelter,
I make my way.

I round the corner,
After an easy run,
And a forebidding hill,
Blocks out the sun.

As I hang my head,
And roll my eyes,
The little voice speaks,
And I realize.

A bed of roses,
Was never promised to me,
And as fires,
Test gold's purity,
So we are tested,
By adversity.

With heavy tread,
I now climb the hill,
Knowing my goal,
Draws nearer still.

And along with,
Other setbacks untold,
This too'll be just,
A bump on the road.

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