Day 132 – Almost There!

There’s been trials and tribulations
You know I’ve had my share
But I’ve climbed mountains, I’ve crossed a river
And I’m almost there!
– Tiana (Princess and the Frog)

Hugh dropped me off in the morning and I had a 1500 foot climb up the mountain. Toward the top, the trail opened up to a very large pathway.

Along the large pathway and at the top there were benches. And I stopped and sat on each one because… When the trail gives you a chair you take it.

At the very top of the mountain there was a memorial for Audie Murphy. He was the most decorated veteran in World War II. And the things people left for him were just amazing-dog tags, metals, poems and bracelets.

The view from the top was also very beautiful.

I was walking in a valley on the mountain and came across these trees-I thought they were spectacular.

On the mountain I also came across these large piles of rocks. There were no exclamations so I’m assuming farmers from a long time ago put them there.

Throughout the day I had excellent vistas as I walked along ridges and climbed mountains.

The mountains today were very rocky.

Toward the end of my hike I came upon a blue blaze that took me to Dragon’s Tooth. This is a very large rock. I’m not sure if you can see, but in the picture below there is a man’s head, who had climbed to the top leaning off to the right.

The hike down from Dragon’s Tooth was more of a climb down. Many times I had to put away the polls and just use my hands to ease over the rocks. My bottom got a workout too!

The autumn colors are just incredible! The leaves are falling fast and I’m afraid in a couple of more days the colors are going to be gone.

Tomorrow I will finish my journey… Until then.

Dat 131 & 132 – Walking With Shingles

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. – Colin Powell

The shingles have not stopped me, but they have slowed me down some. I have found that they do not bother me near as much when I am hiking. Maybe it’s because my side is not touching anything when I walk. I’m not sure, but I do now when I’m hiking the pain is lessened.

I have found that my gait is slower. I think with the virus in my body it makes me more tired. It has not stopped my miles-but the miles take longer.

Another thing that has slowed me down is the trees that have fallen across the trail. There were six trees across the trail on day 131 and three on 132. Sometimes it’s easy to go around them or climb over them. Other times it’s a challenge if the trail is way overgrown on both sides and the tree branches are hard to get through.

Also the streams are high lately. We’ve had our share of rain here in Virginia and it makes stream crossings more difficult.

The Virginia landscape has been incredibly beautiful with the changing of the leaves and the rolling hills. 

The pictures do not do justice to the fall colors that I have been privileged to see.

I am still passing southbound thru hikers. After they passed me I turned around and took this picture. These hikers have about 700 miles to go before they hit Springer. I have about 29 miles left!

The leaves are getting thinner on the trees and thicker on the ground. 

Below is Keffer Oak. It is the largest tree in the south on the Appalachian Trail. It is said to be over 300 years old.

Here I am standing at the base of Keffer Oak.

I walked along the Ridgeline for quite a bit of today. And the vistas were beautiful.

For about a mile on the crest of Sinking Creek Mountain, the AT passes by dozens of huge stone cairns, supposedly built by early farmers.

On and off all day long today I got sprinkled on. So it was another day of put on the raincoat take off the raincoat. I think it was one other thing that slowed me down today. I also switched from short sleeve to longsleeve and then back again more than once today.

The ridge had a lot of rock that I hiked over and the rain made them slippery.

Toward the end of today’s hike I passed the eastern continental divide. Pretty cool!

The down leaves hide the trail sometimes. And sometimes hide rocks on the trail. With a mile and a half to go I took a fall today. I have to say it was rather a spectacular one where I even did a roll once I hit the ground. I will say with all the leaves on the ground the landing was softer than usual.

Days 129 & 130 – Shingles, Snow & A Sizeable Snafu

When it rains, it pours. – Morton Salt

About six days ago I started having trouble sleeping because my side hurt. I thought I had pulled a muscle, or dislodged a rib. Right under my shoulder blade I was having a ton of pain that would keep me up, or wake me up at night. It was sore during the day too, but it didn’t seem to bother me as much when I was walking. Yesterday I broke out in a rash and realized I had shingles. The fun on the Appalachian Trail never stops!

If you have never had shingles I can only describe the pain as if someone had used you as a punching bag. You are simply uncomfortable and hurt. The strange thing is I feel much better when I’m hiking. I think there is so much more to worry about  – the rocks, going uphill, freezing your butt off, that you don’t worry about the shingles.

Shingles are a virus and they just have to run their course. So I’m going to let them and keep on walking. With that as the plan Hugh dropped me off and I hiked up a mountain only do find… Snow!

Granted it wasn’t a lot of snow, but the weather was 32° and it was cold. Immediately my feet got wet, and stayed wet for the entire day.

It was so cold on top of the mountain that I wore my puffy coat hiking all day long.

The snow had clung to the leaves and the branches of all the trees which made it very interesting when the sun came out and started melting the snow. Clumps of ice fell from the trees and of course they had to land on my head. I felt like someone was out there tossing ice cubes at me.

The snow also made it difficult at times to see the Blazes. Twice today I had to backtrack to pick up the trail when I had gone the wrong way.

Today’s hike was across a mountain ridge. As soon as I started down the snow went away and it became a beautiful day. Unfortunately that was only the last 45 minutes of my hike.

Hugh picked me up at our designated spot and we drove to the Ford dealership to find out what was going on with the RV.

We pulled in and learned that we needed a new engine. This last week of the trail has been full of surprises. Many of them bad.

The Ford dealership has ordered a new engine and it should be here Thursday morning. It will take two days for them to put the new engine into the RV. So we are without a home until Friday evening. That is if everything goes perfectly. It might be the next Monday.

So we will continue to stay in motels and use the rental car to take me back-and-forth to the trail. It looks like both the mechanic and I will be done on Friday if everything goes according to plan.

I keep thinking of the saying… Men plan, God laughs.

Day 127 & 128 – Very Up Then Very Down

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” –Forrest Gump

Miles hiked 22 first day – zero next

Hugh dropped me off at the trail and I started cruising. And I do mean cruising! What a fantastic day. The sun was out, the hills were rolling and I was on cruise control.

I was mowing down the trail. Long strides, a smile on my face, the sun on my back. By noon I had done 11 miles without even breathing hard.

Then my phone dinged with a message from Hugh. I looked down and read that the RV had broken down and he was trying to get it fixed at the Ford dealership.

I walked on waiting to hear what was going on. First he had to find a tow to get the RV to the Ford dealership. Knowing that whatever was wrong would not be fixed quick enough to pick me up – he then went and rented a car.

I of course walked and worried.

With the two dogs in the backseat, Hugh picked me up in the rental car at the designated spot and we drove back to where that RV was at Ford. On the way back the service writer called and said we might need a new engine. But they could not work on it until Monday.

Last night we spent the night in the RV while it was parked at the Ford dealership. Woke up this morning and decided to get a hotel. We also stopped by the rental car place and rented the car for a week.

I have around 115 miles left. Starting tomorrow Hugh will be using the rental car to drop me off and pick me up. We will return to the hotel each night. At least for the next three, then we might move to another one up the road if RV is not fixed.

They will start breaking the engine down on Monday-they do not work weekends. Hugh will know more on Monday. I will be walking.

Day 125 & 126 – Brrrrrr

The first day started off at 33°. With a crisp wind blowing I felt for sure that the actual temperature is lower. I headed up into the mountains. But first I had to traverse a big meadow.

By traverse I mean I had to be sure I didn’t step in the cow pies. Cows I have come to learn can be very noisy.  When you’re zooming by cows on the highway in your car they look so peaceful. But when you’re hiking next to them they are loud animals!

If you’re outside and you’re cold, here’s a hint…don’t hike up a mountain. It’s colder at the top. The wind is stronger. And there’s nowhere to hide.

As the wind picked up I put on my rain gear as a wind blocker – it helped tremendously.

I lost the trail a couple of times that day. I had to backtrack and find it. Neither time did I go very far. I am always on the lookout for the White Blazes. If I do not see them I check my map on my phone and it shows me whether or not I’m on or off the trail.

I took a side trail to visit an old cemetery. It was surrounded by a fence and badly kept. Still it was interesting to see graves dating back into the mid 1800’s.

I can’t do the autumn colors justice with my iPhone. The scenery is magnificent.

The next day was a little warmer, but still a cold morning. Walking through the rhododendrum tunnels helped block the wind.

With both my buffs on my head and two shirts to keep me warm – I looked liked E.T. walking on the Appalachian Trail!

The Virginia mountains kind of just roll. It makes for somewhat easy hiking.

The sun finally popped out in the afternoon on the second day.

I love this flower. It is a weed! I have seen it on roadsides and here and there on the trail. It is attached to a very stickery stem. Quite beautiful in my opinion.

Hiking onward!

Day 124 – Wind!

“It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

I almost quit yesterday. But they say never quit on a bad day so I went to bed got up this morning and I’m really enjoying the hike!

It is a little cool, but I can take that. It’s the miserable rain and drizzle that I have a hard time with now.

I had some sun to start out with, but it faded pretty quick going behind the clouds. Then the wind picked up and it was my challenge for the day.

Autumn is in full swing.  The colors of the trees are magnificent. The nights are cold.  I think I have about nine days left.

Over and over I think about what my dad always used to say… You can fight a bear for a day. I’m hoping that I have nine days of fight left in me… and that I do not meet any more bears.

Day 122 & 123 – Ponies Then Blah

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West

Miles hiked 43!

One day perfect weather – the next day drizzle and spitting wet. I made good time both days. The terrain was not too hard.

I had beautiful views throughout the first day.

And because it was a weekend there were many people on the trail between Damascus and the Grayson Highlands.

The Grayson Highlands was one of the things I was looking forward to on the trail. Wild ponies roam the Highlands and I desperately wanted to see them.

When I saw the first of the ponies I was passing a group of five ladies hiking. Each lady had a dog. The dogs went crazy and started chasing the ponies. I could’ve screamed!. They scattered to the ponies far and wide.

The women finally got their dogs under control, but I decided to outpace them and put on the speed. I was glad I did because I came upon another small herd. Even though they’re wild, they see so many people hiking they are not scared.

I don’t know much about horses but I’m assuming this one is pregnant.

The highlands were a beautiful place to hike.

I met this little fellow on my way to the parking lot where I met Hugh. He followed me all the way up until the gate.

On Monday I did not take many pictures because of the drizzle. Right before I ended my hike at Katahdin I dropped my phone and cracked the glass. When I got it repaired they told me it was no longer waterproofed. So I was afraid to pull out my phone in the rain and drizzle.

The fall colors in the trees are magnificent whether rain or shine. No visitors today just plodding along.

Day 121 – Into & Out of Demascus

Miles hiked 20.5

Today was a great hiking day! The weather could not have been more perfect. And the trail was kinder to me today. For the last three days when I’ve got to the RV I’ve actually taken an Advil because my feet were sore.

Not from the walking, it was from the rocks under the leaves. With all the fallen leaves it’s impossible to know what you’re putting your foot on. So for the last three days I’ve come down on rocks and roots and just kept going – there’s no other option.

Today it seemed like the trails smoothed out. Not near as many roots and rocks and my feet felt so much better.

For a tiny bit, the trail followed this rock wall. Not as elegant as some, but still an awful lot of hard work went into it.

I came across this old shelter. It’s no longer a shelter that is kept up. The guide book tells you to keep going and there’s a better one a few miles down. It was interesting to me because it was so small. I bet at the most it could hold four people.

One other thing that I’ve been meaning to mention, that I always forget, is the green grass that peppers the trail every now and then in perfect rows beside the trail. I think the grass grows like this because of all the hiker poles that aerate the ground.

This fellow did not want to share the trail today. I came very close to stepping on him, but stopped when he reared up. It is a Blacksnake that’s non-poisonous, but their bites can hurt. They help keep the mice population down on the trail.

I crossed into Virginia and went through the town of Damascus. Service is incredibly spotty and where we’re going it’s going to get even worse so this might be the last blog for a while.

Happy Trails,

Day 120 – PUDs Make for Hard Day

“Tough times never last, but tough people do.”—Robert H. Schuller

Miles hiked 19.8

It’s getting colder here. It makes me start my hike around 9 o’clock nowadays. It warms up pretty quick, but that first hour – it gets you moving.

Today I climbed up to the ridge and then followed the ridge. All day long it was up-and-down following the line of the ridge. This makes for a long day.

I would much rather climb one very tall mountain and then go down it than go up-and-down up-and-down up-and-down in little fits and starts. It seems like your legs never get in the groove.

When climbing a tall mountain your muscles become accustomed to going up, and you just climb! With the PUD’s your muscles never quite know what you want of them.

You think smaller climbs would be what a hiker would want. Not me! Especially since they are shorter up in distance the architect of this portion of the trail thought they could be steeper.

I only had one vista all day long.

I did come across this marker for a hermit that lived in these hills. I’m not sure if you can read it or not but below his name, Nick Grindstaff, it says – “Lived alone… Suffered alone… And died alone.”

I’m glad I have Hugh to go home to every day!