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!

Day 118 & 119 –

I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees. –Henry David Thoreau

Miles hiked Wednesday 18 Miles hiked today 17.5

Boy oh boy, when I don’t blog right away – I forget! What I do  remember of yesterday is that 70% of it was uphill.

I could see the mountains through the trees for most of the hike, but when I finally got to the top of one of the mountains – I had a great view.

I passed over some mountain tops that the views were obstructed.

This old chimney was all that was left from a cabin. What I remember most about yesterday is that I was soooo tired by the time I hit the RV.

While yesterday was all about the climb – today was all about the Highlands! The views were heavenly.

I could not stop taking pictures and none of them truly do it justice.

The clouds looked like snow. I could have sat there all day and just looked.

I climbed a couple of balds today – mountains with no trees on the top.

But from the balds you get some amazing vistas!

One thing that was different is I kept coming across these caterpillars. They were all on the trail and moving as fast as their little feet could go. I kept wondering…where are they headed. Because they were all moving! It was like there was a caterpillar convention close by.

I think I have my hiking legs back. So I will start picking up more mileage here soon.

Day 117 – Tennessee Turnabout 

“The saddest journey in the world is the one that follows a precise itinerary. Then you’re not a traveller. You’re a tourist.” Guillermo del Toro

Miles hiked zero.

Since we came back to finish this journey I have been trying to figure out how to end it. After climbing Katahdin, just coming to a town seemed a let down. Then I looked at a map and realized that if I continued hiking south one more day I would be at McAfee Knob.

McAfee Knob is probably the most photographed place on the Appalachian trail because of its wonderful view and a rock that hangs over a valley. I decided it is where I wanted to end this last part. So Hugh and I got in the RV and headed south to Tennessee to pickup where I left the trail.

I will now hike north once again and end up at McAfee Knob. It will be a fitting place to end this monumental hike.

Today was just a rest day. I will start hiking again tomorrow.

Day 116 – Feelin’ Like a Hiker Again

To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first. – Shakespeare

Miles hiked 15.1

Fall is here! I started today at 8:45. We spent last night in a Walmart parking lot and boy did it rain. And the temperature has dropped. It was a brisk 53° when I started walking this morning. The high today is 56. The wind was blowing up a storm when I got out of the RV to start my hike. I threw on my fleeced buff and headed up the mountain.

The rocks along the trail here seem as old as time. They’re all covered with Lichen and are peppered throughout these mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

After hiking about 45 minutes the trail winds past a small hill that had a side trail up to the top. I took the side trail and at the top I came across this small monument that someone had carried up here.

What an absolutely beautiful remembrance of someone. It was only about 8 x 10″ and it was sitting loosely on top of the other rocks,  but it took a lot of effort to haul that stone up the mountain. Someone was well loved.

The next picture is showing you what the trail looks like from above. I was going down some switchbacks and with the leaves mostly on the ground you could see the trail.

I felt like I finally got my hiking legs back today. The up hills were easier and the down hills less hurtful. And I didn’t have to stop and rest today.

The next picture is from on top of the mound, a grassy meadow that I walked over.

To get to the meadow you have to pass through these gates. There’s no closure, I guess cows aren’t smart enough or limber enough to get through.

I wanted to show you all this next blaze. It used to be 3 inches wide by 6 inches tall. That is the size of all blazes on the Appalachian Trail. But this tree had grown and the bark had stretched and now the blaze looks like a square.

It was a good day to be on the trail. I finished early and then Hugh and I took a side trip to go see Black Dog Salvage.