My Walk in the Woods, Ch 13

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on July 14, 2013 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Thirteen (July 3rd-12th)

Day 87: (CT)  10 miles to Silver Hill campsite

Early coffee with Joe then a fabulous breakfast with Joe and Lee. They are a happy affluent retired couple living a comfortable life in a quiet New England town. I enjoy staying in the childhood room of their eldest son. There are animal skulls, crude weaponry and school banners on the walls. Lee takes me to the grocery store then back home for lunch with the two tight couples. Lee and Nancy take me for a history tour of the town then drop me at the trail by 2 pm.

Easy walking along a lazy river in a steady light rain. Suddenly I meet my first ‘SOBO’ (Southbound) hiker. He is relieved to be hiking easy trail after taking a beating in Maine and New Hampshire to start his journey. I stop at a nice campsite with a pavilion and cooking area where I meet morose young man SAILBOAT and his dog. The pavilion is a handy hangout as it continues to drizzle. Later the rain stops and it is a dry, rosy sunset.

Day 88:  23 miles from Silver Hill to campsite near Salisburg

It is a cloudy Independence Day. I ponder the definition of independence as I carry my life on my back and walk towards unending novelty. I reach a tiny tourist spot called Falls Village and luckily find a café open on the holiday. I devour a freshly made Reuben sandwich, big peanut butter cookie and gulp soda while the employee finishes closing.

I take a long, refreshing break at the great falls and watch young people swim and cliff jump. Later I see an owl near a strange rock protrusion called Giant’s Thumb. I do not see any hikers all day.

Day 89: (MA)  13 miles to Hemlocks Lean-to

It starts to rain as I break camp and it continues to rain all morning. At some point I cross into Massachusetts. The trail becomes steep and rocky and the rain makes the hiking treacherous. Paradoxically, groups of high-spirited day hikers go blazing past me.

I am completely soaked when I arrive at Hemlock Lean-to at 1:30 and I decide to call it a day and dry out in the empty lean-to (aka a shelter in other states). I take a nap and am awaken by the arrival of a Ridgerunner (volunteer trail care-taker) and two section hikers. My spirits are lifted by a long evening of fellowship around the fire.

Day 90:  23 miles from Hemlocks to camp past Beertown Mtn Rd

I am grumpy this morning but still leave the lean-to before any of the others. The foggy morning does not help my mood as I climb up and down viewless viewpoints.

At a road crossing I make a sidetrip along the shoulder of the road to a farm/feedstore. I greet a large woman with torn shirt, dirty jeans and muck boots and I nearly choke on the smell of animal feed. She points to a small commercial freezer in the corner which contains locally made peach soda and ice cream.

In the afternoon I stop at Benedict Pond for a swim and chance to dry out gear. While walking through waist high brush I am startled by bear #17 (the last bear of this trek as it turns out). We both quickly go our separate ways and I eventually crash after a tiring day next to a creek below a dirt road.

Day 91:  25 miles to camp between Wash Mtn Rd and Blotz Rd

Today is a tough day mentally and physically. I feel okay in the morning but by lunch the plug is pulled and I struggle. The only relief is an energizing swim at Upper Goose Pond. The trail is monotonous into the evening. I stop at a flat rock to cook dinner then crank out a few more boring miles. I need to get close to Dalton because I am low on food.

Day 92:  17 miles to camp above gas station

I get my usual early start and push to get the eight miles into Dalton. I stop at the first café I come to near the old town ironworks and have a long awaited breakfast. I find a Laundromat and decide to wash my sleeping bag. Drying becomes a problem due to a machine malfunction and the bag takes much too long to dry in the sun. I waste time and energy walking to a country store which is closed.

I am hungry again and stop at a fantastic sandwich shop called Angelina’s. Their sandwiches are huge! I order a philly cheesesteak for lunch and greasy Italian sub to go for dinner.

I stroll through the town of Cheshire looking for more treats. As I walk the sidewalk along the road out of town, I see where the trail continues into the woods there is a bright, busy convenience store. I slug various cold drinks and carry more with me into the cover of trees. As soon as I find a nice flat spot I stop to camp. When I open my bear canister I discover all of my food is oily from the Italian sub.

Day 93: (VT)  21 miles to Seth Warner Shelter

When I get up I walk back to the convenience store for breakfast drinks and apples. This morning’s hike is a taxing climb to the highest point in MA — Mt Greylock. There is an interesting war monument at the top which is swarming with the tourists who drove up on the road I crossed several times while walking to the summit. Unfortunately, it is a hazy day so there are no views and the vending machine has no Mtn Dew.

Near lunch time I walk through the town of North Adams and run into several hikers sitting in the shade outside of a large box grocery. My cravings are overwhelming inside this air-conditioned oasis and I end up with copious amounts of Mtn Dew, ice cream and watermelon. Rapidly ingesting this combination gives me bad gas and I try to walk it off through the maze of side streets and alleys to where the trail continues along a creek at the end of a quiet street.

It begins to rain just as I step off pavement and I stop to put on raingear. Nevertheless I am drenched by the time I arrive at the crowded shelter (in Vermont). I am reluctantly allowed a small space to lay my sleeping pad but I have to leave my pack covered outside of the shelter.

Day 94: (VT)  26 miles from Warner Shelter to Kid Gore Shelter

Not much to say except it is a long hard day. The hike is boring until the expansive views at the crowded Glastonbury Fire Tower. The flies are obnoxious at the base of the tower due to all the day hikers eating lunch there so I do not linger to socialize. Fortunately, the day is cooler and I make it to a less crowded shelter for the night.

Day 95: (VT)  24 miles from Kid Gore to camp near road to Manchester Center

Another long day on the trail as I begin to anticipate the final leg of this journey. Today involves a climb to Stratton Mtn then a descent to Stratton Pond. In the afternoon the cool weather and easier terrain allows me to push past Spruce Peak so I can camp close to the road to Manchester Center, my next mail drop.

Day 96: (VT)  early hitch to Manchester Center

I am up early and quickly motor the two miles to the road. Even though it is before 6 am I get a ride from a guy headed to work. I am dropped off in downtown Manchester Center but not much is open so I get a soda from a spotless Mobile station (after washing up in their nice restroom) and wait on a bench outside of a restaurant appropriately called ‘Up for Breakfast’.

While waiting, an old guy with a newspaper walks up and we start chatting. When he learns that I graduated from the University of Texas he gets very excited and offers to buy me breakfast. We swap southern stories and become a loud nuisance to the other patrons.

I spend the morning doing my usual town chores: laundry, grocery shopping, take my camera to a photo processing center. The post office is across town and I send photos to my wife after I pick up my packages. I am not ready to head back to the trail so I find a quiet pub for a leisurely lunch and a few beers.

I sit in the dark pub until late in the afternoon. Finally, an old surfer dude enters and we chat. He is in town for a horse show. After a few more beers he agrees to give me a ride back to the trail. In the evening I haul my full pack up to the Bromley Peak ski lift, take a break then drop down to Styles Peak Camp.

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 12

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on June 20, 2013 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Twelve (June 24th-July 2nd)

Day 78: (NJ)  18 miles from DWG to almost Crater Lake

I have breakfast with the OVER THE HILL GANG then I wait for the post office to open. With my gear packed, I walk across the Delaware River bridge and into New Jersey. I notice an immediate improvement in the trail. It is a cool day with a breeze and I gently climb to nice open views of rolling hills.

When I reach a dirt road I turn and begin what turns out to be a long uphill detour to the Mohican Center Lodge where I purchase 3 measly Mtn Dews. The hilltops have nice views and at one point I climb a fire tower where I take a long break. In the afternoon I see bear #14 in the brush only about 20 yards away. At camp I notice more mosquitos than usual.

Day 79: (NJ)  21 miles to camp on ridge above Rutherford Shelter

Today is a nice day and I get into a slow, relaxed pace. I see bear #15 in the brush (photo) and we exchange greetings. I approach the road at Culver Gap and I see a small bear (#16) run across the road and disappear into the green foliage. When there is a break in the traffic, I follow the bear then walk a short distance down the road to a deli. I order a large italian sub and grab three 20 oz Mtn Dews and sit outside to dine. Before I head back to the trail, I finally remove the filthy, wrinkled wristband from Trail Days. Later in the day I get nice views from Sunrise Mtn and the impressive Culver Fire Tower.

Day 80: (NJ)  23 miles to Vernon church hostel

I am very tired this morning and it is taking a long time to loosen up my legs. The light rain and humidity make me grumpy and I look for any excuse to get off the trail. I hitch to a country store for a sandwich and the friendly employee lets me into the back office so I can access the internet.

At another crossing I easily hitch to another country store. The talkative driver tells me about the church hostel up ahead. My third hitch of the day takes me into Vernon. I meet two other hikers staying in the cavernous basement hostel at the church within blocks of fast food and grocery.

A note next to a recipe filebox informs us to choose a chore from the box to complete during our stay. I eagerly choose to organize folders, magazines and paperwork as a way to exercise my numb brain for a change. Everything is available and orderly: shower, laundry, internet, television, books, music, games. Me and the couple walk to fast food heaven followed by ice cream followed by watching ‘Lost in Space’ episodes in the basement. I spread my sleeping bag out on the carpeted floor and fall into a restful sleep.

Day 81:  21 miles from Vernon to Mombasha High Pt

I get up at 5:30, pack up quietly, leave the church basement and walk over to the A&P for supplies and then next door to a bagel place for breakfast. Just as I step back to the road, the first car that comes along stops to give me a ride. A young dude on his way to work in his crappy car wearing his unwashed overalls complains about his boss for the entire ride. A potent reminder of life off the trail.

There is a lot of tough ridge walking today. At one road crossing I come across a local creamery that is packed with tourists. I stop for some wonderful ice cream and cream soda. I kill some time talking to the cute girls at the next table. At the end of the day I camp away from the mosquitoes on Mombasha High Point and reflect while watching a nice sunset.

Day 82:  17 miles to camp at Black Mtn

I am so freakin tired today but the trail doesn’t care and throws a hard, humid morning at me. There are some exhausting stretches such as the Lemon Squeezer that push me into the red zone.

Salvation arrives in the form of a popular recreational lake/park which has showers and vending machines. Back on the trail away from the crowds I pitch the tent to protect me from bugs and take an afternoon siesta. When I wake up it is cooler and the trail takes me to Black Mtn. I camp near a nice lookout spot and watch a lightning show to the south at nightfall.

Day 83: (NY)  21 miles to camp at Dennytown Rd picnic area

Another tough day. It starts with a big climb up and over Bear Mtn to a popular state park that has long been a get-away for urban vacationers in this area. As I walk through the picnic area I see a large black woman sitting at a table surrounded by food and drink. I decide to use my yogi skills to procure a hand-out. She is an extremely friendly, engaging person who enjoys my company and we wait for the rest of her family to arrive. I excuse myself as their party gets going and I continue my journey with a light heart.

This is a unique section of trail. Believe it or not, the trail travels through a small zoo. It is a bit sad to see bears behind bars after seeing so many in the wild. After exiting the zoo there is a busy bridge crossing the Hudson River. I continue on concrete sidewalk to Ft Montgomery where I make a sidetrip to my first authentic NY deli. A big italian sub gives me a boost through an afternoon thunderstorm.

I hike late into the evening to a lonely picnic area where I camp in the grass. A light rain continues as I watch from my tent.

Day 84: (NY)  20 miles from picnic area to Morgan Stewart Shelter

I am slow to get going again today. The highlight of this mundane day is a long sidetrip along a lonely road to a deli in sleepy Stormville. A very hiker friendly place, I receive a massive sandwich along with my ubiquitous soda. I take my gear around the back to a lawn where I dry out. More road walking followed by an easy four trail miles to the shelter

Day 85:  21 miles to Schaghticoke Mtn

An unremarkable day punctuated by one delightful interpersonal experience with Bradley the Hot Dog Vendor. Bradley has his Winnebago parked at a rest stop where the trail crosses a divided roadway. He retired a few years ago, bought the RV and now spends his summers selling hot dogs, chips and drinks out of his window to hikers and motorists. Bradley clearly loves people and he wants to know all about where I am from and what I do. An outstanding example of the wonderful characters I meet on this journey.

Day 86: (CT)  6 miles to Kent, CT

It is a short hike to the town of Kent. The last mile I cruise along a country road and pass an impressive ivy covered prep school. In this neat and clean town I check out the outfitter store then have breakfast at the market counter. After stopping at the post office I call Joe Rush who is good friends with my personal training client in Eugene. He arrives shortly and gives me a ride to his lovely home in New Milford, CT.

Joe and wife Lee are the quintessential uppercrust New Englanders. They are also fantastic hosts and I have a pleasant, restful stay in this sleepy town. Their friends Gil and Nancy come over for dinner and everyone is fascinated by my stories and they ask questions until late in the evening.

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 11

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on June 20, 2013 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Eleven (June 17th-23rd)

Day 71: (PA)  11 miles to Doyle Hotel, Duncannon, PA

It is an easy hike into Duncannon, considered by hikers to be the biggest party town on the trail, hence the nickname — “Drunkcannon”. The reason for this is the rundown dive Doyle Hotel where all the hikers stay and drink in the large saloon. I arrive at 11 am, the staff are friendly but the place is a dump. I leave my gear in the dank room, do laundry and contemplate an icky shower. I have a beer at the bar where I meet more arriving hikers. A short walk to the post office then back to the bar as hikers continue to appear.

At four a van shuttles hikers to the grocery store. Back to the bar for burgers and beers as the place swells with trail folk. Flashback to dormitory parties in college. A late arriving hiker needs a place to sleep so I offer the floor in my room. As I nod off to sleep the party continues downstairs.

Day 72: (PA)  19 miles from Duncannon to Horshoe Trail

I get up early and check out of the nasty Doyle. I am a bit hungover and order a big breakfast at a tiny diner on the edge of town but when the food arrives my stomach is upset and I (shockingly) do not finish the meal.

On the trail I catch up to WRONGWAY and PEANUT whom I met at the Doyle. WRONGWAY has snake tattoos on his arms and I discover why later in the day when I watch him poke his trekking pole under some rocks then reach down and snatch a large timber rattlesnake by the back of the head. He is too eager to let us get a close look at the writhing, rattling reptile and I get a massive adrenaline rush which propels me for miles down the trail.

In the evening there is a brief shower followed by a rosy sunset as I smoke the last of the Waynesboro weed.

Day 73: (PA)  27 miles from Horshoe Trail to 501 Shelter

A long day of walking PA’s rocky ridges. At a road crossing I meet trail angel Stuttering Ron who hands me an apple and a Christian comic book about Adam & Eve. I am confused by the symbolism of him offering me the forbidden fruit but it is tasty.

In the afternoon I arrive at interesting 501 shelter. It is a large circular structure with a huge dome skylight in the center of the ceiling and bunkbeds around the perimeter. It has a solar shower and a phone to make pizza orders. I get here with WRONGWAT and PEANUT then several more hikers show up later. We get a big delivery of Italian food and enjoy a pleasant evening.

Day 74: (PA)  25 miles from 501 Shelter to Port Clinton

I quietly pack up and am the first out of the shelter. It is a nice morning with few bugs and I crank out another big day. I arrive in Port Clinton by 4:30 and shop at the outfitter store. I eat crab cakes and chowder while swilling beers with locals at the Union House.

I walk over to the pavilion at the small city park where hikers are allowed to sleep. I leave my gear and walk to the Port Clinton Hotel bar where I find more hikers I recognize from Duncannon. Everyone ends up at the pavilion and it is difficult to sleep because of the noisy chatter.

Day 75: (PA)  22 miles from Port Clinton to Allentown Shelter

A profane former hiker named DIRTY BAG OF TRICKS stops by early and gives some of us a ride to 3C’s for breakfast. When I return to the pavilion I grab my familiar pack and beeline to the woods while it is still cool.

It is the summer solstice which is traditionally ‘Hike Naked Day’ for the uninhibited hiker. I usually include myself in that category however, it is Saturday and I am on a popular climb to Pulpit Rock. There are big church groups I have to pass as well as ill-prepared city people with poor trail manners. By the time I move beyond the crowd I have lost my mood to walk au naturel.

When I arrive at the shelter it is empty but a troop of boy scouts have taken all of the tent sites so I have the shelter to myself.

Day 76: (PA)  28 miles from Allentown Shelter to camp past [Del?? Springs]

It is a humid morning and a light rain ensures a humid day. At an empty shelter I find the journal of a hiker ahead of me so I carry it to the next shelter but he is not there so I leave it with a note.

It is a rocky, steep hike out of Lehigh Gap but the views are great on the open slopes. Apparently a fire years ago burned all of the trees on the ridge so there is no shade and I get overheated. At Little Gap I get a fast hitch downhill to a little store in Danielsville where I load up on Mtn Dew and chips. I do not have to wait long for a ride back to the trail where I finally find some shade. The rocky trail and high humidity takes a toll but I still put in a monster day trying to get the hell through this keystone state.

Day 77: (PA)  22 miles to Delaware Water Gap church hostel

Another rocky, humid bitch of a day! I get dehydrated early so I take a small detour at Wind Gap to the Gatewood Motel where I find a vending machine. I slam 64 oz of Mtn Dew into my system. This gives me the jolt I need to continue.

Anticipation gives me energy later in the day as I approach my next maildrop/re-supply town of Delaware Water Gap. This means the end of the PA pounding! I find my way to the well known hiker hostel at a church on the hill above town. I meet many new hikers in the basement of the church. One very tall old man is a multiple triple crowner (AT, CDT, PCT) named Silver. We all walk into town and I have a philly cheesesteak sandwich with lots of soda for dinner.

Back at the hostel there are stories to tell, chores to do and chaos to rule.

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 10

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on June 1, 2013 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Ten (June 8th-16th)

Day 62: (VA)  Ride to trail, 15 miles to Dick’s Dome Shelter

I pack up, check out and stop at the large, bright Martin Market for donuts and OJ. Luckily, I get a hitch at this hour from a guy headed to work. When I get to the trail it is already hot and humid so my pace is a crawl. The humidity at mid day is unbearable and I am so sleepy I lie down at an empty shelter and take a nap.

I am awaken by the arrival of JACKAROO and BRIARPATCH. They are a couple of good ole boys with deep southern accents. The three of us hike together in the afternoon and stay in unusual Dick’s Dome Shelter. We enjoy a happy hour drink from my bottle of Don Julio before dinner.

Day 63: (VA)  18 miles from Dick’s Dome to Bear’s Den Hostel

Warm night, bugs and bowels are my wake-up call. I am on the trail by dawn; I want to get the miles in early while it is cooler. After lunch I arrive at the dreaded “roller coaster” — a particularly difficult stretch of trail. I try to take it easy but I get overheated and worry about dehydration as my water supply dwindles. Just as I think I am at the brink of collapse, I reach an oasis called Bear’s Den Hostel.

This is a feast for the eyes as I climb the short side trail to a hilltop castle which had been donated and converted to a hiker hostel. It is currently being run by the sweet couple who greeted me at the door. They offer a $20 Hiker Special which includes: A bunk bed, shower, internet, a self baked frozen pizza using their large communal kitchen oven, and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I wash my clothes while in the shower then take them out to the clothesline to dry. Other hikers arrive, we take turns in the kitchen cooking our pies then sit around and chat while a movie plays on the VCR.

Day 64: (WV)  20 miles from Bear’s Den to Harper’s Ferry

After packing, I buy soda pop for breakfast and leave Bear’s Den before anyone stirs. It is a warm morning but the terrain is gradually getting easier. In the afternoon a thunderstorm cools the stagnant air. I am pushing the pace to get to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters in Harper’s Ferry before they close. This is the psychological halfway point of the journey and every hiker registers at the ATC.

Harper’s Ferry has such historical significance the entire old town has been preserved as a national landmark. As the trail brings me within view I feel like I have been taken back in time. I see shops with small doorways, cobbled streets and a white steeple piercing the sky above the lazy river. As I walk up the main street I look into the shops and I envy the people sitting at cozy tables outside the pubs and cafes. I find my way to the ATC HQ just before closing but am told I will have to come back tomorrow.

I stride the broken sidewalk past tiny homes towards the newer part of town near the highway. I see a Comfort Inn and get a room. After a highly anticipated hot water sterilization, I call for delivery of a veggie stromboli from a local pizza place and watch game #3 of the NBA finals.

Day 65: (MD)  7 drunk miles from Harper’s Ferry to Ed Garvey Shelter

After checkout and breakfast, I find the library and use the computer. At the post office I pick up my mail which includes a new pair of shoes, yay! I try them out by getting back on the trail and I walk back towards old town, stopping at the famous Jefferson Rock to watch the river flow by. I arrive at the ATC HQ midmorning and get my picture taken for the registry (hiker #278). I meet more hikers and hang around until lunch.

I head down mainstreet past outfitters shops to an old cafe with a shaded veranda in the back. As I start my second beer, UPHILL and SKYSURFER show up. I find out they are both getting off the trail today when the train arrives in a few hours. We eat, drink, laugh and lounge the afternoon away. We make the fuzzy walk to the station and we takes sips of bourbon out of a bottle until it is time to say goodbye to my occasional travel companions.

I am quite drunk as I stagger across the Potomac River and lurch along the C&O canal path until the AT resumes. My head clears as I slowly climb until I reach the shelter and crash.

Day 66:  20 miles from Ed Garvey Shelter to Pogo Memorial campsite

Much cooler, easy hiking in the morning. I see several civil war memorials such as the War Correspondents Arch. I stop for a free shower at Dahlgren Campground. The rest of the day is full of interesting sights such as the first Washington Monument at Boonesboro, MD, the I-70 footbridge and Annapolis Rocks. I drink anejo at camp while listening to MAESTRO play guitar and sing.

Day 67: (PA)  19 miles from Pogo campsite to Deer Lick Shelter

My first view of the day is at High Rock whose sloping ramp is supposedly a launch for hanggliders. Later on I take a break at immaculate Pen Mar County Park. There are nice views of green valleys and a barn sized pavilion with an ample wooden dance floor and stage. I meet a nice older gentleman at the first aid hut and buy two sods from him. Ten minutes later he reluctantly sells me two more from his private stock.

I enter PA and at state road 16 I hitch to Rouzenville for resupply at Wal-Mart and a superb AYCE steak buffet dinner at Blonde’s. After getting a ride back to the trail I let the meal digest with a short, easy walk to inviting Deer Lick Shelter.

Day 68: (PA)  18 or 19 miles from Deer Lick Shelter to camp in laurel bushes before Birch Run Shelter

I have a hard time getting started this morning and my pace is slow and plodding. Just before mid day I take a long break at popular Caledonia State Park which has a public swimming pool with showers, coin-op laundry, and an unsatisfactory food concession.

The next few shelters come in pairs and the trail is so well maintained not a loose rock or twig can be found on the treadway. I come around a bend and see many hikers milling around Quarry Gap shelter, considered the Taj Mahal of shelters on the AT.

The floor of one is painted red and the other is green. They are connected by a covered area with picnic tables and a firepit. The rock walkways are lined with colorful petunias. A hiker is trying to reduce her pack weight by giving away incredible homemade chocolate chip cookies from a large plastic bag.

This sensory overload gives me the energy to charge into a light rain through a spectacular tunnel of white mtn laurel. I spy a soft campsite a few yards off the trail in the fragrant bushes and I crash early and get a restful sleep.

Day 69: (PA)  Easy walk to Pine Grove Furnace SP

A non-taxing walk to Pine Grove Furnace State Park. There is an old rustic store with a covered seating area of large wooden tables where gas pumps used to be. This is the site of the traditional half gallon ice cream challenge to mark completion of half of the Appalachian Trail.

I go inside and discover they have a limited supply of flavors so I pick the least hideous for the task: Vanilla Cherry Chip.  The fact that I do not come close to finishing the challenge is the least interesting part of the experience. Along with a few other hikers I meet my first eccentric hiker groupie (pictured sitting behind me). Apparently she drives down from Philly on the weekends to stay at the hostel and talk to the hiker trash. She looks like she stepped out of an Eddie Bauer catalogue but I doubt her boots have touched a trail.

Day 70: (PA)  Boiling Springs, over interstate to shelter?

A few minor bumps in the morning then the trail cuts through rolling fields of wheat on the way to Boiling Springs. As I enter this lovely town, there are stately homes with manicured lawns on lakeside property with swans floating on the calm water.

I stop at a cafe and leisurely eat good soup and sandwich on the patio while watching people go by. After lunch the flat valley walking is easy and I cross over a couple of turnpikes and interstates. A light refreshing shower passes overhead before I get to the shelter.

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 9

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on June 1, 2013 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Nine (June 2nd-7th)

Day 56: (VA)  14 miles from Rockfish Gap to camp past Calf Mtn Shelter

We all get up and go to Weazie’s for breakfast, then the post office followed by the library for the internet. Trail magic happens at the library when I run into ROZ whom I met on the trail earlier and lives in Waynesboro. She offers me a ride to the trail so we drive to the Y, pack my stuff and stop at the local outfitter and Kroger for supplies before dropping me off at Rockfish Gap.

It is a beautiful sunny day as I head down the smooth trail into Shenandoah National Park. At the park sign I smoke some Virginia Skank and savor an easy afternoon walk past a nasty shelter (Calf Mtn?) to an unmemorable camp. I write this bit of sarcastic movie monologue in the shelter’s logbook: “Look at this shelter,…its a DUMP! To stay in a shelter like this you should get a bowl of soup. Oh, but it looks good to YOU!” –Rodney Dangerhawk, “Caddy Shelter”

Day 57: (VA)  20 miles from camp to Pinefield Hut

It is a quiet , easy morning of walking on smooth dirt trail. For a few miles during the hot part of the day, the trail circumnavigates Loft Mtn less than a mile from the top. There is a small store at the summit and there are three side trails to the store about a mile apart.

I take the first side trail and like a guided missile head directly to the store’s cooler. Lo and behold they have a six pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale! Along with the essential Mt Dew, I grab two beers and sit at a picnic table outside for a nice break. By the time I hike back to the AT and get to the next side trail, I am thirsty again. I trudge back up to the store and slam two more Pale Ales. Again I labor down to the AT. All I can think of is those last two beers. When I get to the last side trail I consider the extra miles and energy required for a third climb but I only hesitate a second before turning toward the blue blaze trail and the remaining West Coast ales.

My eyes try to focus on bear #3 as it attempts to hide from my tottering gait. I meet a queer hiker named ROBIN HOOD at the shelter. It starts to rain as I cook dinner and we get rain and lightning all night. 

Day 58: (VA)  23 miles from Pinefield to camp on wet ridge

A long day of hiking; I see bear #4 standing on hind legs sniffing the air. I get to Lewis Mtn Campground at 4:30. The store, laundry and shower room closes at six so I have to hustle. While getting these chores done I drink five beers (two in the shower).

I hike about a mile to Bearfence Shelter thinking I will use the shelter because storm clouds are building for an inevitable storm. The shelter is full when I arrive and I recognize some of the hikers. One of them pulls out a big fattie and we pass it around.

At this point I am feeling no pain so I decide to push on into the impending storm. I give everyone my standard “Aloha!” farewell and charge into the trees just as the first crack of thunder shakes the forest. I keep climbing toward the higher ridges as the thunder and lightning get more intense and the rain pours out of the sky. I hike until the storm passes then I find an adequate flat spot and make a wet camp.

Day 59: (VA)  18 miles from camp to cowboy camp on rocks near pinnacles

Today is the day of the bear.  As I get going I immediately see  bear #5 foraging for food in the brush. Later I walk through a boggy creek area and am startled by the sound of a large body breaking twigs as it moves out of the bushes into the clearing. It is the largest bear (#6) I have ever seen and it is coming my direction. I would love to photograph this behemoth but he is not stopping to pose so I hurry along.

I get to a road with a sidewalk that will take me to the Big Meadow store. As I walk the concrete footpath, I see a group of tourists stopped along the road with cameras clicking. I see a sow and her two cubs calmly going about their business as the mob of gawkers increase. I watch this fascinating scene for twenty minutes.

The power was knocked out at the store from last night’s storm so there is no hot breakfast available. A sympathetic employee gives me a couple of sodas from the dark cooler in the shadows. I take the sidewalk back to the AT. More effortless walking on well maintained trail to the Skyland Restaurant. I eat a big lunch with beers and dessert then sit in the shade at an empty picnic table and smoke pot until I feel ready to continue the day’s hike.

There are plenty of good views in the afternoon and I stop at the pinnacles to cowboy camp on the rocks. It is breezy but I still get eaten by bugs. I take a photo at sunset which becomes my avatar for this blog.

Day 60: (VA)  20 miles from cowboy camp to camp near South Marshall Mtn

I wake up early from a surprisingly comfortable cowboy camp on the rocks. It is warm and buggy this morning. Around noon I arrive at the rustic Elk Wallow Wayside Grill and order a tasty burger, milkshake and beers.

I see a sow and cub moving through the brush. The momma is making clucking noises as the cub follows her into the forest. I camp near the S Marshall Mtn viewpoint hoping to find a breeze but it does not help. I watch weird cloud formations as I lie on top of my sleeping bag, too hot to sleep.

Day 61: (VA)  Exit Shenandoah NP, hitch to Front Royal

The weekend is bringing out the tourists so it is the end of my solitude. Before exiting the park I see bears # 12 and #13. I am downwind of one which allows me to get closer and watch as it stretches on a tree, arms overhead clawing the bark. The sound of my camera turning on spooks it before I can get a picture.

It is an easy walk to a road and I get a quick hitch to Front Royal by a woman who jokes she may ask me to duck in my seat if she sees her husband in town. After shopping at the outfitter, I stroll through downtown to the Scottish Inn. I use their laundry to clean my pack and sleeping bag. While washing my clothes, I have to walk around in my stifling raingear as a digital sign reads 94 degrees.

I find an air-conditioned BBQ restaurant and drink four Magic Hat beers with dinner. Back in the room this evening I get the munchies and go to Spelunker’s for a big ice cream sundae. I am still hungry so I order a hamburger and milkshake.

Sidetrack: Shenandoah NP summary civilized hiking; Beers 16 vs Bears 11

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 8

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on June 1, 2013 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Eight (May 29th-June 1st)

Day 52: (VA)  18 AT miles and 2 dirt road miles from Brown Mtn Creek to Dutch Haus B&B, Monticello

I get out of the tent to pee and see it is a warm morning. I take a food inventory and calculate mileage to the next food resupply and realize I have a problem. When I can’t find a good creek for several miles I begin to panic. I try to conserve energy with a slow pace as I labor up and down hot, monotonous ridges. I am clearly suffering from dehydration when I finally stumble upon a magical spring.

After a stressful day of hiking I reach Fish Hatchery Rd and make a ‘spur’ of the moment descision and turn down the dirt road towards Montecello where I have heard there is a stellar B&B. I trudge downhill on a gravel road for 1.5 miles and cross a gate to paved road for another half mile when a guy in a pick-up drives up and offers me a ride to the Dutch Haus B&B.

He leaves me at an incredible country home with the most hospitable people I have ever met. They lead me to laundry and shower facilities. When I am presentable I meet the other guests and gorge on delicious appetizers. Suddenly, here comes ABOMAN and RETREAD. It is a lively scene at dinner and after. Our hosts have a strict No Alcohol policy but in our room, ABOMAN and I discreetly finish the Maker’s Mark I have been carrying.

Day 53: (VA)  1.5 dirt road miles plus 18 AT miles from Monticello to Maupin Field Shelter

What an awesome breakfast! Our hosts arrange for us to get a ride to a small store then we are dropped off at the gate to the gravel road. We take our time on the 1.5 mile climb back to the trail because the morning is already warm. There are nice views at Spy Rock and The Priest then a big descent to the Tye River. I am looking forward to a soak in the water but it looks nasty so I reluctantly change my mind. To make matters worse, I spend the rest of the afternoon climbing three hot ridges.

Late in the day I scramble atop a rock outcrop for cell service and call my wife. We have a good conversation and I enjoy much cooler hiking to camp at the shelter.

Day 54: (VA)  Maupin Field Shelter to Rockfish Gap, ride to Waynesboro YMCA

I am very tired today. My legs are wore out and I feel sleepy. There are a few hazy views then the trail becomes boring. I stop at Wolf Shelter to cook lunch and I meet BEAR SQUARED and VAN DYKE. ABOMAN makes a brief stop then blazes through.

Later there is a quick rains shower followed by thick mugginess. I keep pushing to get to the road at Rockfish Gap where I plan to get off for resupply in Waynesboro. When I arrive at the visitor center, I meet three hikers who tell me they have called a trail angel for a ride into town and I am able to get a ride with them. We are dropped off at the Waynesboro YMCA which allows hikers to camp on the grass behind the Y where a very polluted river sludges by.

Free shower at the YMCA, locker room scale says 176 lbs. I walk about a mile to downtown mainstreet when I catch this tantalizing smell of smoked meat which leads me to a tiny BBQ restaurant. A large black man gives me an effusive greeting and precedes to bring out many courses and large portions of delicious southern food on no frills butcher paper. When he offers me a second free giant slice of cake I have to refuse.

Next door I see a tattoo shop with some inked juveniles hanging out front. I amble over, show some ink and meet the crew. I talk to the one named Luke about scoring some weed. We hang out until the shop closes at 9 then Larry (new ink), Luke, Adam and I drive to a dead end road to smoke out. I tell funny trail stories. Luke and I plan to meet tomorrow for a possible score. This works well for me as I have to stay over until Monday for my mail.

Back at camp, the tent is too hot and I am too stoned so I go for a walk and end up at an all night, air conditioned Krogers where I pick up some cold beers and donuts. It is well after midnight when I fall asleep.

Day 55:  Zero in Waynesboro, VA

A zero day but I still end up walking several miles. Starting the day adle-brained and my bowels on the offensive. I walk my clothes to a laundramat across from Weazies Restaurant. I have a big breakfast with BEAR SQUARED and return to camp.

Later I call names on the Angel list for a ride to Walmart. The first guy I call (KRISPY) refuses for anti-corporate reasons. I get my photos developed and shop. I am waiting outside asking for a ride when two young men readily agree. We hop into their ratty jeep and the driver immediately cranks up the stereo and shouts, “Listen to this!”. It turns out they are in a Christian Heavy Metal band and I was listening to their demo CD.

Another free shower, then I am drinking beer at camp when UPHILL and SKYSURFER show up. We head to Gavin’s for a buffet (aka: AYCE) dinner. I excuse myself as they head back for thirds so I can call Luke for the hook-up. He picks me up and we head for the dealer’s house. We are invited into the smoking den and we share the bong for a few rounds. I make a deal for lesser weed then Luke drops me back at camp and I lie down and watch the tent spin. The boys return with beers and we watch a loud drunk across the street make a fool of himself. Fun day.

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 7

Posted in My Narcissisms, Trail Tales with tags on May 6, 2013 by A lo Hawk

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

Chapter Seven (May 19th-28th)

Day 42: (VA)  20 miles from Dismal Falls trail to Angel’s Rest

It is a beautiful, sunny morning and the walking is easy. At my mid-morning rest stop I unpack my gear at a sun-drenched spot and dry everything out. The trail begins to climb to ridges as the clouds return. I follow the ridges to a rocky overlook called Angel’s Rest. The trail from here descends steeply to Pearisburg (which I plan to visit tomorrow) so I find a well protected camp site between the walls of two massive rocks of the overlook. It begins to drizzle as I set up my tent and I rush through a tasteless dinner just as the serious rain begins.

Day 43: (VA)  22 miles from Angel’s Rest to Pine Swamp Shelter

It was a wet night and my tent is soaked. I pack up camp and eagerly make the steep drop to a county road where the art deco neon of Wade’s Market floats in the morning fog. Inside the old store the ceiling is low and the flourescent lights are discolored. I order two pre-made egg sandwiches from the helpful lady behind the glass display case in the deli section then grab 48 oz of caffeinated soda.

After breakfast, I head past the market and follow the white blazes down the road and across a creek to where the trail resumes up a grassy slope and into the trees. I continue climbing back to the ridges where the walking gets easier and the day remains cloudy and windy.

I reach the shelter and discover a tree had fallen on the shelter destroying the roof. The tree had been removed but the roof had not been rebuilt. I notice a fellow hiker camped nearby so I go over and meet my new traveling companion. ABOMAN is a sophisticated southern gentleman who likes his Kentucky bourbon in the evening. His trailname is short for ‘Aboriginal Man’ because of his ability to use the bow method to start a fire. He tells me a humorous story of his recent stay in Pearisburg:

This morning as he was packing his gear to leave the motel he noticed his wallet was missing. He searched his room frantically, turning his pack inside out. Getting desperate, he hurried through town stopping at all the businesses he had visited yesterday but no luck. I could not believe where he says he finally found it — IN HIS SHOE. It had been there since putting his shoes on this morning but his feet were so hammered he didn’t feel the lump!

 Day 44: (VA)  18 miles from Pine Swamp Shelter to Laurel Creek Shelter

In the morning I approach wide and swift Storey Creek. There is no bridge so I wade right in without breaking stride. The round slick rocks slow me down but the ford gives me a refreshing morning jolt. I stop to filter water and wash up. In the afternoon I am back to ridges with nice views at well named Windy Rock and partly cloudy skies at Kelly Knob.

Day 45: (VA)  21 miles from Laurel Creek to Trout Creek

Today is clear and sunny with a cool breeze. I labor up long climbs to easy flat ridges. Before lunch I see a large Texas flag hanging from a tree. Then I see a marker to a side trail and follow it to the Audie Murphy monument. Apparently the decorated WWII hero and actor was killed in a plane crash at this spot. (I find out tomorrow he was from Texas and a fellow Texan hiker left his flag at the monument as a memorial.)

Later I hike up and over two big ridges including the Eastern Continental Divide at Shrinking Mountain. All along the trail everyone is talking about the legendary Homeplace Restaurant in Catawba. I plan to be there when they open tomorrow after I pick up my mail at the post office.

Day 46: (VA)  17 miles from Trout Creek to camp 2 miles past Catawba Mtn Shelter

The morning starts out overcast and warm with lots of rocky climbs but the afternoon turns sunny and overall it is a great day of hiking. There is a long climb through tunnels of blooming laurel to an outstanding rock outcrop called Dragon’s Tooth. I stop for a long break here and take my turn scrambling to the pinnacle for awesome views.

The trail drops to a gap where it crosses road 311. I turn toward Catawba and walk along the shoulder down the hill to town. Actually, calling it a town is generous as it is basically a post office, a store and the famous family style restaurant, The Homeplace, each across the road from the other.

I begin at the store for cold beverages then pick up my re-supply box at the post office. I sit in the shade while I reload my food canister with dehydrated dinners and miscellaneous toiletry items. I wander over to the gazebo in front of the restaurant where hikers are already assembling. I hook up with ABOMAN and another hiker to share a table.

The restaurant is in a beautifully restored and furnished farmhouse surrounded by bucolic green fields No reservations are allowed; no take-out, alcohol or menus — it is family style all you can eat. They always have their famous fried chicken and roast beef (Thursday is BBQ) with cornbread and corn on the cob with sweet tea. Endless side dishes include mac & cheese (terrific!), cole slaw, green beans as well as every potato dish imaginable except french fried. I agonize over their dessert choices but go with the classic cherry pie a la mode. All of this for a ridiculous $13.

The hikers eventually trickle out of the dining nirvana and recline on the grass like the cows in the next field. When I finally feel like walking, I barely get my toes to the road when a helpful motorist stops and asks me if I need a ride back to the trail. Magic! When I get to Catawba Mtn Shelter I stop to chat with ABOMAN then hike another two miles to a nice trailside camp.

Day 47: (VA)  18 miles from camp to Troutville Motel

It was a rainy night but it is a beautifully clear, cool morning as I hike toward one of the most celebrated viewpoints on the trail: McAfee Knob. I have the hazy views all to myself and I follow the trail along the cliff edge eventually making my way to more obscure views at Tinker Cliffs.

It gets quite warm as I work my way along rocky ridges. I come around a bend in the trail and see a young guy sitting on a rock with his beat up canvas backpack in the grass and four empty beer cans around his feet. When I get closer I see he is wearing high top basketball shoes and the soles of one foot are ripped open exposing his swollen toes. We exchange hearty greetings and he asks me if I will join him for his last two beers. Of course I will so I drop my pack and find a seat.

I notice his eyes are glassy and narrow as he sits swaying to the tune playing in his head — this dude is BAKED! After we finish our beers he pulls out a small pipe and asks if I will have a toke. Of course I will so I do. We spend the next fifteen minutes discussing the best duct tape shoe repair strategy.

Super easy descent to a major road crossing at Troutville. A nice Holiday Inn Express is within sight of the trail so I head for it. After checking in I shower and do laundry before visiting the outfitter and ABC (liquor) stores. Great BBQ and beers at the 3 Little Pigs restaurant. Dessert is a six pack of Negro Modelo Especial in my room watching TV. Later, my kidneys wake me up and I stumble to the toilet. I remember starting to urinate then the next thing I know I am sprawled across the bathtub with a painful bump on my forehead where I hit the faucet when I faint. A memorable day on the trail for sure.

Day 48: (VA)  14 miles from Troutville to camp past Black Horse Gap

I am so hung over! I slowly shuffle to the Kroger then down the strip mall to a coffee shop where a talkative guy chats me up about the AT. I check out and get back on the trail late on this muggy morning. At the first road crossing I see my friend from the coffee shop sitting in his car. He offers energy bars and books for the trail. Troutville trail groupie?

Wearily I climb until I get to the shelter with the best name: Fullhardt Knob. A couple of grannies with their grandsons are anchored here so I move on. I stop for lunch with several young hiker dudes at Wilson Creek Shelter. They are all bitching’ and moaning about their aches and pains.

Along comes a hip looking young couple out for a weekend hike. They listen sympathetically to the whining then ask how they can help. Without missing a beat I ask, “Do you have any weed?” The man gives me a knowing smile and says, “Sure, let me roll a couple of blunts.” We all chat while passing the joints around the eager circle. I craftily end up with both roaches in my pocket.

I enjoy a mellow hike into the late afternoon until I find a sweet camp site past Black Horse Gap. I devour a gourmet meal of beef and potatoes (from Kroger deli) with dark chocolate for dessert. I sip from a tiny bottle of Southern Comfort while watching the sky turn from bright orange to dark violet.

Day 49: (VA)  21 miles from near Black Horse Gap to camp 2 miles from Cornelius Creek Shelter

It was a warm night and I knew it would be a hot day so I get going early. I stop for a long refreshing break along Jenny Creek. After lunch I smoke the two roaches from yesterday for a good afternoon buzz (3rd day in a row).

Day 50: (VA)  20 miles from camp to Matt’s Creek Shelter

The day starts with a worthless and tiring 2.2 mile side trip to Lone Apple Orchard Falls. Influenced by good reviews in the guidebook, I make the 1000 foot drop to a disappointing dribble of water flowing down a rock hidden by trees. The day improves as I climb back to scenic views. I take my obligatory picture of Guillotine Rock (one of the most photographed spots on the trail).

At Thunder Ridge Overlook I receive trail magic from the parents of CATFISH. They have an RV parked at the overlook and are handing out cold sodas and cookies. I meet SEA-TO-LAND and hike with him to the shelter. ABOMAN is here and we all have happy hour shots from my bottle of Maker’s Mark.

Day 51: (VA)  22 miles from Matt’s Creek to Brown Mtn Shelter

Once again I am first out of camp. It already feels hot and muggy as I take my time leading up to and across the James River on this amazing foot bridge. It starts to rain as I begin climbing out of this river valley.

As I am pushing along through the thick humid air I see three preppy looking hikers standing in the middle of the trail deep in conversation. I immediately get caught in a momentum trap and am hit with a salvo of stupid questions about being a thru hiker. From their haughty attitude I feel like their trained monkey ordered to perform on demand. They indicate they are going my direction so I salute them with a sarcastic ‘Happy Trails’ and put the hammer down on my pace to get the hell away from them.

Around lunch time I feel I have outrun the rabble so I stop at lovely Punch Bowl Shelter next to a peaceful pond. I see three bohemian dudes sitting cross-legged on the floor with decks of strange playing cards stacked around them. They take turns throwing cards into the middle of their circle then the apparent winner takes them away. I call these guys THE GAMERS.

They seem friendly and I spy a glass pipe lying on the floor so I politely ask for a toke. They happily oblige and I quickly get stoned on their quality weed. In my intoxicated state I become hypnotized by the rhythm of their unusual games using cards with unrecognizable markings. Time is suspended, nothing exists outside of the bare wood dimensions of the shelter while the three men alternately bob their heads like monks in prayer.

Suddenly I hear a high-pitched laugh coming from outside seconds before our tranquil paradise is shattered by a cacophony of sound brought by a pack of unruly hikers (including the dildos I met earlier). As they spread their gear over every available surface, I make eye contact with THE GAMERS who have been pushed into a corner and give them a hearfelt ‘mahalo’. I then turn to the crowd, shout out ‘Aloha’, throw on my pack and escape to the serenity of the quiet trail.

It is an easy walk in the afternoon to the Brown Mtn Creek Shelter where I once again camp with ABOMAN and share more of my Troutville Maker’s Mark.

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