Monthly Archives: May 2012

No Rain

In South Dakota we see rain as a necessary thing to help crops grow – as long as it comes at the right time, not too much, not too little, etc. Here on the trail it means different things – like the unreliable water sources may be running. Some will eventually dry up later. Here is the day in a life of a hiker in the rain:

Rain means you will be soaking wet and unless you have dry bags and a good pack cover you may also be carrying a swimming pool. My shoes/socks have been totally squishy, but I haven’t been able to dump water out of my boots yet. I am sure that day will come.

flowers on the trail

A lot of flowers will be knocked off the bushes and it looks like a flower girl went down the trail before you.

Because there are mostly ups and downs you are either walking upstream or downstream in the water. Any flat ground becomes puddles. You can try to avoid the puddles, but it doesn’t take long to realize you might as well tramp through them while singing ‘singing in the rain’. Everything is slippery when wet – the rocks and roots can be trecherous. Of course the mud makes things fun as well.

As stated in the previous post my boots, when wet, cause me blisters on the tops of my toes. Not fun. It takes my boots about 2 days to dry out and they smell even better wet!

It’s best just to keep hiking in wet stuff and get dry once in camp. This means long johns for me. Wet clothes mean cold and it’s important to get warm ASAP after getting into camp. The reallyΒ fun part is putting on wet clothes in the morning! Your body heat dries them out or you keep your camp clothes dry at least. I try to keep a pair of dry socks at all times in case it gets really cold.

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No Pain

One of the favorite quotes here on the trail is: No pain, no rain, no Maine. So, I have decided to do a couple of posts expounding on that.

Some people have been wondering how I am doing physically. Well, I have to say that every day something hurts. It could be a toe or an elbow or fingernail. But, every day it’s something. Here’s a run down of some of my injuries:

Mosquito, gnat and flea bites. Most of these have not itched, but my body is sort of poka dotted.

My left pinky toe was smashed because of foot expansion after 22.8 miles of hiking. I had a blister under a blister. Not fun. I was able to wear my crocs for the next day however, so my foot had room to breath.

Blisters on my heels and the top of my toes from a crease in my boot. This only happens when wet.

My knees have protested – both the center and my IT band. Most of this has to do with large steps off and onto rocks. I am wearing some patella supports and I think they are helping.

Shoulders – I think that I have a massive knot covering all of my upper back. At times there feels like there is a bee stinging me on the shoulder blade. So, if anyone wants to come out and give me a backrub that would be the best trail magic ever!!

My hip bones are getting bruised from my pack weight. If the pack is not adjusted well it really rides there. The same is true for my collar bone, I have some bruising there too. Sometimes it hurts no matter how I have my pack adjusted.

The hip muscles and my butt hurt at times from going up hills. Lots of butt burners. Who needs buns of steel VHS tapes? I got what you need on the trail! πŸ™‚

The arches and balls of my feet have also been hurting. I replaced my insoles and the next stop is getting new arch supports. It could be that my boots are on their way out as well.

The most recent ailment is a pain on the top of my left foot. It doesn’t hurt with every step, but it hurts when I bend my foot a certain way. I am really hoping that this is not a stress fracture, cause that could end my hike. My foot is not swollen though and because it doesn’t hurt with every step I am hopeful.

All in all none of this has kept me from hiking, so it’s all good. The pain reminds me that I’m human and keeps me from going too fast or too long. Zero days are important. I haven’t taken any ibuprofen yet, so that’s good. I’ve definitly had pain on this journey…

Trail Days

shower trailer

Damascus holds Trail Days the weekend after Mother’s Day each year. Nearly 30,000 people converge on the town in VA. It is sponsored by Backpacker magazine. Of which I am a subscriber. It is a really festive atmosphere and all the volunteers remind me of the Swan Lake Marathon. All the churches get involved and have services available like showers (using a trailer like MDS), haircuts, a thru-hiker meal, foot washing, medical advice and internet. There were also tents set up to sew clothes or fix gear. One lady nicely told a young man that had a rip in his jeans that there were people here that could sew that for him. Not sure if he took her up on it.

reservation

1st Baptist Church did the meal and it was amazing! Fried chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, lettuce salad, sweet potato casserole, corn, beans and dessert. YUMM! After the meal there were some musicians playing some bluegrass/gospel music. It was so nice! I listened until they stopped. It was also raining during that time and they were under a tent.

There was also an eating contest. Contestants could choose from hot dogs or

cake eating contest

cake. It was pretty hilarious watching men with beards dive into cakes head first. The guy that won the hot dog eating contest ate 8 hot dogs with buns in 2 minutes. wow. I am unworthy.

Contra dancing and seminars about the trail, concerts, talent show and parade will also be happening later this weekend. I will not stay for all the festivities because I am wanting to get back on the trail. I am starting to get antsy. I may come back someday to take in Trail Days again. It’s been fun while it’s lasted. Thanks Damascus!

The Place

The Place

The Place is a hostel in Damascus that is run by the United Methodist Church. There is no drinking, tobacco and firearms at this site, which is great because I don’t want to deal with those things. It’s too bad that they don’t also have a rule about snoring. That would make a perfect hostel. I slept okay until 3am, but then I had to go to the bathroom. I must have set a precedent because it seemed like everyone had to go to the bathroom after that. Ugh! So, I basically was awake from 3:30 on. YEAH! Oh, I was also starving at 3:30. Maybe my hiker hunger is kicking in?

common room

The Place has a bunk room, tenting, bathroom, lounge area and even an upstairs. This place is fancy! I really liked the chair beside my bed and the caretaker Bayou said that he should start charging me rent for the chair. Maybe I’ll give an extra donation for use of the chair. I had a top bunk, so I wasn’t able to sit on the bunk to read or whatever.

Much to my chagrin the only laundromat in town was closed down a couple weeks ago. AHH! I want clean clothes! But, then Bayou informed me that a very nice neighbor lady does laundry for $5 a load. I hope she wears a mask and gloves when she does it. I was able to go in with someone else, so it was only $2.50. That’s better than any laundromat I’ve been in.

There was also a hiker box with lots of items like pasta sides and other items that hikers love. Like alcohol wipes.

Over the past few days I’ve gotten to know Sly Fox and Tex and have been hiking with them. One is old enough to be my dad, the other is probably 10 years younger than I. They both don’t party, so it’s been nice to hang with them.

VA!!

into VA!!

straddling the state line

On Thursday I entered my 4th state! I have gone 466.9 miles and will have over 500 miles in VA. It will be a long time before there is a post in another state. I must have been excited to get to Damascus, because I booked the 10.2 or so miles in nearly 3 hours. Whoa. And I was even wearing crocs.

The reason I was wearing crocs is because my left pinky toe was bleeding after my 22.8 mile day on Wednesday. My boots may have finally gotten too small. They also stink really bad, but maybe I just need this spray?

odor eater?

I am debating on whether to send them home and buy new shoes. Damascus is the place to buy if I do want new shoes. I’m having a hard time justifying spending $95 on shoes at the moment though. I may get my boots back for PA. I hear that’s where boots go to die. πŸ™‚ My boots are 10 years old, so it could be time for them to retire even though they are not coming apart yet.

As I was coming into Damascus I was really comforted by all the VA license plates. I think it’s because I know people that live in VA and I will be able to see some of them hopefully.

Cool story about the Vanderventer shelter. The water is .3 away from the

view from vanderventer

shelter down a steep hill. (no that’s not the cool part) As I was snacking to get the gumption up to hike that hill there were some guys that came up to the shelter that were on a day hike. They wanted to see the view. It was a cool view. Anyway I said I was from South Dakota and they said ‘no way!’. Yeah, SD is pretty cool I said. Anyway, they are going to school at The School of Mines in Rapid City. Whoa! I was pretty blown away. What are the chances. I’ve loved little experiences like that.

Tidbits 2

More tidbits

– I got my first nice sunburn on the trail a few days ago. I was crossing over balds instead of hiking under massive trees and rhododendrons. I was caught unprepared, without sunscreen. My nose was nice and shiny. πŸ™‚

– Coming out of Erwin there were a lot of people that got sick. They are calling it the Erwin plague. Even the elementary school was shut down for a day because of it. Luckily I have stayed healthy. I even finished a 2 serving meal while people were talking about the symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. I have a stomach of STEEL!

– I have been missing having a church service. I tried going in Newland, but all the services started at 11am. I didn’t want to get that late of a start. I ended up doing 19 miles with starting at 10am. I’ve tried to do more devotions myself since then. Maybe I can get to a church service in Damascus.

– I’ve started meeting up with people again that I started with. There is a group from New Hampshire and some others. I am meeting lots of new people as well because my miles are a lot larger than they were at the beginning.

– I went to Laurel Falls, it was amazing! I would upload a picture, but I can’t upload anything here at the hostel. I guess there was a hiker that proposed to his girlfriend there a couple days ago. Very cool.

– I stayed at the Black Bear Resort. Bob is one of the owners and he actually has been to Saskatchewan and knows South Dakota and even knows where Freeman is. Crazy these connections. This resort is actually only $10 for the bunk house. As in most hostels laundry is extra, but the showers are included. It was nice to be under a roof for the rain that happened. There is lots of rain on the trail, but it’s nice to have the option to not have to be in it every once in a while.

– Trail Days in Damascus is coming up starting on the 18th. This is a huge deal for hikers and most people are either slowing down or speeding up to get to the start of Trail Days. I am thinking of hiking past Damascus and then coming back for that Saturday. It will be a pretty big party atmosphere and I am not sure I want to be there for very long. The next time I can post I will talk about the actual trail days and hopefully have some pictures.

Tidbits from the trail

Here are some tidbits from the trail over the past week or so. There is no particular order. Enjoy

– One night I slept with just a sleeping bag liner (supposedly makes it 15 degrees warmer than the air temperature), space blanket and a tarp. It got down to the mid 30’s. I was NOT warm enough. A day later I asked Alison for my 0 degree sleeping bag back.

– The next night I was on top of Roan Mountain at Roan High Knob Shelter. This is the coldest shelter, and highest at 6,200 feet. I don’t know how low the temperature got, but I was glad to have my 0 degree bag. The trail to the shelter was hard to find, and there were several people that walked past it, even 1.5 miles out of the way and then came back. Thankfully I was not one of those people.

– I have been having strange dreams…2 of which included me drowning. When I woke up I realized I couldn’t breathe out of my nose cause it was plugged. Hmm.

– I met a Polish man whose name is Trekking Pole. This is his second thru-hike.

– Several days I was able to carry only 1 day of food at a time because Alison was able to meet me at road crossings. I also slackpacked one day. It was so nice! Now I have to carry all of my food cause Alison is on her way home. At this point I am carrying too much weight cause I have this huge fuel canister for cooking for 2 people. But, it was paid for, so I will be carrying it for awhile.

– When I was waiting for Alison one day there was an older man that came up and to talk to me. Thru-hikers are looked at as quite the specimen. People don’t quite understand, but they are in awe. It’s weird being looked at under a microscope.

– I have been trying to hand out my blog address to people I come across. In general they are excited to follow someone on the trail. Section hikers are usually the most interested because they go home and can check this. Hello to all the section hikers I’ve met!

God Provides

There are so many ways that God has provided while I have been on this trip. Here are some of them:

– Gail and Jay and Kim and Dickie for places to stay, trail magic and rides to places

– section hikers Buz, Greg and Steve for letting us crash your bible studies

– getting hitches from random people to and from towns

– the ladies at Newfound Gap with sandwhiches

– the Greenville hiking club with hamburgers and hot dogs when I needed protien

– healing of pain and other infirmities

– Rose and Sharon for taking care of Alison when she got off the trail

– a ride from Clingman’s Dome to Gatlinburg from someone who came to the shelter after we had left and then came back in the hail storm

– being able to take a zero day when the weather was nasty

There are countless other little things. I continue to be amazed and what our God and Creator has done for me on this trail. I don’t understand how people don’t believe. Thanks for all your prayers!

sunset off Rich Mt. fire tower

coloring book clouds

don’t speed down the trail!

the challenge coin

And then there was one…

Jesus loves you!

Alison left the trail in Gatlinburg and now Reaper has gone home to Pennsylvania because he was not feeling well. As I write this we aren’t sure what’s wrong, but it could be west nile or something of the like. Several days off were not enough to cure him of his achy joints, dizziness and chest pains. He needed to go get checked out.

So, that leave me alone – but not really. The first

black snake in one of the shelters

day I hiked alone I actually met more women on the trail than I have seen in awhile. God has provided for me – meeting really cool people and potential hiking partners. I have met Christians at both each shelter I’ve been at since being alone. The hiking time alone has given me lots of time to think. I think about camp, people I’ve hiked with and lots of other stuff. The 1st three days by myself I did 18, 19 and 17 to get to Erwin quickly to see Reaper off on the bus. We’ll see how my schedule shakes out after Erwin. I may slow down to hike with some others, we’ll see.

So, if anyone is looking for a vacation and would like to hike with me, let me know. πŸ™‚ Just beware – I am getting my trail legs and I will be fast. πŸ™‚ Right now I’m doing 2-2.5 mph. Over 300 miles down and the boots are still holding out! Awesome!

Hot Springs

Alison met us in Hot Springs and it was so exciting to have a car! We didn’t have to walk to the laundry, dinner or the library. The trail goes right through town. There is a vortex in Hot Springs though. Once you get in, it’s hard to get out. We tried to leave town twice. The first time we got out in the afternoon, got lost and then figured we were dehydrated and decided to stealth camp across the river, go back into town and get gatorade and eat a free supper for thru-hikers. There is a group that feeds thru-hikers every Thursday evening. Guess it was meant to be that we were to eat free food. πŸ™‚ Then we actually walked back into town for breakfast the next morning before heading to the trail.

The first night in Hot Springs we stayed at a campground and there was a train track nearby. 3 times during the night the train went through and blew it’s horn. There were also lots of car lights and street lights. When you’re used to sleeping just under the stars, everything is bright. The showers were cold, but lovely.

pink shirt! yeah!

The laundromat had benches and it was a cool place to hang out. Renee got a new shirt, so now she is sporting pink. This is much better than the white number that was slowly turning a grayish yellow. At the diner we were able to read children’s books from the Dolly Parton Imagination library. Reaper would read the forward by Dolly in his most southern accent and Renee would read the main portion of the book. Why does the mosquito buzz in people’s ears was Renee’s personal favorite. Other books included: Llama Llama misses Mama, The little engine that could and You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man. I think all restaurants should have books you can read while waiting for your food.

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