Sunday, September 30, 2012

AT Day 145 Daleville Super 8 to Daleville Super 8

September 30
Miles 0
We woke up this morning feeling great, refreshed, well-rested and not interested in hiking so we decided to celebrate the last day of September in our hotel room.  And we did. 
Well, we ventured out for a few things. 
We visited the hotel lobby for an EXCELLENT continental breakfast.   If you can find the picture below you'll see, from left to right, a fridge full of yogurt and boiled eggs, a microwave, frosted flakes and raisin bran,  milk, a waffle maker, bread and cinnamon buns, a  toaster, coffee, apples, and juice.  We ate some of everything.
After breakfast we watched TV, took a bath and then wandered over to the Mexican Restaurant for 10% off lunch and Margaritas. Then back to the hotel room for movies and lounging.
Then, being ultimately hungry again, we went to the PizzaHut for Pizza and across the street for beer.   Finally we retired to the hotel for StarTrek Voyager and more lounging.   
We will sleep well tonight.
Unfortunately, it's supposed to rain for the next two days, but meh-it's par for the course.

Lunch and Margarita

An upside down photo of the breakfast.

Bugs on the Trail

As I watched a stick bug slowly wander up my sleeping bag to perch on my face, I realized that my attitude about bugs, which has always been pretty lax, has certainly gotten even more chill.  I'm sure you want to hear about all of our bug adventures so I'll give you some snippets.

* While walking in the early morning hours, my headlamp reflects the individual drops of dew on the grass and dead leaves.  It is really beautiful. However, one morning a drop of dew, seemingly, ran across my path.  This surprised me and resulted in further examination.  As I bent over to find this running drop of dew, I was surprised to see that it was actually a spider. My headlamp was reflecting in it's many eyes. This, admittedly surprised me so I began to look more closely at all the dew drops. Every one I looked at was a spider.  Incredible!   And crazy-there were SO MANY.  I mean, I know that there's bugs everywhere, but to all of a sudden be able to see some was a remarkable thing. (and mildly disconcerting)

*When the weather gets hot, or even mildly warm, the bugs begin to swarm our heads.  It's unbelievably annoying and actually quite perilous as it takes your attention away from the rocks at your feet.  I particularly hate the No-seeums that fly at your eyes in an effort to drink the vitreous fluid. I have two strategies, one is to walk with my eyes as closed as possible in an effort to create a screen with my eyelashes.  The other is to just slap my face with my entire hand in an effort to just smash the bug against my face and kill it. I like to think that the bug smear across my cheeks is like war paint and it frightens the other bugs away.

*On a particularly hot day we stopped to get some water and the bugs were really harassing Jamie.  All of a sudden he yells out and tells me that a bug flew into his ear.  I searched as much as a I could but I couldn't see anything and I didn't want stick a twig into his ear.  In truth, I thought he was exaggerating.  But I was so wrong.  About 3 minutes later, he felt a tiny sting and the bug FLEW OUT OF HIS EAR and then his ear started bleeding. The damn bug bit him IN the ear.  Incredible.

*We stopped to take a lunch break and I decided to take my shoes off and nap on my back in the sun. When I woke up, I saw a millipede also decided to nap in the sun. It was stretched out over all 5 of my toes and getting a tan.

*Occasionally we come across crazy looking caterpillars.  We should do some research and find out what they are, but we really like the ones that remind us of Pokemon. They're brightly colored and have patterns that make is look it has a face on it's back.

*Once we saw a little dung beetle rolling it's ball across the path.  But when we came upon it, we startled it and it curled it's body around it's treasure. It reminded me of a toddler trying to hide itself and a big yoga ball by just hugging it putting it's head down.

*We imagine dead animals are a pretty common thing in the woods but we don't often come across them.  However, there was half a dead chipmunk in the trail the other day and there were bugs we had never seen before clearing it away. They were orange and black beetle looking things, about an inch long  with pointed bodies. They were crawling all over it, which was fine, but a whole bunch of them had wormed up under the skin and it was making the body look like it was undulating.  Gross.

* Butterflies are everywhere and beautiful. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

AT Day 144 Bobbletts Shelter to Daleville Super 8

September 29th

Miles 18.5
Total: 1461
Sights: Lots of Dark

Know how much we love a hotel stay?  So much.   So much that we woke up at 3am to get to town so we could check into the super 8 as early as possible.   Awhile back we commented on how waking up at 5am isn't so different from waking up at 6am.  Not so for 3am.  It felt like 3am,  we were both a bit groggy. However, knowing we would feel this way,  Jamie set our phone alarm to wake us up with the Bohemian Rhapsody.  Instantly we jumped up and started head-banging.   Well, banging our heads into the wall because we were so tired.   Honestly, it wasn't that bad.  We were both so excited we got up easily.  (more or less)
The walk was fine and uneventful.  Dark for the first half so there's not much to say. We stopped in for second breakfast at the next shelter as everyone else was eating and packing up their things.  We met 2 other thru-hikers-Split and Two-Step.  That was nice as we haven't met to many, but they were also anxious to get going so they left soon after our arrival. We ate breakfast with a retired couple who is hiking the whole trail sections.  They come out twice a year, spring and fall, and will continue to do so until they're done.  They were eating biscuits and gravy (they inspired us to make some for ourselves).   There was another thru-hiker there-BearBait who had hiked the trail in 2009.   A nice breakfast.  After eating we booked it the rest of the way.
Now comes the exciting part!
Our hotel was practically in view of the trail so we stopped here first check in and shower.   Next we walked down to the Outdoor Trails outdoor store (with a detour to Bojangles) to get our maildrops and buy some things.  The store is excellent.  They had everything we needed and the staff was exceptionally helpful.  Things that made this store stand out for me: they carry both Soles and Superfeet, they do DarnTough sock exchange, the staff let us take over a corner of their store to sort through our mail boxes and didn't complain when I accidentally spilt instant rice all over the carpet.    As you can see, a great place. 
We had 4 boxes at this store. 
1. a food drop from dad lyon.
2. a cord from Steripen because ours had broken. (replaced freely)
3.  a tent from Duffer (loaned because he was horrified at the idea of us sleeping in a leaky tent)
4. new shoes from solomon (replaced freely)
We bought: a pair of soles, fuel for the stove, a camp towel.   Overall an excellent trip to the store.
After leaving the outdoor store we went to the coffee shop were a group of guitar players were sitting around singing and chatting to hikers in preparation for their 500 mile hike next year.  After awhile Split and Two-step wandered by.  They're a married couple from California, recently retired.  (We had met them earlier that morning at the shelter).  They made us feel mildly bad about our plan to hike 10 miles tomorrow. Their plan was 20 miles because the weather Sunday is supposed to be gorgeous and Monday is supposed to be crappy.   But, meh.  We pushed through the guilt.
Finally we wandered over to the Krogers, bought beer and supplies and came back here to order Chinese food and take baths.
Let me tell you, there is nothing better than a bath after hiking.  Being able to soak off the dirt is a true (and disgusting) joy.
Our clothes are just about done in the wash and the food will be here soon!  Looking forward to an excellent night of relaxation!

New Boots!

Our new Tent!

The rececption desk ladies. I hope they didn't notice that I took 4 extra cinnamon buns.

Unfortunate name for a shelter


Friday, September 28, 2012

AT day 143 - Thunder Hill shelter to Bobblets shelter

Miles: 24
Total: 1443.2 Sights: a turtle

Today was some pretty good hiking, with some fairly moderate climbs and some gorgeous views. We've been hiking fairly close to the Blue Ridge Parkway since the Shenandoahs so we get some of the road views here and there as well. We did get rained on for about a half hour, which was pretty intense while it lasted. Soon after it stopped we got to a shelter, go figure! We had a nice lunch there (we overestimated our meals so we bumped up our lunch). Oh! Earlier on the day some section hikers gave us seven banana nut muffins. Delicious. We somehow managed to save a few for breakfast in the AM. At a road crossing a truck stopped and took our picture (with our camera; he saw us taking a photo of a sign). He then gave us a bandanna. Very nice of him. Well, hate to end this early again but we are waking up at 3am tomorrow in order to make the 18.5 miles to Daleville before the UPS store closes at 4. Also we will be staying at a motel and wish to maximize our time vegging out inside of it.
We were taking a picture of this sign and a couple in a car turned around and drove over to take the picture for us.  and then he gave us a bandana. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

AT day 141 - Cow Camp Shelter to Punchbowl Shelter

Miles: 15
Total: 1394
Today was a town day!  Unfortunately we knew this this morning so we had a harder time than usual getting up because we knew out would be an easier day than we've been having lately.  We were still out of the shelter by 6:30 though.
We only has about for miles to hike to the road, but when we got there, there was very little traffic going in the direction we needed to go in.  Luckily about 30 minutes of thumbing a lady coming out of the farm across the street pulled over to pick us up since she was heading that anyway.
Buena Vista is 10 miles from the trail so it took a good 15 or 20 minutes to get in.  Or first stop was a Hardees (Jamie's first time in one) and enjoyed some fine southern fast food (we recommend the country fried streak biscuit).  After consuming vast amounts of lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates, we made or easy to the post office to pick up our food drop.  To our surprise there was a card and a gift for Shannon's birthday from Molly Coon that Jamie's dad forwarded along.  Thanks Molly!
The post office also was a place of postings and farewells, though.  Shannon sent her ukulele back (to Jonable to borrow, actually).  We haven't been having as much free time and playing is harder with cold fingers!
We spent some time in the library and then had lunch at the Blue Dogart cafe.  Super nice staff and pretty good food.  We picked up some additional supplies (most important being batteries -we are now very reliant on or headlamps) and were getting some water at Hardees when Jamie started chatting with a guy Don on his lunch break.  He had some questions about our trip and it turned out he is pretty active with scouting - a really nice man and fun to chat with.  Well went and offered to take us all the way back to the trail and he wasn't even heading in that direction.  Thanks again to Don!
Well by the tome we got back to the trail it was about 2pm, a little later than we'd hoped since we still had 11 miles to hike.  Unfortunately there were a few climbs involved so we made it to camp about 6:30.  Luckily we have lots of treats now, though, so we are going to bed with full bellies!
Oh, Shannon speared an acorn with her pole today.  That is kind of amazing.

We love Hardees Breakfast

A snake

Birthday gift from Molly Coon!

I got one!

Punchbowl Shelter

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

AT day 140: Harpers Creek to Cow Camp shelter

Miles: 24.4
Total: 1379.3
Sights: The Priest Mountain
We had a really nice night camping at Harpers Creek -we had decided that it was simply too cold the night before.  Man, what a difference a tent can make!  We were as snug as two bugs in a rug.  And the bugs were as snug as...bugs in a rug also.
We had a pretty good 3000 for climb up "the Priest".  It was fairly well graded for the first two thousand feet but got steeper after that.
Oh!  We met this hunter early on who was out looking for a lost hunting dog,  a puppy actually.  His brother was helping him and they were going up and over the mountains looking for him because the dog has on a tracking collar.  Sure enough we met his brother on our ascent and he had this thing that looked like a little lightning rod.  Anyways, he had the weirdest request: that we look out for his list pack of cigarettes and bury them in a conspicuous way neat some particular rocks at a road crossing.  We thought this was really funny, but we agreed to look out for both their puppy and his cigarettes.  Low and behold, not to far from the area he told us to stash them, we see a pack of Winstons.  We carried then until the specified road and built a little rock house for them.  I hope he finds them!
The rest of the day was pretty good, but Shannon hada pretty good fall and cut her nose and forehead a bit.  It looks like it its not too bad and luckily we are now carrying a full tube of neosporin.
We came across our first apple trees today and took a few for dessert.  We tried our hand at making campfire applesauce which was pretty fun.  The apples were pretty tart though so it was hard to make do without any sugar.
We have the shelter all to ourselves tonight.  This place is .6 miles from the trail so I'm not too surprised about that.  We are stopping into the town of Buena Vista tomorrow morning and we'll do less miles than we've been doing as of late, which will be nice.  Our feet are starting to feel the miles.

a campfire!

The priest. A very tiring climb. 

The hidden Cigarettes

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

AT day 139 - Paul C. Wolfe shelter to Harpers Creek shelter

Miles: 22
Total: 1354
Sights: Three Ridges Mountain

This not so delicious wrap is a deviled buffalo chicken, ranch dressing, provolone cheese, fritos, doritos, mustard and mayo. It was very tart.  
My hiking buddy! 
Lunch time! 
A chilly, windy and beautiful lunch 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day 137: Pinefield Shelter to Calf mountain Shelter

September 22 2013
Miles: 26.4
Total: 1320.9
Bear count: 6

We really did it - we got up at 5am.  And you know what?  Not that much different from waking up at 6am.  It is dark either way!  I guess we did need to use or headlamps for about an hour while hiking. 

We made some good mileage early on and found ourselves at a camp store by 8:30.  A luck would have it they opened earlier than the other stores in the park!  We proceeded to spoil ourselves with some much needed junk food, continued to charge or electronics, and Jamie even managed to wash his shirt (hot water, again, a beautiful thing)!

We trucked along till lunch time, taking to us at just our halfway point for the day.  By this point Shannon was feeling sleepy, so she took a much needed nap while Jamie took advantage of the cell signal to update the blog.

After lunch we entered a zone of extra bear activity, and sure enough we saw a momma bear and two cubs on Skyland drive as we were crossing.  Someone driving to fast scared them off.  Later on though we came to another teenage bear right in the middle of the path.  It was pretty windy at the time so he didn't hear us coming for a few moments and he took of as soon as he looked up.

Speaking of, you may be wondering what we do with our food at night, especially in the land of bears!  Well, if we are camping, we throw a rope up into a tree branch.  In shelters there are three different possibilities.  If there isn't a high chance of near activity, most folks just hang the food inside on a little cord; there will be a can above on the cord to prevent the much more common problem of mice.  In a place like the Shenandoahs however, bears are protected and therefore abundant.  Stupid people also may feed them, making them associate people with food.  No good.  So there may be a bear pole at a place like this -a fifteen foot high metal pole with little "u"s on the top.  There is a second pole that you can remove (and for some reason they are made out of like cast iron, what's the deal?) to hang up your food on the top.  The other option a shelter may have is the bear box.  These are big metal boxes that humans can get into but bears can't (most people are smarter than bears, but not the folks who go around feeding them).  We included some pictures in here for your perusal.

Well, tomorrow I'd another early wake up as we are bounds for town!  We are only planning on 12 miles, which will be nice after these big days we have been pulling.  Oh, tonight we have a shelter to ourselves.  First time since Connecticut!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 136 - Bearfence shelter to Pinefield shelter

September 21st 2012
Miles: 20
Total: 1296

Today was a lot warmer than we expected!  We got up at a very reasonable time and were out hiking by 7, but of course we realized that we needed to resupply at a "wayside" (rest stops in the park).  Unfortunately, the store didn't open till 9.  So, we took the opportunity to clean up a bit (hot water at the Lewis campground!).  We managed to wash our socks and undies, charge our accessories, and wash Shannon's hair (well she did that her self) all before the store opened.  Starbucks coffee and bacon egg muffins for second breakfast to boot!

The stop held us up a bit, but it really is such an amazing feeling to take care of errands like that in an effective manner when you are on the trail.  It is what makes town visits so damn exciting!

We headed on from there for about 10 miles before we stopped for lunch at High Top mountain, where luckily we had cell signal.  We moved on to phase two of our efficient task completion, and within the hour we had a hot lunch of chili and Doritos, Shannon got Solomon to replace her boots (thanks Solomon!), Shannon tried to get Soles to replace her inserts (come on Soles, you can do better!), and we set up out next two mails drops with dad Lyon.  Not too shabby!

From that point on out was a pretty easy day with great weather and mild climbs (OH, better yet "mild climbs and climes"!), and we finally have a great water source at the shelter we are in tonight.  There may be a resident copper head, though, but they probably sleep at night...right?  Let's hope that is the case.

Ok, off to bed -we are going to wake up at 5 tomorrow, for real! We are actually going to do it.  No backing out and snoozing till 6.  26 miles to do, not an easy task for lolligaggers.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

AT Day 135 Pass mountain shelter to Bearfence Mountain Shelter

September 20th 2012

Miles: 26
Total miles: 1274

Dear count: 51
Today was our first marathon day and also our longest day so far.  We got up at 7 this morning, hoping that we would have plenty of time to accomplish our goal, but we quickly figured out that with our typical break routines that we were going to have a really long day ahead of us.  This pushed us to put the pedal to the metal for some good chunks of the hike and forgo lengthy breaks.
On a normal day we take at least two hours worth of breaks throughout the day, and we usually take about an hour for lunch.  We decided to just have a junk food lunch today instead - we didn't have enough food for lunch tomorrow anyways.  It is just silly the things you can eat (and enjoy) when you hike all day, so we included a picture if our not so nutritious - but calorie rich - lunch.
The Shenandoahs have been beautiful, but going at our pace hasn't given us a lot of time to take it in.  It is also getting cold!  We knew going into this second half that it would be much cooler than the first part of the trip, but we couldn't really conceptualize what that meant till now.  Washing up at night is becoming a bit more difficult and waking up is even harder than normal when its 40°!  The sun light I'd getting less and less as well, and with the equinox coming up the rate will just increase.  I always take summer for granted!

A bearbox and pole 
a lunch of snacks full of calories