$2.50 a pair
Here's to hoping we don't have to use them!
|Walking into town. Notice the snow on the mountain. Happy to be in town.|
|Den at Laughing Heart|
|Our bedroom at laughing heart|
|The dorm room|
|Card playing with Two-step and turtle box|
|Starfish, Misery, Split, and KenDoll all relaxing|
|Split, kendoll and snicketts|
"But what do you DO?" Asks our faithful reader Mrs Amanda Burkhart of Helena Montana. Well, we hike of course! But she knows this. What does a day look like? How do we keep from getting bored out of our minds? I know these questions have been burning in the hearts of so many of you- worry no more! I'll clear things up here.
We wake up between 5 and 6:30. From this time is takes us, consistently, about 1.5 hours to get out of camp. We start with putting our gear away and end with eating breakfast. Our breakfasts vary greatly. We've had cereal and milk, oatmeal, power bars, powdered donuts, or honey buns but one is a constant. Stick Coffee (Stick coffee = Korean for Instant Coffee). We have stick coffee every morning. After breakfast we hit the trail and hike. That first hour is, for me, my favorite. I'm awake, my legs and feet feel refreshed and i'm feeling positive. I love the first hours of hiking every day. We hike for a few hours and then we stop to eat. After that, we hike for a few more hours and then we stop to eat. After that we hike for a few more hours and stop to eat again. This last time is usually when we've gotten to the end of our day. We often stop at shelters to sleep but if we know it will be cold we set up a tent anyway. Once we arrive in camp we break the work into 2 things. One of us will set up our gear for the night (usually me) and one of us will cook dinner (usually Jamie). We do this because when we get into camp we are starving. We waste no time. After dinner, in very short order we floss, brush, hang the food and get in our sleeping bags to go to bed.
But what do we do when we're hiking? We sing. We switch back and forth singing different songs but we have some old standbys that we always come back to. I keep going back to "Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin and Jamie goes back to "Devil Went Down to Georgia." But our favorite time killer is story-hour. We both read different books in the evening and then spend a portion of the next day retelling the details of what we read. Jamie has read Contact, The Hobbit, Sherlock Holmes, and currently a Sci-fi book, Ragamuffins. I'm reading the Game of Thrones Series. We're on book 5. We've both gotten pretty good at remembering detail and dialogue. If we have both read a lot, we'll switch back and forth between us and listen to each story alternately. The problem, however, is that we don't often read a lot. Often we're lucky to get through one chapter in an evening before we fall asleep. In that case we switch to retelling movies. Jamie is much better at remembering movies so this responsibility usually falls to him. He's retold Batman (all of them), Starwars (all of them), The Avengers, and sometimes a random TV show episode he remembers. As a joint effort we've retold, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Buffy-Once More With Feeling, The Princess Bride. We love musicals because it affords the second of our time killers-singing.
But mostly we just walk. If the hills are steep, talking goes right out the window. If it's raining or windy, it's impossible to hear. From breaking camp in the morning to setting up camp in the evening is usually 10 hours. It can be hard to fill that time with chit-chat. I have to be careful. I tend to dwell. I've written, in my head, a million nasty letters. I'll remember and think about stupid and angering things that people have said. I write (again, in my head) scathing comments to racist or sexist things I've seen on Facebook, in log journals, on bumper stickers. Or, sometimes I'll just make up situations that I can get angry over. When I find myself doing this, I take a deep breath and let out an audible sigh. Then I'll start talking or singing to myself. It's impossible for my mind to have an internal and external conversation so this usually solves the problem. And usually, within about 5 minutes we'll come to a beautiful vista, a strange new bug, a gorgeous newly fallen fall leaf. There are a thousand things on the trail to keep you entertained. You just need to see things in the right light.
|She made this gorgeous quilt after their hike. It's the trail from Maine to Georgia.|
Today we had some excellent weather, which initially inspired some really great hiking for the first five miles of our day. We were going through some nice ridges as well so the scenery really seemed to fit well with the temperature and sunshine. At five miles we encountered some trail magic of Pepsi and Snickers bars (thanks!), and we came to Uncle Johnny's Hostel soon after that. We had a maildrop sent to the hostel, but to our dismay it hadn't arrived. We called the post office, but the packages for the day had already left and they didn't know what was on the truck so we waited at the hostel.
Getting held up when there are miles to be hiked can be frustrating and make us somewhat anxious, but today this was not the case. We'd made excellent miles the last couple of days and needed to charge up all our gadgets anyways, so chilling out on a nice covered porch/pavilion didn't exactly require any arm pulling. Jamie even found someone to play cribbage with and one of the guys who helps run the hostel showed up with chili dogs that he won (one of those things where you drop your business card in the bucket and they pick a winner every week). Well we all won, didn't we?! We had such a good time chatting and hanging out that it was almost sort of a let down when our package ended up coming in around 12:30. Well, we ended up just hanging around for another hour and a half anyways!
Jamie had consumed so much coffee at the hostel that he felt a little bit sick while hiking for a bit. We only made it another ten miles by the time dark was about to set in, which, incidentally, brought us right to a nice camping area that was recommended by the hostel owner.
At the hostel Shannon had picked up a bunch of dried veggies that we used to jazz up our dinner. It was absolutely amazing how filling it made our meal! We'll be looking forward to adding them to our dinners for the next few nights. Its the little things on the trail, it really is...
Well, we have to make it to Hot Springs for Thursday where we will be meeting Billy (Jamie's brother) and spending some time with him, Alicia, Katrina, Cady, and Eric (we are very excited to see them), so that means we need to do some miles if we are to get into town at a decent hour (and our inadvertent easy day today means more to do over the next few days). Good weather on the forecast though, so we are looking forward to this next portion. Until next time!
|Unexpected trail magic from the section hiker Junebug and these two maintainers|
|It was very very cold up here.|
|Camping in the cold!|
"Don't worry, the dogs are friendly."
"Oh, I'm not worried about the dogs, I just don't want to walk down those stairs"
"Well, if you think that's a lot, you've got 20 times that number coming up."
"I know, that's why I don't want to walk those extra 15."
I don't normally confess to people that I'm not going to take a detour to look at some beautiful piece of scenery. Usually, the person giving the recommendation won't be there to watch me walk past it so I just say "Oh, that sounds nice. Thanks for the recommendation.". We almost never go to look at anything that requires walking off the trail. Even something that's 1/10th of a mile off will illicit some debate between us about whether or not it's worth it. Usually we can hold out and get a view for free.
I didn't expect that when we started this hike. I expected to take the detours and look at things. Nope. I look at lots of things all day long and when your entire day (and the next day, and the next and the next) consists of walking-I'm not inclined to go out of my way.
For awhile, in Maine, we hiked with a man who had first section hiked the AT and was now doing a thru-hike. He said that his desire to go "off trail" and look at things as well as his enjoyment of said things was much higher when we was section hiking. He said he remembers looking at some views and thinking "wow-that's incredible" but now, as a thru-hiker, he doesn't feel as much awe from them. I feel somewhat the same way. The views are gorgeous and we do stop to look at them. But we see them everyday, multiple times a day. They're not little breaks from our everyday lives. They are our everyday life. I don't need to walk 0.1 off the trail to see something spectacular. I have 2,184 miles of it. Life on the trail is beautiful.
|Th e most delicous|
|BOB'S DAIRYLAND! Even though there was no booze to be bought in Roan Mountain, Bob's Dairyland made up for it.|
|Vango Memorial Bench. A great place for lunch.|
Our camping spot the previous evening was on an exposed hill, so we were a little apprehensive about crazy winds blowing us away into the night. But to our surprise the winds weren't too bad and when we woke up at 5:20 it wasn't even that cold (first morning in what feels like forever). This was an important factor for ensuring that we would get up and stay up, which we did successfully. We managed to get on the trail by about 6:30 which brought us to Buzzard's rock just in time for sunrise - beautiful! We really lucked out with our camping choice for the evening.
The reason behind our early wake up was to make a big push for town and get there at a reasonable hour. We had a great start and made it to the first shelter (about 5 miles in) in under two hours, but after lunchtime we slowed down a little bit. At one point we met a nice gentlemen with two standard poodles (great hiking dogs apparently, smart, generally well-behaved, and really long legs). He was curious about our experiences so we hiked with him for a couple miles so we pulled back our pace a lot. No matter, really, sometimes having a chat while hiking can really pass the time. He was even ready to offer us jobs with his company, but alas, we are not mechanical engineers.
Today had a lot of what are known as "pud"s - or "pointless ups and downs", where there is alot of vertical change without much of a view. We were sort of kicking ourselves for not "blue blazing" (taking a side trail off the AT) on the Virginia Creeper Trail, which was a gentle downward slope all the way to town along an old railroad bed. After seeing hundreds of bicyclists, however, we were glad we made the right decision to stay true to our trail. There are all sorts of outfits in Damascus that shuttle people and rental bikes north up the Creeper Trail and they then just coast back to town. We have been assured it is quite lovely and judging by the amount of people doing it I believe the hype.
Anyways, we finally made it into Damascus around 4 (not bad for a 20 mile day), but to our dismay the laundromat was closed. Soon, however, we were seeing fellow hikers wandering around in hospital scrubs, and, using our Sherlock-like powers of deduction, we figured that there was an alternative means of getting our clothes clean. Sure enough, the proprietor of the Hiker's Inn was nice enough to do a load for us for 5 bucks. Not a bad deal. But we weren't at the front of the line, so hospital scrubs it was to be!
The Damascus Methodist church runs an old house as a long distance cyclist/hiker hostel called "The Place". It can probably hold about 30 people between two floors, has a kitchen area, a bathroom, and a shower room. We even got hot water! They only ask for a six dollar donation. After getting set up there, we headed over the local food establishment/watering hole "Quincey's". To Jamie's delight they had a pinball machine which he played while waiting for the food to come out. We spent entirely too much money on dinner and drinks (considering it was a pizza place), but since our lodgings were meager we felt it justified.
Tomorrow is our third 'zero' day of the southern portion of our journey and we will be moving on from The Place to a new inn called the Clifton Inn. We will have a TV in our room and we are excited about that.
|Not the pony that bit me.|
|This pony stepped on Jamie.|
|Our Campsite on Whitetop|
|The cattle and the cowboys|
|Sunset from our whitetop campsite.|
|500 More miles! We're practically done! That's nothing!|
|A beautiful view from the Grayson Highlands.|