Day 51: A Zero in Pearisburg

Day 51

Miles Hiked: ZERO

Today I ate as much food as I could and tried to move as little as possible. We ate at. Chinese Buffet for Lunch/ Dinner and I smacked on strawberries, blueberries, chocolate, and bananas the rest of the day. Other than that, all I did was lay in bed and watched TV. It was nice to rest my feet and legs for a change. In the end, the zero days will be just as important as all the days I spent putting in big miles. If I don’t rest I can easily get hurt and not make it. I’m thankful to spend it with Flamingo, Flip, and Cocoa!

Day 50: Breaking Up

Day 50

Doc’s Knob Shelter to Pearisburg VA

Miles Hiked: 9.4

AT Milage: 637.0

This morning I left camp at 6:30 AM. I was excited to get to town because I was supposed to eat at a Chinese buffet with Crunchy at 11am. I stopped at Pearis Ledges and looked at the view for a long time waiting for him to catch up to me so we could go in to town together. I realized he was hiking super slow or left really late to hike with Emma so I just continued on. I made it to the road at 10:30 am taking my good old time so he would catch up. At this point I realized he wouldn’t make it to the Chinese Buffet when we planned to go so I gave up. Obviously he was more interested in hiking with Emma. I called her to see how far away they were so we could all get a ride into town to this place called Angels Rest together because they pick up guests for free. Then Cocoa, Flamingo, and Flip passed me sitting all alone trying to figure out what to do. They offered for me to split a hotel room with them so I said yes. Splitting a motel room with 4 people makes it super cheap to stay in town. I was going to be staying alone anyways so I said yes to joining them! We hiked one more mile to the next road where we all had to stick our thumbs out to try and get a hitch. After about 5 minutes a guy pulled over and picked us all up to drive us to the motel. He has lived in Pearisburg all his life and enjoys picking hikers up off the trail when he drives by. We checked into the Holiday Motor Lodge. I only had to pay $35 for two nights! I will take a zero tomorrow. The motel is supper crappy but obviously 100 times better than the woods. I haven’t showered in 9 days since Damascus. After we checked into the hotel we walked to the post office so they could all get packages from the post office that their friends and family sent them. The first thing we did after that was go to a Mexican restaurant because we were all so hungry. I got a lot of hot and healthier food for cheap. It was great. Back at the motel I finally got a shower! Next was laundry time and resupply. We all walked our clothes to the laundry mat down town and then went to food lion to buy groceries. I bought a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables I had been craving. Later we all hitch hiked to Walmart that was 2 miles away. It’s funny how different walking is for enjoyment than necessity. In town we try to walk as little as possible since we had to walk a few hundred miles to arrive in town. The Walmart was 2 miles away but way too far for us to walk to for fun. For the rest of the day we just hung out in the motel eating our food and then walked to Dairy Queen for blizzards.

Emma and I have decided to split up for many reasons. We knew in Damascus that we would be splitting up soon, but hiking with Crunchy most likely prolonged the time we spent together that we shouldn’t have. Hiking with a partner from back home is strenuous on most people for many reasons. I’m not surprised it happened. In fact I completely expected it before she got out here. We both have different trail agendas and therefore have to treat this hike differently. We hiked together 20 plus days in a row before splitting up which I think is pretty impressive. Two months is quite a long time for someone to join you on a thru hike. I think if I knew she was only going to be out here for one month it might have gone a little bit differently.

Things have significantly changed for me on trail when I’ve had a family member or friend join me vs when I am out here on my own hiking and only interacting with other people who have also chosen to come out here alone. I’m so glad Emma came out here but getting to be alone was a huge part of this hike for me when I decided to do it. Having someone join me for two months takes that major aspect away. It’s great to have support from friends and family both on and off the trail. Deciding to do a thru hike is a selfish act in many ways, but it felt like I would be more independent if I were to do it all alone. I’m trying to be more open to friends and family coming to join and meet me out here. I realize that this trail will be the only time I will be receiving physical in person support from friends and loved ones so I should embrace it while I can! It can just be difficult to navigate these situations while trying to live trail life at the same time. The previous few times I’ve had to get off trail for something that happened back home or meet a person from outside the trail have stressed me out while on trail. I know it doesn’t take much to stress me out but it bothered me how much I had to be worried about something that I didn’t want to be worried about. In retrospect I have been so glad to get off trail for the various things and meet the friends from back home that I have! I just need to make myself more comfortable with doing so. I’ve decided that when I do another long distance hike I will be making a very clear communication about how I do and do not want support before I go just so I don’t have to be worrying about things back home while I am on the trail. I think I just get too worried about not making it to Katahdin when I want to, or getting pulled away from the trail. I need to remember that Katahdin will be waiting for me and I just need to let things happen as they do. If you are a friend or family member reading this, I don’t want this to make you be afraid of offering support or meeting me in person I just want you to understand that you will have to be very flexible with doing so.

Another hiker I was sharing feelings about these things with a while back told me this: “If someone wants to meet you, they can pick the time OR the place, but not both.” I love this saying. It sounds aggressive, but I think it’s important to not put your body or mind on a schedule out here if one of the reasons you hike is to be free of both of those things. The AT isn’t very remote so there will always be an easier access road crossing a days walk or less from almost anywhere on the trail. This is something that is super unique about the AT. The two other long distance trails I would like to complete at some point do not offer the same amenities. You can regularly be in a 100 mile stretch without a road crossing and when you do cross a road it might be 50 miles from a town. Not only that but it’s easy to walk for several days without running into another human. What a cool idea! (I know many may think otherwise 😂).

Happy Trails!

Day 49

Day 49

Jenny Knob Shelter To Doc’s Knob Shelter

Miles Hiked: 24

AT Milage: 627.6

Today I woke up around 7am and was pretty lazy about getting ready so I didn’t start hiking until after 8. I called my mom and talked to her for the first hour or two of my hike. I crossed a cool looking suspension bridge before I reached Dismal Falls where I sat down for a lunch break. Emma and Crunchy caught up to me and they ended up swimming in the swimming hole beneath the falls. I had no desire to jump in the cold water. I was already hiking in wool pants and a turtle neck I was cold. It is nice that the weather has cooled down for a few days. I’m expecting a week straight of rain but it just hasn’t come yet. I hiked 6 more miles over really flat terrain to the next shelter. It was the flattest part of the trail that I have seen so far but I didn’t enjoy it that much. It was way too rocky and rooty for me. During the 6 mile flat section I had to go pee about every 20 minutes. I was so frustrated I tried to pee with my pack on. I did it successfully but it wasn’t enjoyable. I just have to laugh that I finally gave it a try. I once heard that being able to pee with a pack on is something you learn to do on a thru hike.

I stopped at Wapiti Shelter to rest my feet and eat some food. Emma and Crunchy came in behind me and ate too. Next I climbed about 700 feet to the top of the ridge I walked on the rest of the night. I enjoyed the climb much better than the flat part. The last part of my hike was through a ton of rocks. My least favorite. I put on my crocs to try and make things better. At the shelter Flamingo, Cocoa, and Flip were there too. I set up my tent and almost immediately fell asleep. My body is telling me it’s time for a rest.

Happy Trails!

Day 48: A Doe, A Deer, A Female Deer

Day 48: Suiter Road Campsite to Jenny Knob Shelter

Miles Hiked: 18.9

AT Milage: 603.6

This morning I woke up at 6am and got on trail before 6:30. I had a 7 mile hike until I reached the road I was supposed to meet Emma and Crunchy at, at 10:30am so we could hitch a ride into town to go to the pizza buffet that opens at 11AM. My hike alone was great. The trail was nice to me and my feet. There were no sharp rocks to stab me and the uphill elevation was very gentle and not steep. I got to the trail head at 8:45AM happy that I had some time to relax by myself before they showed up. A hiker came to the trailhead driving another hiker who was slackpacking. He offered me a ride into town and I told him I was waiting on my friends who would be there at 10:30. He said he would come back later to see if we all needed a ride. I was thankful I secured us a solid ride into town without even trying. Shortly after that Emma and Crunchy showed up. I was so confused how they had gotten there so early. Turns out they left earlier than they said they would and ran the first 4 miles to my campsite as fast as they could. I’m so glad I left earlier than I said I was because I would have still been sleeping and very angry that I had to worry about catching up to them all day. The whole point of me hiking on alone was so that I could have a shorter day into town without worrying about hiking fast and I could be alone. Crunchy went to the road and stuck out his thumb so we could try to catch an earlier ride into town. It was a great spot to catch a hitch because there was a large pull off area for cars. The first car that passed him immediately pulled over to the trail head parking area. Three young hikers we had been following all week jumped out of the car. I couldn’t believe the chances. It made me laugh so hard. Turns out the one hikers parents came to town to visit him and bring him a food resupply. Their parents happily offered us a ride with them back to town. Not only that, they wanted us to take the left over food their son and his friends didn’t take so we did! I got half of a resupply for free! They dropped us off at the Bastian gas station because it was 10:15 and the pizza buffet across the highway didn’t open yet. At the gas station I bought a few more snacks for the trail.

The pizza and salad buffet was great. I ate as much as I possibly could and caught up on my blog posts since I had time and good service. We were there for about 3 hours before we got a ride back to the trail from a couple at the restaurant who offered us one in the parking lot. They knew right where to take us. The seemingly difficult hitch hiking situation into and out of a tiny town on a Sunday morning was easy!

Back on the trail we walked over highway 77 on a bridge before we entered the woods. We filed up our waters and hiked to the first shelter 2 miles away before we took a break. We laid down for a while enjoying the sunshine and digesting our food before hiking 9 more miles to the shelter. Before we took our break I was able to witness one of the coolest things I will ever see. As I was hiking uphill alone I ran into a mother deer and two babies that were lying down on the trail. The mom was immediately alerted of my presence so I just stood there and watched as she tried to get the babies to move. The one began to stumble along behind her but not without extreme difficulty. The second one remained still in the middle of the trail with its legs all folded up. I kept nicely yelling at them to move but the one remained in the middle of the trail. The mom ran farther away but the babies were struggling. I got close to the lying one to get a picture yelling the whole time to get it to move. I felt so bad getting so close to it, almost as if I wasn’t being respectful to the wildlife. As soon as I bent down to take a better picture the fawn tried to get up but it immediately fell over down the side of the trail. It laid down in the bushes to hide so I said goodbye and kept on hiking. The second fawn and mother were still ahead of me. I was really worried about getting attacked by the doe because I have heard surprising stories about deer getting aggressive. The second fawn fell down and into the bushes on the side of the trail and remained hidden as well. The mother kept walking north down the trail. I was wondering how recently the fawns had been born because they were so small and fresh looking. All of a sudden I stepped over the doe’s placenta laying in the middle of the trail. The fawns has just been born in the past 20 minutes ( because people passed by me 20 minutes ago) and I just witnessed their first steps! It was so cool. I will post the pictures of them but they aren’t great. I can’t believe I got to see such a unique moment!

At the shelter there were so many tents. This is the largest group of people I have camped with in a long time and I was frustrated. I like the camps with only a few people at them. I pitched my tent in a rocky spot and hoped it wouldn’t rain since it was thundering with dark skies for the past hour. Luckily it didn’t.

Also I passed 600 miles today. 1600 left until Katahdin!

Happy Trails!

Day 47: Chestnut Knob

Day 47

Knot Maul Branch Campsite to Suiter Road/ Laurel Creek Campsite

Miles Hiked: 23.9

AT Milage: 584.8

Today I left camp before Emma and Crunchy around 8am. I started hiking commando in just my rain gear with no underwear or bra on because all my clothes were wet and stinky from the rain storm and I’m so sick of wearing clothes. I decided that if it was acceptable to hike naked I would. The longer I’m out on this trail the less I care about things and the more tedious simple tasks become. I did one 600 foot climb before I started the second 2,000 foot climb. I ended up stripping off my rain gear and putting on my underwear, shorts and bra. I was getting so hot in my rain outfit because it was acting like a sweat suit. I get better putting on my cold wet clothes after my body got warmed up. I talked to Flamingo a little bit before he cruised past me up to the top of Chestnut Knob. The 2,000 foot climb ended up not being as bad as it looked. The top of the mountain was lots of walking through fields. I met two NOBO hikers named Mrs. Frizzle and Chef near the top. When I got to the top I ate my food and hung out with everyone. Emma and Crunchy arrived about 30 minutes later. The sun was out and the view was really nice. It was an enjoyable time.

After an hour we all left and I hiked with Emma and Crunchy for a while. Soon we separated because I sat down to rest my feet, eat a snack, and go to the bathroom. I’m glad Emma and I are hiking with Crunchy because it helps to relieve some of the tension between us due to the stress of constantly being with each other. We probably would have split up or gotten into a giant fight by now if we had only been in the company of each other. Chef and Mrs. Frizzle caught up to me hiking so I talked to them for a little bit before I took off downhill to the shelter. I met Emma and Crunchy at the shelter (19 miles) where they were setting up camp. The plan for tomorrow is to hike 11 miles into town and then hitch a ride to the pizza buffet. We are all out of food and the resupply close to the trail will be closed since it’s a Sunday. I decided to hike on further to camp at a creek 4 miles north. Mrs. Frizzle and Chef were planning on camping there too. I just wanted to hike less miles tomorrow and not have to get up as early as Emma and Crunchy. They are planning on hiking super fast to get to the road by 10:30 AM which I know I won’t be able to do. It was nice to camp by myself tonight. I called my boyfriend, Jeff, as I hiked to camp which was really nice. I haven’t gotten to talk to him much at all due to no cell service. He is supposed to come to the trail on the 4th of July and spend two Zero days with me which I am really excited about. I can’t wait to see him and to take two solid days to rest my poor feet!

Day 46: Sunoco

Day 46

Stealth Spot to Stealth Spot

Miles Hiked: 19.4

AT Milage: 560.8

Last night it rained all night while we were sleeping. I barely slept 4 hours which is frustrating because it was my longest day yesterday. We got on the trail about 8AM. The first excitement of the day was an old one room school house used in the 1800s. There was trail magic inside out on by a local church in the form of snacks and first aid supplies. I drank a soda and ate some chocolate. After the school house we hiked through some tall grass fields and hit a road with a large Sunoco gas station where we got more food. I was very excited because I ate my very last scrap of food this morning. I resupplied in the form of mostly candy because that’s about all they had. I got some 700 calorie iced honey buns and a whole tub of icing. It was the first time I got decent cell service in three days so I gave my boyfriend a short call and texted my family who might be coming down to visit soon!

After the gas station we still had 16 more miles to go until camp. I hiked with Emma and Crunchy for a tiny bit until I fell behind. I caught up to them when they were filtering water and we sat down to take a break. After our break we still had nine more miles to go. We hiked it all together without sitting down. My feet were really hurting. It started to thunderstorm and downpour but this time it was also hailing. I was running across a field because I was scared of the lightning. Before we got to camp it stopped raining which was nice. We set up camp right next to the creek and enjoyed the night. It was 6 when we got to camp which is the earliest I have set up a tent in a long time. I was happy.

Happy Trails!

Day 43: Fresh Legs

Day 43

Damascus, VA to Elk Garden

Miles Hiked: 24.2

AT Milage: 494.8

Today we packed up and left the hostel just after 7am. We hiked along the road for a while and then the creeper trail before we got back on an actual hiking trail for the AT. Emma hiked with me for a while and then she went in front of me. At mile 10 I met up with her and Parker who were eating lunch at a shelter 0.25 miles off the trail. I was surprised to see Parker again. I was under the impression he hikes really fast because he is on day 20 something but it turns out he actually hikes the same pace, he just ends up hiking all day long. After we ate lunch Emma and I walked another 6 miles to the next shelter to eat food. I was trying to think of a trail name for Parker and I came up with one! I suggested the name “Crunchy” and he took it. I was surprised. Giving someone a trail name is always weird and fun. I have given one other hiker a trail name of “Marble” but I haven’t seen her in a long time. Emma and I hung out wii Parker in Damascus too since he was staying at the same hostel. We had a lot of fun together and it felt like we had finally made a friend on the trail! Parker says we are the people he has talked to the most on the entire trail so far since he has been hiking farther than all the people he has passed. It seems like we ran into a lot of people who are hiking longer miles in Damascus.

After the second food break at the second shelter, we all hiked on together. Emma and I were going to stay at a campsite one mile past the shelter but we were both feeling good for the most part and it seemed to early to stop. We ended up hiking on about 4 more miles to a campsite called Elk Garden next to the road. Parker stayed with us. Today I was proud of how far I hiked and how my body felt about it. My feet are still screaming at me every time I step on a rock, but I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out like I did almost every other time I’ve hiked a long day. Something that helped today go by faster/ better was not looking at the map as much. Usually I obsess over the elevation profile and constantly check to see how far I’ve gone. I noticed that I always check Guthooks more when I am not having a good time hiking or I really want to sit down. It is something that messes with me mentally on the trail. Making a conscious effort to not look and see how big the mountains I had to climb were made them feel so much better! I was also just having a blast talking to Crunchy and Emma. Hopefully we get to camp with him for a few more nights! I’m excited to hit a lot of exciting milestones tomorrow including 500 miles, the highest point in Virginia, and seeing the ponies in the Grayson Highlands.

Day 45: The First Marathon Day

Day 45

Hurricane Mountain Shelter to Stealth Spot

Miles Hiked: 26.4

AT Milage: 541.4

This morning I got out of camp right before 7am. I left before Crunchy and Emma because I needed to filter water. As soon as I left I started hiking as fast as I could so I could get to the next shelter and take a long break before they caught up. My feet are hurting really bad so the less time I spend on them the better I think they will feel. Also whenever I start my day my legs and feet feel the best so I just want to get in as many miles as I can before they start hurting. As I crossed a road a section hiker got on the trail behind me and we started talking so it made the time go by faster for me and helped to keep my focus off my foot pain. I got to the next shelter at 10am. I couldn’t believe how fast I hiked but my feet were really hurting and I was motivated. Emma ended up getting to the shelter 20 minutes after me and Crunchy never showed up. I left the shelter hiking with Emma and we found Crunchy filtering water about 2 miles later. He told us he accidentally walked an extra mile down the wrong trail before we turned around and walked another mile back to the AT. This is the second day he went the wrong way! I would be so frustrated.

Emma stopped to filter water with Crunchy and I just kept hiking so I could get to the next shelter fast and sit down. I stared thinking “eat, sleep, hike, repeat” one word for each step. It made the time and uphill hike go by faster. Emma and Crunchy caught up to me faster than I thought they would. I explained how I felt like I was trying to hard to hike fast but they always caught me. They said that hiking is just so much easier when you are talking to another person and I agree. A little bit later we ran into Flamingo and Flip who I hadn’t seen since I got off trail for the wedding. I was shocked we caught up so fast! It was so good to see them again, I hope I get to camp with them soon!

We stopped for lunch at Partnership shelter at 2:40pm. We had hiked 19 miles with a one hour break so fast! Partnership Shelter was super nice. It was a double decker and looked brand new. It should be able to fit more than 10 people. We ate lunch on the grass in front of it since there was a crowd of people. At the shelter I saw Woodstock who I hadn’t seen since before the smokies! I was shocked to see him again. He told me he ended up skipping a whole section between standing bear farm and Damascus (like 200 miles?) before trail days. Emma also recognized a character we met back in March named Preach. I still don’t believe it was him but she said she would never forget his face. I can’t believe he’s been on trail this long and is only at mile 530 something.

After Partnership Shelter we walked 0.2 more miles to the Mount Rogers visitor center. It was really exciting to use a real toilet for the first time in a while. We also got cold drinks from a vending machine and I bought a snickers bar. We hiked 7 more miles to the next shelter and the rocks were killing my feet again. It was our longest day yet! At the shelter there were so many people and no room for tents. The shelter probably only slept 6 people. We painfully decided to hike on a tiny bit more to a stealth campsite. It was nice to have a campsite with just the three of us. I went to bed quickly and massaged my feet. Tomorrow we are all excited to get more food at a gas station in the morning because we are all running out.

Happy Trails!

Day 44: (500 Miles) The Proclaimers and Ponies

Day 44

Elk Garden to Hurricane Mountain Shelter

Mike’s Hiked: 20.2

AT Milage: 515.0

This morning Emma, Crunchy, and I all got on trail around 7:30. Emma and I saw a black bear on the hill above us about two miles into our hike. We stopped to fill up our waters for the day and eat snacks since the water source at the camp wasn’t great. Then we met up with Crunchy again at the highest point in Virginia. It is a viewless summit Mount Rogers that is a 0.5 mile hike off the AT. After Mount Rogers the three of us al hiked together through the Grayson Highlands where we got to see and pet the wild ponies. Emma was so excited, it was cute. Crunchy on the other hand had no idea there was going to be horses until we told him. The horses were so friendly. They would walk right up to you and let you pet them. Their fur was incredibly soft. The little pony seemed to be everyone’s favorite. They were all grazing on the bright green grass which created a beautiful campsite on the mountainside. We continued to hike until we ate lunch on a grassy spot by some blooming rhododendrons. We ran into more ponies and a group of high schoolers from Cincinnati who come out every year after schools ends to a different section of the AT. I thought that was awesome that their high school gave them that opportunity but wondered how they afforded all the gear since it seemed like there were so many kids.

After lunch we still had 12 miles left. We hiked so slow it seemed like this morning but we just had lots of excitement going on between the ponies and Mount Rogers. I also forgot to mention that I passed the 500 mile marker today! There were so many different trail intersections in this section. It was really easy to take a different trail by mistake and that’s exactly what happened. We walked at least an extra mile down a super rocky path by mistake and it was so frustrating to have to turn around. The rocks were tearing up my feet really bad today. After making the mistake of going down the wrong trail I felt so defeated. The rocks never seemed to end. By the time I got to the shelter 5 miles from the one we were aiming for I was almost limping and in tears. I didn’t think I could make it anymore. I had fallen way behind Emma and Crunchy and had even stopped to take an extra break to aggressively massage my feet. I caught up to them at Old Orchard Shelter were we all took a break and ate food. I was thinking about staying there but Emma and Crunchy would hike on. After Crunchy left I decided I would leave when Emma left or I would never make it to the next shelter. I was so glad I did! Emma was going really fast and I was trying to keep up with her. All of a sudden the sky got super dark because of a thunder storm. It was so dark I ended up having to use my headlamp in the daylight! The storm came at the perfect time because it scared me enough to make me hike so fast I didn’t notice my foot pain. The rain felt great after so many dry and hot, but beautiful days. None of us thought we could even complain about a little rain after how nice the weather has been the past few days. Emma and I eventually made it to Hurricane Mountain Shelter. I was so happy to be done hiking for the day. My feet really need a break but I just had one! This is the first time we have ever done two 20 mile days in a row and yesterday was our longest day ever. At the end of the day yesterday I was feeling great. I think it was a combination of being the day after a zero, non rocky terrain, and good company.

Day 42: A Zero in Damascus, VA

Day 42

The Place

Miles Hiked: Zero

This morning I slept until 7:30AM but I barely got any sleep last night. I was frustrated because one of the major reasons I like to get a place to sleep other than my tent for the night is to catch up on all the sleep I miss out on the trail. We had to leave the hostel between 10 and 2pm today so that the caretaker could clean it. It was kinda of an odd rule but since we are only paying $8 it didn’t matter too much. Emma and I hung out in the public park and walked around town most of the day. I sent some post cards in the mail and did my laundry at another hostel that offered it for $5. I was so bored and tried to relax but it was kind of hard because I didn’t feel very comfortable at the hostel. I ate a lot of food. I try to over eat an extreme amount when I go to town because I end up starving every day on the trail no matter what. I would rather not carry a super heavy pack due to the amount of food I need either. I spent the rest of the day looking through the guide book at our next town stops looking at the easiest ways to get off trail, the cheapest places to stay, and for all you can eat buffets. At the end of the day Emma, Parker, and I walked to food city and I bought a pint of ice cream to eat on the walk back. I took melatonin hoping it will help me get a lot of sleep tonight. We want to leave early in the morning and try to get on a more regular hiking and sleeping schedule.

Happy Trails!