We have now done about 660 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and we’ve arrived at a friends of my fathers, Katherine and Terry. We’ve enjoyed a wonderful steak dinner with mashed potatoes, fresh salad, and eclairs for desert! YUM! We’re so grateful for real food, a nice bed and a long hot shower!
We wound up getting stuck in Damascus for 3 days- one day because we thought we deserved a day off after hiking 26 miles, one more because I came down with a stomach bug and another because the forecast was calling for tornado’s and golf sized hail (which of course never happened). By the time we left Damascus we were going crazy from boredom. After Damascus we entered the Grayson Highlands, which were supposed to be beautiful and covered in wild ponies- but we crossed them in the rain and wind. You can’t always pick your weather, so we take what we can get. Our last evening in the wild pony area we were all huddled up in our sleeping bags listening to the rain when we heard rustling in the woods. There they were- a herd of ponies with a tiny foal! We got out of our warm sleeping bags to experience this famous part of the trail. The ponies were far from “wild”- they were quite friendly in fact, and we fed them Mike ‘n Ike’s right out of our hand. Had we not gotten out of our sleeping bags, however, we would have completely missed this experience, and I’d probably hate the Grayson Highlands… We’ll still need to go back during good weather someday.
An experience we could have done without was the following day of downpour. We were rained on (with moments of slushy snow) for the whole 16 miles we did that day (and we had even planned on doing more). Our rain gear completely failed on us. There were pools of water inside Dirt Stew’s pack cover (leaving the bottom of his pack nicely soaking wet), and my rain jacket had somehow let enough water through to soak the jacket I was wearing under it (this was not sweat because the layer under that was mostly dry). So we learned that things are only water-proof to a point (or not at all). We were happy to find that there was a road crossing, and we pathetically hitch-hiked into a small town with a hostel which had no heat, but at least four walls and a roof.
After we left the Grayson Highlands, the weather instantly switched to borderline snowing to 80 degrees and humid. We got a few thunder storms at night which sometimes helped cool things down slightly, but it would heat right back up the next day. My allergies kicked right back in and the bugs came out to make sure my days were slightly more miserable. I found that I had a really hard time breathing, especially going up mountains, and I quickly found out that I had some sort of allergy induced asthma- and had some medicine sent to me, which seems to be working great.
These last couple days have been very nice- the temperatures have dropped slightly, the allergies have toned down, and there are plenty of leaves on the trees to provide some shade.
We had a particularly good day yesterday when we had heard several rumours of a house close to the trail across a zip line that let hikers have free soda. It sounded like a fairy story, but turned out to be true- there was a tiny sign “the captain’s” and an arrow with a tiny trail leading up to the river. When we got to the river there was a zip line set up that you could ride across the river to the other side where there was another sign that read “soda is in the fridge, help yourself”. We walked up to the porch of the house, where there was a little fridge hooked up outside, and helped our self to some much appreciated soda. It’s amazing how much moments like these make the trail amazing. Things like this are called “Trail Magic”. And two Mountain Dews were just what I needed to do an 1500ft elevation jump in about half a mile. Any other time that would have just been a pain in the butt.
We’ve gotten to know almost all of the thru-hikers that are within a week or so of us, so we know when someone is a weekend-er/day hiker/ or section hiker, and people who are out for just a couple days tend to pack way too much food. We met a group of ladies who were out for a couple of days and we met them on the last day of their hike. When they found out we were thru-hikers they started dumping all of their extras at us, and we ate like kings that night- home made beef jerky, sun dried tomatoes, almonds, drink mixes, etc.
Some other interesting facts about our hike so far:
Since we started (march 17th), we’ve done on average about 13 miles a day (this includes 4 days off, and a few close-to-zero mile days)
Our longest day was 26 miles, second longest 24.
We have not yet seen a bear, but we have seen: deer, raccoon, bunnies, chipmunks, many different snakes, newts, frogs, and many other animals.
We met a guy who is trying to hike the trail blind with a GPS device that beeps when he’s on the trail
We eat mostly junk food- mac and cheese, candy bars, honey buns, pop tarts, gorp, etc. (we’re sick of our trail food)
Some stuff we’ve learned:
The scariest thing on the trail is the weather
You can buy a honey bun that has 600 calories
Nothing is water-PROOF
You can still be hungry when your stomach is full
Stress on the body is cumulative
If you take several days off, and you hurt even more than when you were hiking
Gatlinburg is hell on earth
We think we may stop in Daleville, although we’re not too sure… but in 200 miles, we’ll be in Charlottesville, and we’ll get to spend a couple days at home! Nothing better than home…