Bigfoot's Journal -- 2001/Book 4

7/6/01 -- Lost Mountain Shelter (7:22 PM)

Bluesman is doing what he does very well. I found a can of Beenee Weenee to add to my Lipton and tuna. Treethumper is working on Breakfast of Champtions. Wanderer - a man from Damascus on a weekend hike - is by his teepee tent cooking over a wood fire. Once Bluesman pulled out his guitar, Wanderer turned his radio off. The three of us shared secret smiles and hidden signs of relief. Both the shelter and the privy feel new.

I am soaking in these details to forget the Damascus downtime and ignore the decision I have to face tomorrow. Not exactly put off - stew or simmer back in the non-conscious part of my mind. Treethumper and Bluesman invited me to join them and yellow-blaze up to Buena Vista. They will hike from there to Harpers Ferry, and then into Washington, DC for a few zero days. They will jump up to Maine, so I would be forced to return to the skipped miles in Virginia. Can I afford bus tickets? When will I finished the skipped miles? What about Greg and Bastille Day? What about my hike? Who will I meet that I know only from shelter register entries.

7/7/01 -- Wise Shelter (8:05 PM)

Today's hike was long, beautiful, and easy if you don't count the bouldering. The Virginia highlands are equal to any other section I have been trhough. The three of us passed bunches of day-hikers and a handful of wild ponies.

Tomorrow - and I hope I have this all straight in my head - we will hike seven miles and hitch into Marion from Va. 603. There, with the help of Greyhound, we will jump up to Buyena Vista and hike up to Harpers Ferry for a vacation into DC.

7/8/01 -- Greyhound # 1963, in transit (1:22 PM)

In six or seven hours we will be in Buena Vista. Funny how the chain of events putting me here never included a decision to yelow-blaze the heck out of Virginia. On the climb up to Buzzard Rock I had tuned out everything I did not need to take the next step as I calculated the short and long-term logistics of each choice. I was thinking of miles and maildrops and bus-rides, anything to avoid the actual decision. I was at a fork in the trail, with no wrong choice clear to me.

So just as I was considering the problem of previously mailed-off food drops, and hoping against hope that I might run into a hiker with a cell phone, just then I came up to Buzzard Rock. Two kids I met at The Place - Philipino, I think - had camped up on the Rock. For the same reason people play the lottery, I asked for a phone. Miracle of miracles, they did, but alas, said they could not get it working. It was borrowed from a friend.

This challenge was right up my alley. Almost before I discovered all they had to do was change one configuration option, I was calling the post offices in Sugar Grove and Bastion to forward my boxes to Waynesboro. Only after I handed a working phone back to two delighted hikers, and Treethumper appeared on the edge of the bald did the consequences finally hit me.

Wether my heart, my subconcious, or an enthusiastic stupidity drove me, I am following through commitedly. What is the use of swimming against the current after jumping into the river?

Yesterday we caught up with an over-burdened Roamer, who stayed with us at Wise Shelter. A furious wind arose after sunset - a rainless, humid, spooky wind - and by morning gritty sand was stuck to everything left in the open in the shelter.

All night and all morning the wind blew in directionless rushing gusts. None of us slept well. Maybe Roamer did, but no one asked. We left an hour later that planned at 7:30, and set out for Va. 603. The low, thick, and ever-present clouds kept us in a timeless twilight. Hiking through misty forrests and foggy field I began thinking that all Virginia had been lifted into the clouds and was flying at a terriic rate. This weather was the sort that has a company hiking in silence and as quickly as possible, lest the weather worsen or some unknown threat emerge.

The spell broke after about two hours, when rain came down. Now conversation was cheerful distraction from the blowing rain, muddy trail, and rocky mud. We hiked to 603 uncomfortable - especially Treethumper with his heel - but not unhappy.

Roger - a Baptist in a Saturn hatchback - picked up the three of us trying to hitch into Troutdale. From there hitches to Sugar Grove to Marion came effortlessly. We were even dropped off in front of a Food City in the same strip at R & M Heating and Cooling, which doubled as the local Greyhound terminal. Now, with a belly full of MacDonalds, I am going to nap.

7/9/01 -- Hog Pen Gap (7:51 A)

I should take another picture of my feet - surely the folks at home are some combination of digusted, puzzled, and bored with all the foot photos I send. My right big toenail finally came off with a steady pull. There was very little pain. It is a gross injury, but not as impressive nor nearly as painful as Treethumper's heel. All the skin on his right heel has fallen off, and yet he keeps up with me.

Today's hike flew - sometimes at over four miles an hour. We stopped for two sunburnt hours at Spy Rock. That place was so fun.

7/10/01 -- The Priest Shelter (7:04 AM)

Maybe I won't photograph my feet. Maybe I won't photograph anything. Maybe I need film. Looks like I will be doing it the old-fashioned way - remembering things.

The wildlife here isn't so wild. Two deer are grazing at the edge of the shelter clearing. Rabbits also stop by. One chased Treethumper up onto the picnic table.

7/10/01 -- Maupin Field Shelter (2:50 PM)

We ran down the Priest to the Tye River this morning. Bluesman was on my heels crossing the mostly wooden suspension bridge. I was taking large heavy steps to find the bridge's resonant frequency.

7/11/01 -- Mauping Field Shelter (5:44 AM)

It is incredibly easy to sleep after a restless night when the people you are supposed to hike with are still sleeping.

7/11/01 -- YMCA, Waynesboro (11:00 PM)

I knew I would cause problems not finishing the bridge story. Now there is that and more to tell.

7/14/01 -- Calf Mountain Shelter (6:23 AM)

Finally, I have transcribed the 7/6 - 7/11 entries into this journal. Now I can make real entries again, and there is much to catch up on. First, let's go back to the Tye River foot-bridge.

Bluesman was imploring me to stop for fear of collapsing the bridge when I felt a shock sting my left calf. Instinctively and awkwardly I slapped at it. In the several tenths of a second that that motion occupied, my brain identified the source as wasp bite. Much like birds, chipmunks, and squirrels, I issued a loud verbal alarm - which need not be reproduced here - then bolted torwards the far side of the river. Hindsight suggests I should have been more specific in my alarm - perhaps suggesting a course of action or identifying the thread because Bluesman paused long enough to consider, "what the heck?" The delay cost him five or six of his seven or eight bites. Soon enough he figured the situation out, and like me, raised a general alarm while fleeing.

We reached the far side, and continued raising alarms and declaring our distress for several minutes while the worst pain subsided. Truth be told, we were both laughing just about as hard as we could. A curriously wary Treethumper soon appeared at the far side of the bridge, but did not cross. Our verbal alerts, as unspecific and general as they were, had the right effect.

Treethumper crossed several minutes later, extremely nervous and exremely careful about disturbing the wasp nest in the center of the bridge, which a sign on the north side warned southbounders about. Several days later, Bluesman still brings the issue up.

We climbed out of the Tye River valley to Harpers Creek Shelter to meet a family on a short hike. They wore cotton and denim, and that says it all, but they were nice people. By now I had [convinced] Bluesman and Treethumper to take the six mile while-blazed AT to Maupin Field Shelter, not the three mile blue-blaze, which we later came halfway back for a good swimming-hole. If they, or I, had seen an elevation profile, or if the data book had the elevations for Chimney Rocks or Hanging Rock Overlook, I do not think I would have been able to convince them. It was a climb and-a-half, and then we hit the steep part, raising a total of three thousand feet. We were eye-to-eye with The Priest we came off of that morning. From Hanging Rock Overlook we saw The Priest, the ridge leading down to the Tye River, the ridge leading back up, and the four thousand foot mountain we had just climbed. Duly, we were impressed.

That night we gorged ourselves on the incredibly amount of food yogi'd from weekend campers, but slept hardly at all. We three all itched incredibly, probably due to the swim earlier.

We left Maupin Field Shelter in good time the next morning, and had an easy 20 miles hike into Waynesboro. Actually, I don't recal most of it because my mind was distracted by the girl we found sleeping in the trail that morning. For her sake I won't go into details, except to say she later called my parents to let them know I was coming into Waynesboro.

I'll talk about Waynesboro at lunch, during the heat of the day. Can't let Treethumper get too much of a head start.

7/14/01 -- Blackrock Hut (12:55 PM)

Treethumper and I have stopped here after 13 miles for a hot lunch. In an hour or two we plan on doing 13 more miles. This terrain makes for easy hiking.

We had a list of people to call who would shuttle hikers around Waynesboro, but never had to use it. Bobby, a soft-spoken middle-age service industry worker, met us at Rockfish Gap, drove us to the YMCA for registration and showers, then took us out to dinner at Weazies. We met several other hikers at the Y, including Silent Bob who we hiked with yesterday.

Bluesman and Treethumper stopped hiking together, and had to split up stuff. Bluesman hiked out the next day, while Treethumper stayed with me for a zero day, that was satisfyingly wasted waiting to make phone calls. The next morning Treethumper, Silent Bob, and I got a ride from Mars.

Treethumper and I are on a weight race. We sent home our water filters and the tops of our packs. He has built an alcohol stove from V8 cans, something I am sorely tempted to do. On the way out of town we stopped by the outfitter. His back weighed in at about 28 lbs. Mine was almost ten pounds more - I think food is the biggest difference. We are carrying very little food because there are groceries every couple of days.

7/15/01 -- Bearfence Hut (7:37 PM)

I have some mild catching up to do, but am saving it for tomorrow, which should be a very slow day. If it is not I may die due to shin splints.

The Shenandoah was reputedly easy hiking, so Treethumper and I initially pressed hard - first 27 miles to Pinefield, then 20 to Bearfence. Virginia has since become slow and lazy. If we ever do more than 15 in a day, I will, well, do it, but I'd rather not.

The heat, the slow miles, the flat trail, the undistinctive and panoramic lookouts over rural Virginia, these all slow down the miles till we seem lazy. Even after my shins and knees recovered from the long push. The days are mellow and a hot lunch followed by a three hour siesta doesn't help. But it does make the days long. A week has passed since I came into camp before six or seven. If it hadn't been raining this morning, we might have been motivated to get in early for once.

Today we only planned for 13 miles, but there is a grocery stop 3/4 into it. That's how the Shenandoah's work. Every other day we buy enough to make it to the next place, and stuff ourselves on tourist-priced park food. But I have yet to sample the reputed black-berry ice-cream. Maybe today.

7/18/01 -- Gravel Springs Hut (5:45 PM)

A black-berry sunday and Nestle Crunch ice-cream bar caped off a large and greasy lunch at Elkwallow Wayside. Afterwards, we bought enough snacks for tomorrow's 13 mile walk into Front Royal. Combos and Pop-tarts were the cheapest calories in their selection.

Treethumper and I left Skipper and Chachie in a light rain. They were in no hurry, and were making plans for mashed potatoes and cheese. Snowmaker was not out of his hammock. An entire scout troop and a southbound boy with a dog all left before anyone in the shelter had left their sleeping bags. Morning rain - as light as it was - is a serious inhibitor of hiking, or even getting up. Aside from soaking our shoes on the grass, it neither bothered us, nor slowed us, for the rest of the day. Hiking through low clouds kept us cool and averted a midday siesta. Also, I bought half-a-pound of fudge. I just ate a cherry pop-tart to make room for the fudge in my food tupperware.

Since Waynesboro, and until a couple of days ago, I have been reading. First, "The Giver" by Lois Lowry - a book from Paul and Becky. Second, "The Dying Earth" by Jack Vance - fantastical science fiction. Third, "Star-begotten" by H. G. Wells. The last two I picked up in the Waynesboro public library for spare change. I almost left with "The Secular City" until I found that not only had the author reversed his position in a later book, but also was to be found on a widely circulated 50 Worst Books list online. And it was thick, intellectual to boot.

Both "The Giver" and "Star-begotten" I passed on to Treethumper. Later I will send him "The Alchemist," which Paul and Becky gave me at the start of my hike. Vance's "The Dying Earth" has rekindled my interest in gaming - I find myself mulling over the best way to capture the book's atmosphere with a role-playing game. When I get to a computer, I will scour the internet. Others surely have tried before. Please God, let it not be an online GURPS supplement.

I used to mention the times I gave my nanotech spiel, but not recently. Treethumper and Bluesman - back before Bluesman charged ahead - were young and weird, so I enjoyed going off about the revolution. Eventually I had only to say "robots" and they would roll their eyes and laugh. Science and science-fiction are good conversation, but how can I talk about "The Giver" or "The Alchemist" without sounding like a child or a very baked hippy?

Bluesman left Waynesboro a day before Treethumper and I. It's probably more accurate to say that we two stayed for a zero day, under pretense of making evening calls. We have, almost eagerly, been tracking his progress in the registers. We have, most unexpectedly, witnessed him pull of at least three consecutive twenty mile days. We have, most assuredly, been impressed. After the exhausting 27 and subsequent 20 day, we dropped the pace considerably. Siesta, meals, food-shopping, books, and late starts have filled recent days. Both of us are content, just as Bluesman seems intent on finishing Maryland before we achieve Harpers Ferry.

7/18/01 -- Gravel Springs Hut (7:43 PM)

Skipper, Cachie, and their dog Jucinda have shown up - about when we expected. I only bring it up because Chachie is feeding Jucinda. He substituted a "ready-to-eat" corned beef for dog food because the last store had none, and it was a dollar cheaper than spam. It's n old-fashioned tin, and it took a day-hiker's hatchet to finally open. Imagine the mess. Imagine that Chachie is vegetarian. Funny stuff.

7/19/01 -- Gravel Springs Hut (6:46 AM)

Snowmaker, who didn't set up his hammock, joined us in the shelter and offered his candle, which burned all night. Someone in the register suggested it as a way to keep the resident rat at bay. The register also mentioned racoons, and describes them as none too timid, but with Jucinda - now curled between Chachie and Snowmaker, earlier on the ground at my head - we were unbothered.

We have a 13 mile walk into Front Royal. Last night Treethumper was talking of an early start. This morning is another story. I have already eaten breakfast, and will pack up at 7:30. That time may be late enough.

7/20/01 -- Jim and Molly Denton Shelter (1:13 PM)

Front Royal went by smoothly. Relatively painless hitches both ways, a hotel room with HBO, and two large Dominos pizzas. We bought food for the two and a half day hike to Harpers Ferry and proceeded to stay up all night watching Cliffhanger, Rocky 4, and Joan of Arc.

7/20/01 -- Dicks Dome Shelter (5:58 PM)

For the second time today I am writing while I wait for the phosphoric acid and chlorine dioxide mixture to react. It is what I treat my water with. Any part of today's hike that was long or wearing was really short and easy seen through the lens of five hours of sleep. It was a pleasant stroll across fields and under trees - except the rain two days ago, the weather has been stellar ever since the great yellow-blazing. Blackberries and rasberries are both in mad season. Picking them as I hike turned canned fruit sugary and mummified. Grocery fresh becomes stale and dusty. Ah, if only the blueberries were also ripe.

Many odd things happen to hikers - and a lot of it seems to be concentrated just north of the SNP. Bluesman saw seven bears in one day. Atomic - I never met him - was hit by lightning on Marys Rock. Flying bear almost pulled a forty miler, had a close bear encounter, and then woke in time to escape his tent and watch two dead mammoth trees crush it like you can imagine.

Treebeard and his partner Amarant have gained some notoriety for their rails against cars, roads, fat and pasty tourists, and in general, American consumerism. If they mean what they write, they are both sick with hatred. In the registers their rants are trailed by long strings of no pleasant words. Even Johny Six String, who once ditto'd Treebeard, got fed up. Johny is only two days ahead of us, but I may never see him. That makes me sad because I have been following his flourished handwriting and strange humor since he started with a 65 pound pack in Georgia. I hear that he has been hiking naked with Cosmo and others at night. Virginia is a very long state.

I would like to continue north past Harpers Ferry - there are quite a few hikers I am just a couple of days behind.

7/21/01 -- Blackburn Trail Center (9:30 PM)

Today was a long day across a section of the trail known very appropriately as the Roller Coaster. We saw a rattler, ate many wild berries, almost caught up to everyone, and ran into some unexpected magic involving pizza. More details tomorrow possibly.

7/24/01 -- Greyhound # 6471, in transit (1:34 PM)

The bus should pull out in about 15 minutes. I left Treethumper - recently, Tim - watching the coin-operated television. His bus leaves at 2:30. Ten hiking days left, but my hike is already done. Harpers Ferry was the high-water mark, now I am turning south. Katahdin is at my back, and my heart knows it. My heart is full with a sick, deep, and joyous sadness that I wont try to describe any more than that because it is a common emotion to all hearts. In a minute I will regain my composure and tell all the mundane details since the Blackburn Trail Center. For now I will sit back, stare out the window, and wait.

Oh, God! The bus is leaving. The driver is reciting the rules - a distraction and relief. Today is the two month anniversary of the hike. Kicking off the celebration with a nap.

Tim and I started late out of Blackburn. Both of us were weary and beat from the previous 26 mile push. We said goodbye to the caretaker - a Frenchman and very good cook if his bread was typical. We only had twelve miles, but I still think we started late, but we were weary, like I said, and also full.

The Blackburn Trail Center is owned by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, tended by a caretaker, and used by many different groups. This weekend sever inner-city kids were on a leadership conference, and we arrived at dinner-time. Specifically, pizzas were coming out of the oven and we were walking in the door. Staring as politely as possible, and trying not to drool, we accepted cold sodas from the caretaker and let him show us to the hostel. Only later, after dinner was on the stove, did the leftovers come out - pizza and salad. We thankfully scarfed both. I MacGuyvered a salad bowl using the stove's heat shield and a ziplock bag. It lasted through five or six bowls.

So we started late - the hiking was easy and painful and halfway we went through a small rasberry patch - arriving at the ATC headquarters close to three, in time to see Flying Bear meet his mom. Tim and I poked around for a bit, until tim discovered a foot massager, then it was just me left poking around. A resident angel walked in and took us to a BBQ at his house. Salty, Cosmo, Heatmiser & Little Train, Operator, Crazy Fox, and Johny Six String were all in attendance. We talked and ate for as long as it took to down two beers, then got a ride back to the ATC HQ hoping to meet Jackie. Tim met Jackie back in the Smokies - now we were planning on a zero day at her place in DC, but Tim has not talked to her recently. She did show up, and we had a place to crash. More acuratelly, we had a place to stay up all night, and we did.

The next morning Tim, Jackie, and I found ourselves watching 7th Heaven and The Cosby Show, until we left to meet two other hikers staying there for lunch. We hit the Air & Space Museum, and returned home with the rush-hour Metro crowd. More lazy television, talking, eating, and online chatting passed the rest of the day. We fell alseep halfway through the Drew Carey Show, with Jackie still working at her computer.

This morning Tim and I held the place down until we left for the bus station. 7th Heaven, The Cosby Show, and washing my clothes in the kitchen sink filled time. We left at 11:30.

7/25/01 -- Brown Mountain Creek Shelter (4:03 PM)

Yesterday I was at a Motel, so of course I was up late in front of the television. This morning I loaded up on food at the local Post Office, so now I only have on giant bounce box full of food, not two. A taxi brought me to this shelter. The sun is out now, but earlier I was cloud-hiking - very pleasant during the heat of the day.

7/25/01 -- Brown Mountain Creek Shelter (7:01 PM)

Movement is difficult. The air is warm and muggy. My stomach is full and slightly uneasy with the Lipton I put too much oil in. I am exhausted from three late nights in a row. These are true physical impediments to motion. Treethumper is in Ohio by now, and I heard that Troop 709 is on the trial down around Hot Springs. The result - I am alone, despite having run into and hiking with a southbounder I met in the Shenandoah.

7/26/01 -- Punchbowl Shelter (11:21 AM)

Stopping here long enough to treat water and inhale calories. The almost stagnant spring is downhill to both the pirvy on one side of the shelter, and a pond on the other. Flying Bear had this to say on 7/5, "We are currently drinking fecal matter from 'privy bowl' pond over there."

I left Dirty Boots - the southbound Englishman - at the last shelter. He only eats one meal a day and rarely hikes more than ten miles. I want to leave soon so I can be over Bluff Mountain before the midday heat, so I will probably have to say goodbye to him in the registers.

7/26/01 -- Matts Creek Shelter (5:43 PM)

Paul and Becky have described the rasberry cobler made with graham crackers. So instead of treating berry patches as slow-down-and-snack-time patches, I saved them in an empty Nalgene, and suffered dehydration for the remainder of the day. That is delayed gratification at its best. So I arrived at the shelter - and greeted a mother & daughter section hiking - and proceeded to cook the standard Lipton, tuna, and olive oil dinner.

During the day, I had decided I was going to make chocolate-covered rasberries, so stripped three Snickers of their milk-chocolate skin. Using my heat shield in way not previously concieved in the mind of man, I tried melting the pile of chocolate shards and shavings in an ingeniously designed double boiler. Of course, the chocolate didn't melt very well - probably by design - who wants Snickers that melt in your hand? Seeing that the chocolate would never be pourable, I made an on-the-fly decision to ad the rasberries to make a pleasant tasting goo. The berries also added a lot of water, so I transformed my heat shield / double boiler into a cassarole dish - I had planned earlier for this - and sprinkled crushed Ritz crackers.

Now I remembered the apple cider packet someone had given me two daya go, and the hot water from my double boiler had a new purpose. Who's the gormet chef now, huh? There is only one catch, and it should occure to anyone who knows that a heat shield looks like after two months of use. Actually, there are two catches - what do you do with a miserable and peeled Snickers?

Back when the SAT mattered, I remember, possibly on a practice test, missing the very first vocabulary word - gregarious. Now that I am partnerless, I have become talkative - you might say gregarious - with everyone I meet. Days are long and solitary, evenings are social.

7/27/01 -- Cornelius Creek Shelter (6:37 PM)

Eighteen miles today. Twenty-two yesterday. Two more twenties before Pearisburg, nothing in the low teens, and no more zero days. A string of bad weather would be a bad thing. So far it has been cool - a big plus - but just wet enough to keep my feet damp - a bigger minus.

Piper, Frindy, and Zoot are here tonight. Piper and Frindy are the southbound daughter-mother pair I met last night. Frindy - the mom - hitched around Apple Orchard. Zoot is northbound. I heard from him that Roamer is probably a day south. In turn, I told him I ran into Vivi and Open Handed Grouse today. Vivi - unaware of my mini-flip-flop - was suprised and happy to see me. We chatted briefly and rapidly before exchanging emails and goodbyes.

The Lipton and tuna took the edge off my hunger. I re-evaluated my food supply and ate two cheese crackers.

7/28/01 -- Cornelius Creek Shelter (7:09 AM)

A cold drizzle moved in during the night, forcing Zoot to abandon the picnic table. I had already made room for him next to me - the scout motto is "be prepared" - so there was very little fuss. The rain I do not mind hiking through, but this is a very cold morning. At least I have less than twenty miles today.

7/28/01 -- Bobblets Gap Shelter (6:42 PM)

If my feet did not need "dry time" to heal or if the Troutville P.O. were open on Sunday, I might press on to the next shelter. I have taken the afternoon as slow as possible, and it is just now 7:00. Today I hiked as fast as I could, to keep my feet wet for the shortest time practicable. If anything could predictibly throw off my schedule, it is rain. If anything could weaken the resolve of a thru-hiker, continual rain is it. If anything hurts more than banging your head into the corner of the shelter, I don't know what it is. Alternately, I was cursing and sobbing for at least a couple of minutes. Half an hour later there was a bluebird on my shoulder as I unfolded and ripped the dehydrated spaghetti sauce for dinner.

Nothing frees the imagination like dripping rain in a forest or onto a roof. I have heard approaching hikers, a six-inch rat, and drunken locals in flip-flops. None ever materialized, but I heard them. A spectral analysis might back me up, but who wants to do that kind of work? Who is better off if the boogey-man is scientifically disproven? Not the boogey-man and not the eager and frightened children, I'll wager. But when the rain lets up, and you still hear scurrying, you set out mousetraps. Oh, wait. Neverwind, that's just wind blowing water off the leaves. My bad.

As daylight fades, my friend the tea-candle brightens. I should be asleep just as its light dies, huddled in my wet clothes in my warm sleeping bag with miniscule drops of water occasionally splashing onto me from two or three feet away. Two weeks at least have gone by since the last time I slept alone. With the constant rain, I remember my first night in Stover Creek Shelter. The lesson being tested is this: do not wake up at 4AM with more than eight hours of sleep.

7/29/01 -- Bobblets Gap Shelter (7:29 AM)

Last night I dreams that my parents and I were invited to a "liberation theology" dinner party hosted by a young and militant feminist. I woke from it with a full bladder during the salad course. Normally I would lie awake for several minutes and drift off to sleep again. This time I recognize that I was afraid, alone, and in the dark - an excellent opportunity to push through a mild, if debilitating, fear. Of course nothing unexpected happened, and I was back in bed soon enough. My keychain LED was already out, so what the heck, why not see what time it is? 4:19 AM. Since I have decided that a random coincidence is also an oxymoron, I asked the timeless question, "what does this mean?" Did God just endorse marjiuana - albeit in very limited circumstances? Is a fallen angel trying to bring me down? Well, if God wants me smoking, he's going to have to supply, because - gosh - I'm fresh out.

7/30/01 -- Catawba Mountain Shelter (evening)

WJKS is blaring about the top nine at nine, and daylight is fading. Soon the tea candle - along with my heat shield now a candle lantern - will be the only light. Still, I am still on McAfee Knob, smoking the last of the cloves from Gatlinburg. I gave one to Yosef once. Streak and him have been off the trail for a week or two, I guess. Vivi read their last entry - they are hiking for their dad who cannot hike because he is recently dead. The smoke drifts to the right of the left according to the inscruteable whims of the wind. Sounds drift up from Catawba valley - a dog, a plane, a toy truck winding its way. A bird soars by, and far away a jet roars. There is wind in the trees, and my breathing, that's what I can hear.

To my left and to my right cliffs recede - McAfee Knob proper is a rocker floating out over Catawba Valley. Here Paul Schryer hung off it and had his picture taken. Becky and him are on my mind. The ridge across the valley stretches panoramically. I can even see Tinker Cliffs and the ridge I have just hiked. Those cliffs would have been fun to play on with Treethumper, but his is back in Ohio. Beyond the cliffs I see the gap I crawled of this morning.

Yesterday I fell off the end of my rope. Three days of wet hiking, sunless hiking, and I did not need much of an excuse for a town day. Bad water at Fullhardt Knob Shelter was it. Six miles into town flew by, and fifty dollars flew out my back pocket. I went shopping for five days after stuffing six plates down my gullet at a Country Cookin. Too much channel surfing, and I left town with five hours of sleep and a "deluxe contintental breakfast." Despite the appearance of almost a dozen rabbits, and several deer, I did not come out of that vicious funk completely until McAfee Knob.

7/31/01 -- Niday Shelter (late evening)

What a roller coaster today was, and the trail went up and down as well. Twice I found myself at the end of my rope. This morning I left Wanderer - whom I met in Damascus - in hight spirits and fair weather, and passed Bandana just north of Va. 311. His speech was quiet and stattaco. Dragon Tooth was as fun to climb to as play on - comperable to Marys Rock, but on the long, slow, and rocky descent I ran dry and skipped a food break in my hurry to get to Pickle Branch Shelter. When I arrived I was hot, thirsty, and exhausted almost to the point of tears, but the water was cold - if downhill - and the breeze through the pines restful. I left with full water after snacking heavily, again in high spirits. Ten minutes later I ran into What About Bob and then at Trout Creek Bayou saw me take a spill. Caught up with both, drank Pepsis from the creek with Bayou, but pressed on once I found it was almost four - I had just under ten miles left. The hiking was mostly uphill but well graded, and I missed the Audie Murphy momument, lost in thought. Once the trail started downhill, I picked up my pace, anticipating the shelter. At the bottom of Craig Creek Valley a light sprinkle hit, and - with dreams of a 27 mile day tomorrow - I took off, hoping to reach the shelter dry. I never did get much more than damp, and my shoes, thank God, are dry, but I was in a pretty ugly funk for 1.3 miles. You see, I thought I has just 1.3 miles to cover, but I forgot how much 1.3 miles really is; I am used to thinking that five or ten or twenty miles is far away.

Lovely - the Cicada Symphony Orchestra is playing. Fortunately, I have decided to take three slow days rather than two long days into Pearisburg. Why was I so eager to get off early for a zero day?

8/1/01 -- Laurel Creek Shelter (late afternoon)

Today I ate the following: two pop-tarts and 14 ounces of Chex mix for breakfast, a fudge brownie and cheese-on-cheese crackers, two Klondike bars and a Pepsi for lunch, and Zesty Cheddar Lipton with tuna and another fudge brownie - better and cheaper than Snickers - and more crackers. Clearly I have much food; with the short days into Pearisburg, I may not impress my dad and his parents with my appetite. C'est la vie.

The sky is mostly clear now, but this morning was damp from last night's rain. I was moving slowly over slippery rock outcropings and carefully through thorny bushes. The three goats Bayou warned me of did acost me, but they got nothing but their pictures taken. My first break was as Sarvers Cabin Shelter - brand new and appropriately dubbed Gentle Slope Shelter by Chachie, according to the register. My second rest was at the red-roofed farmhouse on Va. 42, where Klondikes could be had for a buck.

The Kelloggs watch uncle Tad gave me finally died north of Daleville. It was water-resistant on a sunny day, in that I would resist wearing it into the water. Three wet days in a row - I suspect the battery was short-circuited - was too much. It had a burial appropriate for a cheap, plastic artifact, but not for my watch of 800 miles. I left it in the Best Western waste-basket.

8/2/01 -- Pine Swamp Branch Shelter (late afternoon)

There were two hikers here - I have not caught their names yet - when I arrived, and I am happy for the human contact, after being alone for two or three nights. They are as far from the start of their month-long section hike as I am from the end of mine. Apparently Bill Bryson played a part in their hike - they, like so many other "fat, pasty tourists" asked if I had read "A Walk in the Woods." I understand how the unrelated Bill Bryson I hiked with briefly feels.

Although the PUDs at the end of today's hike were wearying - and I expect because I am running low and rationing food - it was pleasant. Except for the rocks - a real ankle workout. Except for the spider webs - as thick as I have ever seen them and just as bothersome as the bugs they were made to trap, but the bugs weren't out in full force.

Tomorrow I make my final shelter register entry, just like Streak and Yosef did July twelth. I read that entry yesterday - they called me a stud for doing forty miles into Damascus.

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