Off the Trail

Yes, for real. I made the decision to get off the trail a few days ago. I’m at tge airport now waiting for my flight home. I’ve been hanging around to make sure I got a proper goodbye with my good friends Shadow, Country Mouse and Flute Walker. I picked them up near Waynesboro yesterday and we all went out for one last AYCE hiker meal (last for me anyway, they’re all still going!) and ice cream. They are friends for life at this point and I hope they make it to the end. If you’re looking for trail updates, you can follow their continuing journey at http://bjandclara.blogspot.com. I have promised to leave them snarky comments too. If the timing works out, I’d love to come back and hike up Katahdin with them in the fall too. But other than that my hike is over.

As for why, it just reached the point where I felt like I wasn’t getting anything out of it any more. On top of that, it’s getting hotter, and buggier. The bugs seemed to like me an awful lot; there wasn’t going to be a day I didn’t itch until it got cool again up north. I’ll miss my friends a lot, but I’m not going to miss the heat, the bugs, the sore feet, the weight on my back, or a whole bunch of other little annoyances.

I hiked 800 miles and I’m glad I did it. I would do it again if I had it to do over. Maybe I’ll even make it back someday and do the rest. Maybe I won’t. Either way it was a great experience.

What next? I don’t know! I’m still planning on taking the summer off of work. But I’ll spend it with Lnorigb at home or somewhere else nice instead of with the mosquitos out in the woods.

Thanks for reading the blog. I’ll miss writing daily updates here. Writing here was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Location:Sayward Blvd,Herndon,United States

Monday, June 6th, 2011 Uncategorized 4 Comments


Punchbowl Shelter to Brown Mountain Creek shelter. Just 9 miles.

Today was HOT! The forecast for down in the lowlands was 95 degrees, and it felt pretty close to that up here too. There wasn’t any wind at all either. 90s, hot, humid, still air, it’s a killer combination. Tomorrow should be cooler, today was supposed to be the peak of this heat wave, but it’s still going to be in the 80s for a few days. I guess summer is here!

I stopped at this shelter after just 9 miles. After here, there’s a big 2500 foot, waterless, climb. I’ll tackle that in the morning when it’s a little cooler, and when I’ve got more energy. I do have the luxury of being able to do some short mile days while I wait for the gang to catch up. They went a couple more miles today, part way up that mountain, but then into Buena Vista. They will zero there tomorrow. So my plan is to get to Waynesboro a day or two ahead of them and then sync back up for Shenandoah. I can either do some normal mile days and take a zero in Waynesboro, or some shorter mile days and just spend one night there. They weren’t planning on spending any nights there, just a quick resupply stop if they need it.

Shenandoah sounds nice right now. Because the trail parallels Skyline Drive for most of the park, there are frequent restaurant, snack, and lodging options. We think we’ll be able to get away with carrying no more than two days of food through there. That’ll be fantastic if it works out. Still more guide checking to do on that one.

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 Uncategorized 3 Comments

Days 73-78: Vacation

Sorry for the lack of updates. I’ve been in hotels since Daleville. I spent three nights at the HoJo, until Lnorigb got into town, then 3 more nights at an airport Hyatt in Roanoke. Nice hotel, crappy location.

Somewhere along the way, my Kindle got broken. There isn’t any obvious damage to it, but the screen was just garbage when switched on. That’s the second one that happened to, the first was a long time ago when it was still under warranty, and hadn’t ever been in a backpack. The Hyatt happened to be half a mile from a Best Buy though, so I just picked up a brand new, smaller, lighter, cheaper one. I’d secretly been hoping for that anyway, the new ones are like 3 ounces lighter! C’mon!

We hooked up with the gang at the Dutch Haus Inn for dinner last night. They’d kept hiking during my vacation of course. But the Dutch Haus is also still 40ish miles ahead of here, so we picked them up at the Janes River and drove them up. That saved them waiting on a shuttle from the Inn, and Lnorigb got a chance to catch up with everyone and meet Flute for the first time.

Today I’m back on the trail, but rather than starting back at Daleville a week behind, I just had Lnorigb drop me at a trail crossing a half mile from Punchbowl Shelter, where the gang was planning on making it today. They did, everyone’s here again. But they’re all planning to head into Buena Vista tomorrow afternoon for a zero day the next day. Having just had 6 zeros, I may just ditch ’em until Waynesboro, the next stop 5 days ahead. I’m supplied for that far.

Beyond that, I’ll be headed home to California for another vacation from Harper’s Ferry, which is less than three weeks away.

All the time off did me a lot of good I think. I’ll find out for sure tomorrow after a real day hiking. Right now I’m happy to be back out on the trail again. Everything’s a lot simpler out here. All those town days are physically relaxing but oddly stressful too. Of course, it’s not the same as being home, but I can definitely feel there’s going to be an adjustment period at the end of this trek. Some people talk about how they have to sleep outside or on the floor for a while to reacclimatize. I won’t have that problem I think. I might have more issues with not having everything I need on my back all the time. Having stuff strewn around a hotel room adds to the town stress too – what am I forgetting to pack up? When I’m not carrying a pack any more, what form is that stress going to take?

On the other hand, not worrying about remaining battery power so much will be nice. This post already ate 10% of my battery, just a few hours back on the trail.

Also, I want to say thanks to everyone reading this blog. I read all your comments, whether they come from
Facebook or the blog comments, and I love hearing who’s following along.

Location:Blue Ridge Pkwy,Buena Vista,United States

Monday, May 30th, 2011 Uncategorized 2 Comments

Hi, Facebook

Apparently my WordPress to Facebook plugin has been broken for a little while. This is a test to see if it’s fixed. You’ve missed some great pictures and the usual daily updates if you’re only following my hike on Facebook! Head over to http://rumsey.org to get caught up.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Day 72: Daleville

Lambert’s Meadow to Daleville, VA. 8.8 miles.

On the way into Daleville. Country Mouse used a timed camera app to get this shot of the four of us at one of the views along the trail.

It was a pretty easy 8.8 miles, we got in at lunch time, just as it was starting to rain. It never rained much though, just drizzled a few times. Once upon a time, 8.8 miles was a full day, now we can do it by noon if the terrain cooperates.

I’m feeling better for having had a shower, laundry, a couple of restaurant meals (Three Little Pigs BBQ in Daleville is GREAT. And it’s not just the hungry hiker in me saying so this time, go there!) and having slept in a bed (Writing this on day 73 in the morning). Still, that last leg was really hard, and my will to hike is still low now that I’ve reached a nice hiker friendly spot to stay. I’m still thinking I’m taking the next two days off until Lnorigb gets here. She says I should just go there instead if I’m going to do that. I think my will to hike for 2 days and my will to fly for 2 days round trip are one and the same. I will still be home for a week once I reach Harper’s Ferry, which will be less than a month from now if everything is going well.

Hiking to catch up with S, CM and FW after all this time off isn’t really appealing, if it would even be possible, so I’ve just decided I’m going to skip ahead and meet them on Monday. If it bothers me later in life that I skipped those miles, I’ll come back and do a week’s hike to make it up (and hit the Three Little Pigs BBQ again). Right now it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’m hiking my own hike here.

Location:Roanoke Rd,Daleville,United States

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Just Hanging Out

The rest of the gang got in some dire straits at McAfee Knob. Good thing I was there to give them a hand back up. And take a picture.

It does kind of give away the trick in the other pictures, doesn’t it? I never dangled my legs over nothing. There’s a second ledge down there, nice and wide. But it sure makes for pretty pictures.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 Uncategorized 1 Comment

Flute Walker at McAfee’s Knob

Wondering how Flute Walker got her name? Wonder no more!

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 Uncategorized 2 Comments

Day 71: McAfee Knob

Campsite near Catawba to Lambert’s Meadow campground. 15 miles (but I blue-blazed part of it).

McAfee Knob was amazing, it really is the best view on the trail, and sitting there at the edge is awe-inspiring and just a little scary. Here’s a couple of pictures straight from my phone. I’ll go through my camera pictures in the next couple of days in Daleville when I have power and wifi and see what else I got.

Also today I blue-blazed my way to camp on the last few miles. Including just a little bit of off-trail hiking when I couldn’t find the start of the blue-blazed trail I was trying to take. I knew if I kept the hillside on my left and stayed around 2100 feet I’d either find it or eventually run into the AT itself, and it worked, I found it after a couple of hundred yards hiking through the woods, and I never lost track of the way back. I was using the topo maps app on my phone to figure that out, it worked great. Worst case would’ve been turning around and heading back up the long way (I saved about 1.5 miles and a big climb and descent), and it was easy terrain between the dirt road I started on and where I found the trail. So I had a little adventure today on top of the amazing view.

Tomorrow, Daleville. At least one zero day, likely several as Lnorigb is flying in a couple of days later, and I feel like I need the extra rest anyway; this has been a really tough leg. Today did make up for some of it though, and the trail was gentle compared to the previous few days.

Location:Catawba Valley Dr,Troutville,United States

Monday, May 23rd, 2011 Uncategorized 3 Comments

Day 70: Dragon’s Tooth

Audie Murphy monument to a mile past VA 624. 13 miles.

Today was hard, no two ways about it. The first part of the day, I thought I was just going to write a post about PUDs. A PUD is a Pointless Up and Down. Places where the trail climbs some little hill, with no view or other significance, then goes right back down, when clearly it could have just gone around. AT hikers are used to PUDs by now, it’s kind of the trail’s trademark.

That was on the way up and around to The Dragon’s Tooth. All told, for something with that name, the trip getting there could have been a lot worse. The Tooth itself is a giant stone sticking up at a 45 degree angle. I guess if you’re going to have a trail that hits all the major peaks in the Appalachians, it would have to hit that one. Fair enough.

What I really wasn’t counting on though was the trip down. It was by far the hardest descent on the trail so far. There were a couple of spots with ladder rungs sunk into the rocks, and a bunch more I wish had had them. It was a serious challenge getting down in one piece carrying 30lbs on my back! On top of the climb itself, it was a hot sunny day, and I ran out of water not far into the descent. I knew there wasn’t water for a while, but I hadn’t counted on the down being nearly as strenuous as the up.

But I did eventually make it down, and just before the road crossing at the end, I found trail magic: some not ice cold, but colder than the air, Budweiser. In fact I got the last one. It was the best Budweiser I ever had. Also at that road, I knew from the guide that there was a little convenience store just around the bend. I got a gatorade, a cheeseburger, an ice cream sandwich which I ate there, and some other snacks to go. I also ran into the gang on their way back from their restaurant excursion, which I’m still glad I skipped. I left half an hour behind them this morning, and must have been at least 1.5 hours slower to have met them when I did. And I don’t think trying to do today any faster would have been wise.

I also told them I was thinking about getting a shuttle to Daleville for the night and maybe hiking backwards to here in the morning (still a two day trip). But really, just seeing them lifted my spirits enough that I probably wasn’t going to do that. Almost as much as the cheeseburger and ice cream. I hiked back to the trail and found em at a great campsite next to a stream that’s not listed in the guide at all except as “footbridge” without even showing that there’s water. Sometimes the guide is full of fail.

Tomorrow we climb up McAfee knob, which is one of the most photographed points on the trail. It’s what they always use for book covers, post cards, etc. unless they use the sign on top of Katahdin instead. I will make sure to get the iconic picture of me sitting on the outcropping, weather permitting.

Then after that, I really hope the rest of the way to Daleville on Tuesday is free of rocks. I’ve had my fill for a while.

Monday, May 23rd, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Day 69: Moping

Campsite just before Keiffer Oak to Audie Murphy Monument. 14 miles.

After yesterday’s hard day, this morning started out pretty awful too. The 800 foot climb was not unexpected, what was was that the several mile flat stretch after it turned out to be along a very rocky ridgeline. I was having such a hard time of it that by the time we got to Niday shelter, only 9 miles in, I decided I was done with the day. The rest of the gang were none too happy either, but decided to keep going. There’s a restaurant that’s just barely reachable tomorrow before they close at 6, but not if we stopped at that shelter, and they’re closed on Monday.

So I sat there at the shelter moping. For half an hour. Then I got my shit together and packed up and hiked on. I caught up to the gang at the Audie Murphy monument, 5 miles farther on, where they had set up camp.

Audie Murphy – the most decorated soldier of WW2 – died in a plane crash near here in 1971.

I still think that restaurant is causing more stress than it’s worth though. Even reaching it in time from here will require a shuttle from the grocery 6 miles before it. I’m planning on just hitting the grocery myself, I don’t want to get up early or push extra hard just for that restaurant. The grocery is enough, it should be like the last one, with a little deli to get a sandwich at, and an extra day of food for the rest of the way to Daleville on Tuesday. Plus it’s open late and 7 days a week, no stressing about timing it right. Looks like Little Debbie fruit pies for dinner on Monday!

Location:Bending Oak Dr,,United States

Saturday, May 21st, 2011 Uncategorized 3 Comments