Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 70. A soggy so-long to the Shenandoah NP

Day 70. A soggy so-long to the Shenandoah NP 

Date: May 21, 2012

Day number: 70

Wake info: 0505h near Compton Peak

Start Mile Marker (MM) & Time of Day (TOD): 958.8 mile @ 0555h near Compton Peak

Pain scale AM (1-10): 2

Happiness scale AM (1-10): 7

Hunger scale AM (1-10): 2

Start weather: Rain, overcast, rain, upper 50s, rain, wet.

End MM & TOD: 976.1 mile @ 1555h at Trico Tower Trail. (Actually, I came into the Front Royal Hostel NOBO from mile 963.4 @ US 522, was driven to the Trico Trailhead, and then hiked back to US 522 SOBO.)

Approximate miles covered today: 17.6 miles

Pain scale PM (1-10): 3

Happiness scale PM (1-10): 8

Hunger scale PM (1-10): 2

End weather: Mostly cloudy, drizzle/rain, 60s-70s.

Resting time: 2:40 (includes check in at hostel and drive too slack)

Bedtime: in the bunk at 2320h to journal. Asleep by 0055 

Where slept: Bunk in the Front Royal Hostel

Money spent: $57 ($19 for bunk, $26 four shuttle (but I'm upset by this because I was made to believe he was providing this service to me free of charge), the remainder for dinner and tip.)

Resupply: Yes. There was a 4-day box waiting on me, but I only need two-three days of it because I'm making great time.

Trail conditions: Perhaps 20%-25% of this section is big rocks that make me go slow. The rest is smooth and fastcm. Or would be if it weren't so wet, muddy, and slippery!

Issues with Equipment and Clothing:

  • My Gore-Tex boots are no longer waterproof and I wore my Seal Skin waterproof socks during the slack packing portion of my hike, which occurred after my resupply. Also in the resupply box were my zip off trouser legs, which I reattached. My feet stayed dry (due to Seal Skins and Hydropel) and my pants bottoms did a great job keeping debris out and shedding rain from the boots. I think I'll ditch the gaiters when I get home.
  • The rain was heavy last night. The wind was strong. My hammock was too high of the ground. The rainfly wasn't close enough too the hammock. As a result of all of the above, a little bit of rain pelted my hammock last night but not too much. Still it was worrisome. My pack below the hammock got wet, as did my shoes and boots, because I didn't cover them with the pack cover. I was too cavalier with my rain protection!

Liters of water consumed: 9 Liters

Approx fuel burn time: 0 minutes

Approx. pack weight: 27 lbs

Number of river fords: 0

Number of paved road X-ings: 5 (Skyline Drive, VA 602, VA 55, VA 638, US 522)

Number of road miles: 0.8

Number of named mountain summits: 1

Number of mountain summits: 5

Number of wrong turns: 0

Number of times I stubbed a toe: 6

Number of times I've fallen: 0

Number of bugs swallowed: 1

Number and location of showers: 1 (hostel)

Songs playing in my head:

  • Tomorrow - Enya
  • To Sir with Love - Lulu
  • Feeling Groovy - Simon & Garfunkel

Happenings at home: Unknown

Companions (Assume thru-hikers unless noted SH for Section Hiker or DH for Day Hiker): Walking SOBO on the Trail: Waker, Plus 2, Spock (Doug), SID & Switchback, and a father and daughter team (I think his name was Balls and she appeared to be a tween and I forgot her name.) At the hostel: Scout, August, the Dutchman, Johansen, and Fiefel (the lone female).

Trail Magic: Water and sweet tea was set out by a resident right on the Trail just south of US 522. I really needed the water!

Flora: Honeysuckle was smelling fantastic!

Fauna: An unafraid rabbit on it's haunches, nibbling some leaves. It reminded me of Bugs Bunny.

Vistas: None.

Attractions: Front Royal Hostel - but this may be Mike's last year to be in operation add he is looking to sell and move closer to his grandchildren. 

State of body: Feeling pretty good. Had to hustle today, so knees, calves, and shins are sore. But the hit spots on my feet are the main issue. They haven't formed blisters, but two more days of rain is predicted. I put Hydropel on once in the morning cm. once on the way to be slacked, and once at night.

State of mind: Still positive and confident. Happy to be on the Trail even in the rain. Happy to have a dry place to sleep and a place to do laundry.


  • The rain didn't bother me today. Add long as my feet stay dry, hiking in the rain is no problem. Thanks Hydropel and Seal Skins!
  • I broke up the day into two parts: NOBO to the Front Royal Hostel and then SOBO back to the hostel. I'm my book it says that shuttles up the Trail are free if you stay multiple nights, but I was only planning to stay one night. The owner, Mike (or the Greenpeace Guy), said that he's just here to help and he could slack me if I came in early. I took that to mean that he'd waive the two-day minimum for me, but he took it it mean that he'd drive me and I'd pay two dollars per trail mile! So my $19 stay ended up costing me $45 dollars. And he said that tomorrow he'd take my gear to the Bears Den Hostel, which would be great because I'd be able to hike the tough Roller Coaster section with a very light pack. He neglected to tell me that would have cost me another $40. Mike is very nice and his Hostel was warm and friendly, but make sure you know the cost of all the things that he's "happy to do for you!" Had I known the true cost, I probably would not have stayed here. (Although it was great to wash and dry my socks!) It's my fault. I should have gotten a firm price. But when hostel owners say, "I'll be happy to drive you to town," or "I'll take you up the Trail," without mentioning a price, the implication is they are offering their service for free. I feel Mike took advantage of this.
  • I really had to motor on the Trail to stay on Mike's schedule!
  • The Potomac AT Club maintained this section, but you couldn't tell it! Weeds, tall grass, thorny bushes, overhanging trees made for unpleasant hiking, as did the wet and slippery conditions. The Jim & Molly Denton Shelter was nice, but would have been great if the sun were shining and I had tine to sit and relax.
  • The forest near US 522 was so thick from undergrowth and thorny bushes that finding a suitable place to dig a cat hole privy was difficult with the scant 30-second warning my bowls gave me to find a spot. I had to crawl into a bush just beside the Trail and hold onto some branches to keep from falling over. This point was moot because the branches broke and I fell, butt first into the mud. It could have been MUCH worse!
  • I ate downtown with everyone from the hostel - good times with friendly folks!
  • The infamous Roller Coaster is coming up tomorrow.

Lessons learned/confirmed today:

  • When a hostel owner says, "Don't worry, I'll take care of you," you should inquire how much his caretaking is going to cost you!

Droid Phone Notes: The nPower PEG finally went dead (no red LED was illuminated when the power button was pressed) today. This should reset the processor. I charged it to full (blinking green) at the hostel. I then charged the phone with PEG, taking it from 3% to 4% in just a couple of minutes. At this point the LED was solid green. I'll hike 40 miles in the next two days and see if the unit will charge itself back to blinking green (or 100%).


Two videos from Day 69: A bear and an overlook

Here's a crummy video of a bear hiding in the woods. You can just make out its movement at the end.

A nice overlook on the northern end of the SNP.

Day 69. Almost out of the SNP

Day 69. Almost out of the SNP

Date: May 20, 2012

Day number: 69

Wake info: 0640h @ Pass Mtn Hut

Start Mile Marker (MM) & Time of Day (TOD): 936.9 mile @ 0856h at Pass Mtn Hut

Pain scale AM (1-10): 4

Happiness scale AM (1-10): 8

Hunger scale AM (1-10): 3

Start weather: Clear, 60s, calm, beautiful

End MM & TOD: 956.8 mile @ 1945h near Compton Peak

Approximate miles covered today: 20.7 miles

Pain scale PM (1-10): 3

Happiness scale PM (1-10): 7

Hunger scale PM (1-10): 2

End weather: Sunny and warm (70s). However it rapidly turned cloudy, windy, and cool (50s-60s). Rain is on the way. Yeah!

Resting time: 3:58

Bedtime: In hammock at 2110h to journal. Asleep @ 2200.

Where slept: In hammock near Compton Peak

Money spent: $3.20 (snacks and breakfast)

Resupply: Yes (Breakfast. I'm eating more than is in my resupply box.)

Trail conditions: mostly rocky, but not the kinds of rocks that really slow one down

Issues with Equipment and Clothing:

  • none

Liters of water consumed: 10.5 Liters

Approx fuel burn time: 15 minutes

Approx. pack weight: 30 lbs

Number of river fords: 0

Number of paved road X-ings: 6

Number of road miles: 3.5 (my final road walk on Skyline Drive)

Number of named mountain summits: 4

Number of mountain summits: 4

Number of wrong turns: 0

Number of times I stubbed a toe: 13

Number of times I've fallen: 0

Number of bugs swallowed: 0

Number and location of showers: 0

Songs playing in my head:

  • Coming Up - Paul McCartney & Wings
  • Bard Dance - Enya
  • Rolling in the Deep - Adele
  • 25 or 6 to 4 - Chicago
  • Lay Lady Lay - Bob Dylan

Happenings at home: The kids and Kathleen watched a documentary comparing meat-based and vegetable-based diets. I forsee a change in my eating habits on the horizon!

Companions (Assume thru-hikers unless noted SH for Section Hiker or DH for Day Hiker): I hiked alone but ran into Blue & Maine-iac, SID & Swithcback, Johansen, and Scout throughout the day. Scout and I camped together near the Compton Peak.

Trail Magic: None

Flora: Nothing unusual. Some mountain laurels are still in bloom.

Fauna: Two bears. One just north of Elkwallow Wayside and one at the base of Compton Mtn. (That makes seven bears that I've seen so far. I've interacted with at least ten.) Also saw a funny looking bird on the ground today. It had the body of a chicken, the neck of a goose, and legs like a roadrunner.

Vistas: Several overlooks and a couple of views on the Marshall Mountains.

Attractions: The Elkwallow Wayside store and picnic area was nice.

State of body: I am realizing with my increased mileage and speed that my body needs more calories. When I pulled into the Wayside I was spent. So I cooked some couscous and bought some inexpensive high-calorie, high-fat snacks ate like a glutton. The additional food gave me the energy I needed to continue and the rest of the day was fine. My left knee is really bothering me; I assume it is my arthritis, for after I get going I feel fine but if I stop the pain resurfaces. My feet are also sore and stiff, especially on the balls and toes. My heels are getting some hot spots, so I'm making sure to apply Hydropel.

State of mind: I've got a positive attitude and am dead-set on making it to Harpers Ferry by Wednesday - two days before Kathleen thinks she is going to have to drive down to get me. My former student, Molly, can get me and actually drive me to DC where I can hop a bus or train to Philly. This is working out beautifully!


  • It was a warm evening last night. The first one in at least four days.
  • It was an uneventful but good day today.  The Trail seemed easy, but yet I am very tired. I've done a number of 20-mile days and that is taking a toll on my body. I hope I can keep up the pace, for I'd really like to make to Harpers Ferry by Wednesday so I can surprise my family.
  • I walked along Skyline Drive between mile marker 19.7 & 18.8 and between 15.9 & 14.2 just for the views and to get a change of pace.
  • Cell phone service has been terrible today. I needed to call the hostel to see about making arrangements and the ony reception I had was on Hogback and Little Hogback Mountains.
  • After I cooked supper tonight I was completely out of food and water. My body is consuming food at a rapid rate now.
  • At the end of the day, I was only 2.8 miles from the northern boundary of the SNP. I will get up very early and head into the Front Royal Hostel, where the owner will slack me north to mile 978.8 (VA 638) and I'll hike back to his place. Heavy rain is on the way and It would be nice have a place to dry out and make some miles without a heavy pack. My resupply box is waiting for me there.

Lessons learned/confirmed today:

  • Kinetic energy is porportional to speed squared. If you double your speed, you must increase your food intake by a factor of four to keep going! My speed has increased from 2.0 miles an hour to nearly 3.0 miles an hour since the start of my thru-hike. That means I must increase my caloric intake by a factor of 2.25! Even a modest increase from 2.0mph to 2.5mph translates to an energy increase of 60%! No wonder I'm shoveling in food any chance I can get. Also, it's no wonder that my resting periods have dramatically increased. Perhaps hiking slower but longer is the way to go. Work (energy) is porportional to the distance traveled, which has much less effect than speed. Hum...

Droid Phone Notes: I charged the phone at the Wayside to 93%. At night, the nPower PEG's LED was still red. I'm dying to test the theory that fully draining the PEG will reset its firmware and make the unit charge properly. I don't know how I feel about the juxtaposition of being in the wilderness with technology, but I think it suits me as long as my technology is used as a tool and doesn't supplant my experience with the natural world.


Video Tutorials: What's it Like to Hike on the AT

Video Tutorials: What's it Like to Hike on the AT:

What does a thru-hiker see as he/she hikes?

More views from the eyes of a thru-hiker:

One last video from the view-point of a thru-hiker. In this one I show you how quickly the Trail goes from ho-hum to awesome. I also point out how one can use the blazes to follow the Trail. Oh, the chunk-a chunk-a noise you hear in the background is my nPower PEG kinetic battery charger. The sound is due a magnet bouncing up and down in an inductor, which generates electricity as I walk. Wicked cool, if you ask me!

Day 68. No buffet but a long day full of vistas and friends

Day 68. No buffet but a long day full of vistas and friends

Date: May 19, 2012

Day number: 68

Wake info: 0550h @ rock outcropping near Big Meadows Campground to pack quickly and make for the brunch buffet! 

Start Mile Marker (MM) & Time of Day (TOD): 917.7 mile @ 0650h at rock outcropping near Big Meadows Campground

Pain scale AM (1-10): 3

Happiness scale AM (1-10): 8

Hunger scale AM (1-10): 2

Start weather: Clear, cool, upper 40s

End MM & TOD: 936.9 mile @ 0835h at Pass Mtn Hut

Approximate miles covered today: 20.0 miles

Pain scale PM (1-10): 3

Happiness scale PM (1-10): 8 (I finished on an up note but throughout the day I'd give it a rating of 6.)

Hunger scale PM (1-10): 2

End weather: Clear and pleasant

Resting time: 5:57

Bedtime: In my bag at 2145h to journal. Asleep by 2320h.

Where slept: shelter

Money spent: $21.58 (lunch, dessert, and tip AT Skyland Restaurant)

Resupply: no

Trail conditions: Somewhat rocky, but nothing too bad. (The trail before and after Mary's Rock was pretty rocky.) Generally the trail was wide and well-maintained, but the last 1.5 miles of todays hike was weedy and narrow much like the southern portion of the SNP. See below for more details.

Issues with Equipment and Clothing:

  • My phone's battery is dropping very quickly! It was fully charged when I left Skyland at 4pm, and now is down to 74% after a few photographs and done journaling with the screen filter on. I'll talk with my dealer once I get home.

Liters of water consumed: 9 Liters

Approx fuel burn time: 6 minutes

Approx. pack weight: 32 lbs

Number of river fords: 0

Number of paved road X-ings: 2

Number of road miles: 0

Number of named mountain summits: 1

Number of mountain summits:

Number of wrong turns: 0

Number of times I stubbed a toe: 21

Number of times I've fallen: 0

Number of bugs swallowed: 0

Number and location of showers: 0

Songs playing in my head:

  • Right as Rain - Adele
  • Wildfire Michael Martin Murphey (What can I say? I saw a horse eating hay by the stables and this song popped into my head.)
  • Bard Dance - Enya
  • Rolling in the Deep - Adele
  • Coming Up - Paul McCartney & Wings
  • I'm Coming Out - Diana Ross

Happenings at home:

Companions (Assume thru-hikers unless noted SH for Section Hiker or DH for Day Hiker): I hiked solo as usual, but Scout, Blue, Maine-iac and I ate a nice and relaxing lunch together at Skyland, and we all ended up at the same shelter that night. I ran into Babysteps st Thornton Gap waiting for get brother to pick her up for a few days of R&R with get family. Add we chatted a bit about get hometown of D.C., I realized what a nice, friendly, and helpful young lady she is! Also at the shelter were Expeditor and Instigator (, a fun older couple in their 60s who I've been following in the shelter logs and who at first glance remind me of James Grumbach and Mary Dart. (Their background is in ultra long distance running, so hiking the Trail is well within their skill set.) Also there was Johannes, a fellow from Germany who came to hike the AT because of the long documentary that aired there. He did not know Coffee To Go, but he did know Reinhardt. August was also at the shelter, but he was already in his tent when I arrived and he left before I awoke.

Trail Magic:   Yes! I was just asking for directions of a group of nice people from eastern Virginia camping at Big Meadows Campground, and we got to taking. Before I could say, "Oh, I really  couldn't", they had me loaded down with a hot, delicious, blueberry pancake (the batter was homemade from ground oatmeal and I would LOVE to have the recipe!), hot sausages, fruit, and a bag if muffins. They wanted me to stay and eat some more, but I had a long way to go and I could have eaten all of their delicious food if I had stayed!

Flora: Some nice mountain laurel and wild azaleas blossoms. I wonder when the I'll see the last of the year.

Fauna: A deer was standing stoically in the Trail as I was hiking toward it, and when I got about 15 feet away it would bound ahead. This went on a few times before it abandoned me and took too the woods.

Vistas: There were a number of awesome views today. (The central prion of the Park has some pretty spectacular vistas, especially at Crescent Rock Overlook, Little Stony Man Cliffs, Stony Man Overlook, and Mary's Rock.

Attractions: Skyland Restaurant and Resort (it would be great to vacation here with the family!).

State of body: My left knee is really killing me especially when I stop hiking. I'm sure this is my arthritis flaring up for the first time on the trail. I also put copious amounts of Hydropel on the toes of my left foot and then bandaged then with Band-Aids and surgical tape. I also laced my boots tighter so my toes would be less likely to impact the toebox. These worked well and my toes, while still sore, are not in as much pain add they were yesterday.

State of mind: Positive, happy, and confident.


  • Walking through the spacious and packed Mig Meadows Campground I asked a nice group of folks from Eastern Virginia for help locating the AT and we got to talking about the Trail. one thing lead to another and in a flash I had a plate full of pancakes, sausages, homemade muffins, and fruit! I had just eaten my measly breakfast so enjoying their delicious foods wasn't a problem for this hungry hiker! Thanks, you guys! And if you could give me the recipe for your ground oatmeal pancake batter I'd be so happy - they were fantastic!
  • Blue, Maine-iac, Scout, and I hiked quickly to the Skyland Restaurant but sadly I was misinformed - there was no brunch being served. However, we had a nice time eating lunch together. The food was tasty, but we all wanted larger portions!
  • Perhaps the best view on the Trail so far was at Little Stony Man Cliffs at Mile 927.1. What was so striking to me about this place was the fact that this was the first time I felt that one little slip or trip would send me plumeting over the edge of a cliff. On all the other cliff edges, even on McAfee Knob, I never felt an adreneline rush on the edge like at did here.
  • There were a number of repellers and mountin climbers at Little Stony Man Cliffs. After I had left the cliffs, the girls (Blue and Maine-iac) were asked by the mostly male climbers if they wanted to repel with them, and happily accepted their offer.  I wasn't asked to repel, and I later learned that Scout wasn't either. I can't imagine why!
  • Despite my disappointment with poor shape the Trail is in, it really is unfair of us thru-hikers to criticize PATC for not doing a better job maintaining the Trail. Their section of the AT is HUGE and the number of people willing to sacrifice their days off to trim and cut back well over 100 miles of trail is small. Additionally, this year saw a mild winter and the growth began early.
  • Mary's Rock (Mile 933.8) holds a special place in my heart, for I climbed it and thought about my colleague and friend, Mary Dart, who teaches math at George School. (She also sings, plays lots of musical instruments, and is an all-around sweetheart.) I could have spent more time thinking about Mary if I had approached the rock tower from the north rather than the south, for there is a nice, easy-to-follow approach trail that wraps around the steep rocky peak to the north. However, I approached from the south and figured I had to scale the near vertical rock face. So many people told me going to the top of Mary's Rock was worth it, so I tried to suppress my fear of heights and ignore the warnings in my head that were reminding me that I didn't have the equipment nor the training to climb such a rock. When I had made it half way to the top and after two or three scarry moments where I slipped and slid backwards a few feet, I decided that I'd rather see Mary Dart in person rather than merely think about her as I fall to my death and gave up my futile effort to climb the monolith. Of course, 60 seconds later as I hike around the base of Mary's Rock I run into the short, easy approach trail to the summit and hustle to the top to think about Mary once again!
  • I am still on track to be in Harpers Ferry by Wednesday. If I can keep up the pace, I'll be able to surprise my family by showing up at home a day early, AND I'll be able to reconnect with my former student, Molly Kramer, who lives near Harpers Ferry. Oooh, I'm so excited about the posibilities!
  • One question I am often asked by clean, perfumed, and fragrently-scented day hikers is "do the bugs bother you?" They ask this while a swarm of bees, flies, gnats, and no-see-ums are buzzing around their heads. Honestly, except for a few mosquitoes and some bugs early on in Georgia, I have not been bothered by any bugs. I assume this is because the day hikers smell like perfumed flowers while I smell like the south end of a north-facing moose.
  • The Pass Mountain Hut was built in 1939.
  • Tonight is not as cold as the previous three. I think incliment weather may be on the way.
  • Sean and Mark (the Warrior Hike guys) called the SNP the "Disney World of the AT".
  • Park is redeeming itself. The trail today was generally wide and well maintained - or at least less weedy. One reason for this is due to the fact that the Trail was fairly rocky all day. There were nice smooth stretches, but most of today had rock scree and cantaloupe-sized rocks to deal with, but it didn't slow me down considerably. That said, the Trail several miles north of Thornton Gap was the rockiest and slowest section of trail in the SNP. Day or section hikers may find the rocks in this section more difficult to navigate than someone whose hiked over 900 miles on similar or worse conditions.

Lessons learned/confirmed today:

  • This morning as I took of my camp shoes to strap on my boots, I noticed the toe of one of my socks was covered in what looked like a large blob of blood. I thought that odd, for I wasn't feeling any pain and I didn't have any injury that I knew of. Then it dawned in me that a bug must have crawled into my camp shoe last night and when I put them on, well, that was it for said bug. With the exception of this morning, I always check my boots and camp shoes before putting them on. This time it was one of those prolific millipedes (sorry little fella); I'm fortunate that it wasn't a critter that could bite back.
  • If you do a 20+ mile hike and rest four nearly 6 hours throughout the day, expect to arrive in camp in the dark!
  • One nice thing about hiking the SNP - you hardly have to filter or purify your water because there are so many places that have potable water sources. I might have used my filter three times so far.

Droid Phone Notes: I charged my phone to 98% at the Skyland Restaurant. The nPower PEG's LED is still red, indicating it hadn't fully discharged itself yet.