Category Archives: Appalachian Trail

hiking the “Priest” with “Snafu”

Turn off the Television

I have been lazing around C’Ville since returning from Florida. I admit I got hooked into watching the Olympics…… I always do. Yesterday though, was Snafu’s day off and she wanted to go for a hike. I hardly needed to be asked….. of course I want to go, this is like being asked to play catch with Joe DiMaggio. Snafu is in the hiking hall of fame and is just plain fun to spend time with her outdoors.

We got out the maps and tried to visualize which hike to take. Shenandoah? nope, done the whole thing in 2010. something local? nope, we are going to go out with a bang. McAfee’s Knob? hmmm….. probably the single most iconic photo opportunity location on the entire Trail in Virginia; too far away though, likewise Dragon’s tooth. So we settled on The Priest. It would be a 9.6 mile roundtrip with 3,000′ of vertical.

Why the Priest, exactly?

because it’s there! (George Mallory, referring to Sagarmatha also known as Mt Everest)

enter it into the GPS and away we go. We did not get on the trail until 11 o’clock. A bit late……

When we got there we took a look at the Footbridge over the Tye River, then got set up for the hike. I brought just a day pack, but still wore my boots and used my poles. Snafu was very sporty in a hot pink top and a floppy hat from Brasil.

Snafu ran ahead of me the same way she did when she was eight. There was no cell phone reception on the lower part of the trail and she didn’t bring hers anyway. But there were other hikers coming down as we ascended, so we resorted to the ancient way of passing messages – each time she passed somebody going down, she would give them something to say to me (usually “I’m not that far ahead, don’t give up”)  and we also played Marco Polo a couple of times.

I used my solo hiking time to reflect on how much better I am, than in May. Yes, I still huff and puff, I still sweat; but I can go continuously uphill for 4.8 miles with much fewer stops. And my mental attitude is well adjusted. I am ready  to take on all challenges that await me for fall semester. When I do , I will get to the mountaintop!

Why climb The Priest?

“because it’s windy up there and when he tilts his head a certain way, it makes a whistling noise as it goes through the hole in his head” (George Mallory’s sister)

the summit was glorious, despite a rattlesnake which was also sunning itself. Wet Noodle was there, a section hiker who I had not met but whose log entries I had read. I missed him because he took time to attend the Rainbow Gathering, which was in North Carolina this year. Likewise, he’d read my log entries at shelters for two hundred miles, from the whole summer. Soon we were going over the list of names of other hikers we knew in common and and he was telling me what he knew about them. I felt bad to hear that Turbo Snail  had torn the ACL on her knee, forced to stop her hike. We laughed about Forrest and how I bestowed him his nickname. Don’t Know Don’t Care  and Lost Cause were accounted for. In it’s own way this was a perfect recap of my hiking trip….. as he repacked his backpack, I told him that he could leave his hikertrash near our car when he passed through the parking lot, and we would dispose of it.

I am still slow, and despite only having a day pack, i just can’t seem to speed up and fly down hill the way I used to. I gave Snafu permission to not wait for me, and she flew off downhill like Atalanta.

On the drive home I learned that Brasil Women’s V-ball team beat the USA  for the gold medal.  I would have loved to see the game, but I would not have traded the chance to hike with a champion, for anything!



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July 29th confession about Wood Peewees and folk dance tunes.

A reader asked what you think about all day when hiking.

everything. and nothing. I will expand on this at some point. To hike awakens mindfulness, an awareness of basic body reaction to the environment explored by Buddhists.

for me, I will reveal a sort of automatic process that took place this time around.

there is a bird known as the Eastern Wood Peewee. click on the link and you can hear the sound it makes, captured on YouTube. this time of year, most birds are silent during the day because mating season is over. you will hear the dawn chorus at 0615, for about thirty minutes, then it dies down.

Spring is the best time to listen to the symphony of birds. they sing songs of love. The dawn chorus. something I have always loved.


as many of you know, I love music and have a lot of tunes on MP3. I don’t listen while hiking though, because it depletes the battery.

One song on my playlist is ” An Dro Retournee” which is a folk song from Brittany, the French province. I like the tune. Part of the YouTube commentary on it reads as follows:

The An Dro is an ancient fertility dance from, some say the Bronze Age’ and it was danced around the fields at festivals, sometimes all night, hence it had to keep the pace even, so the people will be led into a trance, rather than to exhaustion. In this version the footwork is more in and out rather than side and on the spot, and the dance is driven by the large spiral swing of the arms. I tell you from experience, it is very energising!

And there is on particular recording of it used by many International Folk Dance groups in USA, that includes some synthesized sounds. I think the synthed parts were intended to evoke the sound of a Brittany bagpipe, but to me it sounds like a bird call or perhaps a whale recording.

and here is the mystery: sometimes as I was hiking along I would find myself singing this song.  After ten minutes or so , I would make a conscious effort to think of something else, and ask myself why this was in my head?

the answer is, whenever I passed through a spot where there was a Wood Peewee, I would recognize the sound, subconsciously at times. Next thing I knew I was singing this tune. If I were one of Pavlov’s dogs, I would have been salivating.

it’s one of those aspects of free association.  there are many examples of tunes designed to mimic bird calls – including a famous passage from Beethoven’s Pastorale symphony which uses the woodwind quintet.  Wooden bird whistles are a staple of percussion in Brasilian samba music as well.


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deciding to suspend my 2012 hike

All good things must come to an end

Executive summary: I am okay. Vital signs fine; no bandages; no limping or deformity. This extends to my mental disposition – no guilt or regrets. Going beyond the here-and-now, I have had a hoot. My mental attitude is great, I met wonderful people and I am in better shape than I was when I started. But…….

Thirtyone miles in three days including 2 twelves in a row, and very hot weather yesterday while doing 2,000 ft of vertical…… That is about the limit of what I can do. Today I started off with 1,000′ vertical, it was going to be another 11 miles, the humidity was stifling. Then…..

Otters and riverbanks

What happened next was we had an old-fashioned hellfire-and-brimstone lightning storm with torrential rain. I was descending a section where the trail traverses the steep mountain slope, trending downward…. familiar to anybody who has hiked in this region. the footpath hangs halfway up the wall of a sort of steep canyon, about two feet wide, now muddy and wet with leaves. I slipped – bobbled – and took a belly flop forward. My poncho is shiny and slippery so I went about ten feet like I was at a water park. Involuntary self-heimlich. Seeing stars. Dizzy. (Didn’t lose consciousness)


Glad I didn’t roll to my left and go over the edge down into the rhododendron thicket of this “holler”…… down the steep slope. Shoulda just stayed at the shelter until this was over. Oh, I know why I didn’t – tell you why later.

Inventory: I lay there taking inventory. One bent hiking pole. glad I didn’t reinjure my knee.  a bit more muddy and more wet. certainly getting more cautious about where to put the feet, not a good thing when trying to make some time.

Looking ahead. I knew I’d get to a road crossing and then start the final four miles to the next shelter. this involved 2,000′ of more uphill, and it was about 3 PM, meaning that I woudl not arrive until 10 PM – would I have the endurance to do it?

Yes, I had M & Ms on me, but – no amount of chocolate would accomplish that task!

I was wet and sore. I knew for a fact that nobody was going up after me that day. The trail uphill was going to be just as slippery as what I was downclimbing upon….. and I was worried about slipping again.

I had to conclude that the best course of action would be to not go uphill. I was “done” – so when I got to the last road crossing, I left the Trail. I walked along the road for awhile since there was no traffic of any kind. The first vehicle that passed, stopped. It was a couple who were out aimlessly riding around to see wildlife. what they saw was  – me.

To get to a paved road took a long time – if they had not been out there I would have walked seven miles. (I did walk three) They deposited me at a motel near I-77.

And I checked in.

So – the final total miles will be about 335 or so; I have to go over this. More than 15% of the trail.

Lots of fun stuff along the way…..


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July 20 – Damascus? that was then, this is now

July 19th

Today’s miles: 10.

Cumulative miles? Who knows. ( who cares?)

Once more, I managed to get to a shelter, at the end of the day, with ten minutes to spare before a thunderstorm with pelting rain. Here I am @ Hurricane Shelter, the first hour I was by myself; this one was built in 2004 and the first thing I noticed was the remarkable acoustics like a being inside a guitar soundbox.

Symphony Hall has nothing on this place!

As you might expect I sang songs with sustained notes, just to enjoy the reverb while setting up for the night. “Shenandoah” is apropos of Virginia, so I belted it out. The chorus of Jackson Browne’s “In the Shape of a Heart” was enjoyable, here. I am not a country western fan, but “The Dance” as sung by Garth Brooks, should have been recorded right here, that’s how good it sounded. Finally “The Heart of Life” – now there is a tune with a wonderful message!

Long time no hear from

I have been – out of touch. (Maybe you thought I was dead….) Yes, the reception in the Mt Rogers area was nonexistent. But who cares, really- you probably were relieved not to be getting the daily message.

There’s only so many ways to say

“Today I hiked (6/8/10/12 miles)

in the (rain/heat/wind/humidity)

and I saw a (mountain/stream/bird/insect/dragon/bear)

while I (thought of a lost love/thought of you/thought of nothing)

and my (feet/legs/right knee/skin/lips/) was sore.

At dinner I ate (mountain house/ramen/red beans & rice)”

What can I add to this serial?

Summary: outta Damascus I crossed the Mount Rogers range, tallest in this state. Grayson Highlands lived up to it’s billing, it was nice to also have the adjacent balds so as to build the anticipation….. At Grayson highlands they allow a herd of wild ponies to graze so as to maintain the “bald” condition – a beautidful high mountain meadow as in the Rockies or Sierras.

The wild ponies were cute enough. Watch your step 🙂

My long day the 17th was – tiring. I did 13 miles including about 3,000 feet of vertical. Somewhere along the way, I had a couple slightly longer days mileage-wise but this was the Big One for the summer when you add the vertical. It thundered on and off that day, with showers and I kept the poncho handy. I rested when I was tired. I met a group of eight young guys from a church group at one point, they were getting some sun on the rocks of the first Bald. I leapfrogged with them for the next nine miles. They made camp at Elk Park at 5 P.M., a civilized hour. I saw them but kept moving – with no tent, I needed the darned shelter.

And so, with eleven miles in the bag, I found myself at Deep Gap at 7 P.M., knowing there was two miles remaining along with 500′, and of course, darkness approaching. Ask any other hiker about this and they will tell you it’s time to open a can of “Whup-Ass” and get it in gear.

By this time the sky was clear; but the trail passed through spruce thickets that made it very dark, seeming to be later than the actual clock would tell. I resisted getting out my headlamp since I did not want to stop and take off my pack to rummage through it.

Hiking in the dark

Memories of other hikes during which this or that companion had joined me for a grim forced march; flashbacks to each of the times Gummy Bear and I did this, and what we talked about (listing Great Forced Marches of history was the theme; I recall Gummi Bear describing “Night” by Elie Weisel. I don’t wish to cheapen the holocaust by any means – it’s more about what a great writer Elie is).

Got to the Thomas Knob Shelter at 9 P.M. – after dark – it’s the latest in the day I have hiked, this trip. Tried to be upbeat as I got within ten yards but my butt was dragging.

The scene was set with the a better-than-average cast of characters; four other guys. Two were playing rummy by the lights of their headlamps. I got organized and made dinner for myself. We were all up til 10:30 – I enjoy the chemfree conviviality of a good old fashioned college Bull Session, and this was a great one.

I think I was too tired to turn over in bed, once I got there. Slept quite soundly. Thompson Knob Shelter is situated at the edge of a “bald” – I took a short video in the morning. Spectacular.

Fact is, I was in a post-marathon sort of stupor, didn’t leave the shelter til 11 A.M. – I’d known that the morning-after a Big Day would be tough on this old carcass and it was. The guys from the church group passed me as I was packing my stuff. They stopped to talk, they were a bit surprised to see me ahead of them.

Grayson and the Wild Ponies

Yes, I did see the wild ponies. Lovely. I knew that if I got one for Amy I’d have to also get one for Julie. Also, I would be separating it from it’s mother – something I could not bear to do. So? Maybe next time.

Let them eat cake?

So then last night, to Wise shelter, where I met Mega Mind and Left Field. Also, PeeJay and I shared our last dinner table, along with Cabin Boy. Today? then 10 miles to here, Hurricane Mountain Shelter.

Today’s 784′ vertical? Piece of cake! “Mad Patter” just arrived – happy to have a shelter companion. Bringing Oreos! Chow Down!

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Q & A about privies on the Trail

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Q: how can a person tell they are now hiking in Virginia and not TN or NC?

A: Here, there is a privy near each shelter. Virginia is the home state of six presidents.

Q: what!?!?!

A: it’s true. In TN/NC they encourage the “moldering system” and there is a shovel at each overnight location. The guiding theory in TN/NC is, it decomposes faster, fewer flies, etc. Also, every American can enjoy our public lands in their own way, it is our birthright.

In Virginia they have read Ecclesiastes.

Q: and toilet paper?

A: I carry a personal supply. I augment this with selected deciduous leaves. Lately those of the American Chestnut have been my go-to favorite.

Q: isn’t the American Chestnut an endangered species?

A: yes and no. Chestnut Blight has eliminated the majestic mature “redwoods of the east,” but there are thousands of juvenile trees right by the Trail. In New England I found that leaves of the Sugar Maple would also serve. Leaves are biodegradable!

Q: don’t they clog the sewer system?

A: I have never, not even one time, flushed any leaves down a toilet.

Q: what if there is no privy along the way during the day?

A: Do what bears do. Actually – don’t. Bears will relieve themselves in the middle of the trail. Bears are very unselfconscious. People should step *off* the trail, then emulate the happy-go-lucky bears.

Bear scat is distinctive, by the way.

Q. Are you making this up?

A. No. Why would I lie to you? A number of years ago, a wise hiker wrote a backcountry masterpiece titled “How to Shit in the Woods.” It is now a canon of backcountry lore, and I would be hard pressed to add anything to that oevre. The book ends up in many a hiker’s Christmas stocking, to this day, and has been translated into French. Kathleen Meyer, the author, deserves an honorary PhD from Warren Wilson College or perhaps UVM. To say nothing of the Nobel Prize for medicine.

Q: do you own a copy?

A: No. Buy it on Amazon.

Q: what if you…..just…. Can’t?

A: in that case, backpacking may not be a good fit for you. I met a girl scout troop on a thirty mile A.T. Hike. One of the leaders told me they’d done a “test hike” for a weekend back home in Ohio a few weeks prior, during which they found that two girls tried to “hold it” for the entire three days. One more reason to do a test hike before setting out on the real thing. Those two needed to work on “letting go.” They did not make the final roster.

Q. Is this problem caused by civilization taking us away from our roots?

A. My own daughters grew up in rural Maine and our old farmhouse had a two-holer; we had a flush toilet but sometimes the two-holer was a handy backup when a blizzard took out the electricity or some such. I’m just sayin’.

Q. About squatting. Weren’t you having knee problems?

A. Thank you for asking. My right knee has improved and I am able to squat with more flexibility than before. Maybe that’s TMI. Difficulty in hyperflexing my right knee prevents me from surfing because I can’t “pop up.” When I had my knee X-rayed, the orthopedic surgeon told me I have previously fractured my patella. Who knew? All this time I thought it was a meniscus tear.

As an aside, In Hawaii I learned that children in Asian cultures spend more time squatting than kids on the mainland. This maneuver enhances lifetime knee joint flexibility. I once had a student who decided to squat in the hospital corridor, while jotting down her nurse’s notes. I had to tell her it’s simply not done that way, use a chair. Later we joked about it on the elevator, and all ten students in the group squatted as if on cue. I said “don’t hold your breath waiting for me to squat down there with you.”

Q: what about Nepal?”

A: the main fixture in Nepal is a squat toilet. These are common in rural Asia. It’s not as if I haven’t had practice 🙂

Q: what else about privies?

A: In NH and VT, Dartmouth College Outing Club (DOC) maintains a hundred miles of trail, and the D.O.C. designs each privy as a standalone work of architecture. There is one location where the privy roof is supported by four columns reminiscent of Bernini’s famous Baldachino at  Saint Peter’s Basilica. To sit on that throne in the forest cathedral is a majestic experience. Architecture is a means of social commentary, of course.

Trail progress

PS got to Saunders Shelter prior to the lightning storm Sunday. Alone there overnight. Nine miles and 2,000′ vertical, despite lingering in Damascus until 11 A.M. An enjoyable hike paralleling the Virginia Creeper bike path and a rollicking mountain stream. Found myself humming the second movement of Beethoven’s “Pastorale symphony” – which he composed after a hiking trip in Bavaria. At one point I stopped for a swim.

The 16th was a relatively short day, but Tuesday I will climb the ridge that includes Mt Rogers, tallest peak in VA. – thirteen miles and 3,000′ vertical. Wednesday is reserved for the Grayson Highlands. Feral ponies etc…..

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Catch-Up catches Up……. July 6th through 14th – Bears. water hazards. heat. rain.

July 6th

Decided to return to Roan Mountain TN and pick up where I left off. The bus ride was uneventful.

The big news? Two guys, “Whitey” and “Red-haired Stranger” – a father and his 15 y.o. Son –  with whom I spent last Saturday night at MountainHarbour Hostel, drowned in Laurel Falls a couple of days NoBo from here. On July 4th or so.–Laurel-Falls-Drowning/

They were a lot of fun, we’d spent the evening June 30th on the porch of the Mountain Harbour Hostel discussing all kinds of stuff, and when I watched them I could easily recall hiking with my own fifteen year old.

And of course, it was tragic. Evidently a good-sized waterfall – one drowned first and then other died trying to save him. Here is a video of the falls at high water.

I don’t plan to swim in the same spot.

Anyway, I myself am happy and healthy. It’s supposed to be hot but I will start early, take it slow and continue my practice of having a siesta.


July 8th  General vicinity:

On the Trail northeast of Roan Mtn, TN. Done with NC altogether.


Saw a bear yesterday, first one of the trip. It ran away as fast as it could.


I took off early the morning of July 8th but it’s blasted hot (95+?) which forces me to slow down. A nice siesta by a stream this afternoon. I am seven miles into an 8.4 mile day. (update: my map was wrong. it was 9.6 miles…)


Moreland Gap Shelter, last one on Map #2. Then – we switch to Map #1!

We are supposed to have violent thunderstorms tonight then cooler weather.

Menu? Red beans and rice! Note: I am sick of cliff bars. Blech.


Nobody will ever know exactly what happened with the two guys who drowned, but I met two fly fishermen at a road crossing, and they told me the stream where the waterfall is, drains a valley ten miles long and two miles across.  At the spot where the waterfall is, it comes through a narrow gorge and can expand in volume quite rapidly. Possibly took Whitey and Red-Headed Stranger by surprise.

The previous drowning there was in 2006. Small consolation. I am left to contemplate team backpacking – and my own father-daughter trips. I know one thing: if something had ever happened to Gummi Bear or SNAFU or Sam Gamgee on one of my trips, I would have rather been dead, myself.

I don’t plan to swim there. I am a cautious person. I will sit at the bottom and say a prayer.

Am safe, am well, expect to be in Damascus next weekend….********************************************************
July 10th

Cumulative miles: approx 215

King of the Road

“Trailer for sale or let.
Room to rent – fifty cents.
I’m a ‘man of means’ by no means-
“King of the Road!”

Southern heat

Monday July 9th, was sluggish all the way, from the start out of the shelter. “PJ” left first, and I had this feeling I would not see anybody else all day. (Yep, true).  The map showed that it was only a six-mile hike to a road crossing where a choice of hostels awaited near Hermon, TN.


Looking forward to a third consecutive  oppressively hot day, I marched off in trance-hiking slow mode – focusing on the ratio of breaths to steps so as not to generate more sweat than necessary. My pack was noticeably light since I left the tent and sleeping bag at my daughter’s house and had eaten some of the food.  The long range forecast had been saying for days that a cooler front would move in, heralded by violent storms – but this was a tease.  For now, rivulets of sweat from every pore,  every inch of skin. Staying hydrated…..

In nonprosaic  terms,  I struggled with the heat. The sun did not merely beat down. No, it flailed down –  heavier than ten backpacks.

The doom of Icarus!
Hail, Arjun’s Chariot!
O merciless star!


Porches and rocking chairs

I dawdled for the first three miles, finding four bars at a pleasant overlook and transacting e-business.  Today’s snack was PB and M&Ms. Poked all the usual people on FaceBook.

Southern Porch Culture

A dear friend of my late brother now living near Harper’s Ferry inquired

“are you still coming north?”

To which I replied:

“I would dearly love to….. Even if only to sip something slowly, on your porch, with the dawgs afoot, while Jason cleans his guns, and a shy teenager listens politely to tales of bears and strangers.”

And her retort:

“You forgot the chickens. That part is very real here……”

(Oh, and she informs that state law allows taking of venison on the 10-acre property *as long as it is with bow and arrow.* It’s a damn shame my son-in-law will be out of the country.)

Choice of hostel

U.T., Whoopie Pie,  and Lost Cause all said “go to Kincora.”

How to describe another jewel in the A.T. crown? The Kincora hostel is a rambling log cabin with ivy-covered walls and fieldstone chimneys. Serene, the hostel addition was built by a retired USAF couple in 1996.  Nobody was home when I arrived, the sign said let yourself in so I did.  I was enjoying lemonade on the porch when Bob Peoples, (the owner,) and a guy from his crew, returned from trail work they’d been doing to install switchbacks between Ash Gap and the summit of Roan Mountain.

He offered to take me into town *right then* but I said no hurry. He looked quietly relieved and went off to shower. Later we drove the twisty road to town.  In Hermon, I bought ingredients for a salad; breakfast; and ice cream. I’ll have spaghetti and meat Tuesday evening.

Going missing

One thing every through hiker does, is to get a photo of themselves at the finish of their through-hike, either in Maine or in Georgia.

Kincora motif

To describe the motif of this hostel is easy: In lieu of wallpaper, they use Katahdin photos (or Springer photos). Hundreds and hundreds. On the ceiling here the class of 1997; on this other wall the class of 2003.  OMG it’s like the Sistine Chapel, or a sports bar displaying bubblegum cards of all your favorite players. On the SyFy channel this would be some kind of exotic missing persons bureau….. Long distance hikers tend to just go missing for six months at a time.  In every imaginable pose with the Katahdin summit signboard, exultantly waving arms in Victory. Sometimes snow whitens the tableland  behind. Bearded mountain men. Wholesome vegan-ish looking women with braids……

A shrine

“It’s only a section hike until you get to Katahdin or Springer” (Bob Peoples)

Every vertical surface covered. On all walls and the ceiling. Sure enough, by the door, there was Whoopie Pie’s photo with the class of 2010. She’d stayed here, joining the trail crew for a couple of days.

twelve degrees of separation

Whoopie Pie at Springer, memorialized at Kincora. the guy on the left is “Tic” with whom I spent a memorable evening at the Tom Leonard Lean-to in 2010.

Bob came back by while I was eating noodles, I enjoyed his Boston accent as we chatted about trail reconstruction projects. Bob is the guru of the new trail switchbacks. The plan is  to replace sections of straight-up-the-fall-line trail with curvy paths less susceptible to erosion and easier on the knees. The even grade of these is consistent and noticeable – I’d been wondering how they plan these.  The team uses a surveyor’s transit and holds as close to twelve degrees as they can.

Bob works with teams of volunteers to maintain 168 miles of trail. A local prison also sends volunteers; they get time  off their sentence for each day of labor. They are not, strictly speaking, a “chain gang.”  Mostly drug offenders.

No TV/No WiFi/lots of old National Geographics

After dinner, earnest discussion of pool hydraulics at Laurel Fork Falls.


Tuesday July 10th

I awoke to the sound of rain with a sky dark as monsoon in Nepal.  Gentle but rumbling in the distance. I want the humidity to break. I don’t want high water while hiking Laurel Falls Canyon.  I watch it pour, from the picnic table on the covered porch. Glad I decided to zero here. I think I drank a gallon of water when I arrived yesterday.

Three maps down, one to go

Looking ahead, I now move to “Map # 1” – a mark of progress. I am told there is a seventeen-mile stretch between here and Damascus VA, where the small streams and springs were dormant. The new forecast is for rain on and off all week, which ought to freshen them up, otherwise there would be no water source for two days.

Mostly finished with big elevation changes for the time being. From here to Damascus,  the trail gets on a ridge and makes a southwest-to-northeast beeline.

Saint Paul on the Trail?

It’s possible that on my way to Damascus I will come across the very spot where *Acts 9:3-10*  occurred.  I promise to get below the ridgeline if lightning threatens.


Wednesday morning July 11th

Round Two of rain last night, I was upstairs in the Kincora hostel and fell asleep to the sound of rain on the roof.

Note from the log book:

“We may take separate routes from here, but may we joyously meet again at that point where all paths merge into One”


July 11th evening

Took off thinking the rain was over. wrong.

confession: i skipped Pond Flat Mountain. okay, shoot me now. i am not a purist. it was raining, there was no view, even if there had been one, it would have been obscured, it was a thousand feet of P.U.D.  – and – this is supposed to be fun!

I did stop at Laurel Falls. I took the “low-water route.”

“Every Time Bob Peoples creates a switchback an angel gets it’s wings”

Vandeventer Shelter ( near Shady Grove, TN) is at 4,500 ft elevation and fortunately, faces west, but even that is small consolation: the windy fog is blowing upwards into the shelter anyway!. We are “in the clouds” and tonight’s winds are about 20 mph from – the east. Today’s entire hike was through a fog-forest. The rains continue on and off; it’s about 60 degrees – prime hypothermia weather. As expected, the springs are now replenished and water is available.

got up to pee at 0300 and the ceiling was just high enough for me to see the twinkly lakeside lights below. On a nice summer evening, the view from here would be downright romantic…… Oh, and the shelter graffiti is all dedicated to Bob People’s – a candidate for the Dos Equis commercials….

pondering the TVA

I crossed Watauga Dam this morning. After seven miles and 2,000 ft vertical, I got here to the shelter early. I could have simply gone on to the next shelter, another seven miles, but I was reluctant to push myself that hard or risk hypothermia by hiking into the evening.

Maybe tomorrow……

I had two hot meals here. rummaging through my food bag I decided it was time to break into my Spam Singles (I no longer eat Spam in HI….) I am wearing my dry stuff. I am well-hydrated and plenty warm. I am sharing the shelter with a chemistry teacher from Wooster MA who is skinny and complaining of the cold since the foot of his sleeping bag got wet and he has no polypro longjohns. Or extra woolen socks.(I have both.)

If he were female I’d invite him to cuddle over here. But – he is not. He declined my offer of soup and/or hot chocolate as well. Alas!

In Your Dreams, Catch-Up

(update: who was I kidding when I wrote that? there is trail decorum to consider…. I am not that “forward” of a person….and any woman sassy enough to be on the Trail by themself, would also be too proud to admit she was cold. I’d get maced in less than ten seconds…..)

And so. I actually do prefer this cooler weather over the heat we’d been having. I want to see if I can crank out some miles tomorrow. The forecast is for rain until Tuesday; I might also simply get to the next road crossing and hitch a ride to Damascus – the hostel there is inexpensive and hey! I am on vacation. This is better than the heat……..

They say Damascus VA is a jewel of the south…….

divining identity through canine markers…

A caution: previously  somebody left a scented candle at Vandeventer shelter – vanilla. It now has a set of teeth marks in it that seem to go with what I imagine *ursus americanus* to possess. They have a good sense of smell and like to explore aromatous things…….

Listening to the rain patter on the corrugated tin roof, wishing you were all here with me…..

I made sure to hang my food in a bear bag…….


Filed under Appalachian Trail, Uncategorized

leaving a trail of broken hearts behind in TN June 25th

June 26th

Cranked out eleven miles from Erwin on the 25th -that zero day was exactly what I needed! found a great tentsite where I had  a view of twinkly lights low, and a cool breeze blew in overnight. Used just the netting, not the fly. Wonderful.I did not want to get out of my warm sleeping bag.


Was able to climb Unaka without stopping to remove pack. a good sign. I am within two days of Roan  Highlands. got  a mini lesson on the botany of rhododendrons yesterday.

I will write later about the incident with the handgun  in Erwin. It marred what was otherwise a fine visit. it had nothing to do with the hikers, the hostel or the trail. bottom line is: I am safe and still having fun!

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Filed under Appalachian Trail, Joe Niemczura