For Convenience’s Sake,
I hiked 10 days in Virginia. These were my first 10 days back after taking almost 2 months off for medical and monetary problems (see the rollercoaster of previous posts). And what a hell of a time. I saw so many amazing things, and I want you to see them too.
It’s amazing how quickly a hike can get overwhelming with beauty.
I AM SO EXCITED TO SHARE ALL OF THIS OK LET’S GO LET’S GO!
Day 1: McAffee’s Knob
Can someone say ICONIC?!? I set this place up as my Day 1 attraction on purpose because of a symptom I knew I was inevitably going to succumb to: second guessing.
That’s right, as I’m climbing up the 3 or 4 or 600 miles to McAffee’s Knob in the sticky, solid Virginia humidity, I am not ok. “This is so freaking stupid,” I’m thinking. “I’m going to have to call someone tonight and beg them to tell me to stay on the trail.”
Luckily, I never got that far. After reaching the top of McAffee’s Knob, the place where the most popular AT hiker photos are taken, my mind had again become accustomed to the hiking lifestyle. In one fell swoop, I remembered all the reasons why this hike was so important to me, to anyone.
Day 2: Sunrise off McAffee’s Knob
Wake up at 4:45am after not sleeping a wink because your mind was racing, and also bugs were pummeling your tent all night, and hobble out into the dusk with your headlamp. You and three other hikers fumble together and hike .6 miles back uphill through the dense morning. It’s raining a little. You’ll want to turn back. You’ll think, no, this isn’t going to be worth it. You’ll walk in front and clear every single spider web from the night before. You’ll get to the top, itchy and swollen with sleep, and the world will open up before you.
Sure, there are clouds, but if you just wait a little while, listen to the R2D2 birds, and breathe…everything will clear and you’ll see the most magnificent sunrise.
Plus, if you’re as lucky as I was, Hand Solo will play “Circle of Life” behind you.
The fun thing about Tinker Cliffs, aside from their freaking majestic ridge line beauty, is that they provide you with a direct view of where you just were 5 miles back! Yup, in that mess of green is McAffee’s Knob, chillin’, now a part of your past.
As Tough Cookie and I sat atop these cliffs, I couldn’t help but feel like I was on the shoreline. Yes, I recognize that it was completely an illusion. The wind was blowing and the only reason I felt salty was because of the immense amount of sweat that had poured out of my body. But still!
I keep on feeling the ocean throughout the forest. It’s an interesting connection that I need to do some more thinking about before I get poetic on your asses.
In any event, the conditions which surrounded this photo were absolutely perfect. I could not have dreamed up better weather than this.
Day 3: Post-Daleville, DOPE FIELDS!
Ok, guys, when I say “Dope Fields” I don’t mean “Fields in which one harvests dope.” I mean, these fields are dope. They are cool. You’re walking completely surrounded in woods one minute and then BAM. Hills. Field. Also, FYI, the trail is incredibly difficult to follow in this part and sorry to the resident’s yard that I casually tramped through until I realized I was going the wrong direction.
Day 4: The Way of the Blue Ridge Parkway
OH my goodness, talk about some VIEWS, man. VIEWS. The Blue Ridge Parkway weaves itself through the Appalachian Trail, entangling the two in a beautiful friendship bracelet that allows foot travelers to see some picturesque views that make you say, “Huh, is this really real or did someone put up a big sheet/painting in front of me because actually this doesn’t really look real at all.”
Ah. God. I just….Just take it in.
It was amazing having my breath taken away by something other than a big ass hill.
Day 4/5: A Nestle of Friends At A Swimming Hole
There’s a swimming hole at Jenning’s Creek. There’s a swimming hole at Jenning’s Creek. Swimming. Wayne there’s swimming, is what I kept repeating to myself and T.C. as we (well, mostly I) fumbled through 16 freaking miles of brush and heat and sweat.
I cannot emphasize how much I sweat during these 10 days.
But it was worth it, because there WAS a swimming hole. And what’s more? There were FRIENDS! Not only our trail friends that we had been hiking with for the past 4 days, but also new ones that set up a camp haven there with their DOGS! Oak and Mica (pictured with the flute and the book), two stand up dudes who come there every year and set up a whole bunch of tents in this area with tons of camping spots and give warm welcomes and sometimes food and definitely weed to anyone who comes through.
“Everyone brings something, whether it’s food, good conversation, or a big appetite,” is what Oak kept repeating.
Swimming was amazing. Eating was amazing. Staying up and talking to friends was amazing. And very quickly, this became one of my favorite nights.
Day 5: Pineapple’s Back! Meeting at Apple Orchard Falls
200 feet of waterfall! Oh my god! Totally epic! The only catch? One must walk 1.1 miles off trail downhill to get there. Some might think it’s worth it. I enjoyed it, mostly because I got to see Pineapple, he was so damn excited about this. But I will say that it’s a steep climb down, which means a shitty climb back up.
I met up with him at around 4pm, which meant I had been hiking all day.
Actually, I had a really intense day. I hiked 10 miles of uphill bologna by noon! Having very short legs, I am super proud of that. The hike down to the falls? It had me thinking this had better freaking been worth it. But it totally was. I mean, look at this!
Day 6: Downtrodden with a Passing Rainstorm
As awesome as I may look in this photo, I was not feeling good. Alas, this day was a huge struggle for me. The 5 days of little sleep prior plus the shock of constant cardio on my body did not bode well for me. Pineapple and I spent about 3 hours at a shelter before slowly moving on. We didn’t clock in many miles, but that didn’t matter a bit because we had an awesome time and a relaxed day. The wind was blowing scattered rainstorms through, the air was mild, for once I wasn’t sweating away half of my bodyweight.
I was a little self conscious and disappointed that I was feeling so shitty. But then I met another UConn grad who set out to hike. She confessed that she cried a lot, and that she’s still moving, it just gets hard being away from home. “Don’t worry,” she said, “This week was terrible for me, too. You got this.” She was right. I DID have this. ….Right after I took a nap for 2 more hours.
Not Actually Sure What Day This Is Anymore: Post-Highcock Knob, Hiker Camaraderie
This was the meadow we fell into right after hiking up and down Highcock Knob. It was beautiful. It felt so good. We were so happy that we put up with the immense amount of bugs surrounding us. We also had amazing company: Mama Bear and her three children, Little Butt, (I’m-so-sorry-I-forgot-your-name), and Spicy Guy.
In the middle of eating a well deserved dinner, Eve came into camp. Eve is a man in his 70s from France who is hiking the Appalachian Trail for women’s rights. Don’t let his age deceive you. This man keeps pace with the fittest and youngest of hikers. There’s one other catch: Eve does not speak a lick of English.
After lots of signing and saying individual words and pointing at maps, we communicated to him that the next shelter was actually 7 miles away. It appeared he had blown way past where he thought he would be, which sucked because he didn’t carry a tent. And it was supposed to rain.
No matter! Pineapple and I remembered that we could both squeeze into my tent, so we gave him Pineapple’s rain fly to sleep under. That right there folks is something you need to remember about the trail: we’re all in this together, and we’re the only people we have to look out for each other, so don’t you ever hesitate to help someone else out.
I don’t like negativity, so I won’t go much into this, but it does bother me when hikers come into camp as the sun is setting on a rainy ass day and those who are already in the shelter do not move to make room. This and other little things pertaining to the rain. We’re all out here, we all need to look out for each other.
Another Day: Glasgow, a Dino-mite Place
Small town with small options for food, but an amazing free place to stay and a big fiberglass dinosaur. In the middle of the town. For who knows why.
Really, though, the shelter here is amazing. It has electricity and a shower and lots of shade and a fire pit and portapotties that actually don’t smell bad and benches and is so free and so amazing. It was really tempting to zero there. But alas, we must trek on.
Day of Hills and Friends and HILLS
Up up up up up! Switch backs galore!
This was also the day that I put my hand on a tree and then, 30 seconds later, it was on fire and swollen. A quick examination of the tree yielded nothing. But the shape of the sting on my pulsing hand was long and sort of looked like a caterpillar.
Yup. Did you know those fuckers can sting you? Well. They can. And it hurts. For DAYS.
Also, these are the friends I was just talking about. Chips, Shutterbug, Pineapple, and me. I spent a whole bunch of days with these guys and it thoroughly saddens me that we can’t all still be hiking together. Seriously, these are the coolest cats around. And you know what? We probably would have never met in real life. But the Indian Mountain Man, Photographic New Yorker, Southern Belle and I have all found our way together on the AT. Totally awesome.
Buena Vista: Not My Favorite Town, But Still An Adventure
I was in a pretty bad mood when I entered this town so I’m not going to comment on it because everything I have to say is extremely negative.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t end up with some pretty cool stories, like this one.
I was walking down the street to resupply when a guy on a motorcycle at an intersection waved to me. He checked into the same hotel and saw my backpack and figured I’d be down for an adventure, if that was cool. Um, of course it was cool.
So I hopped on his motorcycle and we drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway to watch the sunset. And oh my god, what a beautiful sunset. With the world flowing by, the night air cooling steadily, the sky steadily dimming, and epic music playing on the motorcycle’s radio, I couldn’t help but smile the entire time.
A Few Days of Friendship
And so, in our time in Buena Vista (apparently pronounced B-ew-na Vista), Shutterbug came down with the Lyme. Such a bummer! But we would not let her stick it out alone. No, we were going to get hammered and be by her side the whole time, eating copious amounts of hamburgers and potato salad along the way.
The power of friendship is immense and important. I was definitely going through some mental crap throughout this time as well. Sometimes my entire brain just shuts down and falls apart into a foggy, soggy, disassembled pile. But still, the time spent in Buena Vista was for the best.
Pineapple and I have talked a lot about this, and we realized we care so much about people. And there’s definitely a way to work through it, but we like picking friends over miles. We’re not yellow blazing, but we’re sticking around for the people who need it. Like I was saying before, we’re all we got out here.
And so comes to a close my 10-day-stretch of hiking.
So now I’ve realized that I need to section hike this bitch because there is no way I’m going to finish the Appalachian Trail in 1 calendar year.
Positive: I realized I have enough money to hike about 500 miles.
Another positive: Connecticut is about 500 miles away from Kathadin.
A third positive: I’m from Connecticut!
Hence why we are here, in CT, getting new shoes and hopping back on the trail to hike until the end of the summer where we will, hopefully, definitely, be reaching Kathadin.
It’s been a long, confusing road. But as long as I’m hiking, as long as I’m heading towards this goal, I’m good.
So, I’ll see y’all up north! LET’S DO THIS!
Fly on, Lil Wayne.