Waynesboro, VA to Front Royal, VA
Sunday 5/31, Monday 6/1
AT Miles = 11.1 / 845.0
Other Miles = 0 / 31.1
Total Miles = 11.1 / 876.1
AT Miles = 14.5 / 859.5
Other Miles = 0.3 / 31.4
Total Miles = 14.8 / 890.9
Sorry for combining two days together. It is Monday afternoon now and I am sitting at the picnic table in front of Calf Mountain Shelter.
Yesterday was strange. I woke up in my bed at home, spent hours in airports and airplanes, got a shuttle from the airport from a 74 year old retired truck driver, and at 2:00 in the afternoon found myself standing next to the Blue Ridge Parkway where I got off the trail 10 days before.
When I started hiking it felt like I had forgotten how to walk. I was so clumsy! My knees felt wonky and my legs complained at having to do work. I think I probably should have done more than just sit on the couch and eat for the ten days I was off the trail!
I was figuring I would probably hike 6 or 8 miles yesterday, but after about the five mile mark I didn't pass any water until about mile 10, and I didn't have enough water for dinner and breakfast, so I couldn't stop. After getting water I walked about another mile until I found a place to set up camp for the night, I was pretty tired and I didn't have the energy to write this blog. After cooking dinner and hanging my food bag, I was ready to crawl into bed by 8:00.
It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon. Most of the evening was calm, but around sundown the wind came up in the way that it does when a summer storm is approaching. I had pitched the tarp over my hammock high and wide to let any breeze in, and I started to wonder if maybe I should get up and pitch it low and tight in case there was a storm coming, but the sky was still clear so I decided to wait. A couple of hours later I woke up and the air was dead calm. Maybe it was just the air cooling in the evening that caused the winds; I don't know.
I was awake at 6:00 this morning and the routine felt rusty, but I was ready to hike in just under an hour, which is typical for me. I went through Rockfish Gap about 11:00 this morning, then walked into Shenandoah National Park. That makes me feel like I have attained another milestone. I only walked 14 miles and change today, but after the long lay off it felt like quite a day. And seeing that I didn't start hiking until 2:00PM yesterday, I have hiked about 25 miles in the last 24 hours. That's pretty cool.
My old boots died so I am hiking with my second pair. They have only a very few miles on them so they are being pretty tough on my feet. I may very well keep tomorrow's mileage on the short side as well.
I think right now I will grab my book and go swing in my hammock and rfead for a bit. That seems like a very civilized way to spend a bit of time on a beautiful summery afternoon.
How I ended my day. Tired tonight. More tomorrow.
Tuesday 6/3 & Wednesday 6/4
AT Miles = 21.5 / 881.0
Other Miles = 1.7 / 33.1
Total Miles = 23.2 / 914.1
AT Miles = 21.3 / 902.3
Other Miles = 0.6 / 33.7
Total Miles = 21.9 / 935.0
Sorry for doing the double entry thing to you again. I was really tired last night and the plaqce I was camped didn't lend itself to keyboarding.
On Monday night I was figuring I would hold myself to the 13 miles to the next shelter on Tuesday, but it seems I got my hiking legs back and I was cruising up the trail Tuesday morning. I was at Blackrock Hut (all the shelters in Shenandoah are called huts for some reason) at 12:30. That was very early, and it wasn't a particularly pleasant location. Also, I looked in my book and saw that Loft Mountain Campground, a drive-in campground, was only 7 trail miles away. The weather was hot and muggy and the camp store has cold drinks and junk food. Reason enough to keep hiking!
So I hiked on and arrived at the camp store about 3:30. A soda, some junk food, a shower, and a beer, and next thing I knew it was quarter to five. According to my guide book the Loft Mountain Wayside, about a mile and a half by trail from the campground, closed at 5:30. I desperately wanted to go there and get a bacon cheeseburger, so I took off at top speed and got there before 5:30. Needn't have worried, as they actually don't close until 7:00PM. So I relaxed in the air conditioned snack bar and had a bacon cheeseburger, a BLT, and a chocolate milkshake. I also spent some time chatting with another thru-hiker, Slag Line. Finally, I filled my water bottles and headed back up the very steep half mile side trail that connects to the AT. I hiked a short distance north on the AT and passed the spot from which I took the picture in yesterday's blog entry. It was beautiful with the setting sun in the west and I searched out a spot just down the trail which was just big enough to squeeze
my hammock and tarp into.
Sometime around midnight I woke up to the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder. The wind poicked up and had the trees my hammock was hung from swaying in different directions. It was quite a ride as my hammock bounced up and down and twisted this way and that. All that fury, and only about a half dozen big fat rain drops on my tarp.
I looked at my book last night and discovered that the Big Meadow Lodge was only 23 or 24 miles away, and decided that if I could I would get a room there for Thursday night. This morning I tgried calling the resrervation number a bit after eight, when I was at a place that had decent cell service. Well, the service is somewhere out west and is open at 8:00Am mountain time. Damn!
so I hiked on and around 11:00, when I was at an overlook on Little Roundtop Mountain, I called and got a reservation. Score! I am all hot and sweaty and sticky now, but tomorrow night I will be living in the lap of luxury and enjoying it for all it is worth.
Right now I am sitting at a picnic table in a picnic area that is a tenth of a mile off the AT. It is almost 4:30 and I have hiked a bit over 19 miles so far today. My plan is to relax here for a bit, cook my dinner (since there is water here), clean up a bit, then finally fill my water bottles, head back to the AT, and hike a couple more miles up Baldface Mountain and find a place to hang my hammock for the night.
From here it is 13.8 miles to the trail that leads from the AT to the Big Meadow Lodge. If I hike a couple miles tonight and cut that down to 12 or less, I can easily make it to Big Meadow before noon tomorrow. Hopefully my room will be ready and I can check in and take a shower before heading to the dining room to eat lunch, but if the room isn't ready my stinky self will be in that dining room anyway.
I have just a couple of chores for the afternoon; laundry and a small bit of food resupply. The rest of the afternoon and evening is to be spent enjoying some good food and drink and hopefully taking in the advertised live entertainment in the lounge in the evening. Yeah, this hiking thing is tough!
Well, there are thunder storms moving through the area right now. I hope I don't get dumped on until after I cook and eat my dinner, and ideally not until I've got myself set up someplace for the night. Please, just a few more hours!
Wild thunderstorm right now. Quite the thrill ride! I am snug and dry in my hammock.
AT Miles = 11.8 / 914.1
Other Miles = 0.5 / 34.2
Total Miles = 12.3 / 947.3
I did indeed get hit with a thunderstorm yesterday afternoon. I was sitting at the picnic area after eating dinner reading the New York Times on my cell phone (I just love technology!), and finally I looked up and noticed the sky was getting darker. I quickly put my pack back together and scrambled up the trail towards the top of Baldface Mountain. It felt good to be able to put the hammer down even after already hiking 19+ miles. I made it a couple of miles up the trail, constantly searching for a place to set up for the night and listening to the boom of thunder get closer and closer. Finally there was an area off to the side of the trail that had a more or less open understory and I searched out a spot that was in no way perfect but would serve. I got the tarp up just before the rain started, then set up the hammock under the tarp and got everything sittuated for the night.
I pitched the tarp low and tight to protect the hammock from the wind-driven rain of the storm. While it was storming this was comfortable, as the wind drove fresh air in under the tarp and into the hammock. Later on when I woke up in the middle of the night, and the storm had finished and the air was calm, it was a humid hell inside the hammock. I got up and adjusted the tarp wider to let in more air and then went back to sleep.
When I got up this morning it was quite foggy and the sky was pissing rain. As the morning went on the rain picked up a bit. I hiked the 12 miles to Big Meadow Lodge by 11:45 and by the time I got here it was raining quite steadily.
I couldn't check in until 3:00 so I stunk up the restaurant while I ate lunch, then I hung around in the common room reading the paper until I could check into my room. This is supposedly a "Superior Room With View", but the only view is of the inside of a cloud.
A couple of days ago Tom asked if I am now hiking with all new people or if I know some of the other hikers. Since I was off the trail for 10 days I don't know most of the people that are currently in this section of trail. On Monday night I did meet two hbikers that I met earlier in the trip; Spirit and Tiger. I think I met Spirit in the Smokies, and I remember meeting Tiger the night before arriving in Erwin, TN. Of course the reason I met them again is because they are hiking more slowly than I am, so I am ahead of them again. Of course I've met a bunch of other hikers, and they are all pleasant enough to share aqn evening with, but nobody that I've made any particular connection with. That's fine with me, as I like hiking alone and doing what I like, when I like.
Shenandoah National Park is well known for its deer, and they are everywhere. Since there is no hunting innational parks, they are quite tame. Most of them will bound away when I get within 10 or 15 yards, but some of them don't bother to move until I nearly could touch them. On Tuesday afternoon I was hiking up a hill and came up on a deer walking up the trail ahead of me. I was moving faster than she was and as I got closer and closer I started to wonder if she was going to move at all Finally she moved to the side of the trail and I walked by within a couple of feet.
I haven't seen any bears, though I have talked to three other hikers who have.
A bit of logistics: I am currently about 45 trail miles from Front Royal, my next town stop. If I leave here bright and early tomorrow and puit in a couple oflong days I could be in Front Royal Saturday evening. But I have mail in Front Royal, and the post office won't be open until Monday morning. Ideally, I would like to get to Front Royal on Monday morning, retrieve my bounce box from the post office, and have all afternoon and evening of Monday to process my photos and shop and stuff. So what to do?
Well, the weather forecast says tomorrow is supposed to be quite wet. I have to check out of this room by noon, so I will hang out here until then, then I will have a leisurely lunch and hang out in the common areas of the Lodge until either the rain stops or it is late enough that I have to leave to make it to the next shelter/camping area which is about 3 1/2 miles from here. Then I will do two easy days to get me positioned close to Front Royal, then a final short day into town on Monday morning.
Hey, did you notice I passed the 900 mile mark yesterday? Harpers Ferry is about a week away. Harpers Ferry is the spiritual, though not the actual, half-way point. Harpers Ferry is just a bit past the 1000 mile point, and is also the home of the Appalachianm Trail Conservancy. Man, 1000 miles. Who would ever have thought I could hike 1000 miles?!
AT Miles = 3.7 / 917.8
Other Miles = 0.4 / 34.6
Total Miles = 4.1 / 951.4
I seem to have developed a strange relationship with the comforts of modern life. Living in the hot, sticky, dirty, wet world of the trail, after a while I fantasize about the comfort of a hot shower surrounded by gleaming white tile, crisp white sheets, and climate control. And boy, oh boy, that shower really does feel just as good as I imagine. And that first real meal accompaqnied by a crisply cold martini is wonderful. But the lustre soon wears thin.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself last night. I even tried to stay awake late enough to see Conan O'Brien in his new role as Tonight Show host. I actually was still conscious when he walked out on stage, but fell asleep about 30 seconds later.
For all the reasons I detailed yesterday, I hung around the lodge all day today. My biggest activity was to walk the mile down to the camp store to buy some food for the next few days, then walk back to the lodge. I read the newspaper, finished reading my book, and went completely out of my mind with boredom. There is also something about being alone in a place populated by vacationing families and groups of friends that is dedcidedly lonely, and I suffered from a strong bout of homesickness. That will be gone tomorrow when I start hiking again, but for tonight it is presenting a bit of a struggle. I debated not mentioning this, as I don't want Ken to think I'm a sissy, but I do try to be honest in this blog so there it is.
So I left the lodge late this afternoon and walked the 4 easy miles to this shelter. The rain still hasn't stopped, and there is a heavy fog. Right now I am sitting on the edge of the shelter floor writing this entry. When I finish I will cook my dinner, then head off to the tenting area and find a spot to hang my hammock. There is a ridge-runner named Midnight here tonight, so I better follow the rules and not camp next to the shelter.
It is DSaturday morning and I am sitting in front of the fireplace at Skyland Lodge. The place I camped last night is only abolut 4 miles south of here, so I walked here this morning and had breakfast in the dining room. I had not intended to come here, but last night Midnight, the ridge-runner, mentioned that on weekends they serve a breakfast buffet here. Well, when I got here they told me it was not busy enough this weekend for the buffet, but since I was here I had breakfast anyway. So now I am relaxing waiting for the sun to burn through the clouds and fog, and I figured I would take a few minutes and answer a couple of the questions that have been asked in the comments of my blog.
Ridge-Runner - A ridge-runner is someone employed by one of the trail clubs to spend their time on the trail and provide information and guidance to hikers. In Shenandoah National Park there are two ridge-runners. They move up and down the trail and meet and talk with any hikers on the trail. They can answer questions hikers may have, they try to educate people on Leave No Trace ethics, and they can remind people to follow camping restrictions and the like. They have no enforcement authority, but they usually are able to contact park rangers or whatever other authority is needed if there is a real need.
Not every part of the trail has ridge-runners. There is one to cover the entire trail in Georgia, and only during the spring. There are a couple in GSMNP. There are two here in SNP. I believe there are some in New Jersey. They are several in the 55 miles of trail in Connecticut, which is heavily used by weekenders.
In addition to ridge-runners, in some locations there are summit caretakers and site caretakers. For example, in Vermont the Green Mountain Club employs caretakers at some of the higher summits to encourage people to stay on ther marked paths and not trample fragile alpine plants. The GMC also has site caretakers at some heavily used camping spots, which have been very successful in keeping people from camping in fragile areas.
Monkeywrench - Here is the sort of long version of the story: I am a big fan of the late author Edward Abbey. A number of years ago I discovered an email dikscussion list dedicated to Abbey, and have been a subscriber and active participant on the list for many years. Abbey is the author of "The Monkeywrench Gang". Every year there is a weekend gathering of members of the email list community, and at most olf these gatherings a flag with a monkeywrench on it is flown. I have never yet made it to one of these gatherings, but back in 2006 when Jodi and I went to Tanzania to bicycle tour and to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the members of the email list community made me a monkeywrench flag which I carried to the summit of Kili.
When I decided to attempt this thru-hike of the AT I wanted to carry the monkeywrench flag, but the flag was too big and I asked the same person to make me a much smaller flag. I fly this little flag from the suspension line of my hammock, where it serves to denote the foot end of the hammock where the entrance is.
So, way back in Georgia, at the beginning of my hike, someone noticed my little monkeywrench flag and said "Hey Monkeywrench," and that became my trailname.
And by the way, Bob, I knolw very well what a monkeywrench is. ;-)
AT Miles = 15.3 / 933.1
Other Miles = 0.8 / 35.4
Total Miles = 16.1 / 967.5
What a nice day! I even saw a bear while eating breakfast in the dining room at Skyland. The bear was just outside the window. The waitress told me that yesterday morning a bear took a fawn in the same spot. That must have freaked out some of the guests!
I didn't leave Skyland until after 10:00, when the weather was finally beginning to break and the sun was making itself felt. I hiked in a very leisurely fashion northward. I even took the side trail to Mary's Rock overlooking Thornton Gap. I don't think I've taken a side trail that didn't lead to either a shelter, food, or water, since the sidetrail to the summit of Mount Rogers, weeks ago.
When I reached Byrds Nest #3 a maintainer named Dick (I think) was there cutting the brush arfound the shelter. We chatted a bit and he told me he cares for three (or maybe it was four) shelters, including Pass Mountain Hut, where I am now. Since he was going to be coming here, he offered to slack pack me. Slack packing is hiking without a backpack; he was offering to transport my backpack here in his truck and allow me to hike the five miles or so unladen. A generous offer but I had decided way back at the start of this hike that I would not slack pack, so I thanked him but refused his offer.
It is funny how hiking "only" 15 miles in a day feels almost like a day off. It takes away the feeling of pressure to cover miles, and makes the day so much more relaxing. The downside is that I also feel guilty that I am not working harder to make forward progress. I actually feel guilty that I didn't push really hard on Thursday and Friday in order to get to Front Royal this morning before the post office closed. I think this is a bit of a character flaw on my part, as I am not supposed to be trying to get to Katahdin as fast as possible. I took 10 days off, and I am only 7 days behind my original schedule, and that schedule includes no zero days whatsoever. Not bad, methinks.
There is no shelter or campsite at the right distance I want to cover tomorrow, in order to get myself situated the right distance from Front Royal to get there around mid-day on Monday, so I will be searching out a casual campsite tomorrow afternoon. If I do 16 or 17 mils tomorrow, that will leave me about 10 miles outside of Front Royal.
AT Miles = 18.0 / 951.1
Other Miles = 0.4 / 35.8
Total Miles = 18.4 / 985.9
Today was another easy day, more or less. I was camped with a bunch of
people at Pass Mountain Hut including Gator, Slag Line, Couscous,
Hulk, and Bookworm. We all decided that we would hike the 7 miles to
Elkwallow Wayside in the morning and get both breakfast and lunch
there. I usually get up early and am used to tiptoeing around trying
to be quiet as most of the other hikers are still sleeping, but this
morning most everybody was awake and I was the 2nd one to leave about
a quarter to seven. By 9:15 I was at the wayside and ordered a muffin
with egg, cheese, and bacon on it. I let that settle for a while, then
about 10:30 I decided it was late enough to have the first lunch of
the day and I ordered a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a blackberry
A bit before noon I finally tore myself away, shrugged into my
backpack and bid farewell to the hikers who were still sitting at the
picnic table outside the wayside. I hiked the next ~ 5 1/2 miles to
Gravel Springs Hut, where I stopped for my second lunch and to refill
my water bottles. This hut is a very short distance from a trailhead
parking area on the Skyline Drive, and as I was walking over to the
spring to fill my water bottle a couple who had walked down from the
parking lot with their dog were letting the dog play in the spring.
Yuck! I yelled out "Don't let your dog play in the spring, please!"
and they scurried back up the trail without acknowledging me.
Gross! Spring water spiced with dog slobber and bacteria. Well, I went
back to the shelter and sat for another 10 minutes to let the spring
flush itself out and settle a bit, then I went back and filled my
water bottle. I treat all of my drinking water, though I wish I had a
filter for this fill up!
Back at the wayside I had discussed today's planned stopping point
with Gator and Slag Line, and we all planned to stop at a spring shown
on the map and in the guidebook at Hogwallow Flats. I left Gravel
Springs Hut with Gator for the 3 1/2 mile walk to Hogwallow Flats,
stopping to take in the view from the top of North Marshall Mountain
on the way.
Well, we never saw any spring at Hogwallow Flats, and we knew for sure
we had missed it when we came to the Skyline Drive crossing north of
it. The next sure water was another 6 or so miles away, and while we
could have pushed on that far it would have been an unpleasant way to
end the day and would also have left us way too close to town this
morning. Getting into town at 8:00AM is no good because you can't
really check into a motel that early in the morning and that leaves
you dirty and smelly and laden with a backpack as you go about town
doing your town chores. So, we crossed the road and pushed on up the
trail a ways just looking for a spot big enough to set up for the
night. We found the spot shown in the picture in the previous post and
while Gator and I were setting up for the night Slag Line showed up.
He hadn't seen the apparently invisible spring at Hogwallow Flats
Since we were dry camping I didn't have enough water to take my usual
bandanna bath, and I think sleeping is going to be difficult tonight.
My body is coated in sticky sweat. I hate that.
Allen F. Freeman
A request to all my fellow Abbey fans out there:
I'd really like to get a paperback copy of Monkey Wrench Gang to read
while hiking. When I was home a couple of weeks ago I checked my local
used book store, but alas, no joy. If somebody out there has a copy
they would be willing to part with, I would be more than happy to
reimburse postage. Just to be clear, I am looking for a regular
paperback edition, not a trade paper copy. Bulk and weight are very
So, if anyone thinks they can help me out, please let me know.
Allen F. Freeman
AT Miles = 8.5 / 959.6
Other Miles = 0 / 35.8
Total Miles = 8.5 / 994.4
As predicted, it was a sweaty and sticky night last night. I didn't
sleep very well, yet at the same time sunrise seemed to come awfully
fast. I was up and out PDQ, especially since I had eaten the last of
my breakfast cereal yesterday and all I had for breakfast this one was
a blueberry ugly (Man, I have to find a source for uglies, they are
The trail in the north end of SNP is easy walking, with more downhill
than up going north, so I made really good time this morning. I
reached the northern park boundary, and soon after was at Tom Floyd
Wayside Shelter. I stopped here so I could get water at which turned
out to be WAY down the hill, so that I could wash up a bit before
getting to the road and trying my luck at hitchhiking into town.
There's no point in being any dirtier and smellier than is absolutely
When I left the shelter I left a note for Gator on top of the sign at
the turnoff for the shelter, telling him where I would be staying in
Front Royal, leaving him my cell number, and asking to get togehter
for dinner tonight. From here it was less than 3 easy miles to Rt 522,
where I got a ride to the Quality Inn after 4 or 5 minutes of standing
with my thumb out.
This is a pretty nice motel with a pool and a laundry on-site. I've
cleaned up, walked to the post office, walked to the grocery store,
and done my laundry. I relaxed for a couple of hours watching "Get
Smart" on HBO, then Gator and I went out for dinner at a local
restaurant that was quite good. I never had time to relax outside by
ther pool, but the weather forecast for tomorrow looks hot and muggy,
so I might zero here and try the pool routine tomorrow.
So, I've hiked the length of Shenandoah National Park. I had looked
forward to this for a long time, as it is a rather big milestone in
the hike. It was somewhat of a disappointment to hike. The park is
really all about the Skyline Drive. That's where all the great views
are. In many places the trail skulks along down in the brush and
undergrowth, while I could look up and see the cleared area where the
viewpoint off the Drive was just above the trail. I could even hear
people talking at the overlook. But I could see nothing buried down in
the bushes below. On the other hand, it was wonderful being able to
stop at the waysides and lodges throughout the park and get cold
drinks and hot food and ice cream and such. I guess like most things
in ife, there is both good and bad in it.
Oh, here's a little story I forgot to tell you before. A few days ago
-- I don't remember exactly which day or exactly where -- I stopped at
one of the shelters for my mid-morning break, and went to use the
privy. I opened the privy door only to discover a big Black Snake had
taken up residence there. My best efforts to convince him to leave
were for naught, as he coiled himself up in the corner and refused to
budge. Long sotry short, we ended up sharing the privy in an uneasy
Allen F. Freeman
AT Miles = 0 / 959.6
Other Miles = 0 / 35.8
Total Miles = 0 / 994.4
When I got up this morning it was raining, which made it very easy to
decide to stay here today and kick back instead of slogging through
the rain and mud out in the woods. It did clear up later and I spent
the early afternoon sitting out by the pool reading my book and
jumping into the pool to swim a lap whenever I got too hot. I also had
a nice long phone conversation with Anju, which made me feel really
In mid-afternoon another line of thunder storms rolled through and I
retreated to my motel room. Finally around 5:30 I ventured out again
to get some dinner at a local downtown restaurant, and only then did I
realize that I had not packed up my bounce box and taken it to the
post office. Damn! There goes my plan of an early start in the
morning, as now I have to wait around until the post office opens at
Coming into town yesterday was an easy hitch, but the road through
town carries very heavy traffic and there is no shoulder for a vehicle
to stop on, so I think hitching out of town back to the trail could be
very difficult. I think I will call a cab for the 4 mile ride out of
town in the morning.
Yesterday morning when I started walking I had a sharp pain in the
front of my left ankle, and it stayed there all morning. Once I got to
town and switched from boots to sandals I forgot all about it, but
this evening, since it was raining, I put my boots on when I went out
for dinner and it hurt a lot. Now that I am back to my room I poked
around with my fingers and some tendon or something is very tender and
inflamed. I've taken 800mg of ibuprofen and am sitting with ice on my
ankle. I sure hope I can get this under control, because there is no
way I am going to cover many miles when every step hurts this much.
My plan is to be just a few miles south of Harpers Ferry on Friday
night, then stop in at ATC headquarters in Harpers Ferry on Saturday
morning, where a food resupply from Jodi will be waiting for me. From
there it should be another 6 or 7 days to Boiling Springs, PA, my next
overnight town stop.
Allen F. Freeman