Damascus, VA to Pearisburg, VA


Photos: http://www.allenf.com/gallery2/main.php/v/AT2009/DamascusToPearisburg/

Damascus, VA to Saunders Shelter

Sunday, 4/26

AT Miles = 9.4 / 472.4
Other Miles = 0.2 / 20.3
Total Miles = 9.6 / 492.7

As wonderful as being in town is, it is even better to get back out on the trail. I think I have said this before; I don't sleep well in town. I go to sleep late and wake up early. Really early, like three or four in the morning.

Last night I went to bed after 11:00, and I was awake a few minutes after 4:00. I had to wait until a decent hour to get up and shower and pack up all my gear, for fear of waking people in the other rooms. I settled up with the proprietress around 8:00 or so, but then hung out with some ofthe other hikers out back for a while. Finally I heftede my ridiculously heavy pack, groaned, and dropped it back to the ground. Goodness! I went completely overboard at the grocery store yesterday. I could barely cram my food bag into my pack. I took the pack off and put it on the bathroom scale that is in the hiker hosxtel. 43 pounds! That's 4 pounds more than it weighed on the day I started, and I've gotten rid of a few things since then. That weight is all food! I am going to have to have a big feed tonight and get the reduced as fast as I can.

I hiked out of Damascus, after stopping on the way for a big breakfast (food. I am obsessed with food) , along the Virginia Creeper Trail. The Creeper Trail is a rails-to-trails conversion so follows lovely, gentle grades. Unfortunately, the AT soon veers off and climbs up into the hills for a few miles, the descends back down and just to tease a poor, tired, overburdened hiker, parallels the Creeper trail at a very short distance oif only 30 or 40 feet, for a long ways. The Creeper Trail is clearly seen in its flat, even, easy gradedness, while the AT climbs up and down every stupid little bump in the terrain and hops over rocks and whatever else. So frustrating!

I set off today with no particular goal in mind. I decided I would hike to the first shelter out of town, then decide if I wanted to go on to the next or not. Well, I got here all hot and sweaty, and was greeted with a lovely setting with a small grove of evergreens out behind the shelter casting some wonderfully cool shade. After walking down to the stream to get water and to wash up a bit, I strung my hammock up in the shade and lay down on top of it to read my book and sway in the cool breeze.

Soon enough I fell asleep and awoke only when another hiker walked by on her way back from getting water. It's a good thing I woke up or I might have slept right until bed time!

Well, that hiker and a couple of others were here just to get water and have moved on, but I've decided to definitely indulge myself and am staying here for the night. Tomorrow is soon enough for ambition, when I will push the 18+ miles to Thomas Knob and the Grayson Highlands. I asm excited that the weather should be good when I am up there; so unlike mhy experience so far with the high parts of the trail. I am looking forward to seeing the ponies at Grayson Highlands State Park.

Another hiker, Midget Momma (she's short and says she has a son who is 6'4") just showed up, so I guess I wonm't have the place all to myself tonight. And I know there are a bunch of hikers who planned to leave town late this afternoon and hike, so I imagine there will be more coming later.

I look forward to town stops so much, but they are exhausting! I am always surprised how tired I am when I leave town. This evening looks to be a lovely one, and I am sure I will have a restful night tonight and be ready to do some real hiking tomorrow.

Allen Freeman

Nick Grindstaff's Grave

A bit of the history of Nick Grindstaff's monument, some photos of which appeared in my "Day in the Life" photos the other day:


Allen Freeman

Saunders Shelter to THomas Knob Shelter

Monday, 4/27

AT Miles = 18.6 / 491.0
Other Miles = 0.5 / 20.8
Total Miles = 19.1 / 511.8

A great day. Plenty of miles. Plenty of heat. Plenty of tired. But a great day. Up. Down. Up again. Climbed Mount Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia. Camped with a bunch of other hikers at a place tucked into the trees and out of the wind that is roaring just yards away out on the bald.

I hauled a HUGE food bag out of Damascus. It makes my pack weigh a ton. It weighed more yesterday morning leaving Damascus than it did when I started at Springer Mountain. But I think it's worth it. I am eating like crazy and it sems to help. I also bought a small container to carry olive oil while in Damascus, and I add it to every evening meal. I've also started taking daily vitamins. I am considering maybe getting some protein powder somewhere and using that every day as well. I am trying to avoid wasting away to nothing.

It's getting late and dark so I am going to quit for tonight. Goodnight all!

Allen Freeman

Thomas Knob Shelter to Campsite 1.5 Miles Past Dickey Gap

Tuesday, 4/28

AT Miles = 22.7 / 513.7
Other Miles = 0.2 / 21.0
Total Miles = 22.9 / 534.7


I passed the 500 mile mark today. There's a part of me that didn't really believe I'd be able to do it, but I did! 500 miles really feels like something.

I've endured fellow hikerss telling me all about the horses and the exotic cattle with the wide horns they saw in the Roan Highlands, while I hiked through there in the wwind and rain and saw nothing. Last night when I arrived at Thomas Knob the people I was camping with were telling me stories of their encounters with the ponies, while I never saw any of them. Well, last night I could hear the ponies calling and neighing to each other all night, and this morning as soon as I started walking I ran into group after group of them. They're really cool. I took a bunch of photos which I hope you'll all like whenever I can get them posted.

I planned to walk 16 miles today, stopping at Hurricane Mtn Shelter. When I got there it was kind of early and I decided to cointinue on 4 more miles to Comers Creek where I could get water and hopefully camp. When I got there the creek was in a ravine and there was no place to camp so I pushed on another 2.7 miles to where I could camp. Whew! I was beat.

I ate my dinner and crawled into bed. There was a bunch of other hikers there, all in therir early to mid-twenties. While I was lying exhausted in my hammock they were all sitting around the campfire talking about how easy it is to knock off 20 mile days and still have energy left at the end of the day! I guess the number of decades you've been arfound really does matter.

Allen Freeman

Campsite after Dickey Gap to Brushy Mountain

Wednesday, 4/29

AT Miles = 14.3 / 528.0
Other Miles = 0.2 / 21.2
Total Miles = 14.5 / 549.2

I was awake early this morning and rather than cook breakfast where I was camped I packed up my gear and hiked about 2 1/2 miles to Trimpi Shelter, where I got water and cooked my breakfast. I had a leisurely breakfast and then walked on. The weather this morning was warm and more humid than it has been the last couple of days. The forecast called for afternoon thunder showers and I was happy that I had only about 13 1/2 miles to hike to reach Partnership Shelter; hopefully before the storms hit.

Soon after leaving Trimpi Shelter I ran into Sir Richard taking a break on the trail. We walked together and chatted about this and that the rest of the way to Partnership Shelter, arriving there about 12:30 (or, as Richard would say, half noon).

Partnership Shelter is not the usual trail shelter. It is located directly behind the Visitor Center for the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. The plumbing for the visitor center has been extended to the shelter, and the shelter features both a shower and a water tap. There is also a phone outside the visitor center from which one can call and have pizza delivered. All this being so, as soon as we arrived Sir Richard and I walked overe to the visitor center and ordered two large pizzas and a 2-liter bottle of soda. We hung around waiting for the pizza to arrive, meanwhile watching the thunder clouds build in the sky. Our pizza arrived and we made it back to the shelter with our lunch just before the lightning started to strike, the thunder boomed, and the skies opened up with torrential rain.

Onjce I polished off my pizza I took a shower and rinsed out my very salty, sweaty T-shirt and socks. It had been my plan to camp there at the shelter, but the area was posted "No Camping" and I don't carry a pad so can't sleep on the hard shelter fllors. That being the case, I hung around the shelter for the afternoon, cooked and ate my dinner, then hiked on aboiut a mile and a third and found a spot down on the lee side of the ridge to hang my hammock. I climbed in and spent a comfortable evening listening to my little radio and reading my book.

Allen Freeman

Brushy Mountain to Atkins, VA

Thursday, 4/30

AT Miles = 10.3 / 538.3
Other Miles = 0 / 21.2
Total Miles = 10.3 / 559.5

It rained pretty hard last night. I had hung my hammock on the side of the hill and the head end tree was upslope of the foot end tree. It is hard to get a level hang when the trees are not level with one another. I hung the foot end as high up the tree as I could reach, but when I hung the head end so that the hammock was level, it sagged enough with me in it that I touched a downed log under my back. Because of this I had to hang the hammock with the head end a bit higher than the foot end. It is comfortable enough this way, but it meant that I was lying at the fooot end of the hammock, and therefore my feet and the foot of my sleeping bag were up at the peak at that end of the hammock, putting my feet up against the screening and thus exposed to some of the blown in rain. Not a big deal, but the foot of my sleeping bag is a bit damp.

When I got up it looked like it was going to rain some more, but as I walked into the morning the clouds broke up and it proved to be a lovely morning. I am down at a much lower altitude now, and spring is bursting out everywhere. I walked through meadows and over low hills. There is a sweetness in the air this morning and I am not sure where the sweet smell is coming from. I passed a lilac bush or two starting to bloom, and some flowering dogwoods, but not enough to explain the sweet smell. Maybe there is some kind of meadow grass that is so sweet? In any case, it was almost sickeningly sweet. I walked through all that green growing stuff just imagining all the photosynthesis taking place and pumping oxygen into the air for me to breather. Ahh!

I could soon hear the tgraffic on I-81, and then descended into Rural Retreat (part of Atkins, VA). There is an exit from I-81 here, and a motel, a restaurant, and a couple of gas stations. I took a room at the motel -- the Relax Inn -- and picked up the food drop that Jodi mailed here for me. I just got back from lunch at the restaurant up the road. Serviceable but unexceptional food. Once I finish this email I will go through what food I have left in my food bag and all the great stuff Jodi sent me, and get myself organized for the next section to Bland, VA.

You might remember me writing about my frustration with getting access to my home network from public computers. Well, I have hopefully solved that problem. Yesterday I ordered a new netbook from AMazon.com and am having it sent to me in Pearisburg. I will keep this in my bounce box and mail it up the trail to each of my town stops. I'll be able to set it up the way I want it, and will be able to connect to my home network from any WIFi hot spot. And once I get initial internet access via WiFi I will be able to download the software I need to be able to use my cell phone as a modem for the computer, once Jodi sends me the sync cable for my phone. As I said, hopefully this will alleviate my computer frustrations.

It is clouding up again now, and there is supposed to be more rain tonight. If it's got to rain, I'd just as soon have it happen while I am indoors!

Allen Freeman

Appearing Elsewhere

I've mentioned Sir Richard now and again. Here's a link to one of his blog entries where he mentions some of the folks we've been hiking with lately:


Allen Freeman

Atkins, VA to "Spring Fed Pond"


Friday, 5/1

AT Miles = 21.2 / 559.5
Other Miles = 0 / 21.2
Total Miles = 21.2 / 580.7

Happy May Day!

Hey, I am half way to half way! I have now hiked more than 1/4 of the miles from Springer Mtn to Katahdin.

After a big breakfast at the restaurant this morning -- two eggs, two pancakes, two sausage, two bacon, two biscuits with gravy, home fries, coffee, orange juice, and water -- I set off a few minutes before 8:00. After crossing under the highway the trail spends several miles traversing farm fields and overgrown meadows. It was really nice. At this low elevation everything is in bloom and the trees and shrubs were full of birdsong.

I climbed up onto a ridge and again was high enough that spring hadn't quite arrived, but then descended back into the lowlands and for another few miles the trail threads through farm country. I must have climbed a dozen stiles over farm fences. At each one I thought to myself that this is the perfect opportunity to fall, break a leg, and bring my hike to an end. Luckily, that didn't happen.

I was feeling good today after all that food and a good rest, and I reached my intended destination, Knot Maul Shelter, 14 miles into the day at 1:30. I ate lunch there and contemplated the sky, which had treated me to rain showers on and off all morning. One minute it would look dark and menacing, and the next bits of blue sky would appear. Finally I decided it was simply too early to call it a day and around 2:00 I saddled up and moved on.

I hiked a couple more hours until I came to a Forest Service road. Checking my book I could see that I should come to what is listed as "spring fed pond" in about 2 miles of uphill hiking. I decided that was my destination. Well, the uphill was of the heart attack inducing kind. At least, it felt that way at the end of a long day. It took about 20 minutes longer than I thought it could possibly take, but I finally arrived here and found a nice spot in the woods just behind the pond to hang my hammock and call home for the night. The sky has looked like rain is imminent ever since I arrived here, but I've got camp set up, cooked, ate, and cleaned up from my dinner, and once I finish this I will crawl into my hammock and listen to my radio or read my book until sleep overtakes me, which won't take long.

It looks like I will be in Bland sometime Sunday morning. Unless the weather is a total washout, I plan to get into town to resupply then get back out and move on to the next shelter.

Allen Freeman

Campsite at Pond Near Chestnut Knob to Campsite at Laurel Creek

Satrurday, 5/2

AT Miles = 16.6 / 576.1
Other Miles = 0 / 21.2
Total Miles = 16.6 / 597.3

So, a miserable day. It had to happen sooner or later, I guess. There is no special reason why this day should have been such a negative experience, but it was.

The sky stayed dry until after I went to bed last night. I woke up around 11:00 or so to the sound of rain, but rain at night while I am tucked snug in my hammock is no big deal. What is a big deal is the dense fog that rolled in after the rain stopped. Boy, how I hate that fog. I blows through my hammock and gets everything wet. It condenses inside the undercover, which then gets the bottom insulation wet. It condenses on my sleeping baga, making that wet. It condenseson the netting on my hammock, and it condenses on the underside of the tarp. Since the hammock gets rolled up inside the tarp for packing, that just makes the hammock even more wet.

So I woke up in a foul mood. It was raining when I got up, so instead of making breakfast I packed up and planned to hike the two miles to Chestnut Knob Shelter then cook breakfast there. I hiked through the dense fog until I got to Chestnut Knob. As I approached a hiker was just returning to the shelter, I presume from fetching water. I said "Good morning" and he looked at me, said nothing, then walked into the shelter and closed the door. I don't know what that was about, but it seemed like something my day would be better without, so instead of stopping I continued on down the trail.

It was foggy and the rain continued on and off all morning, so I stopped briefly to eat a couple of Pop-Tarts, a candy bar, and some gorp, and pushed on until I reached Jenkins Shelter, at about 12 miles, around 12:30. I was feeling beat so boiled enough water for a couple of cups of tea, and to make the instant oatmeal I should have eaten this morning. Once I consumed that, I started in on lunch. I spent a good hour and a half eating and sipping tea, and was starting to feel a little bit more optimistic.

I toyed with the idea of pushing the next 12 miles to Rt. 52 and hitching into Bland so I could spend the night at the motel, but two things stopped me. First, there was no way I had 24 miles in my legs today. Second, I know this would disappoint Ken and I couldn't stand to lower myself in his esteem. So I stuyck with my original plan and hiked on another 5 miles or so to this spot at Laurel Creek where I am camped. It's a nice spot, except that it is right next to a road. I can't be seen from the road, but I hear cars go by every half hour or so. That makes me a bit nervous. I have a (not so) hard and fast rule never to camp next to a road, but accordning to my book there isn't another place to get water or to camp between here and Bland. What's a boy to do?

So I set up my hammock back behind a thicket of rhododendron. Like last night, I am fortunate that the rain has held off while I set up camp, washed my hair and took a bandanna bath, cooked and ate dinner, and now while I sit and write this. Soon I will pack everything up and climb into my hammock with my radio and my book. Maybe I will be fortunate like last night, and there will be something interesting to listen to. Last night I listened to some great jazz on an NPR station. But tonight I am down in a hole so I might not be so lucky. There is no phone reception here so this isn't going to get sent until tomorrow at least.

Oh, at one point this morning I was hiking up and down every stupid bump on Chestnut Ridge, and I passed a sign that said "VIEW." In my foul mood I said "@#$%^ VIEW" rather loudly, then a moment later four local day hikers rounded the corner in front of me. If they had heard me, they were nice enough not to let on. We chatted for a few minutes, and that did more than anything else today to help me cope with my bad mood.

Here's hoping tomorrow morning is dry. I have seven miles to hike to the road, then I'll hitch into Bland to shop and the grocery store, and hopefully to get lunch at the Subway in town. After I hitch back to the trail it is only three miles further on to the next shelter. That's my goal for tomorrow. Then on Wednesday I should get to Pearisburg where I have a bunch of maikl waiting. I plan to take a zero day there.

Allen Freeman

LaurelCreek to Helveys Mill Shelter

Sunday, 5/3

AT Miles = 9.2 / 585.3
Other Miles =] 3 / 24.2
Total iles = 12.2 / 609.5

I went to bed last night and searched for something to listen to on the radio. I was camped way down in a low gap, and I could get only two FM stations, nothing on AM, and some Spanish language stuff on the shortwave bands. So my choices were either Christian evangelization, or NASCAR. I chose NASCAR and listened to the something-or-other 400 for a couple of hours.

I woke up this morning at 6:30 to the sound of a steady rain on the tarp. I decided to try to wait it out and snoozed on and off until 8:00AM. It was still raining, but not as heavily. I got up, packed my gear, ate a Pop-Tart, and set off to hike the 7 miles to Rt 52. I felt so much better than yesterday! The 7 miles flew by in less than 2 1/2 hours. When I reached the road I wasn't sure exactly which road was 52 and I wasted a bit of time walking up this road and down that one, but I finally saw a woman getting out of her car in front of a small church and she confirmed wqhich road would take me to Bland, where I needed to go to buy food and stove fuel for the next three days.

It is 2 1/2 miles down the mountain into town. I walked about a half mile or so before I managed to get a ride the rest of the way. My driver pointed out where the grocery store was, then dropped me off at the Subway as I requested. Yummy! That was good.

I left the Subway and walked back into the center of town where the grocery store is, and did my shopping. My guidebook says that Bruce's Market sells stove fuel by the ounce, but when I asked the clerk had no idea what I was talking about. Uh oh. So now I had food for the next three days, but no way to cook it. I was down to about 1/2 ounce of stove alcohol, so I couldn't leave town until I found some fuel somewhere.

There is a NAPA Auto Parts store across the street from the market, but they were closed on Sunday. Then I tried the Citgo station around the corner and they had Heet gas-line antifreeze, which is nothing more then methyl alcohol and makes great stove fuel. Saved!

I made one last stop at the bank to get some cash at the ATM so I won't have to worry about that chore when I get to Pearisburg, then I headed out of town and back up towards the trail. For whatever reason, I couldn't get a ride on the way back and had to walk the entire 2 1/2 uphill miles back to the trail. Why wouldn't somebody want a smelly wet hiker and all his smelly wet gear in their car? Right, I don't know either.

So I got out of town and hiked a few miles into the woods to this shelter. This makes a rather short day but looking at the book there is no place with water for the next ten miles, and I got here too late to try to add another ten miles onto my day. That being the case, I will hang my hammock out behind the shelter tonight. It is nice to be camped at a shelter so I can get in out of the rain to write this enail, and to cook dinner and do other chores.

I am thinking about buying a bigger tarp for my hammock, so that it will no only keep my dry when I am sleeping, but also provide enough covered area so I can cook aqnd eat. I lie being able to camp between shelters as the shelters are not always spaced a convenient distance apart, but lately every time I do I end up skipping breakfast because I am not willing to squat in the rain and cook.

If you want a laugh, go online and check the extended forecast for Pearisburg, VA. I have been wet for three days now, and it looks like there is no end in sight. I dream of being dry.

I should be in Pearisburg on Wednesday. I have a lot of mail waiting for me there, and I plan to take a day off. I'll go to the laundry and get everything clean and dry. Simple pleasures.

So Ken, I was a manly man last night and slept out in the rain instead of going to the motel. What have you been up to?

Allen Freeman

Helveys Mill Shelter to Wapiti Shelter

Monday, 5/4

AT Miles = 24.0 / 609.3
Other Miles = 0.5 / 24.7
Total Miles = 24.5 / 634.0

It rained again last night. It was still raining when I got up at 6:30. Well, it's not the end of the world. I guess I'm getting used to being damp. I can't even pretend anything I own is actually dry anymore, there are just varying degrees of wet.

But all was not lost. I caught some good radio last night. The local NPR station plays Swing music from 8:00 - 9:00, then some really good jazz from 9:00 to 11:00.

But back to this morning. I got up and pulled on my rain jacket, then walked out and got my wet food bag down out of the tree where it hung overnight. I cooked breakfast in the rain, packed up my gear, and started hiking.

I made an executive decision and decided that I am going to get to Pearisburg tomorrow rather than on Wednesday. In order to pull that off I need to walk about 40 miles in two days, so I walked 24 miles today and will attempt the other 16.5 tomorrow. I've never hiked 24 miles before, and my feet are complaining big time. I've also raised a blister on the little toe of my left foot. I hope I didn't sabotage myself and make myself incapable of hiking the miles tomorrow. I am really looking forward to being clean and dry and sleeping in a bed that isn't damp and smelly.

I am camped tonight at a nice little shelter with three section hikers. Section hikers tend to have amuch wider repertoire of conversation than thru-hikers do, who tend to talk about food whenever they aren't telling fart jokes, so I am enjoying the evening immensely. We've got a fire going and there is a real chill in the air tonight so that is very welcome.

Four more thrus just showed up, so the evening promises to get even more interesting.

I think this is going to be an ibuprofen night, only the second of the hike. It should help ease the ache of my feet and hopefully they will heal up a lot overnight.

Sorry, I know this has been a bit incoherent. I am really tired tonight and finding it hard to organize my thoughts. You'll hear more from me once I get settled in Pearisburg, hopefully tomorrow night. I am planning to take a zero day (or maybe even two) there. I should have a bunch of maikl waiting at the post office, and will be switching out all my cold weather gear for the summer gear Jodi has sent to me.

Allen Freeman

Wapiti Shelter to Pearisburg, VA

Tuesday, 5/5

AT Miles = 16.6 / 625.9
Other Miles = 0.8 /25.5
Total Miles = 17.4 / 651.4

Just before sunset last night the sky actually cleared up, and we were
treated to a bit of a view of the sunset. It was a sucker punch,
though, as during the night the wet weather rolled back in and it
rained all night, sometimes quite heavily. I was up at 6:45, and true
to form it took almost exactly one hour to eat breakfast, pack up, and
be ready to leave.

For most of today's hike I had only showers and that penetrating fog
to deal with. I was moving a bit slower than usual because my left
foot is pretty beat up. Blisters and sire spots make it painful pretty
much with every step. I reached Doc's Knob Shelter about a quarter
after eleven and stopped for half an hour to eat lunch, then pressed
on towards my goal of Pearisburg.

There is supposed to be wonderful views of the valley Pearisburg is in
from a spot named Angels Rest atop Pearis Mountain. All I saw when I
got there was the inside of the cloud. On top of that, it started
raining very heavily and I was a sodden mess even with my rain gear

The trail descends steeply from here along a long series of
switchbacks, and by now my foot was hurting badly enough that I gave
up all pretext of toughness and exclaimed out loud every once in a
while. Finally, finally, I reached Pearisburg. The trail goes through
the edge of town and in order to get into the center of town where all
the businesses are I had to walk almost a mile along Main Street,
which out here at the fringe of town is a four lane road with no
shoulders and a 50 mph speed limit. Walking along the gutter in the
rain getting splashed with filthy water by every passing vehicle
pretty much capped the day for me.

I'vwe got a room in the cheapest motel in town, and it is just exactly
what you'd think the cheapest room in town would look like. Still,
even though it hasn't been redecorated since apparently the 70s, it's
clean and it provides me everything I need to get dried out and regain
my enthusiasm for the trail.

Wow, I looked at myself in the mirror when I got out of the shower
this afternoon. I am skinny! I think I need to do some serious eating
while I am here. I am going to take at least one zero day here.
Hopefully that will be enough to let my feet heal up. If not I may
have to take an extra day off before I get back out on the trail.
Without healthy feet this hike would be impossible.

Allen F. Freeman

Zero Day in Pearisburg

Wednesday, 5/6

AT Miles = 0 / 625.9
Other Miles = 0 / 25.4
Total Miles = 0 / 651.3

I took a zero day in Pearisburg today. My left foot is really a mess.
It felt okay this morning when I walked in my sandals a couple blocks
down the street to get breakfast, and then a couple more blocks to the
laundromat. But by the time I got back to my motel it was hurting and
I was limping.

It was cool and overcast this morning, but I went out wearing the
running shorts and shirt Jodi sent along with my other warm weather
gear, since all my other clothes were destined for the washer and
dryer at the laundromat. I imagine I looked like a moron walking down
the street dressed like that; it certainly felt inappropriate for the
weather conditions.

Observation: It is amazing just how nasty my socks smell after a week
of alternating two pair of soggy socks in my boots!

I find town days exhausting. I'm not quite sure why that is. I had a
large pizza for dinner last night. When I called to order it I asked
for a 20 oz bottle of root beer, as root beer has no caffeine. Well,
they didn't have any root beer so I settle for Pepsi. Big mistake! all
that caffeine had me awake until nearly 2:00 this morning. Just the
same, I was awake at 6:30.

After doing my laundry I stopped by the post office again. Back last
November I ordered the full set of maps and guidebooks for the trail
from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). They shipped most of
them back in January or February, but the ventral Virginia and Vermont
/ New Hampshire sets were delayed until later. Well, I'm in Virginia
now and I need those central Virginia maps. A couple weeks ago I sent
them an email asking them to send the Virginia maps to me here. I
never got any response to that email so last Thursday while I was
staying at the motel in Atkins I called them. Well, they claimed
ignorance of my email ((what's the point of publishing an email
address if you don't monitor it), and told me the Virginia maps were
ready but the guidebook was still not printed. I asked them to send
the maps to me here and send the guidebook, which I don't use and
don't really care about, to my home address whenever it's ready. They
agreed and I expected the maps when I picked up my other mail
tomorrow. The maps weren't at the post office yesterday and I stopped
by this morning to see if they had yet arrived. Alas, they had not. I
should have called the ATC today but got distracted with other chores
and before I knew it, it was too late.

I did handle some issues with my credit card today. It's amazing how
much time little chores like this can eat up. I also did some work
updating the website for the hiking club I belong to, the Connecticut
Section of the GMC -- www.conngmc.com --, with the latest newsletter
and activity schedule. I also posted my latest photos to my website.
The link is:


I spent a good part of the day struggling to remotely connect to my
computers at home. It seems Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom,
actually broke one of their products with an update to another of
their own products! In order to remotely connect thru their WHS server
an RDP client add-on for IE is required. But when Microsoft released
WinXP SP3, they actually disabled that very add-on. Since the little
Netbook I bought came with XP SP3, it is impossible to connect to my
WHS box from this computer.

Well, I spent hours googling this and that and reading a lot of
discussions of this problem, and finally discovered that if I
uninstalled IE7 and reverted to IE6 (IE7 is actually just an update to
IE6, so if you uninstall IE7 you 'magically' find yourself with IE6),
the RDP add=on will be visible and can be enabled. Whew! So long story
short I finally was able to connect to my home network and get all
that work done that I mentioned before.

So suddenly the day is pretty much done. I still haven't gone through
the food resupply that Jodi sent me to figure out if I need to do any
shopping to supplement it or not. I'll do that first thing in the
morning. Since it's ben raining all afternoon, I put my boots on to
walk around the corner to Dairy Queen to get a couple of cheeseburgers
and etc for lunch, and found myself limping the entire way there and
back. There is no way I am hiking out of town tomorrow. I think I will
get my stuff organized tomorrow so I can send a box of stuff (my cold
weather sleeping bag and my heavy, warm, clothing) home tomorrow, then
I might check out of the motel and walk the couple of miles over to
the hostel at the Catholic church. Or maybe I'll be lazy and just stay
here. It is nice to have my own room and my own shower that I don't
have to share with a couple dozen other people.

Since I have all this time to think and write tonight, here are a
couple of little stories from the trail. I few days ago I was hiking
along in the morning and apparently there was a bird sitting on the
ground next to the trail. I had actually walked by he or she but when
I was swinging my trekking pole forward I must have nearly struck the
bird with the end of my right pole. The bird exploded out of the
undergrowth and flew right between my legs. Of course this all
happened in an instant and I had n for a whileo idea what it was; I
just heard, saw, and felt something exploding between my legs. I
jumped straight up into the air, which is quite a feat while wearing a
backpack. Once I realized it was just a bird, and the first rush of
adrenaline faded a bit, I stood and laughed a hearty belly laugh for a
few minutes.

Yesterday morning, while hiking in the rain, I stopped to pee. I was
preoccupied with what I was doing when I looked down and noticed that
the base of the tree I was peeing on was moving. Looking closer, I saw
a mass of what must have been a couple hundred earth worms, just your
everyday common earth worms, assembled at the base of the tree. I've
never seen or heard of earth worms behaving like this. I didn't take a
picture because after peeing on the poor worms I felt I had already
exploited them enough, so I left them alone to do whatever they were
doing in the rain.

Oh, one more thing. I don't remember if I mentioned this before or
not, but I passed the 600 mile mark a couple of days ago. In the last
seven days getting into town here in Pearisburg, I've hiked more than
120 miles. My legs can do that fine, but I think my feet need me to
cut down the miles a little bit. I think I am going to try to hold
myself to 16 - 18 miles per day.

Allen F. Freeman

Yet Another Zero


Thursday, 5/7

AT Miles = 0 / 625.9
Other Miles = 1.7 / 27.2
Total Miles = 1.7 / 653.1

A double zero. If I was going to do this I should have done it in a
nice little town like Damascus. But my feet chose this place to go on
strike, so it's here that I am staying for yet another night.

I spent two nights at the Holiday Motor Lodge. It was a much nicer
place than the $35 per night price might suggest. Sure, it hasn't been
redecorated since about 1975, but it was very clean, the shower was
hot, and the heat and AC worked. What else really matters? Just the
same, after two nights there I just couldn't justify paying the money
for a third night, so I packed up my stuff this morning and moved over
here to the Hiker Hostel at Holy Family Church.

Before doing that, I packed up some stuff to be sent home; my 20
degree sleeping bag, my mid-weight long underwear, and balaclava and
gloves, and my fleece shirt. Then I took the box over to the post
office and sent it on its way. I went through all the food Jodi sent
me for the next leg of my hike, along with whatever I had left in my
food bag and some stuff from my bounce box, and figured out what few
items I still needed to buy. My original plan had me doing a 5 day leg
from here to Catawba, then resupplying there for 2 more days to
Daleville. Instead, I've decided to just pack food for 7 days and skip
the side-trip into Catawba. Because of that I did need to buy just a
few things, so I went to the Food Lion which is conveniently across
the street from the motel.

So, I have a food bag with seven days food in it. Seven days food
nowadays is WAY more than seven days food was back in Georgia. It is
almost scary how much food I need to eat nowadays, but after getting
all run down a couple weeks back, I realized I needed to do whatever
is necessary to eat better. I looked at myself in the mirror after my
shower the other night, and I haven't been this skinny since high
school! My ribs show like some of those ponies up in the Grayson
Highlands. My food bag must be at least 15 pounds, and when I stuff it
in my backpack it feels like I am hauling a barrel of bricks.

So anyway, I sorted out my food, packed my food bag, and as always I
had a bunch of stuff left over (oatmeal, instant breakfast, powdered
milk, granola bars, stuff like that that comes in boxes of multiples)
and now I actually have more stuff than will fit on my bounce box. I
also discovered that I forgot to include my down jacket in the box I
mailed home to Jodi, so I still need to do that. So I put on my
ridiculously heavy backpack, stuffed all the leftover food that won't
fit into my bounce box into one of the bags from the grocery store,
and picked up that, my hiking poles, and my bounce box, and started
walking. It is 1.7 miles from the motel to the hostel. You might think
that after hiking 15 - 20 miles up and down hills every day that a
mile and a half would be nothing, but there is something about
walking on the road that makes it feel like torture.

The hostel is a nice place as hostels go, but it is located way out at
the end of town, at the edge of a residential neighborhood. I walked
1.4 miles round trip to get to a Subway where I got two grinders, one
for a mid-afternoon snack and one for dinner tonight. In the morning I
will eat some of my extra oatmeal before I leave here, then I'll start
walking back through town. There is a breakfast place downtown where
I'll stop for another big breakfast, then it will be of to the post
office to mail my bounce box up to Daleville and to get a box to mail
my down jacket, a book I've finished with and want to keep, and a
couple of maps I no longer need, home. Finally unburdened off all my
extra possessions, I'll head back out onto the trail.

Today is the seventh straight day of rain. Not in the sense that it
has been raining non-stop for seven days, but it has rained sometime
during every day,and I think it has rained every single night. The
forecast calls for a 60% - 70% chance of rain every day until next
Tuesday, when it should simply be mostly cloudy, so I imagine by the
time I reach Daleville in a week I will be miserably wet again, but
right now I am looking forward to getting back on the trail.

The little group of people I was camping with most nights are all several days ahead of me now, so I will be socializing with a new group of hikers now. It's a bit sad to lose contact with people I've been hiking with for several weeks, but it's also good to be meeting other people. It's all part of the trail experience.

Allen F. Freeman


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Copyright 1996 - 2011 Allen F. Freeman
Last modified: November 03, 2011