Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Daleville to Waynesboro

I had to stick around in Daleville late into the morning until the outfitter opened at 10 so I could grab some packages. As soon as I could, I hit the trail because I knew Jean Genie and Duffle Miner were doing slack days waiting for me to catch up. I finished up lunch at a shelter just as thunder began rolling in over the mountains but I decided to make a run for it anyway. I made it about 2.5 miles in the thunder before the rain even started but for the first time on the trail the rain was a refreshing experience. The heat and humidity had been pretty brutal over the last few days.

That night when I rolled into camp I met Mooch, remember that name and we will come back to it. The next morning I finally came across Jean Genie and Duffle Miner after chasing them for about 70 miles. It was a grand reunion and I was so happy to see them. That day we stopped at a swimming hole and had a nice mid day respite from the heat.

The next couple of days were fairly uninteresting until the day we went to Big Island, Va. This was an unplanned town stop for me. I was fine on food but was mostly unwilling to separate used for Genie and Duffle so soon. On the AT, there is a long foot bridge just before the road that leads to Big Island. Mooch and I came across it just as Duffle Miner was jumping off with a bunch of locals. It was terrifying to watch and pretty scary to do from the story Duffle tells. A couple of local guys said they would give us a ride into town on their way back to their own town 40 minutes down the road and Mooch, Duffle and I gladly took him up on it. The listened to great music and even gave us some Gatorade. We had them drop us at the H & H Mart, which is really just a run down BP station. Just as they pulled back onto the road I realized I had left a small stuff sack in their car that had my wallet in it... Down the road, gone forever. Stranded in a town with nothing more than a BP station with no money and no ID! Thankfully, I still had my phone on me so I called my mom for the proper verbal berating followed by whatever encouragement she could offer from so far away. I asked her to cancel any cards she could, made plans to have an old ID sent up and tried to reassure myself that they would send it home to Georgia when they found it. Then I went into the pitiful gas station to try to find something worthy of being called hiker food. As I was moping around, picking up granola bars and hating myself for the dumb mistake, Duffle Miner came running in holding up my little pink stuff sack containing my entire life! They had brought it back! Some how they had spied a small little satchel, impossible I was thinking, and even turned around to bring it back to me! I tried to run out to the parking lot to express my inexplicable gratitude and happiness but it was the same scene I watched as they had left before, just the tail lights of the car and me in the parking lot, unable to reach them. I don't know of they will ever understand the importance of them seeing and bringing the stuff sack back to me, but it was life changing to me at the moment.

At this point in time we still hadn't seen Genie yet and knew we needed to get back on the trail to stay in this nothing town. We caught a hitch in a pickup going 90 miles an hour over the tight mountain roads but the thunder began rolling over our heads as we ran the two miles to the shelter and we were glad we had such a speed demon driver. We made it into the shelter just before a terrible storm hit.

The next day Genie caught up and he had still not resupplied, and one by one Duffle Miner, Mooch and I decided we would go into Buena Vista with him the next morning. After a torrential thunderstorm that night in which we all got soaked despite being in tents or hammocks, we walked the two miles to the road to Buena Vista. We got a lucky ride in to town from a guy in a truck who just happened to be at the trail head. After breakfast, we made a short time of resupplying and got out of town by mid afternoon. Somewhere between the ride out of town and the first shelter I lost the guys. A some point in the night Mooch passed me and I found him the next morning but I didn't see Duffle or Genie for about two days, which seems like such a long time on the trail.

But the two of them failed into Waynesboro just behind Mooch and I on Memorial Day. We hit up the all you can eat Chinese buffet with a bunch of other hikers, a spectacular establishment whether hiker or not, surprisingly. Then we hit the coin laundry, which thankfully had a box of abandoned clothes that translates into temporary laundry wardrobe in hiker talk. We shamelessly striped down and changed into stranger's clothes to wait for our laundry to wash. It finished just in time to go claim a spot at the Lutheran Hiker Hostel across town.

Way back in February I was up in Portland, Maine visiting Jeremy during a Disney on Ice tour and met the cousin of a co-worker of his who was also visiting. This cousin just so happened to be the daughter or the couple who runs this particular hostel. I had a good time talking with them and relaying the strange story of how I had come upon their place. They were such a loving family. It was great to have the feeling that I had friends along the trail waiting for me to show up. And interestingly, if I hadn't of had my two weeks at Woods Hole I would have been in town before they had opened up for the season.

But today Genie and Duffle and a really cool girl (one f few ice really hit it off with) set out to aqua blaze part of the Shennandoah National Park. This means they are camping down the Shennandoah River instead of hiking the trail. Right now I am a bit jealous because they are on a river with lots of beer and wine and awesome food and no packs on their backs. But tonight Jeremy and a co-worker of his I have met on several occasions are arriving in Wayneboro to hike part of the Shennandoahs with me starting tomorrow! I may be doing some lesser miles, which is nothing but good for me, but I am super excited to have them come along!

In other news, even though I miss Movie Star a lot, we have done very good at keeping up with each other from a few hundred miles apart. Today we talked on the phone for almost an hour, which was special because we never seem to be in towns on the same day. It is fun to to each other the news of what's going on with the hikers around we both know. I am also benefiting from the fact that he is telling me all the things he thinks I need to know about the trail ahead of me, which is also fun because I know him well enough to know what's worth listening to and what's not!

I am feeling great the trail. Starting out again was rough but now I am having a fantastic time! I hope to catch Duffle, Genie and Nova somewhere down the line after Jeremy and Cameron head home. As for Mooch, it seems he has relieved me of my duties... Here's more on Mooch, as I said would happen.

I had actually met him at the hostel while I was working there and had noticed his odd ways and then he was there again. He's and interesting kid on many levels and had just come back from Trail Days in Damascus, otherwise I would have never caught him just outside of Daleville. He hiked about 10 inches behind my pack for the past week and a half or so, yapping in my ear about every possible topic imaginable. He has lead a very interesting and story worthy life but as many of my long term hiking partners know, I easily grow tired of talking while hiking and prefer to hike alone and then take breaks or eat lunch and camp with others. I can tell he is usually a ladies man on the trail and finds my lack of interest frustrating. I think it has even taken a turn on him psychologically, as he recently had a wine induced confession of his love/hate feelings for me. On the trail, when a guy follows a girl's plan instead of doing his own miles or slows down or speeds up to catch a girl, it is called "pink blazing". I for one think it doesn't really apply if the girl is friends with or wants he guy around, but when you're as good as strangers, its pink blazing. He seems to be to gone for now, which as harmless as he was still makes me feel better. If he pops back up, maybe the presence of Jeremy and Cameron will help deter him. He's sweet enough, but there is only so much I can handle.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

To Daleville!

That title makes it sound much more fun and exciting than it was. The morning my mom left she dropped me off at the trail where we had finished our slack pack together. I was starting out again all on me own. My spirits were high but that didn't last long. They stayed up through the first day, with bony feeling fine and a sunny day above me. But on the second day, despite the beautiful weather, I cried the better half of the. It's tough to be out alone and not have anyone who is accountable to you. There isn't anyone to share your woes and triumphs with if everyone is a relative stranger. Also, there are parts of the AT that are not a simple cake walk and it is good to know in confidence that if you don't show up to a place by a certain time, someone will know something is up.

For example, one of the days between Woods Hole and Daleville included a section of trail called the Dragon's Tooth. I had gotten the impression that I could take a few pictures of this rock formation and keep hiking... Until I found myself staring down jagged cliffs before me, in the rain, wondering how the white blaze ahead expected me to get to it. As if meandering down these wet rocks using whatever help my trekking poles could provide wasn't already nerve racking, I soon found a series of metal rungs that I was somehow supposed to descend. Turning around on the edge of a wet rock and lowering yourself down on to a ladder to climb down it with a 30 something pound pack on your back to balance is not the easiest task. It took me a long time, with much cursing and fearful hoping, to get down the Dragon's Tooth. And still, no pictures...

With this behind me, I knew I had McAfee's Knob and the Tinker Cliffs ahead of me. McAfee's Knob is the most photo photographed spot on the trail besides the Katahdin sign I bet. It has a magnificent view if you hit not on the right day. The Tinker Cliffs I had no idea about but after the Dragon's Tooth I could only assume this "0.5 mile cliff walk" would have me on the 3 foot wide cliff edge with no railing and, on the particular day I was traversing it, running through a thunder storm. The morning I set out to conquer both of these called for rain at 9, 11, 1 and thunderstorms at 4. I started out booking it, trying to make it to McAfee's for a picture before the bottom really dropped out. I made it the ten miles out to the scenic view in only three an a half hours. Still I decided to keep up the strong pace to try to miss the on coming thunderstorm. I hustled all the way to the cliffs, which when I got to I found to be decidedly more tame than my mind had cooked up. They were like a series of smaller McAfee Knobs and yet still safe and fun to walk over. Only a mile down the mountain was the shelter that marked the end of my day and I made it in about ten minutes before the rain set in. It had held off all day but when it came it came with a vengeance. Suddenly the day I had spent running over mountains seemed well worth it.

Oddly, I ha not seem another thru hiker all day while hiking. Not until 6'7 (who is indeed 6'7) showed up about 3 hours behind me did I see someone who was not a section hiker. The trail had been getting more and more sparse since I had life Pearisburg because of Trail Days. Everyone seemed to be heading back to Damascus for the weekend AT celebration so it made for a lonely time to jump back on the trail.

Trail Days is a annual gathering of hikers celebrating the trail and those who hike it. Its part educational, part gear themed and part party. On the Saturday of every Trail Days there is always a Hiker Parade where the hikers of each "class" get together and walk through town in a roughly organized escapade. This year, a great misfortune happened. An older thru hiker apparently lost control of his car after a possible medical incident and ran over many hikers in the parade. Around 60 hikers were hurt and several were helicoptered out to a hospital. Rumor has it that the main victim was a thru hiker from recent years named Rainbow Bright. This made my phone blow up with worries calls and texts. Hermes, who I started my hike with texted me, as well as Fresh Ground, who supported us with food hundreds of miles up the trail, and Jeremy, who helped me prepare for the trail. I first heard of the incident from Jean Genie, who called me having heard from our friend Spider Mac that I may have been under the car. Thankfully, I was safely tucked away in the woods. But I feel terrible for all those involved.

On a lighter note, Jean Genie and Duffle Miner are only a day ahead of me! Apparently when they got off to I to their wedding they stuck around much longer than they imagined.

As for now, I am in a very nice yet still cheap hotel room with 6'7, Shutter Bug, (both whom I met while at the hostel) and Smiles, who is from my original bubble of hikers. Hopefully when I hit the trail tomorrow I will catch Genie and Duff before too long. Also, I am happy to have hikers around again to share life with ice again.

Monday, May 13, 2013

My days at Woods Hole Hostel

My time at Woods Hole Hostel has come to an end and I am hiking out tomorrow. It has happened in perfect timing, but sooner than I originally thought. Thankfully.

It was a pure alignment of forces greater than I that I ended up there at the time I did in the shape I was in. I remember just the day before arriving at Woods Hole, walking over the high ridges and down to a crappy convenience store, I was saying to Movie Star that I didn't know what is was, but something needed to change. And the very next day, there was Neville, needing a hand at the hostel. At the time I was thinking I could stay for a month at most before needed to get back on the trail with enough time to finish and I was fearing it would take an entire month to make me want to get back on. Thankfully, it has been two weeks and now I have a newly invigorated excitement towards the trail. My body is rested and more importantly my heart and soul are ready to get back to hiking.

While on the farm I have met a ton of other hikers and seen so, so many hikers hikers that I was afraid I'd never see again. In just two weeks I have fallen into such a comfortable routine with my duties that I seem to have turned into a major authority around the hostel. In reality, I know no more than where the dishes go in the kitchen and where the shower and towels are in the bunkhouse. But still other hikers are looking towards me or Stephen, the farm intern, for help. This is funny because neither of us is a commander type. Stephen has been one of my favorite parts of the farm. He is there for 8 months as Micheal's farm hand and got the gig because he passed through during his 2011 thru hike. We have the same sense of humor and get along really well. He helped my transition into the busy hiker season at one of the AT's favorite hostels to be more smooth and enjoyable.

My duties start with the house, with rooms available to hikers, section hikers and other visitors, and they extend out into the hiker bunkhouse. The indoor rooms seem to mostly be occupied by older thru hikers (because they have money to spend) as well as the section hikers who want to revel in a bed for one last night before they set out on a hiking trip or family members of hikers who see no way in hell to sleep in a barn, on an old mattress, with smelly thru hikers. The younger crowd and many of the older crowd as well sleep out in the loft of an old barn with a common room below and a covered porch on the front. I make up the two rooms in the house every day if they were used and check through the bunkhouse to make sure it is in decent shape. I also help with all the meal prep and have even been the designated coffee roster for a while, a new trade my brother, an actual coffee roaster, would be proud I have picked up. There are also always a load of chores to do around the farm. I have painted countless wooden signs for around the farm. "Fresh Bread", "Please Limit Shower to 5 Minutes", "Trash or Can of Shame", "Recyclables", "Burnables". There also seems to always be weeding, up-planting, replanting or fertilizing that needs to be done in the gardens during the early spring.

As for the animals, besides the time I had to hold down a screaming and bleating goat while Stephen ripped open a wound on its face and flushed it out with iodine to keep away infection, I haven't had to experience the horrific side of farming. Many piglets have been born and only one was crushed by its momma. A couple of the ducklings died unexpectedly, but at least I will not have to participate in the castration of the pigs. I consider this a win.

I have been emailing Movie Star daily. I feel it will both be endearing and obnoxious to receive so many emails, particularly when they all only say one stupid, little thought. Thus is our style of communication, endearing and obnoxious things thrown at one another. He sent a letter, taking advantage of the fact that I was at a single address for a while and one day he called and I was able to speak to both him and Maineiac for a while when they were in Daleville. Maineiac's birthday was just a few days ago and I am I sad I was not able to help usher him out of his teenage years and into his 20's. I am hoping I quickly find hikers of their caliber once again as I begin hiking.

Lastly, this weekend was Mother's Day and I was lucky enough to spend it with my mom!!! She said she wanted to take advantage of me staying in once place for an extended time so she made the trek up to Woods Hole from GA. Neville gave us a ride into town and we slackpacked (hiking the AT with out your full pack) from Pearisburg back to the hostel. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful stretch of trail with many views. It really got me excited to be back in the woods!

Pictures!!

Farm Animals

 Guinea Hens, they look cool but they are ridiculously noisy.

 A baby pig. Its cute now but it won't be for long. If it stay cross eyed that may help though.

 Chickens are alright until they lay an egg on a counter and knock it off and break it or until they poop in your shoe. Chicken shit in your show at night after you meditate is a real chi killer.

 Scottish Highland Cattle are beautiful. They are scary looking when out of the fence just because they're big and have horns but they're very sweet.

 The ducklings! They are still living in the bath tub until theyr get big enough to be outside. 

 The common area of the hiker bunkhouse.

 The loft part of the barn is where the beds are.

 Cool lighting in the bunkhouse.

Canning stash in the main house.

 Wood stove in the kitchen. Cool looking but thankfully its not what we use to cook for 20 people every night. 

 The old time kitchen with modern appliances. Perfect! haha.

 One of two huge space racks in the kitchen.

Last but not least, Stephen feeding Rogo the goat by bottle. Ro was born too early and now he is very attached to Stephen's daily bottle feeding. He holds Ro in his arms like a puppy and Ro wraps his neck around Stephen's. They're best friends.

If you ever need a mountain get away, a good place to start or end a section hike, or a planning to ever hike the AT, check out Woods Hole Hostel at www.woodsholehostel.com

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Farm Life

Something that I did not mention in the last post was an offer that was made to me after only a short time here at Woods Hole Hostel. Neville, who runs the place alongside her husband Michael, must have felt how much the place stuck a chord with my own heart because only a few hours into my stay she asked me if I would like to stick around for a few weeks and do a work for stay, helping around the house and hostel. I told her I was very interested and that I would think about it but I know immediately that I would always regret it if I didn't take up this opportunity. This farm is a dream world of mine. I have spent years of my like roaming around the abandoned brothers and sisters of these buildings, photographing them and wondering what life was like inside their walls. A chance to live that life as intermingled with hiker life as absolutely possible was more than I could have ever fathomed existed, much less did I ever think I would be able to partake so intimately in it.

Of course this means that the crew is no more. We have dismantled in the most organic way. We all stayed at Woods Hole but Maineiac, being wildly fast, was a day ahead, so we four caught him as we came in. Genie and Duffle Miner were getting off the trail for a wedding in only two days from the night we spent at the hostel. Movie Star hiked out with them but he too was soon on his own when they got off. As for me, I don't know how long I will stay, three or four weeks I figure, but I will be hiking lesser miles than the often 20 miles I did with the guys. Though I love them dearly, it wore me out too much and my body and mind were showing it. I hope to find some other cool people when I do get back on the trail, which I imagine won't be too hard as the AT is full of great people.

Until then, I am enjoying seeing a lot of hikers I've met and passed, as well as meeting a lot of new faces. My chores on the farm mostly involve helping Neville with the hostel and those who are staying in the private rooms in the house; a little cleaning, a little laundry and a lot of cooking from scratch in an old timey kitchen for the hiker breakfast and dinner. Every now and then some shaggy highland cattle escape and come trudging the yard and I help herd them home, or Steven, the official intern, wants so company feeding the goats. And always, the chickens and guineas are gawking around making too much noise. It's farm life, for sure.

The Photos:
1. The farm house and one of the gardens in front.
2. Tulips. I just like them.
3. When the highland cattle escaped from their fence and came all the way up the dirt road, down the driveway and around the house.
4. The pigs.
5. The hiker bunkhouse.