Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Trail Journal 05.29.02

In Pearisburg for a zero day tomorrow.  Got in around noon, checked in, got a shower and lunch.  Hike in from Doc's Knob was fairly easy, mostly level before dropping into town.  Once we ate things got trickier--could not find a barber or the library so we got out bounce boxes from the P.O., dropped them off at our rooms and went to DQ for a milk shake.  Then back to the room for a nap.  Did laundry, ate Chinese food  and made phone calls.  Talked to Maggie and Bev Carver about arrangements for Maggie's visit in June.  Also cleaned gear and made an alcohol stove from a Coke can.  Tomorrow:  groceries, email and test the stove.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Trail Journal 05.25.02

Late afternoon on a short day.  We pulled into camp around 2:30 (after an hour long lunch break about 5 minutes up the trail).  We had originally planned an early day today but had not seen anyplace inviting.  We crossed Laurel Creek on a magnificent footbridge but the adjoining area is by a road and heavily trashed.  We had decided to push on to Bland when Gary spotted a very nice spot right by the creek and away from the road--it even has a picnic table.  Red had a sleepless night last night with a cold so it seemed like a good place to stop.  Bathed in the creek, washed clothes and sketched the bridge.  In all, a good day after yesterday's hard walking.  Sky is clouding up a bit but otherwise the weather is very nice.

8:00 pm now.  Almost dark.  The sun is behind the ridge and twilight is upon us.  The woods are quiet except for the rushing of the stream below camp and the occasional vehicle on the road.  Other people are camped in the area but they are not at all obtrusive.  The forest floor is darkening, especially in the rhododendron thicket to my left.  The canopy is light green still.  Sky is a bit overcast bue we should get moonlight.  Moon is full or close to it.  Last night was very bright as the moonlight filtered through the trees.  Even got a glimpse of Venus in the western sky.

This is the time of day that I like most.  Everything is done--no walking, no chores--just relaxing, waiting to turn in for the night.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Trail Journal 05.22.02

Another day and more real food!  We walked into Atkins, Virginia today around 1:30 and decided to motel it tonight.  Had a hot roast beef sandwich for lunch and chicken fried steak for dinner which also included a hot cinnamon roll dessert.  I'm getting used to real food; my system will be shocked to go back on trail rations tomorrow.  We resupplied at the truck stop nearby and start walking  toward Bland in the morning.  Today's walking was very good--nice and easy with no hard climbs.  Day was sunny--cool to start but gradually warmer so yesterday's blue mood was long gone.  It's easier to believe on a bright, sunny day.  Last 4 miles or so took us through farm fields and newly wooded areas that were devoid of large trees.  Felt like I was walking through Pittsylvania County [*] rather than the AT.  Last mile meandered a lot--we could see Atkins long before we got here.  By the day after tomorrow we should be hiking along Chestnut Knob and Garden Mountain, a section of trail I hiked in 1980 with Hank Harman on the trip where I met Bev Wilson, Greg and Catharine Moser.  I'm hoping to actually see Burkes Garden this time.  It was fogged in on the 1980 trip.

[*] Where I grew up.  About 150 miles east on Route 58.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Trail Journal 05.17.02

Left Damascus early this afternoon.  Passed several hikers coming south into town but we were determined to be gone.  Began climbing the stairs away from Route 58 at 1:00 and came into Saunders Shelter at 4:40.  The shelter is new, nicely (if strangely*) built with a brand new privy.  We are sharing the shelter with Little Bob, another refugee form Damascus, and three students from NC State.

Walking wasn't bad.  Good trail, some climbing but doable.  Town food left me feeling sluggish but I got here anyway.  I was glad to leave Damascus--I did all my resupply and town chores so I was ready to be gone.  I need to be out walking rather than looking at hiker merchandise and wandering the streets.  So now I'm watching the evening light fade in a wonderful sylvan setting.  The shelter is just in front of a pine thicket where the ground is covered with pine needles.  To the north is an open grassy area.  To the east is a stand of trees, filling in their foliage.  It's a calming scene, no doubt very unlike Damascus at the moment.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trail Journal 05.15.02

Today was a day of magic.  Not only did Red, Gary and I snag a beer each cooling in a stream just off Route 91 but when we went to the spring at to Low Gap we found two trail angels grilling burgers and handing out beer.  I chowed don a couple of cheeseburgers and beers so I didn't have to cook dinner tonight.  Walking today was  magical,too.  Trail was mostly even with a little up and down on a cloudless, sunny day.  Yesterday's cold front pushed the moisture away so the day was very comfortable.  Made 13.9 miles in 7.5 hours, including three breaks.

All eyes and feet are turned toward Damascus, Virginia .  Trail Days are finally here!We've heard about Damascus Trail Days almost since day one on the AT.  At first we never thought we'd make it but here we are, poised to hit Damascus right as Trail Days begin.  We have mixed thought about the celebration.  On one hand, we have business to do and having to do it in a small town jammed with 20,000 people may be difficult.  On the other hand, it may be fun.  Maybe I'll see some old friends there.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Natural Act

'Tis the season in Olympia for spiders to spin their webs on my balcony.  The webs are usually in corners where anchors are convenient.  One spider, though, went big time and strung her web out in the open.  The center was almost six feet above the floor and was situated about halfway between the balcony railing and the building eaves.  The upper web line was a good seven feet long.  It looked about thus:

The web was not exactly convenient for patio users but was far too impressive to simply knock down.  By the following morning a large portion of the inner web was broken and the spider was rebuilding.  At that point we encouraged her to relocate.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sketchbook 05.11.02

Trail Journal 05.11.02

At Moreland Gap Shelter after 10.7 miles from Campbell Hollow Road.  Hard, up and down trail--took longer to get here than I first estimated.  Took close to an hour of sit down breaks, including a half hour at Laurel Fork, a beautiful, strong running creek spanned by a nice foot bridge and surrounded by rhododendron and hemlock thickets.  I wanted to camp there but saw no good spots.  Took from 8:15 to 2:45 to [reach Moreland Gap].  Went slow and steady on the long up hill climbs.  Got in with no falls or slips on some steep, muddy downhill climbs.  Lost of slick mud and roots.  Had some rain last night and early AM.  Packed up reasonably dry in my tent.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Trail Journal 05.06.02

I learned of Julie Noterman's death in a phone message from Maggie today while I was in Erwin [Tennessee].  I was done with town business and about to leave when I checked messages and got the word from Maggie.  I'm glad I found out only as I was leaving; the news would have made town errands much more difficult.  As it was, I thought of Julie during the climb out of Erwin.  My mere discomfort on a hard physical task that I willingly chose pales in comparison to Julie and [husband] Stephan's suffering.  Maggie said in her message that Julie's death makes my hike all the more necessary.  I climbed today as if I were climbing for Julie.  I thought about her among the spirits and about me being in the spirit of nature, being part of nature, living with nature.  The thoughts comforted me.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Grand Canyon Story

Here is another excerpt from my other hiking journals.  For the uninitiated, the Kaibab, Coconino and Redwall refer to rock formations that compose major layers within the Grand Canyon. The Esplanade is a large open rock bench between the Coconino an Redwall formations.]
September 1984. Thunder River Trail. Grand Canyon, Arizona.
Fourth trip into the Canyon for me, first from the North Rim. Gary, Randy, Colleen and I set out from the Bill Williams trailhead. We are following a group of boy scouts. The trail is fair at best, clinging to a steep rock face as as it skirts the top of the Kaibab formation. Two boy scouts pass us, heading back to the trailhead. We wonder about adults who would send kids alone on a trail like this. We pass the scouts and begin the Coconino descent. Lots of loose rock and shitty trail. Colleen is moving slow. She's complaining about lack of energy. We wait for her at the Esplanade. A scout leader arrives, checks his map, draws an arrow in the dirt and proceeds in the wrong direction. We consider letting him go that way but end up telling him. He changes the direction of his arrow and steps out as confidently as he did when he was heading to oblivion. Colleen arrives and insists she can continue. We set out across the Esplanade, a fairy tale collection of strange rock formations. It's open with little vegetation and walking is good. We stash water at the top of the Redwall. Colleen is still slow but determined. Randy and Gary quickly pull ahead and out of site.

Colleen is beginning to have real difficulty. She finally says she has to rest and tells me to head on to get help from Randy and Gary. This trip is fucked. I set off a a good pace, quickly reach Surprise Valley and head for Thunder River. I reach the rim overlooking Thunder River and Tapeats Creek only to discover that the drop into this side canyon creek is substantial. I make my way down and into the campground. What's this? The trail crosses the creek? It must. This side is blocked with brush. Don't I see a foot print on the other side? I wade into the creek. The water is cold and running strong. I almost fall more than once. Okay, where is the campground? It's getting late. I don't want to cross the creek again. Fuck, I'm losing light. I will have to make camp. It won't help Colleen for me to injure myself stumbling around in the dark. I see lights across the creek. I call out and they head right to me. They're river runners looking for the trail back to the Colorado River. They tell me the campground is on the other side of the cCreek. I shoulder my pack and trudge across the water. I find Randy. Gary is looking for me and Colleen. I'm beat and hungry. Gary comes back and, after hearing my tale, packs up and heads out in the dark to find Colleen. Randy and I will come up tomorrow.

Morning comes early as Randy and I climb out. We stop at Thunder River to water up. Boy Scouts are camped on every flat surface in the vicinity despite prohibitions against camping there. The river is actually a large spring gushing--no, exploding--from the side of the Redwall. A ribbon of vegetation follows the stream of water about a quarter mile down the canyon wall and into Tapeats Creek. I guess that's all the the time I will have to appreciate this glory. We find Gary and Colleen in Surprise Valley around 9:30. Gary thinks she's having a diabetes attack. I stay with her while they go for help. I have lots of water, Randy's sling chair and plenty of sunscreen to get me through the day. I set my tent up to give Colleen shade and begin my wait. The heat builds, tour choppers fly overhead, the Boy Scouts head out, time passes slowly.

The distinctive slap of helicopter rotors bursting over the Redwall breaks my reverie around 4:00 pm. The chopper circles a few times and sets down. A ranger, medic and pilot come over to check out Colleen. I learn that I won't be riding out with her--the chopper can't carry us both and all our gear. I begin cramming anything I don't need for a night alone in the Canyon into Colleen's pack. We load Colleen into the medevac with the pilot and medic and they lift off, leaving me with the ranger. He is heading to Tapeats for backcountry patrol. He tells me that Gary and Randy met him just as he was starting out on the trail this morning. He gives me a quart of Gookinaid which I guzzle before we head in opposite directions. I climb the Redwall in late afternoon shade. The climb is actually pretty easy after the events of the past day. I reach the water stash at the top, guzzle as much of Colleen's water as I can and pour the rest of hers over my head and shoulders. Now I am stepping briskly across the Esplanade. What a delight. I can see forever in the late afternoon sun. Long shadows stretch across the rock. I won't have enough light to make it all the way out. I do not want to negotiate the upper trail in the dark.

I make camp on a rock bench. I can see the Colorado River gorge snaking into the distance. After dinner I watch the stars come out. I've never been in the Canyon by myself and revel in the solitude of the night sky. I awake in the dark and am on the trail at first light. I will beat the sun to the rim if I can. I pass the Boy Scouts as I begin ascending the Coconino. They have a fire (don't their leaders know anything?). I climb slowly, choosing my steps carefully on the loose rock. Frequent rest pauses allow me to watch the shadows receding across the Esplanade. I'm still in the shade as I slowly make my way up. I hope someone is waiting for me up top. The sun hits me as I traverse the Kaibab. Not far to go now. Gary and Randy are sitting by the truck. Now it's back to the North Rim village for a shower. Too late for breakfast so we end up having lunch at Jacob Lake. We pass a nasty traffic accident on the way out of the park.

We stop in Flagstaff to see Colleen. She is resting and a bit groggy but she tells us that she does in fact have diabetes, I retrieve my gear from her pack and we head home. We were all very lucky.

(Originally posted at Unsolicited Opinion)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Trail Journal 05.01.02

A new month, day 29 on the trail, finds me still at Duckett House [in Hot Springs].  It's early morning and raining.  Red & Gary are leaving.  I will stay in the area two more days to spend time with Maggie. She arrived yesterday in the Red Truck.  We had an hour's soak in the hot springs, followed by a massage, dinner and time together.  It was a nice reunion but it also brought some apprehension since the truck is loaded with "stuff" that we need to reorganize before she takes off.  And there is always my worry about [business affairs in] Phoenix and everything that needs to be done there.  I find it hard to let that go when I am with Maggie.  I can let go on the trail mostly be even then I worry some.

It's raining out now--hard at times.  I wonder how I would pack up dry in such weather which brings up the question of appropriate shelter.  Been using the tarp but feel exposed to the weather and bugs.  My Divine Light is way too small--I was cramped an hot in it.  So now I'm thinking about a larger one man tent for $150.

And then there's the issue of money--I will probably spend close to $400 while I'm here and worry about how to [afford] it.  But then I don't want to be uncomfortable either so I will probably defer the worry and let Maggie do her best.

I hit the trail on Friday at Devil's Gap and link up with R&G to continue on.