The Virginia Blues: Real

Last weekend was certainly a highlight of my hike. I got to spend time with close friends, as well as have them meet some new friends I’ve made along the way. This years trail magic trumped years past. Pop up tailgate tents, four coolers (full of beer, soda and Gatorade), a full size gas grill, burgers, dogs, bacon, biscuits and last but not least, a massive low country boil complete with corn, potatoes, sausage and fresh NC Coast shrimp. The only downfall to the magic was the weather. The Atlantic coast had just gotten a tropical storm and we received it remnants. High winds and unrelenting rain lasted all day and night. Regardless, the weather didn’t dampen the magic. 
 

Dave (Gaucho), Austin (AD), Perro and Warpzilla

 
Unfortunately, the magic had to end, and I had to say goodbye, once again, to great friends and Hazel Mae. This will probably be the last time I will see Hazel, Gaucho and AD until I complete my journey…as well as the last time I will see Warp and Perro until we summit Katahdin together in September. This weekend also put me behind my hiking group by a day, as they all moved on and I had to backtrack a days worth of miles. 

 

Only shot I got on The Preist…rain.

 
It’s tough to say exactly, what it is that causes the “Virginia Blues” for each hiker, but I can say that everyone I’ve talked to is experiencing them in one way or another. For me, leaving mans best friend and my boys, hiking alone again, stormy weather and the shear boring nature of the next 100+ miles; are the culmination of my blues. 

 

Overlook after climbing some 2500 ft over “Three Ridges”

 
Although said blues have been in full force for the past week, I’ve made quick work of the AT miles within the Shenandoah National Park. A cold front moved in a couple days ago and I took full advantage of it, making quick work of my longest day yet…32 miles. 

 

Mile 900, Shenandoah NP

 
I still haven’t been able to catch up with Bernard, Finn or the folks from “the shire”…but I’m sure I will by the time I hit Harpers Ferry. Today, I hit mile 942, leaving just over 80 miles to Harpers. I stopped over in Luray, Virginia to dry out and get a solid square…which was a full medium pizza and cheese sticks…and brownies. Hiker Hunger, check. That being said, I’m down 15 pounds thus far, feeling strong and in the best shape I’ve been in a long while…now all I have to do is quit this tobacco habit. Eventually. 

 

This little one didn’t want me to leave

 
Back at it tomorrow. All for now. 
The Law

Wish Come True

Pearisburg wasn’t worth much, but it was easy enough to walk in and out of. When we headed into town, we met Scott Jurek, an ultra-runner who is trying to beat the fastest supported thru-run of the AT. An interesting character and, although a different journey from mine, I wish him the best. 

From Pearisburg, I did my longest “leaving town” hike; 20.7 miles to The Captains. Leaving town with a full food bag is always dreaded and never easy. The Captain is a former thru hiker who lives parallel to the AT, just across a small creek. To get across the creek, one has to pull them-self over it via zip line. Pretty neat. The Captain lives on a big property and allows hikers to camp on site for free. There were ten other hikers, none of whom I’d met before, at the Captains the night we stayed there. 

  
The next day, we left The Captains early, planning on doing another 20 mile day. This did not come to fruition, reason being…heat wave and gnarly climbs. As you all probably know, this would be the beginning of some seriously hot temperatures. Dealing with 90+ temps and humidity, while hiking up and down mountains, is tough business. We only made 17 miles. Unfortunately, it’s only going to get hotter and more humid. 
Nothing temperature wise changed the following day. Still hotter than hell. The only change was that we started hiking at 6am…my earliest start yet. We ended up making 23 miles and were set up for an easy day the following day. 

 

Biggest oak tree south of the Mason Dixon , 18′ around and over 300 years old

 
Although this day was supposed to be easy and exciting, it certainly was not, as I only slept for about two hours. Unfortunately, my sleeping pad decided to malfunction as soon as I laid down. It deflated quickly. I now had to sleep on the bare, hard board of the shelter floor. Regardless of the misfortune, and additional reinforcement of my trail name, I still arose with excitement. My parents were just a few hours from being in Virginia with my best friend, Hazel Mae. Wish come true. 
Hazel met me with elation, as she always does when I’ve been away for more than 15 minutes. My parents then took us into town to eat at The Homeplace, an all you can eat (AYCE) “family style” buffet. We dirty hickers thoroughly enjoy, and take advantage of, AYCE restaurants. Bernard, Finn and I have been trying our damndest to make any AYCE establishment we visit invoke the Homer Simpson clause. The clause is simply revoking the AYCE status because one eats way too much. We still have yet to succeed.  

That night, we all went to see the new Jurrassic World movie. The movie was a disappointment all around. I was stiff and hurting after the first 15 minutes, the large tub of popcorn I ate gave me diarrhea, and the movie was just generally bad. I feel regretful that I was part of helping generate the movies some 500 million dollar opening weekend revenue. Either way, the little taste of normal society and family was a real treat.

The next morning, mom and dad dropped us back off at the base of McAfee’s knob and Hazel joined the hicker pack for the week. Although I’d been to McAfee’s Knob before, it was still breathtaking and memorable. We spent some time at the top hanging off the ledge, taking pictures, and eating second breakfast. We proceeded to move on, making 19.8 miles by day’s end, and walking back into Daleville for another stay. 

  
Hazel loves to hike. Her approach, fast and hard. The only problem with her approach is that she is not used to walking more than 10 miles in a day. This approach proved to be a costly one over the past 5 days. She usually awakes with vigor, raring to go, but by mid-day, she’s worn herself out and moves slower than us bi-peds. Unfortunately she developed a limp on Wednesday and it never subsided. This forced me to carry her pack and food, and to take a half day and walk into the booming city that is Glasgow, VA. From Glasgow I hitched a ride to Buena Vista, we were stayed last night to rest. 
Now we’re both sitting at the city park, Glen Maury, which is actually really nice and welcoming. Warpzilla, El Perro and Gaucho are in route to retrieve us, but not without leaving some Magic for the rest of the walkers. 

Every year, for the past several, we have picked a spot on the trail to provide trail magic for thru-hikers. This year, Warp decided on Hog Camp Gap, which is just north of Buena Vista (about 6 trail miles). Apparently they have a special feast this year, although I do not know any specifics. It’s strange, and super exciting, to be on the receiving end of the magic this year. 

  
Although the last 100+ miles have not been easy, nor has the weather cooperated, nor has my time with Hazel gone as planned…I still manage to end and begin each day with a smile on my face. Everyday brings a new challenge, a new reward and a closer bond to this earth and its inhabitants. I look forward to completing Virginia, and chewing up and relishing the rest of the some 1400 miles left to complete. 
Over and out,
The Law & Hazel Mae

Dirty Hickers

Internet service and cell signal has been very poor since I’ve last written, thus the lapse in frequency of posting. Since my last report, I’ve crossed into Virginia, hit mile 635 and have passed the quarter way mark. Still, no “real camera” photos to post because computers are scarce and carrying mine seems a bit heavy and unnecessary. So, enjoy the phone pictures and words. 
My first stop out of Hot Springs was Erwin, TN. Yaeger and To Sol (Kirk) and myself all shacked up at the Mountain Inn and Suites. It was a really nice hotel compared to what we’ve become accustomed to. We ate, we drank, we slept, and we moved on. Nothing too special about Erwin. 
The stretch between Erwin and our next destination, Mountain Harbour Hostel, was perhaps the most beautiful section thus far. The roan highlands, little hump and big hump mountains, were absolutely stunning. Although winds were blowing 40+ miles per hour, one could still see for miles. Yaeger and I were able to catch up here with Wild Turkey, his wife “hardcore”, and their friends for one last hike together before they headed back to the real world. They were kind, generous and fun-loving folks…their energy will surely be missed. 

Finn, Hardcore, Wild Turkey, Yaeger, Law

  
Mountain Harbour Hostel was the buzz of the trail from the second we left Erwin, to the second we arrived in Roan Mountain…reason being, Breakfast. They are notorious for their lavishly prepared homemade breakfast delicacies, and they did not leave anyone wanting. French toast with pecan syrup, fresh fruit, strawberry-pineapple upside down cake, cinnamon swirl monkey bread, pulled pork with scrambled eggs and the list could continue forever. Every bit of it was absolutely fantastic. It was all cooked by the delightfully traditional southern woman who owns the place. If you’re ever in the area, or want to visit Appalachia, Mountain Harbour is a must stay. 
Unfortunately that amazing breakfast would be Kirk, Yaeger and my last one together…for the foreseeable future anyway. Yaeger was nursing a swollen shin muscle and Kirk went to Boone to relive some college days with a good friend. The Law would then hit the trail solo, again. 
Upon leaving Roan and moving closer to Virginia, the miles started to fly. My injuries subsided, other than minor blisters, and I was feeling stronger by the mile. Fifteen miles in a day was now becoming the bare minimum. My next destination was Damascus, and I would push my longest day yet, 26 miles, into the town known as “Trail Town USA.” Although I pushed big miles into town, I took a zero the following day…making it my third zero day in Damascus, including trail days. 

 
 

While in Damascus, I met a hiker named Bernard, who is also from the triangle. He’s 30 and is hiking with his 8 year old Aussie Shepard named Sheila. We struck up a friendship fairly quickly and have been hiking together ever since. It’s really nice to be around someone who knows the area I grew up in, as well as with a dog. I miss Hazel Mae something fierce and having a dog companion helps.
I’ve also been bouncing back and forth with a younger guy named Finn who’s from Cleveland. Aptly named for his love of literature, although poorly named because I’m pretty sure huck finn was illiterate. Either way, we’ve had some interesting conversation about literature, religion, music and the overall well being of society. Finn also hikes at a good pace and I’m sure we will continue to be in company as we move further north. 

  
Virginia, thus far, has been littered with Trail Magic; which has been primarily provided by local church groups. I never imagined how happy I would be to come across store-brand soda and crackers. Thanks Virginia. 
Bernard, Sheila, Finn and I have been moving at what I’ll call “above average” pace. We walk anywhere from 2.5 to 3 miles per hour, depending on terrain. Since leaving Damascus 10 days ago, we have averaged just under 17 miles per day; with 24 miles being our biggest day of the stretch. Hiking at this pace has brought us to encounters with a whole new bubble of hikers. Two guys from Raleigh, Waves and Buns. Five mid twenties females, Bubbles, Zeta, Figgy, Whiz Bang and Finch. Five other solo hikers, Stryder, Raiden, Papa Oats, Dejavu and Boston Ryan. I’ve gotten to know each of them over the past five days or so, and all are interesting characters from different cities across the U.S. I’ve enjoyed being around a bigger bubble of folks again. 
The past few nights we’ve walked shorter miles because of nightly socials we like to call “Dirty Hicker Meetings.” Yes, I meant to say Hicker. (Note: as reading, “Dirty Hicker” sounds best with a Deep Southern twang). Two nights ago, myself and the aforementioned dirty hickers had a meeting at an awesome waterfall camp at Dismal Falls. Each of us packed out a 6 pack (or more) from a little convenience store just a few miles south. Carrying the extra weight that far was both worth it and completely not worth it.
Around dusk, Waves and I went to find wood, and returned to make a bonfire on top of the falls. We all then proceeded to tell stories of our hometowns and misguided adventures while consuming adult beverages until about 2am. This would not be a problem in the real world, but hiker midnight usually comes around 8:45pm, and we’re all soundly asleep by 9:30pm.
The next morning, Waves, Bernard, Bubbles, Zeta, Raiden, Stryder and myself decided to stay at the falls to go swimming, sun bathe, and wash away our hangovers until about 2pm. Usually leaving this late means you’re not going to make any miles, but we only had 14 easy miles to make to Woods Hole Hostel, and the water and company was just too good to leave. 
Woods Hole Hostel has been my favorite of the trip thus far. The hostel has been family run for three generations now. The hostel is run on an organic farm by wife and husband duo Neville and Michael. Neville is a licensed masseuse, yogi and meditation leader. Michael mostly does the labor intensive work around the farm, which includes maintaining a 24 hour fire that heats the water to all three buildings on the farm lot. Dinner consisted of delicious homemade bread, fresh picked greens with homemade dressings, and Mexican lasagna with homemade tortillas as the pasta layers. All of it was exquisite.  

 

Woods Hole Hostel

 
Now, I sit at the Holiday Motor Lodge in a less than clean motel room…just wishing I never had to leave Woods Hole. Unfortunately, there are still many miles to be traveled and I must continue on. My feet, knees, legs, mind and spirit are all working at 100% right now. There is not much else I could ask for…except for my dog. Someone bring me my dog. 
Hopefully less time between posts in the future. For now, this dirty hicker needs a bath and a nap. 
Happy Hiking, 
The Law