Thursday, May 24, 2007

After another very long stretch...

Hello to everyone. I apologize for having been disreputably slow to update lately, but there have not been many good times to do so. As I recall, when last I posted I was in Roanoke a good 13 days ago. That is obviously a lot of time so I will be attempting to condense a few things in order to control the enormity of this post. So here we go...

Leaving Roanoke was hard in that I had a very nice stay and Mary Ellen's grandparents made it very apparent that I was welcome for as long as I wished to stay. I think if I had taken them up on that offer I might very well have stayed for a month. I managed to dredge up a little will power however, and Mary Ellen dropped me off at the trail around 10:40. Even though it was tough leaving, it was wonderful to be hiking again. My legs felt really strong and my feet were very light. It felt like I practically flew to the first shelter, about 6 miles out. I hadn't planned on stopping for lunch that early, but it started to rain a bit, so I thought I would sit it out and eat a bit. As a result I had a nice chat with Diamond who was also rolling through that day. Honestly, most of that day's hiking was a bit of a blur (possibly because it was now 12 days ago), but I do remember the weather being very pleasant and the scenery being quite nice. I stopped again at the next shelter expecting to just take a brief break, but for the second time I was held up by some threatening weather. There was rather suddenly some very dark clouds, and very loud thunder rather nearby. After my last encounter with this kind of hold up (as some of you may remember it didn't really do anything that time) I was very inclined to ignore the signs and move on. I didn't, and although it never rained where I was, I later discovered it pored where I would have been if I had continued on right away. I did eventually leave that shelter and had a nice walk paralleling the Blue Ridge Parkway. The sunset through the clouds was fantastic and I disturbed a few deer along the way. While trying to keep me in view one of them did this odd, side to side, head wiggle that reminded me heavily of when people try to do the "Egyptian" head bob. Odd thoughts. Anyway I was at the shelter shortly thereafter, where I joined Beat Box for the evening. When I left the next morning I immediatly discovered that there was a rock in my shoe. I thought this was odd since there hadn't been one there when I went to sleep the night before. It wasn't a rock. It was a millipede that had crawled in during the night and curled up when I put my foot it (shudder). At least it wasn't a spider. I always check my boots now incidentally. Anyway that kind of set the tone for the rest of the day I felt like I was walking through mud the whole time. I did have a very pleasant lunch reading by a river, but I actually stayed a bit too long and as a result had quite a climb to do very late in the day. Mistake. That night I was once again with Yorkie, Beat Box, and Magellan. I had a lazy morning in camp the next day (I had picked up the last installment of Stephen King's Dark Tower series in Roanoke, and I find it difficult to do just about anything when there is a story needing to be finished). Not much sticks out about that morning, but that days lunch certainly does. I was sitting by the side of a forest road when a pick-up suddenly pulls up rolls down its window and the driver immediatly and without preamble begins asking me if I've seen any bears, excuse me, b'ars. Upon hearing my negative he began expressing his amazement at this, considering the number he himself had killed in the area. He then began discussing the prevelance of B'ar in several other areas of Virginia before saying good bye and heading on his way. I assume he was just being friendly, but it was still a very odd experience. I booked it out of lunch (not related to the guy in the truck I just felt like moving quickly) and made the remaining eight miles in remarkably good time. That was also just some really pretty walking with regular views of surrounding mountains and towards the end, several good views of the James River. At the shelter, Beat Box and I were expecting to find Yorkie waiting for us. Instead we found a note telling us that he would be waiting for us at a camp site .8 up the trail. We were less than thrilled to learn we had more to walk that day. However, I was slightly mollified by the dark chocolate bar I found with the shelter register. It was quite tasty.
Next morning we walked across the James River footbridge which according to my map is the longest pedestrian only footbridge that you cross while on the trail. I find this to be a sort of amusing stat considering the fact that it seems to have been built specifically for the trail. Anyway, we caught a quick hitch into Glasgow, took care of business and tried to catch a quick hitch out. Instead we hitched for about 40 minutes before getting one of the more hair raising rides of my entire life in the back of a yard care truck. Attempt to end my own life prematurely number four accomplished. Actually I exaggerate, it wasn't that bad, I just felt more precariously perched than I actually was. After getting back to the trail we did a tired 10 miles in the heat to Punch Bowl Shelter which is supposedly haunted by the spirit of a boy named Ollie who died up on the mountain. We didn't hear any spirits but there were more than plenty of frogs lulling us to sleep. The next day was immensely lazy. We did something like 8 miles before stopping. In truth we were just killing time before trail days because we couldn't go any more than another mile before getting off anyway. As a result of the short day, we did manage to avoid a pretty good sized rainstorm, which was quite nice.
The next section of my story is about trail days. There was entirely too much going on to effectively write about here. Thus I am going to do a brief list of things:
-hitching long distances is an interesting experience and I got very lucky
-lots of hikers in one area causes one raucous party, tent city was madness
-I danced around a big fire one night for probably an hour with a bunch of others, it was rather primal
-the mysterious and amazing gear deals that supposedly existed there were not forthcoming, at least not to me
-the hiker parade was awesome, but I need to remember a costume and water ammo for next year

that is barely scraping the tip of the iceberg on the overall experience, but it would take much to long to go over it all.
After trail days I spent the night in Amherst, VA with my roommate Ben and his folks. It was a really nice rest after my "restful" weekend. Ben and I set out the next morning to do 21 miles to The Priest. It was a rather embarrasing first climb. I seemed to have lost a bit of my trail legs because I got rather quesy around the top of the first hill. Fortunately, that particular problem did not arise again. I don't remember much about the walking of that day. I was too engrossed in actually having someone from off the trail to talk to. It was a really nice change. A little taste of the old without having to give up my trail time. The next day was much shorter, only 13.9 miles. Once again we had good conversation, but on that day it actually sparked a bit of reflection on my part. Ben asked me how I view my existance out here. He wanted to know if I saw it more as a battle of me against nature or of me getting in touch with nature. After thinking about this I don't believe either one is totally correct. I certainly don't look at this as a battle. Nothing I am doing is remotely warlike. However, I am not so arrogant as to think that I am really getting truly in touch with nature out here either. There are too many roads and I have too many trappings of civilization around me, even the shelters are a bit of a break away. I guess I think of myself as more of a close and somewhat protected observer, kind of like a man in a cage watching the sharks. Even that analogy seems a bit over violent and dangerous though. At the shelter that night we met a very nice girl named Asheley who was a recent graduate of UVA. She made very good company and the three of us had a very nice, long evening cooking dinner and talking and whatnot. Anyway, I'm not quite caught up, but that is where I'm going to leave it for now. I'm sorry if this hasn't been the best entry. I'll try and do better next time.

Until then,
The Breadless Horseman


Anonymous said...

Hey, Breadless - We missed you at the Fiddler's Festival this weekend, and many people asked about your hike and how you were doing. - Keep up the good work with paragraphs; your entries are much easier to read with some breaks. Hope you will post some more photos. - We are planning to meet you in Harper's Ferry next weekend, if all goes according to plan. Let me know if there are special items you would like for us to bring along for your enjoyment, entertainment, etc. Much love, MOM

Anonymous said...

Hey Gord,
I am relieved that you are still alive and well. I guess the dry weather turns out to be good for you, but terrible for my lawn. I feel like my dad, battling my lawn to keep it green, mowed, and weed-free. I actually had to ask about weed-killing advice the other day. No gutter cleaning yet, but I am sure that will come in the fall. Scary, huh? Sarah and I are going to get together and 'do something' tonight. Should be fun :) Take care and I will continue to keep up with your posts.

Laura said...

Gord, I mean, excuse me, Breadless I suppose I should call you...
I honestly hadn't read your blog until today (although I heard through the grapevine, ie my dad, that you started out in March) and I read every entry! Sounds like tons of fun, and I must say I feel a tinge of jealousy since I haven't had the time to strap my pack on yet this year. Hope you have good weather, and happy hiking!
-Laura Culler

Julianne Thrift said...

Dear Gordon,

Ashley and I have enjoyed sharing in your journey. Thanks for the pics and the reflections. (you write beautifully, by the way -- like your mom......) We're looking forward (without blisters here) to New Hampshire!

Julianne Thrift