Day 102

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Another cold morning, we both started out with mitts and fleeces. Brown froze last night in his 60F sleeping bag, and no warm clothes at all. We had some very dewy miles up and over a ridge, then down to a highway, access to Roan Mountain. We hitched in a sunny spot, still cold, and got a ride within 5 minutes from a lady and her cat. The cute cat had been attacked by dogs and was on its way to the vet. We got dropped off at Happy Cafe, ate breakfast, and Brown sent off for his warm gear. After breakfast Brown chatted with the owner, who offered us a ride back to the trail in 20 minutes. We quickly assessed our resupply options and managed to get 2 days of food out of the gas station next door. The nearest “real” grocery store was creepily empty, many shelves dusty and the old woman running it just stared at me the whole time I was looking around.

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Atop Hump Mountain

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Anyways, we got a ride back and were hiking up into the Roan Highlands by 11:30. We got up 2500 feet, onto our first bald mountain in a long time. Sunny and warm finally, we stopped and I spread out all my gear to dry. We made some phone calls and just soaked up some sun. After that we hiked on, following a mostly bald ridgeline up and down. The view continued to be amazing, and as the sun started getting lower it just got better. Right before the last climb, we hit a busy tourist area, so the trail got nicely graded and was wide and gravelly. We passed through some fragrant fir forest and then climbed up to the shelter near the top of Roan Mountain, at 6200 feet. It will likely be a colder night!

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Mk: this was such a nice day! Between Hump Mt, Little Hump Mt, and at least 3 “balds” we were up out of the trees and in the sunshine for hours – that hasn’t happened for a long time! The views were out over the hills of Tennessee to the west and North Carolina to the east. The only thing we missed was the sunset as the shelter and tenting at Roan Mt was in the trees.

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Day 101

September 13 – Happy birthday, Mum!

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No wasps attacked us in the night, thankfully! I know Brown stomped them all but they were huge and we had to go back to silence most of them post-stomping since they were still moving…

Despite 3 people in the shelter saying they usually get up at 6,when my alarm went off at 6:30 everyone was still sleeping. It was also pretty dark out, so I went back to sleep, too. It’s the weekend, right?! A bit of a late start, we were hiking by 8.

The first thing we did was drop down from the shelter back down to Laurel Creek and on to some very nice waterfalls before climbing back up, up onto yet another ridge and into the clouds. It was cold up there! We stopped mid-morning for me to put on my fleece and mitts and for Ryley to put on his mitts, too. We continued along undulating ridgeline, in and out of rhododendrons, and over many streams. We stopped for lunch in a forest service road – just plopped down right in the middle of it and spread out our food to eat, and our tent to try to catch a rare sunray to help it dry. About 10 minutes later we hear a truck coming – c’mon! He was parking in the pullout to go for a walk, though, not driving through. After he parked he rolled forward to pull off the road farther – right over the corner of our tent, though.

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The afternoon was similar going – we even found some mud! And it remained cool. We grabbed water at Jones Falls then set up camp a mile later. Once we’d set up our tent we realized that the second zipper on our only door has blown – the puller won’t lock the teeth. Ryley’s trying to fix it now but so far no dice. Good thing there haven’t been that many bugs lately… I’m kind of surprised the second zipper made it this far, since the first one broke in the first week. We also hope it wasn’t getting partially run over by a truck that busted the zipper…but I’m sure it didn’t help.

22 miles hiked and in bed by 7:15! Ryley is trying to fix the zipper… Anyone have tips for us?

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Day 100

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It rained a bit in the night, and the low clouds made it so dark that we slept in a bit. When we did finally emerge, it immediately started pouring, so we hit the trail quickly. We followed a ridge for a few hours in the rain, getting lots of extra water on us from the overgrown brush, plus some prickles for good measure.  We stopped for an early lunch at a shelter to get out of the rain.

We continued along the ridge, although we missed some water sources, so we ended up going 20 miles before we hit water. We crossed a dam and contoured around the lake until we got to a little park. It had a covered picnic table and warm bathrooms, so we hung out there for a second lunch. Other people were having a birthday party and offered us a round of Cokes (gladly accepted, of course).

We ended the day by climbing over a mountain covered in switchbacks, in more rain. Finally it started to clear a bit as we rolled into the shelter. We met a guy named Better Than Expected, a flip flopper (meaning he started north from the middle of the trail, finished in Maine then came back to his starting point and is now heading south to Georgia).  While we were talking, a wasps nest fell out of the roof of the shelter, scattering sleepy wasps all over the ground. Brown rescued us by stomping on all of them before they got angry. Still was pretty scary though.

Another long day, 27 miles, and my feet got rubbed raw by my wet socks and shoes, just like back in Maine. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

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Day 99 – Into Tennessee

We had a much better sleep last night and were happy to be inside – it was pouring out again. We had another awesome breakfast and coffee at MoJoe’s then packed up. We were expecting a package yesterday but found out today it accidentally got shipped to Duncannon, PA instead of Damascus, VA – not sure how that happened but I guess we’ll get it in another 120 miles now. Good thing we can do without it for a bit!

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We hit the trail at 10! Not very early… Hiked up out of Damascus then had a rolling ridge line for most of the day. At one point I was walking along lost in thought and jumped out of my skin when the turtle I almost stepped on pulled it’s head into its shell. We stopped around 1 for lunch, met a few section and day hikers along the trail, and were happy the rainstorms seem to have subsided. More ridgeline in the forest in the afternoon although we did pop out into some cow fields and also 1/2 mile of wheelchair grade trail – so it was pretty easy. Ryley and I were talking about ultimate and training…kind of funny since I’m not sure either of us is capable of running right now 🙂
21.5 miles today.

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Blair asked what pooh sticks are – so we made a video to explain.
https://youtu.be/lall5DfAlhY

For the record, Brown won this round 2-1. I highly recommend you give it a try next time you have a chance! 🙂

Current Pooh Sticks standings
Bearcat 2
Monk 1
Brown 3

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Day 98 – Zero in Damascus

Took the day off today and watched it pour rain all morning. Had a nice breakfast in town including teal coffee and good quality food – a nice change from the last couple of breakfasts we’ve had in town. The Highway men got into town this looking and caught up with us at breakfast – they also got really wet last night and this morning. They’re also staying at the Hiker’s Inn tonight.

We spent the day doing nothing then the six of us went out for dinner for Willie Nelson’s birthday. It was also karaoke night at the restaurant, so we were entertained. Another late (for us) night but fun times.

DBB – Highland Brewing (Asheville, NC) – black mocha stout
Lazy Magnolia Brewing (Kiln, Mississippi) – southern pecan nut brown ale

Ben and Jerry’s blog – The Tonight Dough, Coffee Toffee Crunch

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Day 97 – 50km!

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We woke up today to a partially cloudy day. For the first couple hours we had amazing sunrise views, as we climbed above the trees. We were craning our necks back so much to look that I actually ran into Megan’s backpack at full speed once. (mk: we were hunting (looking for) wild ponies, and I had the theme song from the chase scene in The Man from Snowy River in my head all morning!)

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We got to the top of Pine Mountain, passing through Fat Man’s Squeeze, a narrow rock passage. We started seeing cows as we came out of Grayson Highlands, and then we ran into all the ponies!  So many in fact that we had to weave through them on the trail (Megan took the lead here – Brown was calling her the house whisperer, he was a bit afraid of getting kicked by a wee pony which to his credit would still hurt!).

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After that, we headed up Mt Rogers then down to Elk Gardens where John was waiting with a huge spread of food.  He was surprised to see us at 11, but he was ready, and we were eating hamburgers by 11:30.  The Highway men showed up too and we ate everything John had brought minus some chips.

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The six of us waddled out of there and headed up Whitetop Mountain. On the way down the other side we watched a rainstorm running down the gully beside us, then we got hit by the next wave as we dropped way down. Eventually we hit the Virginia Creeper Trail, an old converted rail bed that runs into Damascus. We followed it a bit in the rain, and when it split off from the AT we decided to continue on it, while the Highway men headed up to a nearby shelter.

We followed the Creeper Trail slowly down and the rain just got harder and harder. We were walking at times in a couple inches of water. We decided to just keep going once we were totally soaked, Brown saying he thought we were close to town. Turns out we were 6 miles from town, so we rolled in at 8pm to the hostel, a day early. Fortunately, they were open and had room for us. (mk: that was my first 30 miler – we ended up doing 32. That’s over 50km!)

We peeled out of soaked clothing, and into dry scrubs courtesy of the hostel. They also did our laundry, but came out after awhile and politely suggested that another washing cycle would be a good idea. We agreed.

We ended the night lounging in scrubs on the beds eating our trail food, too tired to go find dinner. Megan and Brown did end up going on an expedition to find beer, ultimately getting a ride a mile away to an open grocery store.

DBB – Duck Rabbit Brewing (Farmville, North Carolina) – Nut Brown and Milk Stout

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Day 96

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We are definitely getting up before dawn these days. Today we almost needed headlamps to pack up. We headed through a field at about 8 and found a cooler of Cokes, so we each had one while we watched the sun coming over the trees. Then up and down the hills til we got to Hurricane Mountain Shelter. A beautifully stained log shelter built in the last 10 years, perfect spot for lunch.

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While we ate, John and his dog Abby rolled up, offering us all his snacks for his hike. Turns out that our Cokes from earlier were courtesy of him. So we chatted a bit then he moved on, and the Highwaymen came up. They hiked 18 miles by 1 to catch up to us! We hung out for a bit then it was our turn to head out. On the way down the mountain I caught up with John and he offered to make us lunch tomorrow, since there was such a crew of us. Apparently he does this for Northbounders a couple times a year, but rarely sees so many SoBos at once. Pretty sweet!

We had a big climb from there, getting up to 5000 feet. Soon after we got out of the trees and into some scrubby highlands, lots of views all around. At the end of the day we got right to the border of Grayson Highlands, a park full of wild ponies. We set up camp and were soon greeted by a small herd including a very cute foal. Megan was excited and got right up close to them. So maybe not that wild, really, but still cool.

We shared a fire with some nice backpackers, and eventually the Highwaymen before going to bed a bit late. We don’t really have to rush tomorrow though because we have a lunch date less than 10 miles away.

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Day 95

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Find the cow!

We hurried through some cow pastures under a very pretty early morning sky and then under the Interstate to The Barn this morning. It was pretty disappointing though. Non-dairy creamer (warning: contains milk!), whipped spread (aka “butter”), syrup that only looked the part, etc etc. We all walked away wishing we had hiked by and stuck with our bars for breakfast. Don’t worry though, I still ate mine. We spent the rest of the morning bitching about it and hiking to Mt Rogers Visitor Center, where we hitched a ride into Marion to resupply.

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It turned out the grocery store was about 3 miles into town, so after we got groceries and ate at Pizza Hut, we were a bit stuck for how to get back to the trail. We called around town looking for a trail angel, but it being Labour Day, everyone was busy. So we resolved to walk to the edge of town in the hot afternoon. On the way, Brown stuck his thumb out and miraculously a guy parked in a strip mall we were walking by offered us a ride. Totally out of his way, far up into the mountains. We got back up there after 5 and ran into Tim-Tam again, but we pressed on til dark, our pizza-filled bellies groaning. A pretty good day!

Mk: a pretty good day until to end your day you have to crawl in beside a pair of feet that have spent the whole day in wet socks and damp shoes from walking through dewy grass in the morning. Ryley’s feet smell like death…

Ben and Jerry’s blog: The Tonight Dough (Megan only – Ryley and Brown were too full from pizza. And by too full, I mean, Ryley asked to switch seats with me to be closer to the bathroom “just in case”. 15 minutes later he still asked for a bite of my ice cream…)

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Day 94 – 3/4 done!

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Brown coming down Chestnut Ridge

Our day started with a descent to a road and a very slow dripping spring for a water pick up, then a 1500 or so foot climb up to Chestnut knob. Brown got chased down by someone’s dog not on leash, he was pretty unimpressed. Even though we were up at 4400ft it was mostly socked in so not much to see. Our long descent down started through some open fields up top – they were a bit wet with the morning dew but still pretty even though the views were still mostly obscured. It was a bit of a roller-coaster day today but we made good time and had 14 miles done by lunch. Brown hiked this section of the trail 4 years ago with a 70lb pack – he said he remembers these climbs well and was absolutely dreading every one of them. But, we just kept at it and got the miles and climbing done. We ran into Tim-Tam (a couple we met on the way into Pearisburg when we saw that goat, they’re from Michigan and are section hiking for 2 weeks) getting water this morning, as lunch, and again at the end of the day at our campsite. We also ran into The Highwaymen at a private Pavilion on a road – they waved us over and offered us pop and homemade ice cream. They’d apparently made a good impression on the folks who were having their family reunion that day!

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We got in 26 miles and my feet are barking! We’re camped a couple miles away from an interstate and the town of Atkins where we’re hoping to get breakfast from “The Barn” (a restaurant just off trail) even though tomorrow’s a holiday… Fingers crossed!

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Day 93

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We hiked down from the shelter to an access road, along it over an interstate and up to highest 52 where we hitched into Bland. We were dropped off at the Sunoco gas station – also the local eatery (promising…), which is a little kitchen/grill and dining area in the back. Saturday morning meant all you can eat buffet for $5.89. I opted to order French toast but Brown and Ryley had the AYCE (Ryley said it was better than the buffet breakfast last weekend at a real restaurant). Standards started pretty low, though 🙂 It was no waffle breakfast at Judy and Jimmy’s, that’s for sure! On the way to the grocery store we stopped to check out the farmer’s market with a selection of fresh local produce (hurray!) and also a gun and ammo trade set up. Ummmmm…..interesting? I told the gents there that farmer’s markets in Canada didn’t usually have a gun trade section… But I DID buy gherkins (miniature cucumbers but they look like dinosaur eggs? or mini watermelons?) and a tomato and was given a few apples. Amazing!!

After getting a couple days of groceries and stopping in at the post office we hitched back to the trail and headed onwards. Brown once again worked his magic – a pick up drive by but then u-turned to pick him (and us) up! We stopped for a late lunch around 2, where we met The Mule – a Nobo headed to Waynesboro to work for the winter then continue on next spring. A few miles later we stopped at a shelter to tank up on water for a long dry section where we knew we’d be stopping for the night. There was a long slog uphill after the shelter then rocky ridge walking. We didn’t find somewhere to set up camp until 6:30pm but we’re happy to have gotten 23 or so miles in even with the 3h break in town. Tomorrow looks like a lot of up and down – maybe we’ll get to see something, though?

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