So happy to have my friend Matilda come join me on the AT for the next month! #HMIrepresent #cabin4lyfe
One of the wonderful things about spring (besides the warmth - still doesn't get old), is the company of all the critters that have come out of hiding from the winter cold! Chipmunks are in abundance, deer are out and about, the birds are singing, and the snakes are slithering! Yep, the snakes are slithering. After nearly stepping on one earlier in the day, Daypack and I arrived exhausted at the shelter ready for a good nights sleep. Unfortunately, it turned out that a four foot long black rat snake had the same exact plan. Half way through dinner, much to our surprise, we found that we had been chilling out with this slithery friend. After scampering from the shelter as fast as our legs could carry us, we quickly decided to forfeit the shelter and retreat. We hiked two more miles in the dark that night to find a campsite and just as we began to set up our tents the skies opened up over us. So in the end we spent a very wet and not so comfortable night in our tents, though free of reptilian friends!
Hello friends! I apologize for the long hiatus, but I can assure you I have been well punished for it by the consistent nagging from my dear parents. Truth be told, the past month has been pretty much a whirlwind of crazy events which I have been completely swept up in!
I suppose I should start off by telling you that I have said goodbye to snow FOR GOOD! (Well at least until the Whites - I'll cross that emotional bridge when I get to it). But yes, it is in fact true, the last time I saw that horrid white stuff was April 6th. Thank God/Allah/Mother Earth or whoever else may be up there.
The weird thing that we weren't expecting with the dramatic exit of snow, was for three days after the final snowstorm to be sweating in 90 degree heat. Yes, you read that right. 90 degree heat. Now I don't mean to complain, but I was sort of hoping for some nice mellow weather after surviving such an extreme Winter. You know, maybe have some of that thing called Spring. It's pretty nice. Unfortunately the state of Virginia seemed to have missed second grade science class and is a little unclear of how the seasons work. For it seemed to have skipped right over Spring, and has immediately progressed to Summer. Virginia Summer. Now don't get me wrong, I am so, incredibly, beyond grateful that I no longer have to breathe on my trail runners in the morning to defrost them, but going from worrying about hypothermia to worrying about heat exhaustion is not a whole lot of improvement.
Highlights of that SMOKIN' day include Aloha digging through his medicine bag for several minutes trying to find his guide book before realizing it was his med kid, me unable to do simple subtraction to figure out shelter distances, much dizziness, night hiking, and to top it all off - a forest fire! Peachy.
Fortunately, we thru-hikers are a rather tough specimen and have taken the heat in stride by sticking our heads in rivers, lounging about shelters in the midday heat, and night hiking. (In case ya'll were wondering, our smelliness has risen exponentially as a result of the heat. Fun fact.)
A highlight of all the heat though was the discovery of Captains! Captain is a Trail Angel whose house resides across a river that the AT follows for a few miles. To help hikers out, he has allowed thru-hikers to tent in his yard, as well as on his porch. BUT the real kick is, to get across the river to his house, he has set up a zip-line swing! So my friends and I spent a few hours playing around on the swing and hanging out with his beautiful border collies. Another fun surprise on the trail!
1. Unbuckle your pack and let it fall to the ground dramatically.
2. Kick off your shoes as soon as possible.
4. Remain motionless as long as possible.
One might think that because it is April, and a ways into that season called "Spring," one might no longer be encountering freezing temperatures and white stuff falling from the sky, but alas that is not the case. Nope, on April 5, 2013, one could find a number of hikers trudging through 6-8 inches of snow. Again.
The day didn't even start out good. The previous night I spent tossing and turning unable to sleep. Finally, at 6:30 I stopped trying to return to that blissful state of rest, and begrudgingly unzipped my cozy sleeping bag, immediately being greeted by cold air. Eating, dressing and packing my belongings as fast as possible, I headed out to tackle the 24 mile day we had planned.
For reasons I could not explain (though it probably had to do with the fact that I had gotten approximately 2 hours of sleep the night before) my energy levels were hovering at just about 0%. It took me an embarrassing five hours to walk a measly ten miles to the first shelter, just as it had started to sleet and rain. A nice winter mix you might call it.
After a delicious tortilla and peanut butter sandwich for lunch, I headed back out again and was greeted by a drop in temperature resulting in large snowballs falling from the sky. Yep, the white stuff was back. Five hours later you could find me alone, shivering, and trudging through ankle-deep snow frantically brainstorming an escape plan off the trail, including a one-way ticket to my warm, cozy bed back in MA.
When I got to the next road-crossing, I was ever so thankful to find Aloha, Skeetbutter and Arrowhead waiting for me, letting me know that we were all going to hike the 2 miles into the nearby town. Except, it turned out to be 5 miles away. After walking for a few minutes one guy in a truck rolled down his window and instead of thoughtfully asking if we wanted a hitch, informed us all that we were all "nuts." Great. Thanks. Like I didn't already know that.
After three miles of trekking down the highway we finally did catch a hitch from a nice older man, and all piled into the bed of his truck, and endured a very cold and painful (switched back to sleet) ride into Bland. He dropped us off at the Dairy Queen where we inhaled a ton of food (I had my very first Blizzard!) before heading over to the motel, only to find out that it was full.
Getting desperate, we called a guy named Bubba (wish I was kidding) and got a ride in his truck over to a motel 12 miles away. Aloha and Arrowhead ever so bravely rode in the bed of his truck on the interstate, in the snow! Snaps for them! We arrived at the motel safe and sound however, and were incredibly grateful to be warm and dry once more. In the morning Bubba gave us a ride back to the trail head, where he entertained us during the ride by telling us stories of his youthful past.
That day it was warm and sunny, reaching 70 degrees.
I purchased a one person, three season REI tent for my AT thru-hike. It had great reviews online and was a reasonable price. I had been very pleased with my tent, but unfortunately one night when I was setting it up, the junction where the poles fit in broke. So, I gave REI a call and with no problem at all they agreed to send me a brand new one and refund me for the cost of it once I sent my broken one back. They even covered the cost of shipping! If you're ever planning on thru-hiking definitely become an REI member, it is well worth it! Thanks a bundle, REI!
Spent Easter Easter egg hunting for white blazes and celebrated by hitting the 500 mile mark in the Grayson highlands, which, are absolutely beautiful! Definitely my favorite section of the trail so far - I felt like a hobbit traversing Middle Earth. Yeah. It was that epic.
The next day Al and I busted out the miles by hiking a 30 mile day to a shelter where you can order delivery pizza to (be jealous).
"Yes I would like two large pizzas delivered to 530 Appalahian Trail st. Virginia. Yeah, at the corner of big rock and pine tree. Thanks so much!"