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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another long one

So a lot has happened since I last posted. Sorry to be so sporadic with these entries, but I've been a little unorganized. I'll start from where I left off in Shenandoah National Park:

The rest of the Shennies were uneventful until the morning I was rolling into Waynesboro. I had high hopes for the Ming Garden Chinese buffet I had first heard about in Maine from two guys named Cake and Stiltz. That is I had high hopes until I started getting stomach cramps. Then as the day progressed the list of symptoms grew to include nausea, chills, fever, headache and fatigue. So, I only ate 4 plates and soup-a vast drop from my 6 plates and soup in Gorham, NH. Without going into graphic details, I thought I had Giardiasis, complete with all the normal, lovely and familiar effects. So I holed up in a hotel room after hitching into Charlottesville. Then it mostly passed. Thank you baby Jesus. So I toured UVa and reveled in feeling better by drinking a smoothie (baby steps). 

I was able to meet up with Ashley, my friend from the ChoLo back in Asheville. After staying with her for 2 days and meeting some of her lovely friends: Gus, Maya, and Ruth,  I felt much better and even had my appetite back for some part. We had a great time around town and generally being lazy. While I was there I had a chance to visit Woodberry Forest, my high school about 10 minutes from her house.  It was really amazing to be back after almost 5 years without so much as a word to or from anyone there. A lot was the same, but there were a lot of changes. Not the least of which was apparently me: not a single person recognized me without my prompting them. I guess I have changed a bit in the last half-decade. 
I left there all smiles and feeling stronger all the time and made for Bronwyn's house. She's an older British lady who my parents met while living in Charlottesville (which is where they met while my dad was teaching anesthesia and my mom working in the ER as a nurse). She is an amazing cook and I left there with some fresh eggs and pears from the farm where she works. I spent one more night in Waynesboro before meeting my mom, who had to be in Charlottesville for a meeting. We had a great time, and after another night in a hotel (this time on her dime) and 3 good meals she deposited me back at the trailhead so I could keep on. And that, friends, is how my night in town turned into 6 1/2 unintended days off. 

Back on the trail, things were a little tough to get back into, but after a week I cruised into Bearwallow Gap where I met my mom's cousin and was joined by mommy and my brother, who I hadn't seen since February. You see, he had been in China studying at the University of Shanghai and has just returned to the U.S. Another zero, great food and 19 episodes of How I Met Your Mother (which is an amzing show, by the way) later, I got back on again and headed South to Pearisburg. 

The trail was nice but the heat kept me below 20 miles a day for most of the past week. There have been some significant stops and beautiful views: Mcafee Knob (I promise you know what it looks like: a rock sticking out about 10 feet over nothing below. If you've seen a picture of Virginia tourism or the A.T. in VA this is probably the one), Dragon's Tooth, Timker Cliffs, Hay Rock and plenty if others that just popped up along the way. Don't worry I have plenty of pictures if you want to see when I get back. If you don't, I won't force you to sit through the slide show. I watched only my 3rd sunset and my 1st sunrise of my trip from Rice Field Shelter just outside of Pearisburg. 

Pearisburg: went to the Pizza Plus lunch buffet and ate 26 pieces of pizza, > a dozen cheesy breadsticks, a salad and 2 sodas in under an hour. I even squeezed in 2 games of Galaga, my favorite (and probably best) video game of all time. I then waddled over to the Plaza Motel and checked in where the proprietor did my laundry for me!  Then I proceeded to sit in my room and watch T.V. for many hours while many beers were consumed. Did you know that the only thing on after 2 A.M. is jail specials?  Why is that?  Oh well, it was nice to take a break after a big push over the last few days to make it to the P.O. before it closed on Saturday. Thanks to Gena, mom, May and the Jeffries for your mail. Some was delicious, some made me laugh and it all made me smile. 

Which brings me to right now. I'm writing you from Wood's Hole Hostel, an old mid-19th century chestnut homestead in the middle of a National Forest. They've been taking in hikers basically since it was rediscovered in the 1940s. It really is a little slice of heaven in the middle of nowhere. With no TV and no cell phone reception or bars or anything else around, I've done everything I have meant to for the past week and more all in one day. I can't tell you how amazing it is to be in such a lovely setting all alone to relax and regroup. I wanted to meet Michael and Neville, the owners/operators of this special place, but they've been off in GA over the weekend so I decided to stay over one day in hopes of catching them and one of their legendary meals. The fact that it's been raining since yesterday was certainly an influence. That and I'm meeting my dad to hike for a few days together through Grayson Highlands. There are feral ponies there!

600 miles left, friends. The landscape looks more familiar and the smell and colors of autumn are upon me here in the woods. I'm getting anxious to be home, but at the same time don't want this Odyssey to end. 

My next planned stops are: 
Erwin , TN 37650
Expected: 10/12

Hot Springs, NC 28743
Expected: 10/14

Does anyone have an extra LEAF ticket for free or cheap? Or if not either of those, does anyone have one at all? 

Can anyone pick me up in Hot Springs on October 14th or 15th and take me into Asheville?

As I get close to home, I'd love for any of you to join me for a day or night or two.  If you'd like to or have an answer to any of the above questions, let me know via email or texting or calling me. The ticket would be huge and I would love you forever. 

I already love you all forever,


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

P.S. Next stop:

Crawford Rizor
c/o General Delivery
Pearisburg, VA 24134

Estimated date of arrival: 9/17

take care!

Recent (Wonderful!) happenings

Here I am in Shenandoah National Park writing from Big Meadow Lodge where I seem to have taken up residence for the day. After hiking 4 miles to get here from my campsite last night, I have had breakfast and now lunch, reading the newspaper and written a few letters. I'd like to think that the only reason for my laziness is the heat, which is high mind you, but I can hardly say 'no' to coffee and beer ( not at the same time, at least not this time...), two things I don't carry with me on the trail.

The last section of trail has been absolutely wonderful but quite different. The terrain and landscape are different, of course, but that isn't the biggest change. I'm sure it won't be spoiling the surprise for anyone, but I am now hiking alone. Mzungu has gone home to be with a friend for the birth of her baby; Lobo is ahead due to my being delayed in Front Royal, VA (more about this later); and Djangle has had to take a medical leave of the trail-nothing serious mind you. It has been wonderful to be entirely alone in my planning (see the F.R. adventure) and to have the trail almost entirely to myself- to lose myself in thought or be absorbed by nature all around. It has put a serious dent in my motivation to hike longer days, but I didn't come out here just to run home again. I'm sure that by the time I finish I'll not be ready for it to be done even then.

On to my most recent adventure: This past Saturday I walked my shortest day at .3 miles to the road to Front Royal. As I got to the trailhead 3 hikers got out of a taxi across the street. As they were paying the cabbie, I put out a thumb and immediately caught a ride with a kind young lady headed into work. Score one for me! I spent most of the day reading the newspaper and The Hobbit (an amazing adventure story that has left me inspired anew as to the nature of my journey) and drinking coffee downtown. As I wrapped up my affairs in town, I decided to go to the library to update this very blog. But I never got there.

Shortly before I was to arrive a couple of folks in a car stopped me in the middle of crossing a street: "are you thru-hiking?". Shortly I learned that Zombie had thruhiked last year, Southbound as well. He and Kelly, who was driving, were out for the day hiking (with the intention of picking up a thru-hiker to take home and take care of I was soon to learn). Then began a series of events in unbelievable kindness:
I was treated to a beer or three at a local biker bar. Then with a grin they asked if I needed a shower... and laundry... and dinner... and a cozy bed in which to sleep. Soon we were on our way to a BBQ dinne, complete with fried okra and a free beer and desert from the manager, himself amazed at what I'm doing and Zombie had done. A shower and clean (cotton!) clothes were next. Then a party, the likes of which I haven't been to since Freshman year of college.

I tell you that I've never played flip-cup, but caught on rather quickly despite the more than adequate beer in my system already (7 at this point if you're keeping track). Beer pong was played and cupcakes were nearly sat upon. With the night nearly at a close I took up my usual wallflower position at the local club before we went home and called it a night. I was to sleep in a bed never before slept in by anybody else.
The next morning, after a wonderful breakfast of pancakes, bacon and more coffee I was invited to service with these two and we went as if old friends. My new friends then treated me to a Mexican lunch before finally we said our goodbyes. The past 24 hours had been nothing short of the stuff dreams are made of, especially for the weary and worn (and smelly and hungry) hiker.

Kelt and Zombie, wherever you ar I give you my heartfelt thanks. I cannot recall ever having met people more willing to care for another simply to make the day of a stranger. I can hardly type these words without an immeasurably huge smile on my lips. Thank you. Thank you!

I believe that's quite enough for now as my thumbs grow weary and the mid-afternoon draws on with only 4 miles under my soles today and many more to go before I string my hammock. Then again, why not take my time?

I miss you all and hope all is well in each of your lives.