Day 48 (May 10th): Marion to Chatfield Shelter

Miles hiked today: 7
Miles hiked total: 538.2
Miles to go: 1647.1

Today was a really short day of hiking. We went out for breakfast around 9:00 and first went to a diner listed in AWOL, but when we got there we were told it no longer existed. The guy said it was closed and Stylez asked when it would open and he said, “never”. So then we went to McDonald’s. I just ordered an orange juice and hot water and made my oatmeal.

The weather today was really gross in the beginning. It was grey all morning and drizzled a bit and then after breakfast it poured during our walk back to the motel. Once we got inside, it started to thunder and lightning. I wasn’t looking forward to hiking, but there really wasn’t another option. Before the shuttle came, I was able to Skype with my sister and wish her a happy birthday.

The weather was much better when we started hiking, and the terrain wasn’t too bad. It rained on us a bit while hiking, but it wasn’t a big deal. It was warm out so the rain didn’t make me cold and I knew everything would dry eventually. The rain also let up as we got to the shelter around 3:00.

The shelter is pretty small and rather dirty. A bunch of hikers left their trash and clothes (?) in the shelter. The shelter is close to a road and I’m assuming it gets a lot of use by weekenders, which is why it’s so much dirtier than the other shelters on the trail.

It’s a small crowd at the shelter tonight. There’s a section hiker and a man named Freeman, and then just Stylez, Wing It, and me.


Day 47 (May 9th): Campsite to Marion, VA

Miles hiked today: 12.6
Miles hiked total: 531.2
Miles to go: 1654.1

Today was a nice easy day of hiking. Stylez, Wing It, and I got an early start and bee-lined it to Trimpi Shelter, where we filled up on water. We didn’t spend much time there, because we were trying to make it to the Mt. Roger’s Visitor Center, where a shuttle picks hikers up at 2:30 and brings them into Marion. There wasn’t much to see during the hike today, and my mind was just on getting into town where I could shower.

Before reaching the Visitor Center, the trail passes the Partnership Shelter, which has to be one of the nicest shelters on the trail. There are showers and real bathrooms and the shelter looks brand new and clean. I wish I had the chance to stay there. Since we got to the Visitor Center around 1:00 and had time to kill, most people hung around the Partnership Shelter before making their way over to the Visitor Center to catch the shuttle.

Going into town tonight is Hog Driver (the Delta pilot), Sprinkleburst and Cupcake (an amazing young couple from Wisconsin), Wing It, Stylez, and Wiki, as well as a section hiker named Bob. I’m sharing the motel room with Stylez, Wing It, and Wiki.

After we got into town, everyone went in separate directions for lunch and resupply. I went to the Mexican restaurant for lunch, and then again for dinner with the rest of the group. Hog Driver bought the first round of drinks for everyone. That’s sort of his thing, he always insists on buying the first round. Thank you Hog Driver for the delicious margarita!! I had been craving one!

At the end of the night while we waited for our laundry, Stylez, Wing It, Wiki, and I watched Angels and Demons, which was on TV. I think I mentioned this before, but Stylez and I are trying to watch as many Tom Hanks movies as possible, and when we put the TV on tonight we just flipped through the channels until we found one of his movies 🙂.

Back to hiking tomorrow!


Day 46 (May 8th): Wise Shelter to campsite just before Trimpi Shelter

Miles hiked today: 18.1
Miles hiked total: 518.6
Miles to go: 1166.2

Today was a great day of hiking on my Daddy’s birthday!

When I woke up the sun was already out and there was a nice breeze blowing as I climbed up Stone Mountain. The breeze eventually disappeared as I entered the woods again to climb Pine Mountain. The sun started to feel pretty strong and my pack hurt my shoulders and I had to keep readjusting, but I had my music playing and my spirits were high. The scenery was beautiful, and the trail, for the most part, was pretty nice.

I eventually got to Old Orchard Shelter where I took a quick break with Stylez. When Stylez and I left the shelter, we ran into a hiker named Dog Man, a past thru-hiker, who told us that up ahead was trail magic. At Fox Creek, a man named John was grilling burgers and hotdogs for everyone. I was able to make myself tortilla sandwiches with ketchup, pickles, onions, and tomatoes, and he also had potato chips. It was so good! Earlier today I actually said that I had given up on trail magic, and then John came along. The food definitely helped get me up the next mountain. We had to climb Iron Mountain which had an elevation gain of 2000 feet and I actually kept up with Stylez, stopping only once to take a picture of two deer on the side of the trail. I felt good!

At the top of the mountain, I called my dad to say happy birthday and learned that he and my mum had booked their room for when they come visit me during Trail Days, which is only a few more days away! I can’t wait!!



Day 45 (May 7th): Lost Mountain Shelter to Wise Shelter

Miles hiked today: 17.3
Miles hiked total: 500.5
Miles to go: 1684.8

Today was a big day for me because I’ve finally HIKED 500 MILES!

It was a slow morning leaving camp. We had a climb bright and early up to Whitetop Mountain that I took my sweet time hiking. It just seemed like the climb was never-ending, and there was a lot of sun-exposure that sapped me of my energy. Stylez, Wing It, and I took a nice little break on Buzzard Rock where we were awarded with great views, and then we kept going. We filled up at a piped spring and then took our lunch break in the shade. A little after lunch, we ran into a hiker named Oboe Hobo who hiked the trail in 2012. He’s out for a couple of days with his dog Gerti, who hiked the whole trail with him. Oboe Hobo was great to talk with, and we stopped and chatted with him for roughly 20 minutes. He gave us a lot of great information about the trail and great advice and got us pumped for what lay ahead.

After a grueling, never-ending climb up to Thomas Knob Shelter, where I stopped for a break with Stylez, Wing It, Wiki, and a hiker named Red Turtle, I was finally awarded my first view of the ponies! That’s right, PONIES! Today I got to hike through the Grayson Highlands where wild ponies roam about and live. Before getting to the ponies, though, I had to hike through the Fatman Squeeze rock tunnel, which is literally just a small, tight tunnel that passes through two large rock formations. The inside of the tunnel was wet and cool and dripping with water. There’s an easy bypass route for anyone wanting to skip the tunnel, and I guess Wiki and Red Turtle somehow ended up on the bypass trail and then realized what happened, turned all the way around, and hiked that section again so they could go through Fatman Squeeze.

Shortly after Fatman Squeeze, we entered the Grayson Highlands and got to play with some ponies! I tried to take a picture with them, but they all walked away from me as Wing It tried to take the pictures. They just weren’t interested. Later on in the hike, I stumbled across more ponies off to the side of the trail munching on some grass and I tried to take some selfies with them. I got a couple good photos, but in the end they were much more interested in their dinner than in my camera.

Before getting to the shelter at the end of the night, I crossed the 500-mile mark. I whipped out my iPod and played The Proclaimers’ song “500 miles” (you know the one, “…and I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who’d walk 1000 miles to fall down at your door…DUH DA DUH DA…”

At the shelter tonight is Snickers and Whitey, as well as a new hiker I just met today named Hog Driver who’s a Delta airline pilot.

Today was a great day!!




Day 44 (May 6th): Damascus to Lost Mountain Shelter

*THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR YOUR PATIENCE! I’m still hiking the trail and only have 639.1 miles left to go! I’ve gotten a bit behind on my blog, as you’ve noticed. I don’t enjoy blogging on my phone and have been waiting to use a computer, but I’ve been going into town less often and haven’t had frequent access to a computer. I’m home for a couple of days right now because I had a wedding and birthday party to go to, so now I can blog!*

Miles hiked today: 14.7
Miles hiked total: 483.2
Miles to go: 1702.1

Today was a really tough day for me.

After eating breakfast, Stylez, Wing It, and I hit the trail. The sun was blazing as we set out and we had a big climb out of town. From almost the beginning of the day, I was dragging. Zero days are nice for relaxing, but they really do mess with my trail legs!

We paralleled the Virginia Creeper Trail for a good portion of today’s hike, and the AT and the Creeper Trail joined together at times. (The Virginia Creeper Trail is a popular rail trail that attracts many bikers.)

Toward the end of the day, after leaving the Saunders Shelter where I stopped for a quick break, the trail sloped down again. Normally, I love downhills and look forward to them. However, today I was hurting and even the downhills were slowing me down. At numerous times throughout the hike, I had to stop and take my bag off and sit down, just so I could rest my feet for a few minutes. My feet were throbbing and I have no idea why! I have a feeling the SuperFeet I’ve been using just aren’t working for me. I’ve been using the Berry (purple colored) SuperFeet, and I think I need to try out some other insoles, either the Green SuperFeet (which is the most popular), or some other brand, because the Berry insoles just aren’t cutting it.

I thought that Stylez and Wing It were way ahead of me since I was moving so slow, but when I got to the bottom of the hill, they were sitting down resting. Apparently their feet were hurting them, too! We all rested for a bit and then slung our packs on our backs and limped and crawled the rest of the way to Lost Mountain Shelter. It was not an easy last couple of miles, and all of us were anxious to be done with the day, and finally we were! My favorite part of the day was when I got close enough to the shelter to hear voices and knew the end of the day was in sight!

At the shelter were a bunch of new hikers I’ve never met before, including a man named Snickers who’s actually from New Hampshire and works at a popular restaurant in North Conway, close to where my cousins live, as well as a hiker named Whitey. Wiki was also there. He hiked out s’mores ingredients and everyone gathered around the fire to roast marshmallows. It was a nice ending to a difficult day.


Day 43 (May 5th): Zero in Damascus

Not much to say about today. I mostly relaxed, called a couple of friends and family members, sent some gear home, and spent a lot of time at the library blogging and buying gifts. May is a busy month for me. In the span of a week, my dad, sister, aunt, and future brother-in-law all have birthdays, plus it’s always Mother’s Day, and my parents’ anniversary. I spent a lot of time ordering gifts for all of my family members.

I got lunch again today at the Blue Blaze Cafe. Considering that it’s Cinco de Mayo, I was hoping to eat at the “Mexican” restaurant, but just like last night, it was closed because the owner had run out of food. I got lunch with Stylez and Wing It, and during lunch we ran into Squirrel and Wiki.

At the end of the night, Wing It and I grabbed dinner to go from Blue Blaze again. It really is the only open restaurant in town. The service, as with the other two times I ate there, was incredibly slow. I ordered a salad with hummus (for the third time), and was left waiting on it for roughly 40 to 60 minutes. I had to walk up to the counter to find out what was up and they said my food had been ready for a while but they didn’t know where I had gone…I was sitting at the table right in front of the counter where the woman who took my order told me to wait. Needless to say, I was pretty frustrated by the time I left the restaurant with my salad (a little after 8:00 at this point). To relax, Stylez, Wing It, and I watched Sleepless in Seattle on my phone. We all crowded on to the queen bed and propped my phone up on Stylez’s feet and watched our third Tom Hanks movie of the hike. Success!

Back to hiking tomorrow! I’m excited to see more of Virginia!


Day 42 (May 4th): Unnamed Gap to Damascus

Miles hiked today: 6.4
Miles hiked total: 467.6
Miles to go: 1717.7

We passed into Virginia today! Our fourth state!

It was a relatively easy day of hiking, and Stylez, Wing It, and I were all moving pretty quickly. We were excited to make it to Virginia and to get to Damascus and eat some restaurant food, and this excitement turned into adrenaline and got our butts moving.

We all posed with the TN/VA sign and took a bunch of cheesy pictures.

When we got to Damascus around 9:30, we ran into Woodstock walking down the street. It was as if he was coming to great us. He claims that he was walking to the one area in town where AT&T users get service, but I’m convinced he was coming to great us since I gave him a heads-up on when we should be arriving.

Wing It, Stylez, and I all grabbed breakfast (pancakes for them, a smoothie for me) and saw Lotus and Longhorn at the restaurant. They took a zero yesterday and hiked out of town today. Hopefully we’ll run into them again soon.

After breakfast, the three of us went on a mission to find a place to stay for the night. We ended up reserving a room with a queen bed at the Hikers Inn for me and Stylez and Wing It grabbed one of the bunks. It’s a super clean hostel (most aren’t, unfortunately) and Lee, the owner, is incredibly welcoming and accommodating. She found out I’m a gluten-free vegan and made me a green smoothie since there aren’t many food options for me in town.

After checking into our room, I met back up with Woodstock and grabbed lunch with him at the one Mexican restaurant in town, which, according to Lee, isn’t real Mexican (she warned Stylez about this since Stylez is from Texas). I ordered nachos and decided to wait to get rice and tacos until dinner, when Stylez and Wing It were with me. However, when we came back later tonight, the owner told us that he was out of food and only had beer to offer us. We instead grabbed dinner at the Blue Blaze Cafe, the only open restaurant in town. The food was okay, but the service was exceptionally slow.

Looking forward to a day off tomorrow!


Day 41 (May 3rd): Bog to Campsite at Unnamed Gap

Miles hiked today: 22.9
Miles hiked total: 461.2
Miles to go: 1724.1

Biggest mile day so far! The weather was really nice, sunny but breezy, and the terrain was pretty gentle. We got to the campsite at 6:30, which is pretty impressive, I think.

We left camp this morning at 8:00 and shortly after leaving a bunch of runners told us they left donuts at the road after the mountain. We had no idea how far away this road was, but Stylez and Wing It wanted those donuts so we passed the first shelter without stopping in and kept on going until we reached the road at 10:30. Not only did they have donuts waiting for them, they also got trail magic left by a church right before the road.

On our way to the road, a man we’ve seen a couple of times these past few days made a comment when we passed him at the shelter. He said to Merman, “I gotta beat these kids to the road so that I can get those donuts!” I shouted back to him not to worry, that I don’t eat donuts and he can have mine. Then, after hiking for a bit, we all stopped because two deer were on the side of the trail standing perfectly still and looking in our direction. I took my phone out to take a picture and Stylez and Wing It kept hiking. I had the phone raised and was about to snap the picture when the man came up behind me. I told him that there were two deer on the side of the trail, and instead of stopping, he raised his poles up into the air, walked in front of my camera, and yelled, “photobomb!” His noise scared the two deer away and I wasn’t able to get my picture. What an ass.

We talked with a trail maintainer for a bit while Stylez and Wing It ate their donuts. We also hiked on and off with Merman and two other hikers named Fletch and Sam.

At Low Gap, a man was waiting with water for any hiker who needed it. His name was Polar Bear and he’s been serving the trail for 30+ years. He’s living in a full house and uses his trail magic duties as a means for escape.

Tomorrow we cross into Virginia! I’m so excited to finally be there! I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. We have six miles into Damascus and we should get there by 10:00 at the latest. We’re going to grab an early lunch and then hit up the outfitters. I’m ready for this zero!

Ta-ta for now!



Day 40 (May 2nd): Waycaster Spring to Bog

Miles hiked today: 19.1
Miles hiked total: 438.3
Miles to go: 1747.0

This morning I started the day with an epic uphill climb up Pond Flats Mountain, which was anything but flat. It took a couple of hours to climb up and down the whole thing, and by the time we reached Watauga Lake, it was lunch time. The lake was really pretty with picnic areas to rest at and even bathrooms with flushing toilets! We enjoyed lunch, threw out our trash, used the bathrooms a couple of times, and then continued hiking. We wanted to get some big miles in today because we’re anxious about making it to Damascus in two days for our next zero day.

After leaving the lake, we got stuck behind a prison crew out maintaining the trail. Once we passed them, we were able to pick up our speed a bit. It was a six mile climb, or so, to the next shelter (mostly uphill), and we were all anxious to get there. Stylez quickly got ahead and reached the shelter maybe 10 minutes or so before I did. The climb up was a bit of a drag, in my opinion. I kept thinking the shelter would be right around the corner, and then ten minutes would pass and there was still no sight of it. I started to think it just didn’t exist, or that I had missed it. But then I heard voices and knew it must be close.

At the shelter I talked with a section hiker for a bit and also met a new thru-hiker named Merman. He has long red hair and a red beard and ultimately looks like Ariel’s twin brother, which is rather awesome. I only stopped at the shelter for maybe 20 minutes or so before deciding to press on. There were still four more miles to hike and not a lot of time left in the day, so we boogied on down the trail.

We’ve set up camp tonight in a bog and camping near us is a thru-hiker named Sherpa, who’s an older hiker and he has the same tent as me (except the 2-person version).

Okay, time to sleep! I’m hoping to hike a 20-miler tomorrow so I gotta get a lot of rest!


Day 39 (May 1st): Upper Laurel Fork to Waycaster Spring

Miles hiked today: 14.2
Miles hiked total: 419.2
Miles to go: 1766.1

Not much to mention about today. The rain held off during the night, and I slept great! Best sleep I’ve gotten since entering North Carolina.

We left camp around 8:00 and crossed several streams and springs before finally reaching the “Hardcore Cascades”. There was really nothing hardcore about the cascades, and I found them to be rather disappointing. They were nice to look at, for sure, but the cascades looked like every other river crossing we’ve come across. Anyway, we filtered water and kept moving. We planned to take a snack break three miles later at some rock outcroppings, but when we got there a cloud engulfed the mountain and we weren’t able to see anything so we continued on to the shelter, which was only .1 miles away.

When we got there, everything was still in a cloud and I got very cold and had to put some layers on. Wing It and I ate lunch while Stylez ate some snacks, and then we got moving again. After lunch we kept hiking and had some uphills before we got to the really big downhill of the day. We talked a bit about the songs that have been stuck in our heads, which led to talking about musicals.

During our hike, we came across an old abandoned barn. I went to pee behind it and it sounded like the shutters were banging against the window frames, but there were no shutters! Very creepy!

We also finally got to see Laurel Falls, which actually were impressive (unlike the Hardcore Cascades). We had to climb down a bunch of rocks to get there and it was a rather difficult descent. It was incredibly steep and slow-going. When we finally got to the falls, though, it was worth it.

After leaving the falls, we came upon an awesome little campsite right next to the river with a fire pit and we decided to stop here for the night.

Wing It has a nice fire going, so I’m going to go enjoy it!