I push my body to the limits and hike my longest day yet, all for some beer. And along the way I run into some hiking buddies before entering Shenandoah. Enjoy reading my latest journal entry as I backpack the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. If you missed it, here are my previous entries and videos from the trail.
If you missed it in the last post, here’s my latest video of cows, cliffs, and parkways:
I set an alarm for 6am. I don’t usually set alarms but I wanted to push almost 30 miles to reach Devils Backbone Brewery; they let you camp at the brewery for free.
The day was long but there were several great views. It seemed like every view also came with a hawk or falcon soaring in the sky. I did not see any other thru-hikers but I saw lots of day and section hikers.
In the later afternoon I descended thousands of feet down from a mountain simply known as The Priest. At the bottom I had to climb straight back up another mountain called Three Ridges from less than 1,000 feet to 4,000 feet in 6 miles. It was brutal. The trail was not marked well in this section and was full of rocks. I don’t know if it’s because I’m pushing huge mileage or my new shoes or just my body but I fear that I might be getting stress fractures in my feet. The balls of my feet hurt. I was later told that it is tradition for one to write down a confession in the log book at the shelter on top of The Priest; I did not stop at this shelter in my rush to the brewery
Overall the day was rough with lots of climbs but I knew that getting into it. At long last I made it to Reeds Gap where a nice gentleman drove me to Devils Backbone Brewery. He also told me not to work and to enjoy life now while I can. So I guess I am succeeding at that!
The brewery was amazing. It’s a vast complex of buildings with indoor and outdoor bars and restaurants. They let hikers camp in a nearby wood so I set up camp before dark.
A beer in hand, I soon ran into Transformer and Willow. I thought they were farther ahead but was pleasantly surprised. Shaggy, Trailfish, and Mighty Mouse were also there. It was great to see so many fellow hikers. I also met No Worries and Lost Boy. I was really glad I pushed ahead and rejoined my trail mates.
After three beers and a burger with pulled pork on top, I figured I’d had enough revelry and ought to get to bed. Hiker midnight (slang for bedtime) was sundown and it was already past ten! It had been a long yet good day.
Day’s Mileage: 29.8
Total Miles Hiked: 852.7
Remaining Miles: 1,347.0
Luckily the three beers from the previous night didn’t hold over into the morning. I woke up to a sunny day and the brewery had a hiker breakfast special for only five dollars. It also came with a free t-shirt! I ordered two helpings since I was so hungry.
I ate outside in the wonderful weather with a 2017 thru-hiker named Woody. She was fun to talk to and was doing the opposite of me; she had done seasonal work for a long time and the AT was her last hurrah before getting a 9-to-5 job and domesticating. She was loving it. I, on the other hand, continue to crave adventure and travel.
Willow and Transformer met up with me and we took a ride provided by the brewery back to the trail. We talked and hiked all day together. It was a pretty easy section of trail and the day flew by. Transformer and I talked about our life stories and why we are on the trail and how it seems many things happen for a reason.
We arrived at Rockfish Gap which is just south of the entrance to Shenandoah National Park. There was a sign here listing loads of people to call for free rides into Waynesboro. I decided to call the last name on the list since the first person is probably always getting called. Coincidentally, when I called Cindy, she happened to be across the street in her car. She had driven by after work to see if hikers needed a ride so we hopped in and she took us to town. Maybe everything happens for a reason.
Waynesboro allows hikers to camp in a park near the river for free. We set up our three tents and walked to the nearby YMCA which provided hikers with free showers. Next we walked to Mings Chinese buffet and stuffed ourselves silly. My fortune cookie said I would be showered with good fortune. I’ll take it! Afterwards we hobbled back to camp at dusk. Rain was on the way and we planned to move to a hostel in the morning for a complete day of rest and relaxation.
Day’s Mileage: 19.1
Total Miles Hiked: 871.8
Remaining Miles: 1,327.9
As predicted, rain poured all day. I didn’t sleep well for some reason. I could hear the factory and train tracks across the river all night. They must have a third shift because the noise was nonstop. Transformer, Willow, and I packed up in the park and walked to a nearby diner for breakfast. It was delicious. From there we called the Stanimal 328 hostel and Stanimal came and picked us up. In his vehicle was none other than Glyph, freshly plucked from the trail! Stanimal also told us how the park is a sketchy area to camp and we were lucky there was no riffraff there.
The hostel was a house that had been converted. We quickly threw our laundry in a machine and were reacquainted with Shaggy, Mighty Mouse, Trailfish, and No Worries. The latter was also a Wisconsin resident like myself.
In only rain pants and the free t-shirt I got from the brewery, I hopped back in Stanimal’s car and we all headed to a nearby outfitter for gear and supplies. From here, Willow, Transformer, and I called another trail angel from the list of names from yesterday and got a ride to Wal-Mart for groceries and the nearby Pizza Hut which has a lunch buffet. We called another trail angel and were taken back to the hostel.
I relaxed and tended to a new toe that was giving me trouble. I’m not sure why my pinky toe decided to start oozing. Fun stuff. I worked on my first blog post for The Trek and got that up and going. No Worries and I tried to explain to Lost Boy the Wisconsin game of bar dice.
Eventually I set off to the fast food restaurant chain, Cook Out. I had never been but was pleased with the experience. It was cheap food but tasted good comparatively. From there I stopped at the local ice cream shop for a homemade flurry.
Glyph and and I discussed books to read but the audiobooks available on my library app were not great. Sticks also surprised me with a message that he had aqua-blazed (canoed down the river) for some miles and was about 80 miles ahead of us. It was good to hear from him but I doubt I’ll catch up. Overall it was a good zero day, though I should have relaxed more…I never have mastered the art of doing nothing (except maybe at work).
Day’s Mileage: 0.0
Total Miles Hiked: 871.8
Remaining Miles: 1,327.9
Transformer, Willow, and I bid farewell to the hostel and our hiker friends and set out into a misty morning back on the trail. We entered Shenandoah National Park almost immediately. Unlike the Smokies, this park was free for thru-hikers.
So far we weren’t getting much views. Fog and mist covered everything. At least it wasn’t raining. For a National Park it didn’t seem any different from the rest of the woods we’d been hiking through. The trail used to follow a ridge but the Park Service eventually moved the trail and built a road so tourists could get all the good views. Now the AT skirts alongside the road so we could constantly hear cars but never see them. Strange and unappealing for a jaunt through the woods.
The day was easy and the sun came out. My pinky toe was really hurting but I managed. Maybe I could have it amputated; I don’t really need it and it’s just dead weight. Eventually we reached Blackrock Hut. In Shenandoah the shelters are called huts.
There were some section hikers already there so we set up tents. There were no flat spots and everything was rocky. My tent was shoved in between a tree and a hill. The section hikers asked us all kinds of questions about what thru-hiking is like and how many miles we hike a day. They were in awe of some of my feats like my 30-mile hike up crazy mountains just to reach a brewery! I guess I’m kind of a bad ass.
Day’s Mileage: 20.7
Total Miles Hiked: 892.5
Remaining Miles: 1,307.2
Daily Average: 15.7
Speaking of 9-to-5 jobs, I like to sing this classic song whilst hiking. It is my job, I suppose, to hike.