Things on the Trail sometimes take days to catch up to you. I was pushing hard and making good miles. I also wasn't eating enough calories, my appetite hadn't kicked into high gear yet, and the foods I had were occasionally disgusting me. I had bags and bags of almonds that I had stopped eating. Honey Stinger protein bars I had to choke down. Clif bars were lumps of re-processed bear poo in my mind.
I did some big days over massive mountains, over Unaka Mountain one day, the next over Roan, Little Hump, and Hump. The day after my energy waned quickly, over easier terrain I made it to a hostel that I hadn't planned on staying at, but the lure of rest and 'real' food was enchanting. I skipped most of my lunch that day and when I got to the hostel I bought a pizza cooked it and then couldn't eat that either, I just had absolutely no appetite for it. I put it in bags and took it with me the next day. What I was able to eat, however, was a pint of Ben and Jerry's. I knew I had to eat something, between the listlessness and lower miles, I was in need of the energy. That night at 3am I got up to a roiling stomach, I ran to the privy and lost the ice cream in a matter of seconds. Not only had I now skipped a meal or two I couldn't keep food down!
I still had the specter of making it to Damascus in a few days to meet Dan. I had tried to build in an extra day for myself to get there and take a half day off before he got there, but to do that I had been pushing pushing pushing everyday. The day after I got sick I was only able to make 11 miles, figuring if I felt better I could make up the lost time. I came to a road crossing at Dennis Cove Rd, I could turn right and get a private room or left and go to Kincora hostel; I was hiking with a guy that was going to Kincora and decided to follow him there. I made a mistake! I was able to eat, get a ride to a grocery store for some town food, but the place was very crowded, it had rained during the day so many hikers were showing up for a roof as well. I went to bed early feeling very run down and in need of a good sleep, which I couldn't get. First one extremely self-inflating girl wouldn't shut up about her awesome exploits, most of which were about how she had no money and went from town to town to play her instrument to get some spending cash to go up the Trail to the next town. Then Tree Piper showed up. This guy had already made a name for himself at Uncle Johnny's when he stayed up all night playing (extremely poorly, I should add) a recorder. A recorder, like the one almost every 1st grader is forced to play for a year. High-pitched and shrill, he whistled his recorder into the night directly below the bunk room despite numerous pleadings by people and Baltimore Jake to stop. On top of this the hostel was overrun by cats, which would be fine if any of them had been treated with Frontline; they hadn't been and were covered in fleas. I didn't sleep deeply or well and was out as early as I could be. My energy sucked even worse, and it was raining and I was now behind schedule with no hope of a day off and doubt whether I could even make it to Damascus in time. On top of all that, looking at a map I noticed the Trail went up 2000 feet and down 2000 feet in a matter of 6 miles over Pond Mountain with no views, or a road walk of 2 miles to skip that entire pointless mountain. Frustrated I decided to walked to Hampton, TN and got a shuttle to Damascus and to take a zero. I felt very bad that I was even contemplating a Yellow Blaze, but the more I thought about how little fun I was having and how much I was really hurting myself to the point of possibly having to quit the more I can to terms with the necessity of jumping to Damascus. I missed 46 miles of TN. I missed the border of VA. I have every intention of going back a couple days before Trail Days next year and hiking in to complete that gap!
|Right before Pond Mountain, a mt I have not climbed|
Dan arrived at around noon a day later. He was very excited to begin his first backpacking trip. I was excited to be doing smaller days, and to be hanging out with a good friend! This was what my body needed, a nice easy pace and realistic goals.
The next week was lots of fun. Woodteeth (as became Dan's Trail name) and I had good conversation, and fun adventures. On Grayson Highlands we were transported to Scotland. The blowing wind and mist, around the low scrub brush, and the ponies visiting out of the mist was other-worldly.
I had a rental car come pick us up at a gas station in Atkins and we drove back towards Richmond where I would drop Dan off and continue on home to spend a long weekend with Cara for her birthday. We went to Southeast PA and went hot air ballooning, from 3000 feet up in the basket I could see the mountains I would be hiking on in a few weeks. I wondered if I could see the balloon from those mountains?
After that wonderful weekend, I began eating even more. I went to the grocery store with Cara and she pointed out some things I should add. I now was carrying bagels and wraps, protein powder and cream cheese. I was determined to start eating better. Here I was 40 days in and 20 pounds lighter! I looked sickly, my face hollow. Cara was concerned for my health, as was I. If I lost any more weight I would probably have to quit, I was on the brink of starving myself!
Thus armed with caloric goodness I arrived back in Atkins late in the afternoon and began hiking north once more, the whirlwind weekend of nice restaurants, floating weightlessly in the sky, and sleeping in my bed after a nice trip to a winery passed in a snap, a dream come and gone too quickly. I did have the promise of seeing Cara again in a few short weeks near Roanoke or somewhere around there, before or after. I was determined not to set a hard date and place as I had previously!
I hiked through a spring that was quickly heating towards summer, Southern VA passes over dozens of stiles, having a right of way through pastures.
A hike of this length puts a person through all these trials. Here I was at close to 700 miles and I was still just getting my head wrapped around it. My body was just getting adjusted to the trek, my mind wasn't there yet! Virginia just seemed to keep on going with very little change in scenery. The rolling hills, the pasture land, and the long seemingly boring ridge walks. The green tunnel, as it is so aptly called.
|Smiley on one of the many pasture walks|
I spent a good weekend with Cara, visiting the first annual Trail Days in Troutville, VA, finding a fun winery, and just riding around enjoying ourselves.
I finally made it to Shenandoah and pushed to get through there as fast as I could. I was still alone every day and night, the campsites were no good, I would wake up frequently from bugs and the thought of bugs. My mental state was quickly deteriorating. I was passing views, just a few tenths off the Trail, but I had this desire to make this big miles so I wouldn't stop. I had mile fever and wouldn't pull up to go and look at what the Trail had to offer.
Anthony and Liz came and visited after my first and only 29 mile day, I slept illegally in a picnic area close to Big Meadows where we met the following day. I ate a lot and we rock scrambled and hiked down to a waterfalls. It was a good day to see some of the sights I had been missing.
I wasn't sure if I was coming back. Part of me wanted to call it right then and not see any more of the Trail, to get a good night sleep in a bed, to eat good food, and be with the one I love...