Beaker is very close to completing his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. In the next three days, let me catch you up on his adventures over the past 10 days. He is completing a section of the trail in Virginia that he skipped hiking to Maine. He is now walking SOBO (South Bound) as he completes this final leg of his journey.
9/2/17 Destination: Bobblets Gap Shelter, VA Miles Today 18.2 Miles to go: 203.0
Another rainy day on the trail. It rained all night and Beaker woke to rain, wind, and fog. He was up and on the trail by 7:20 AM. The trail surface continued to be nice and smooth. He stopped for a break at Bryant Ridge Shelter, one of newer shelters on the trail – double decker structure with room for about 20 people and a big front porch. After a short break, Beaker continued hiking – the rain lasting most of the day. The trail was pretty quiet today.The rain discouraging most day-hikers.
Beaker took a pretty good fall in the afternoon. He was moving along at a good pace on a level stretch of trail but managed to catch his toe on a trip rock. The momentum from his backpack propelled him forward and, with no time to react, he found himself sprawled out on the trail. He ended up with banged up knuckles on his left hand and scrapes on his left shin.
Beaker arrived at the shelter in the rain around 5:00. The weather is predicted to improve tomorrow and Beaker will be headed into town to spend the night at his cousin’s house, so he fell asleep hoping for better days on the trail.
9/3/2017 Destination: Cousin Bill’s Apartment, Salem, VA Miles Today:18.5
Beaker headed out around 7:15 AM. The sun broke out of the clouds only a couple of miles after leaving the shelter and by mid-morning, he was hiking under clear blue skies. For the most part, the trail was smooth and gentle, crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway several times.
The bright and beautiful day was dimmed somewhat when I learned via Facebook that a dear friend of mine from my days with the Mountaineer Area Rescue Group had died suddenly and unexpectedly. I spent the rest of the morning hiking with an air of melancholy, thinking of all the times I had spent with Ann on training missions and actual searches.
Beaker arrived in Daleville around 4:00. Beaker’s cousin, Bill, picked him up around 5:00 in order to spend the night in his apartment in Salem, VA. During the hour wait, Beaker resupplied for his coming hike into Pearisburg. Friends of Bill brought over a wonderful meal of baked spaghetti, corn on the cob, and garlic bread. After dinner, they all settled in to watch the WVU-VT football game on TV. Tomorrow, Bill is going to drop Beaker back off in Daleville and he will slackpack 20 miles via Tinker Cliffs and McAfee’s Knob, where Bill will pick him up and bring me back to his place for another good night’s sleep.
9/4/2017 Destination: Cousin Bill’s Apartment, Salem, VA Miles Hiked Today: 19.8
Today was a beautiful day to be on the trail – both in terms of weather and terrain. Cousin Bill dropped Beaker at the trail around 8:00. Even though most of the morning involved climbing, trail conditions were very nice, and the pack weight was light. Beaker started listen to audiobooks, which also helped the miles to pass by quickly.
Since it was a holiday with beautiful weather, the trail was filled with day-hikers. Tinker Cliffs were pretty crowded; however, the views were spectacular. Bill’s 15-year-old son, Matthew, met Beaker at McAfee’s Knob, the rock overhang that is the most photographed place along the Appalachian Trail. There was a big crowd at the knob waiting to get their picture while sitting on the edge, dangling their feet over the precipice.
After snapping a few photos of their own, Beaker and Matthew headed for the parking lot and were soon riding back to Bill’s place. After a great shower, they went to an incredible cookout at a friend’s house – hot dogs, hamburgers, mac and cheese, au gratin potatoes, fruit salad, chips, and desserts! Bill will return Beaker to the parking tomorrow, where Beaker will continue heading south.
9/5/17 Destination: Niday Shelter, VA. Miles Hiked Today: 22.7
Bill got Beaker back to the trail by 8:15. It was a beautiful day, with blue skies and light winds. Most of the day was spent running along ridge lines and scrambling over rock outcropping. Beaker passed two AT landmarks on the hike today. The first one: Dragon’s Tooth is a 50 ft stone monolith at the top of Cove Mountain and the second: the Audie Murphy Memorial marks the spot of the fatal plane crash in 1971 that took the life of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in World War II.
It was getting pretty dark when Beaker arrived at the shelter. He was alone in the camp tonight. The keyword for this portion of the hike has been solitude.
9/6/17 Destination Warspur Shelter, VA. Miles Hiked Today 18.2
It rained on and off all night, but Beaker was under way by 7:20. After leaving the shelter, the rain settled in. It was a cold, steady rain that went on most of the morning. After climbing a couple miles, the trail leveled off and ran along the ridge. The trail along the ridge was rocky – wet, slippery slabs.
Beaker had to slide down some of the tilted slabs, but after descending from the ridge, he hiked through pastures and farmland for several miles, passing the Keffer Oak, a huge oak tree that is the second largest tree on the trail. The trail continues to be empty. Beaker only met two hikers today and they were heading north.
Beaker arrived at Warspur Shelter around 5:30. The clouds had actually cleared and the sun was shining brightly. It was nice to get into camp early enough to fix dinner and clean up before dark. Beaker was alone in the shelter again tonight.
Amazingly enough, I have walked almost 2100 miles now. I can remember way back to Georgia in February. The trail seemed impossibly long and daunting. It seemed like the exhausting 8 to 10 mile nibbles I was doing every day would never get me to the end. Now, I get up and walk 20 miles every day without a thought…..I’m not trying to say what I’m doing is amazing. It’s just funny how what once seemed impossible has become so mundane. Sadly, I also know that I am going to quickly lose this level of fitness when I am not walking 20 miles every day. Hopefully, I can keep off the 40 lbs I have lost when I go home.