Day 73 (1.7 miles)

Have you ever been in that state of sleep yet slight consciousness all night that you feel you didn’t sleep a wink? That’s how it was for me except after turning to get comfortable so many times, I began feeling like a rotisserie chicken! I also should mention this cat lady’s house is VERY close to the railroad that runs by at 10, 11, and 12 at night. Shouldn’t you mention that in your write up? I need a little humor here before the end of this blog so let me just describe this place.. she has kept DYMO Label maker in business by labeling virtually everything in the house, even huge long labels that don’t stick to wooden bedroom doors so well that say “keep door closed to keep cats out”. To say you needed a sticker for that was hilarious! You could look at the aging, stained carpet to tell the cats love those huge litter boxes called bedrooms! There was a sticker that said “forks” when all there is is forks. In the kitchen alone there must have been over 70 stickers labeling stuff, even each spice jar that already has the name of the spice written on the jar! Sticker in the bathroom, “close shower curtain after shower”, she comes out after showering and oh wait .. the shower curtain is pulled back bunched together. Lock on the bathroom door, you say? There is a random piece of toilet paper in the old timey looking key hole, I suppose so you can’t peek in. Since you can’t lock the door why not “accidentally “ open the door? Oops!

As we left, the one mangy looking cat was laying atop a discarded window unit next to the compost heap. I wonder if the A/C unit will turn to dirt if left there long enough? Oh I could go on but it just gets embarrassing… Nice lady though! She hocks loogies out the car window pretty good too!
The morning was cool and what a nice change that would be as I try out the pack, my boots, walking on rocks, climbing earthen steps of various sizes to see if my ankle is better or not. It turns out it is not, in addition to my previously hurt knee starting to strain a bit. I have made the hard decision to just take this ol’ body home to SC to heal up properly. My sister Jane and friend since 9th grade, Mary Beth, hopped at the chance to help!

I spent the day back at The Mountain Home B&B with Scott and Lisa waiting for them to drive the seven hours to pick me up. I learned how to make grape juice and can’t wait to try it out once I get home. I also picked up a copy of Grandma Gatewood, the first woman to hike the AT from one end to the other non stop at the age of 67 and began to read it while I waited. Mind you I like reading but I believe my last full book I read was a Nancy Drew book!

Emma Gatewood endured a lot in her life and always found calmness, solace, and peace in the woods. While reading of her hike I found myself at the same places as her, knees hurting stretching to climb that big boulder, pounding step over step on cantaloupe sized rocks, ankles twisting, pack bouncing, boots so full of water you can hear the sloshing. At the end of the day or upon seeing mountains in the distance, the peacefulness of the woods draws you in. By the time Jane and Mary Beth arrived I had read the entire book, one worth reading. I hated leaving the trail behind but it’s not that far away and I learned so much thus far from my journey. We headed home and soon stopped for the night, got caught up on things and slumber set in. I woke up in the middle of the night to shake the dew off the lily after the pain in my leg brought my sleep to an end. There was no headlamp to reach for to clear the path of critters of the night, no searching for the best spot, no climbing back into the tent and into my sleeping bag to listen to the night sounds as I fall back into the arms of peaceful sleep. There was however the faint glow of the microwave in the hotel room, lights blinking from smoke detectors, and battery chargers lighting my way, not worrying about things that go bump in the night.

As I return to my bed for the night, I lie down between two sisters, two friends that would go to the ends of the world for me, ones who need no trail names to define them or to make it easier to remember who they are months later; they will forever be my trail angels who retrieved me from the woods. There were no frog sounds, no crickets, or owls, only breathing sounds and gentle snoring to lull me to sleep once more. My toenail is black, my hip chafed and bruised as I feel every heartbeat in my red, swollen pinkie toe. I survived on my own, missing family and friends all the while making new friends along the way. I still miss Larry every day, getting his advice, enjoying his company, but God has helped take away the pain I felt in my heart and replaced it with solace knowing we all have more living to do, more adventures to take, more people to meet all the while keeping 40 years of memories locked inside to be released whenever I want. There is still a sadness along with the laughter but I will always have His words, “ Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled”…

Day 72 (15.3 miles)

The night was interesting with the kids going to bed at around 10pm and me trying to figure out how to be quiet at 7AM! We were lying side by side like sardines but all was well. You could see lightening off in the distance before drifting to sleep. Sometime during the night one of the boys joined in with the frog musical and began snoring musically. Sounds of dissatisfaction could be heard all around me various times during the night. I sorta giggled at them because they have it for four more days! It was a weird sounding snore so it really didn’t bother me that much and off I drifted again.

JJ and the early riser with me, another American-Asian boy, came up the hill from their breakfast to tell me good bye, I thought it was sweet. I passed several NOBO section hikers. Three of them had head nets like mine! What a lifesaver from webs and gnats and flies! I ran across a chipmunk and a couple deer and saw LOTS of bear scat! Deer are just fine for me! All of a sudden as I was descending a mountain I hear what sounded like large limbs from fallen trees snapping and cracking as if two junior sized cubs were playing amongst them. Creeping very slowly down the hill I would look as far as I could and stop when the noise stopped, it started and my creeping did too, I wanted it to be someone weed whacking but there was no motor to be heard when finally I smelled it.. freshly cut grass smell. I tried not to scare the guy using an ELECTRIC weed eater coming up behind him but I did, I thanked him for clearing the path and went on my way relieved that there were no bears!

I stopped at Elkwallow Wayside, a place right off the trail for some food. There I met Monk Hood so named by his students at Georgetown who was on a section hike. Apparently he got carried away talking about the blue flower of the same name and the students were like…”yeah yeah we get it already”. Jersey came over and talked to me for awhile until his wife and grandkids came to drag him away, he had thru hiked last year. I was on my way and it wasn’t long before I heard thunder, I hoped it was going to wear itself out before it got to me but I had about 2.7 miles left to go and the skies opened up. The thunder was coming from behind me and I prayed and talk to it to stay that way knowing that the worse would be behind me and the welcoming rain would cool me down. I had already stopped and but my rainfly on my pack, rain pants on to protect my phone, and get the number of a hostel close by. I hadn’t planned on stopping but my ankle was hurting pretty bad so I thought I could use some ice, so back to town I went; Luray, VA this time.

The hostel resembles more of a cat lady home. She and her son are in a local play so they went to rehearsal. I talked with a girl staying here enroute to Asheville to visit friends. When she leaves her apartment in Harrisburg, PA, she rents it out on Air B&B. I did get to soak my feet in Epsons salt and ice my ankles, feet and knees but they still hurt. I am hoping I can still make good miles tomorrow to Big Meadows Campground where I stayed many years ago. If my ankle gets more bruised I may take a zero and let them both rest for a day. We will see. It’s getting really late so off to bed I go! Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 71 (15 miles)

It was great waking up in a cool, old cabin. Yes, I took another shower because I could! Breakfast was nice in the main house and hearing of its history was fascinating. Asia kept hitting her snooze button, glad I was awake. If she intends on rowing with the big teams she will have to get up the first time it goes off. She graduated from the University of Tennessee and rowed for them. I am either getting used to the humidity or else it wasn’t as bad as I climbed to 3300 feet. The trail was pretty good today, nice and wide, but good grief, I didn’t know there was a paint shortage in VA!

The blazes were almost nonexistent and when I came to where 3 trails joined, I was clueless. Turns out there is a half inch wide metal band around a concrete pole at the intersection with words stamped on it… like I could read that! I swore I wasn’t going to check my Gut Hooks App so much today but I had to several times to be sure I was going the right way! I stopped at Tom Floyd Shelter for an early lunch. It was kind of junky with a bunch of fallen trees and larger rocks laying around. I made good time, I thought, but not what I would like. My feet are hurting today from maneuvering over the rocks going up and down causing them to bend so differently than before. I passed several people out for a week hike not stopping for conversation. Like I said, the trail was pretty good except for the rocks.

In the afternoon I surrounded by 5 to 6 foot tall beautiful fields of flowers, little yellow and orange ones from the same family, large golden ones, and tiny white ones. They were as if to say “ Welcome, My Lady, Enjoy”. There were quite a few flies, horseflies, and hornets about today but as soon as I lit out I used my head net. Why I didn’t use it before I will never know. I think it helped in making my time a little better as I didn’t have to stop to swat bugs, pull spider webs off my face, or get gnats out of my eyes which they seem to like to do. A couple of people wished they had one too.

As I topped North Marshal Mountain I finally got a view! It wasn’t long before I turned into Gravel Springs Hut, the guide says it’s .2 off the trail but I beg to differ! Now to walk back out..ouch! As I passed Marshall Mountain I noticed a couple kids ahead talking loudly and hoping they were going to the same shelter as long as they were nice. Well, when I arrived I found 10 young kids, all beginning freshmen except for three upper class men who have brought them out here for a couple days for a pre orientation for Georgetown. Some were from Jersey and one from DC, some from Chicago, and JJ from Boston. He is a Junior and very polite. He asked my advice at times and invited me to where they cooked away from the hut while I ate.

The three were teaching them to use the stoves and how best to cook the food they brought, working in groups of 3. It’s getting late hiker time and they haven’t gotten their beds ready, they are talking about their plans and stories; I wish I could hear them. Hopefully they will come up soon because my body is pooped and I may need to scoot over to make room for us all. They didn’t mind making room for me, again a nice group of kids! I am going to stretch my muscles and lay down while I wait for them, oh wait, here they come so Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 70 (7.3 miles)

I am glad I slept in the tent last night, I did cover the end of it with the rain fly before falling asleep otherwise I would have been wet from the dew. I did get up in the middle of the night but the bright moon was about all you could see. I heard Nalgen Ninja and Gary talking at the table so I thought I would get up and start the day. Nalgen Ninja was a long haired, hammock hanging traveling guy from Alabama who once scouted for water for he and his buddies as the streams were toast. He came upon a house, no one was home, and he looked for a faucet but found something better. The people had left out jugs of water, he filled the nine bottles, and toted them back to the campsite, thus his name. He is going to Maine tomorrow to meet up with a buddy and do some hiking up to Mt Katahdin.

Gary and I took our time getting ready, he gave me a freeze dried dinner since he was going home, some cashews and beef jerky. What a guy?! He owns a karate business and is training a guy, who wants to buy it, how to run it. Afterwards he will retire, hike the entire trail, then come back and help out for a little income. He asked if I wanted to start out together, I said sure, he disappeared like a fart in the wind! I wish him well.

The hike was not a very bad one although managing the rocks were getting to my knee as the foot twists and bends, so I just went slower. I almost opted to continue to the next shelter instead of stopping at Mountain Home B &B /Hostel in Front Royal since the hike was going so well, I am glad I didn’t. Everything I owned was smelling foul, not B.O. foul but funky musty foul odor (remember the thunderstorm on the Roller Coaster?). This place is awesome and just off the trail. Scott and Lisa are the best! They have boot driers and I sprayed my poles , pack , etc with Lysol.

I am staying in a cabin built in the mid-1800’s and my roommates are none other than TP and Peeps! They were the two older guys I met going NOBO to Harpers Ferry. It makes me feel slow that they made it there and back and caught up with me! I told TP that and he did say they drove for 15 of those miles so now I don’t feel THAT bad! They go home tomorrow to get back to life in Chapel Hill and Durham. Go Heels! As TP and I sat around a fire pit talking, Lisa brought us each a bucket of Epson salt water to soak our feet in, very refreshing! My poor toes will never be the same!

Scott, who has hiked the trail, drove me to town and dropped me off for resupply and lunch. It is a cool, quaint little town bringing itself back to life. I walked all over and did find me a rain coat so I can donate my failed attempt at a poncho to someone else. Comics, who has thru hiked, was running the little outfitters store and gave me a candy bar. In this heat it won’t last very long! I walked to Burger King to wait for Scott to pick me up and to get a cold drink while right beside the line on a chair was a guy eating their new tacos. I asked how they were, he ignored me, and I decided by the looks of them they may not be tasty. He didn’t seem to mind as he devoured them. I looked over later and he was leaned against the wall, not moving, so was it the tacos or did he just pass out?

I got my clean clothes back and all I could do was sniff them! They have never smelled this good, sadly what I wear tomorrow won’t smell so good after a day of sweating! If the temperatures would drop my hike would be so much easier! A huge thunderstorm just rolled through and am I extra glad I stopped at the Hostel! Asia just came in on her way to NY to train to be a rower; she is from Atlanta. I told her there was lemonade and cookies in the kitchenette, she was happy. Breakfast in the morning will be French toast in the main house dining room, how sweet is that!

I see by the log entry that Twinkle Toes came by here for a rest and some ice cream the other day, he is really moving. The owners, TP, and Peeps also knew the little English woman I passed the other day, her name is Satin. I didn’t even notice but she made her pants out of pieces of satin, resembling maybe a hobo. They had also seen Freckles, who is training now when I saw her to be the fastest 75 year old woman to hike the trail next year. She looked like she is made of the right stuff. I don’t seem to be making very good miles in this heat but I trod along, drinking and wetting my head at every stream. I will be climbing up to 3000 feet tomorrow, long miles, so wish me luck and for cooler weather. Time to hit the hay. Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 69 (11.2 miles)

Two days later and my boots are still wet, at least it’s not soaking my socks. I need to wear those stinky things one more day until I can get to a laundry mat or Hostel. I heard a loud boom in the night, sounded like a gun shot, but heard no noise outside so fell back asleep. I was glad I wasn’t by myself. I had to say goodbye to Matt and Jeremiah (who I have dubbed Flying Squirrel for his acrobatic jump over the snake and that he is fascinated with them.) The trail had its share of ups and downs; I made pretty good time considering the day before while in the Roller Coaster.

I came along several day hikers, remember they smell good, some of them Asian. The older ladies enjoyed talking with me and burst into their language once, probably saying “ the red faced old lady must be crazy!”. I ran into the Asian males and they gave me the stats to this shelter, the Jim and Molly Denton Shelter.

I met Smeed, Jason, and Alarm at the road where you park to hike the trail. I joined two of them at the picnic table for lunch as Sneed explained that he got kicked out of his house for a few days. His sister is getting married and his wife was in charge of the bachelorette weekend party so he needed to be someplace else deciding to get two buddies and hike for a couple of days. Alarm showed up and yes he got his name because alarms don’t phase him and he’s always late. Smeed gave me some pop tarts and Cliff Bars and I was on my way. I was happy for that because my breakfast and snack foods will be gone in the morning. They soon passed me. I arrived at the shelter before my calculated time; I love it when it just appears and me not expecting it so soon. Matt hated leaving today because he wanted to stay here at this shelter for one night too. It is the most wonderful shelter compared to the others. The privy is so clean and not too bad smelling, the shelter is surrounded by grass and best of all it has an outside spring shower!

On the porch, yes porch, are some relaxing chairs. I laid my stuff out on one of the shelter platforms and ran to take my shower to cool off. It has three sides and this was once that I was glad I was alone. They say it is solar heated but that may have lasted 2 seconds but I didn’t care, man was it refreshing! I washed out a couple smelly things and laid them on the railing to dry along with my stinky shoes, socks, and sweaty pants and shirt hoping the sun would help… nope. About 30 minutes later a kid who just graduated from Villanova sat down for a snack. He is meeting his parents in Maine to vacation around the coast; he is looking forward to it. After he left, Gary from Alexandria, VA, showed up for the night. That always makes me feel better. He is tenting with his brand new REI tent, and after getting bit by mosquitos and the fact that the air was blowing from behind the Shelter, I moved my stuff to my tent too.

I forgot it had gotten wet in the thunderstorm sitting in the bottom of my bag, so it got aired out and dried good. I left half of the rainfly off hoping to see some stars later, I will cover the tent before I fall asleep so everything won’t get wet with condensation. I saw several deer again today ( if that’s all I see I will be happy!) Another guy has showed up, not a thru hiker, I could smell. He strung his hammock, took a cold shower and is now eating. Gary has been talking to his wife and texting since he arrived. He wants to attempt the trail when he turns 60 in about 5 years, so he has been hiking as much as he can. He also just passed by my tent after a refreshing very cold shower.

He has one of those noisy sleep pads so I am glad there’s a little distance between us. From the Roller Coaster to here I realized we are on the flight path for Dulles departures. You can hear them all the time. Of course they quit later and the crickets and frogs drown out the occasional one with their lullaby. The sunset is gorgeous but would not make a very good picture, it seems I have been in the interior of these mountains all along, so it’s just pretty red sky through the trees that I see. I will try to stay awake for the star show but I am pretty beat! Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 68 (17.4 miles)

This was a very, very tough long day! It started out with a deer looking at me but wasn’t frightened I suppose because there was a creek between us. I had to finish up the Roller Coaster and what a booger it was! It took so long to just get through those 7 miles that I wasn’t sure if I would make it to Whiskey Shelter. There as other places to stay along the trail either. The sun began to get lower in the sky and finally the terrain became semi flat and quick. My legs were boogying down the trail to use as much of the light that I could. I did make it with a little light to spare. Matt and Jeremiah were here and glad to see me. They were getting water and Matt volunteered to filter mine too as well as carry my pack up the hill to the shelter! What a guy! He works for the government in DC, super nice, I will hate to see them leave the trail tomorrow.

My water bottles were slap empty and I was so thirsty! I drank the entire first one he filtered and downed another with my tuna. I am not sure if I am planning on trying to go another 15 miles to get to Front Royal and a Hostel so I can get my clothes washed and the funk washed off me. It really wasn’t that hot but I just had to keep drinking and refilling that slowed me too. I did see several day hikers, I know because they smell good! I had to cross a busy, major highway today and yesterday. Not sure what they are thinking about that one, maybe put a bridge over it? Poor Jeremiah came upon a copperhead blended in so well at the turn to the shelter and jumped high in the air and another jump while airborne he said! It did strike at him between the legs but missed, thankfully! He was shaken up about it and I can feel for him. I got in late, ate late, the frogs have begun their music for the night so I will say Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 67 (14.3 miles)

As the sunrise approached, the frogs ended their score leaving only the crickets to finish out the night’s symphony. The birds started their daily chirping letting us know it was time to get moving. I ate some oatmeal and drank water and headed out for hopefully a full day. I scared 2 deer who made a screeching noise like a large bird as they ran away. I don’t think I have ever heard one make a noise. I saw 5 in all today. The low brush was covered in dew and the spiders have their single web spread across the trail for me to be caught in. Rain drops were falling from either the trees with the wind or a little shower, either way it was refreshing.

After two hours, I came upon an old English lady who was finishing up her hike at Harpers Ferry after starting at Springer Mtn. She just wasn’t as fast as she thought she’d be to get to Maine but I applaud her! Freckles, a lady in her late 70’s hiked the trail 5 yrs ago. Jeremiah, 11, and his dad Matt stayed with me at Blackburn last night and caught up when I stopped to eat some food. Also there were two guys just out for the week, I will call them Drinks A lot and Teeth. Drinks A lot says he always carries 4 Liters of water no matter how close the streams are and Teeth, well he said he had the best boss and that he even paid for his dentures! He had much to say but that’s all I heard.

A little rain started falling and then BAM, here came the thunderstorm. No lightening until a little later and I am glad to say I didn’t get struck! The storm felt like at times that it was about 500 feet above me, I don’t think I have heard such cracks of thunder while outside. It rained hard for several hours and my shoes were squishing water, I was soaked. I tried using a poncho this time and it was a complete failure! I have mostly dried out except for my shoes. I did make it partially through the Roller Coaster, this last mountain being a doozy! One rain swollen bridge I came to right before the shelter worried me a bit but I survived!


Jeremiah, Matt and I are in the shelter with another middle aged guy from NY finishing up his section hike. I haven’t gotten his name yet but he wears a sarong and only likes good vibes and fun things on the trail. Another guy is one I hope I do not see again, his cotton shorts were hanging under his belly leaving nothing to the imagination, that and shoes was all he was wearing. He opted to tent, thank goodness! I hope to make another long day tomorrow, hope the storms stay away! The frogs are beginning their song so I will say Good Night and Sweet Dreams!