Saturday, June 2, 2012

Pearisburg and Daleville

Friday, June 1st - two months on the trail and I am at mile marker 627 near Pearisburg, Va. 

Before I left for the trail, a good friend from my days in the Red Cross invited me to call as I passed near him.  On Wednesday as I went over Hwy 52, I gave him a call.  As luck would have it, I was about as close to his new home in Va as I would get.  We made arrangements to meet as I got near Pearisburg.  Bill and Joy Stewart are playing hiker-host tonight.  As luck would have it, a bad storm front is moving through the mountains today and tonight.  I am snug and warm in the Stewart residence in Fancy Gap enjoying a good meal, shower, clean clothes, comfy bed and a real bathroom (not a privy!).  Thank you Bill and Joy for your hospitality.

Last time I posted I was in Marion and ready to head further into the mountains of western Virginia.  The more I see of Va, the more I like it.  The terrain was fairly stable for a change and I made it to mile 545 where there is a campsite and a privy, but no official shelter.  Somewhere along the way I passed the point of climbing Mt Everest for the 5th time.

I developed shin splints on first my right leg and then my left.  It was probably caused by the two 16 mile days I mentioned in the previous post.  There was a lot of downhill walking, causing pretty rough heel-to-toe slapping as I used the downhill to make miles and speed - big mistake.  Contrary to popular belief, Shin Splints are a muscle issue, not a bone issue.  It's a usage strain of the muscle that controls that heel-to-toe slap as you walk downhill.  It may also be confused with stress fractures of the shin bone, but that's a separate problem.  A hiker (who happens to be a general surgeon) was at a shelter when I was complaining about my leg pain.  He explained the muscle and cause and the confusion over the term Shin Splints.  As he advised RICE - knowing there's no good way to Rest, I have been slowing my pace on the downhills, soaking my legs in cold stream water when possible, apply compression by way of ace bandages, and my feet are elevated in my hammock at night.  It's taking longer to get better because I keep hiking, but they are starting to get better.  As a matter of fact, I did a 19 mile day the other day without severe pain or increased swelling.  I will continue to take it easier on the downhills until they are fully recovered.  If they don't improve I will seek further medical attention.

Now to the happier stuff - highlights of this past week:

On the 28th I passed a shelter on the top of a ridge - Chestnut Knob - for lunch.  It was a fully enclosed shelter, made of stone.  There was no one there as I arrived.  I jotted a note in the shelter journal to say Hi to friends behind me.  After lunch and a stop at the privy, I spoke with several other hikers that arrived.  I picked up my pack and pulled on the straps when one of the should strap connections to the waistbelt broke!  This was a catastrophic failure that would make hiking nearly impossible.  (here's another example of Trail Magic happening just when you need it the most.)  Mad Mike offered to repair my pack.  Apparently he had made his own gear for the trail and had a repair kit with hime - a large needle and super strong thread.  He sewed the pieces together but wasn't satisfied that it would hold.  So he heated his titanium tent stake in the flame of my cook stove and made four holes in the strap overlap - into which he used two zip ties to firmly lock the two parts together again.  Success (and a week later it's still holding strong).  Thanks, Mad Mike!!!  Trail Magic works!

The repair delay caused me to have to camp by myself instead of being near a shelter.  I set up at someone's previous campsite on top of a ridge near Garden Mountain and mile 568 or so.  It was really windy up on the ridge, but there was no rain and the wind kept the bugs away for a while.  Actually it was also nice to be away from a shelter and snoring hikers for a change.

On the 29th I zoomed past the next shelter and camped near Laurel Creek and Va 615.  Laurel Creek was more like a nice sized river with a large wooden bridge to walk over.  On the other side were several other hikers resting and enjoying the sound of the water and view.  The discussion was whether to hitch to town or camp nearby.  I joined in the discussion.  We decided to camp.  But we found out there was a guy parked nearby who was to shuttle other hikers to town (but they had not shown up yet).  It was getting near dinner time so we hatched an idea - ask the driver to shuttle one of us into town to buy PIZZA and bring us back dinner.  We were prepared to offer him as much as $30 round trip, but he only wanted $10.  We at pizza near the river as a soft rain began to fall.  Other hikers showed up and helped us finish what we couldn't of the pizzas.  It was a good evening and a cool night with rain off and on.

The next day I must have been feeling the affects of the pizza that made me get off to such a strong start.  During the day, the breeze was strong, keeping the temperature lower and the persperation at a minimum.  That's was key because there was a 10 mile stretch without a good water source.  Each one of us had to make a decision:  carry enough water to last till the next morning, or hike a 19 mile day to get to the final water source.  Mid-way through, I made up my mind to go for the 19 miles.  It took me till 6:30 but I made it and didn't feel the worse for it.  Ta-Da!  My first 19 mile day!  Additional motivation came from the need to be in Damascus by next Friday to meet Susan as well as to be near Pearisburg today to meet Bill.  Doing the 19 gave me more flexibility to meet those two appointments.  I still have some strong hiking to do before Damascus, but I know I can do it.  Besides, coming up is a section I know well - the one I first did 5 years ago - remember that 'dangle' photo of McAfee Knob in my avatar?  I will be there again next week.  I hope the sun shines for another shot of me on the ledge!

Yesterday, Thursday May 31st was a great day.  After leaving Jenny Knob Shelter (mile 599) and crossing the 600 mile marker!!!!!!! I had lunch at a little convenience store called Trent's Grocery on Va 606.  It took a half mile to get to and a half mile back to the trail, but it was worth it.  The burger was delicious and I picked up two danish pastries for breakfast the next morning.  Six miles later was another opportunity for some fun - a side trail to the Dismal Falls.  It was nicer than it sounds (pictures below).  I soaked my shins an ankles, then I soaked my knees.  I finally decided that the icy cold water would feel good all over, so I went in all the way.  It was a real shock at first, but did feel oh so good once I had gotten soaked.  Besides - it helped rinse off my sweaty-stinky clothes.

Today it was a short 6 mile hike to the Wood's Hole Hostel.  I had to pick up my mail drop of supplies and had originally intended to stay, but the offer from Bill and Joy was too wonderful to pass up.  even though the Wood's Hole Hostel is a great hiker place in a building built in 1880. 

Tonight as I write this, I am showered and clean for the first time in over a week, fed at an all you can eat buffett - Bill got his money's worth watching me return again and again for more.  And tomorrow we return to Pearisburg to top off my food supplies and I hit the trail once again.

I need to average a little better that 13 miles per day to reach Dalesville by Friday evening where I will meet up with Susan - word has it that Max is going to be there with his mom and dad too.  It's going to be a fun time in Dalesville next weekend!

So, let me get some sleep.  Tomorrow is another big day on the trail and a hiker needs his rest.

Next time some stories of some of the characters I have met on the trail.


Anonymous said...

Hey 66! Great update and there sure seems to be trail magic happening at just the right time! Loved the photos, especially the turtle. My wife, grandson, and I went to Hanging Rock SP on Saturday and hiked to the various waterfalls. Thought about you a lot knowing you are on the move in beautiful country. Hugh

Jenna, John and Max said...

Really enjoying your posts - Max is loving all the new pictures and is very psyched about seeing you. Minus the shin splints it sounds like you are really doing well. That is awesome! He's impatiently counting down til next weekend. I've actually had to STOP talking about meeting you in VA because he gets very upset when I remind him we cannot go today. I asked him what he wanted to do in VA and mentioned our hotel would have a pool to which he replied "no, just walk woods" and reminded me that he would need his boots. I told him we would probably do a lot of eating as you would be hungry - he found that hysterical.
See you soon - take care! We all send our best!