15
Jun 15

Strange Feeling

This post will make more sense if you have already read the previous post, where I discuss going to France.

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It’s very strange right now. I don’t recall ever feeling this way.
Got to the Doyle in Duncannon yesterday and had lunch.
Due to its proximity to Harrisburg, and it’s Amtrak station, I was planning on getting of the trail here and head to New York. But I have been a day or two behind my tribe for two weeks and wanted to see them one last time. So I guessed where they would be and hired a shuttle to get me 30 miles up the road. As I said before, I was pleased that I guessed correctly because they all showed up! Had a nice night catching up a bit. I wanted to see Two Shoes before I left, as we first met way back in Georgia and hiked quite a bit of the trail.
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But once lunch was done in Duncannon, that was it. I was done with the trail. It was a very strange feeling. Feeling lost, with no direction. Three months of planning and goals and determined walking. And now nothing. Very very strange. I know I will be walking again soon, for another two months, but that still seems well into the future.
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But the 30 mile stretch I skipped is equal to two nice hiking days and I am here a bit before I meant to be.I can’t zero for five days. Well I could….
I don’t have to resupply anymore.
No planning water stops.
It’s a taste of how my fellow hikers will feel in Maine, or wherever they get off. The routine ends in a moment. No more shelters. No more looking for bears or peeing off the trail.
I have spent the last two nights with this grassy couple that opens up their yard and house to hikers, letting us tent, use the grill,etc for free. Super nice. It’s been nice to hang out with the hikers before saying goodbye.
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I’m meeting my cousin in New York for the weekend, heading to the Met, getting a smaller backpack, a Cronut…
I might head to New York early and fa dry around.
I fly a week from right now.
It was a great ride and I met a lot of wonderful people. Next part should be interesting as well.
Thanks for reading.

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15
Jun 15

Changing it up

The trail is many things. Quiet nature, dirty hikers, good times with good people, trail magic, bacon cheeseburgers.
But mostly it’s walking in the woods. I am pretty consistently 2mph, so 16 miles is almost always 8 hours of walking, not including breaks.
It’s called the green tunnel because now that the leaves are here, you are in the aghast forest basically all day. From time to time you get a view from the ridge and rarely you get a walk through a grassy meadow.
The trail is frequently a maze of rocks and roots, forcing you to watch your feet all day.
The diet is atrocious: candy bars and pasta and rice krispy treats, cliff bars.
I thought there would bee more “walk and talks”, as I call them, chatting with hikers as you walk. But the days are really quiet. Shelters are fun, social evenings, depending on the crowd.
I’m bored.
I was surprised to run out of things to think about a long time ago.
So I have decided to switch things up.
A week from today (Monday), I am jumping on plane to Paris, getting a train to the north of Spain, and after a visit with a friend, spending two months walking north to the English Channel.

The landscape will be interesting, good food, carrying less stuff, lots of history, etc. It will be more challenging language wise, navigation wise and logistically. Plus I love it over there.
The plan now is to walk north in Spain on the Camino del norte into France and then walk the GR trails up to Normandy. The GR system is the national trail routes in Europe.
It will be about another 600 miles or so, depending on my route.
So, we will see how it goes. It’s kind of a bummer not to be completing the AT, not getting that photo by the sign, but it will make for a more interesting walk. I will miss my fellow hikers. Should be a bon voyage.GR Trail Map


15
Jun 15

The real half way

Left the hotel Thursday morn with a two mile walk you the actual trail. Within ten minutes, I was picked up by a section hiker and given a ride to the trailhead. It was another hot sweaty day but I had some new podcasts so that made the time go by.

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Did about 16 miles to the Cascadia campground and got a tent spot. Happened to be next to some older hiker friends that were knocking out a section. Also meet a nice guy that was riding his motorcycle back from Maine. He was doing his Phd research on tree rings and geology. Very interesting.

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Off early this morning and up a good hill. Another hot, still day. Got confused at the first shelter. I got so focused on the ice cream that was coming up that I forgot about the 10ish extra miles between me and it. So instead of today, ice cream will be tomorrow.

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Hit the actual halfway point today. In celebration, I took a nap. Luckily, I got to the shelter just before the afternoon thunderstorm.

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Next morning was fine and I had a easy four mile hike to Pine Grove Furnace park.

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This is the home of the half gallon challenge: eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting…And keep it down. As it was 8:30am, I passed and went with a breakfast sandwich and an excellent blueberry pancake.

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Then I skipped ahead a bit (reason for which will be clear soon) to catch up with the good tribe I lost when i zeroed with Tracy. I had to guess where they would be that night and was pleased that I guessed correctly. They all streamed into camp and it was great to see everyone again.

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Sunday was clear but warm. Did an somewhat easy 11 into Duncannon, PA, a good little hiker town.  Rolled into the Doyle for a great, greasy bacon cheese burger.

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10
Jun 15

Halfway

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After the rollercoaster, the terrain smoothed out nicely. Sunday was the day to get into Harper’s Ferry. It was a good day and I had roughly 13 miles to get to town. Was a standard day for the most part. I was happy to run into Seamster and Button on the road! But sadly it was good bye as they were heading south, making up miles they missed due to illness. It is very likely I won’t see them again. Also saw Squeeze, who I hadn’t seen in a long times. Didn’t recognize him since he was missing Alan the dog!
Harper’s Ferry, in addition to being a quaint and very historical town, is home too the AT Conservancy, the group in charge of the trail. Everyone gets there picture taken there that goes in the photo yearbook. I am hiker 468.

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It was Sunday so I had to spend the night to mail the camera back home. Had a good night chatting with Earth and Miss America at the Teahorse hostel. Yogi showed up as well, his trail legs clearly at spotted now. Recall we first met him in the tragic water spilling event.
Monday was sunny and time to move on. After the post office, my pack was nice and light. Headed to the trail and was quickly in Maryland, walking along the canal footpath (read: flat!).
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Walking with Earth, we hit some trail magic!
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In the afternoon, the skies got dark. As the drops started, I quickly set up my tent next to the trail. I fell asleep and when I woke, it was sunny and basically dry. Overreaction. Tramped the last mile to the shelter. Then the skies opened up, gushing rain and lightning. But the shoes were dry so no problem.
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Tuesday was fine. Nice day with a rare and lovely breeze. Just a 16 mile slog: some rocks, some flats.
Saw a couple guys trying the 4 state challenge: VA, WV, MA and PA: about 45 miles in one day. Good luck!
Turns out that the shelter was born near the road and near the town. So I had a pizza and root beer delivered to the trail head. Nice!
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Headed out today (Wed) and eventually ran into Dusty Pilgrim, a retired fireman from Plymouth, MA. We got to PenMar park and ran into trail magic again. They fed us lunch and then gave me a ride into town. Now it’s laundry and resupply and back at it tomorrow. Currently at 1064 miles.
The geographic halfway point is soon.

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06
Jun 15

The Shennies

The camping scene at big meadow was crazy. All kind of people there with huge tents, trailers, RVs campfires everywhere. And then some hikers in their little tents.
Allie and I got walking at 8 and relatively quickly got to the Skyland resort for lunch. The miles go much more quickly when you walk with someone. A nice lunch there with Jacoby and Hot Sauce and then busted out another six that got us to the Byrd’s Nest 3 shelter with the crew from last night.
Some firsts today. Saw my first bear this morning! Got my first tick and removed it. And Allie got her trail name: Oz, since she is from Kansas.

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Earth talking with Oz

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Walking with the Japanese tourists

Up early on Sunday and headed out. Since water was far away at this shelter, we decided to stop at the first shelter 4 miles up for breakfast. Then we busted out the other 8 to the wayside restaurant for lunch. Lots of other hikers/familiar faces there and we were all headed to the same shelter. I picked up some smarshmallows for the party. During lunch a big thunderstorm came through.

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But it cleared up and was sunny and steamy soon enough.
Then it was out for the last 5 miles. An hour in the next storm showed up and we got absolutely drenched.rained for a solid hour, coming down hard. Of course it cleared just before I got to camp. Lots of cleaning and wringing out of clothes. Looks like no roasting tonight.
The next day was clear but damp. We headed out for a 14. We got the last wayside of the park, being lunch and some blackberry ice cream. Was super lows on stove fuel so I grabbed some there. We got to Terrapin Station hostel in the afternoon, and since it was sunny, started drying things out.

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We decided to slack pack the next day, since it threatened rain. We were driven out 17 miles and then hiked back. Two things: hiking with someone makes the day go by fast, even though I hardly saw Oz all day. She’s being her trail legs quick! Second: overcast days make it impossible to track the passing of time.

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So the day went by quickly. Saw Flap jack, Honey Bear (who we met a few weeks back) and Yellow Bird at the shelter just outside of the park.
Since the creepy days were to continue for the week I decided to meet up with cousin Tracy a day early.
Wednesday morning Oz and I parted ways as I was dropped off at a cafe in town and she pressed on ahead.

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Tracy picked me up and I began my first double zero of the hike! Spent a lovely couple of days not hiking, eating well, watching tv and taking naps. And finally washed my disgusting, sweaty backpack. So gross.

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Friday Tracy slack packed me down the road for a 14 up to route 7. It was misty and damp and I had a 1.7 miles hike to get to the actual AT. And it was rollercoaster day: 15 miles of Ricky ups and downs. It was slow going but not too bad. And we hit the 1000 mile mark!! Plus I got one more night in a real bed.

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But all things must pass and today (Saturday), she dropped me off back at route 7 and it was back at it. The mist had broken so it was a nice day. However, remember when I sent my camera ahead way back in Georgia? I sent it to Tracy to try again after I was faster and stronger. So I had another 3+ lbs of weight and it was horrible! Felt like I was carrying a battleship in my pack. Even when the rollercoaster ended and it flattened out, it was still punishing. I tried to drop it off at the AT Blackburn center for Tracy to pick up(after walking with it for only 4 hours) but no caretaker was there. So it will be mailed back from Harper’s Ferry on Monday morn!


30
May 15

The Trudge Report

Had a nice zero on memorial day Monday. Found a taco truck while doing laundry so I had a four taco lunch followed up with some ice cream on a hot afternoon. Ran into an old hiker and told him about the taco truck and went to put my laundry in the drier. Saw him a half an hour later and turns out it was Jacoby! We first met at the Atlanta metro station the night before I started walking. He is a rare member of my first tribe, now liked many, thinner and more beardy. Saw Jedi, first time since Erwin, when new was cooking up steaks for everyone.
The Quality Inn was hiker central. Irish was there and just found out it was a hernia that was causing pain in his hip. Very sadly, that means he is out, on the train back to NYC as I type. It’s a big loss for everyone. Doc and Forward showed up. Hadn’t seen Doc since Damascus but Forward was down with a stomach bug. Didn’t stop us from hitting the Chinese buffet.
Back at it on Tuesday. Doc arranged a slack pack for us, so we got driven out 20 miles on the Skyline Parkway and hiked back in. Hiking in Shenandoah is pretty nice: nicer trails with good grades, no crazy climbs and not a lot of rocks. Not a lot of breeze either, so it was a sweaty day. Got pack to the road around 5, just as 1) Button and Seamster were arriving and 2) Some guy pulled over and have us all a ride! Hadn’t seen B&S since a quick hi in Perisville a ways back!
It was a good slack pack but 20s are still long days, and it cuts down on healing time so the following day is a bit tougher on the feet.
Wednesday, Doc and I got again driven the 20 miles into the park and headed north. Forward needed another rest day. It was going to be either a 14 or 20 day depending. Another hot still day, made good progress but Doc wasn’t feeling so hot. Went to the restaurant for lunch (national park!), which was a nice treat. Ran into some trail magic, and other hikers, at the parking lot at mile 13. Former hiker and his mom hooking up hikers with good and soda. Doc decided he needed a hotel and they drove him to town. I got to the shelter at 14 mid afternoon.

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Irish, Klank and Yogi

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Trail Magic on Skyline

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Klank and Doc sitting with trail magic mom

Thursday was good. Up and out around eight and had a good day of walking. Ran into Fuji, an older man who flew in from Tokyo to walk the trail a bit. He is in no hurry as he was laying down, smoking a cigarette. We chatted a bit and I moved on. Stopped at a picnic ground for a late lunch (at 15) and to rewater. Can’t camp there and I didn’t have another five in me to the next shelter. I found a clearing near the trail just before the afternoon rain and thunder got to me.
After dark I heard some rustling in the woods and a couple of grumbles: my first bear! I froze as it slowly rambled through the brush, hoping it wasn’t coming closer. Then it coughed a few times and I realized it was Fuji. He managed to find a spot near me without knowing I was there. In the morning, when I was wrapping up camp, he popped up:”ohhhh..you sleep there!”. I said:”I thought you were a bear until you coughed!” And then we cracked up. I asked a couple hikers today if they saw him. “Yeah, he was taking a nap on the trail.”

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Since there was no water or privy, I was up and walking really, around 6:30 to make breakfast at a camp ground a few miles up the road. It threatened too rain all day but didn’t. A couple miles from Big Meadow, I ran into Allie, sitting at a parking lot. Turns out she started the trail the days ago and was still figuring things out. So we walked and talked on the way too Big Meadow, where there is a restaurant, resupply and huge campground.
We got a tent space at the campground for a robbery of $20. But they have laundry and showers and food so whatever.
Met some other hikers at the lodge at dinner, so we chatted with Darwin, Rube, Snuggles and Yellow Bird.

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24
May 15

Crazy Eights

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Things were getting a bit ripe in Chez Donny, and seeing how it was so warm, dry and bug-free at the campground in Buena Vista, it was time for some spring cleaning. Washed down the air mat a bit, cleaned the tent and rain fly, laundry of course and a general straightening. Washing the backpack and down sleeping bag will have to wait  a bit.
Went to get BBQ and the nice lady working there then offered to drive me to the grocery store.
Had dinner with the wounded warrior guys that picked me up. Very kind and entertaining. I had forgotten to buy anti itch stuff and Deet, so one of them drove me to get some.
This morning, Thursday, was pack to the trail. The guys were kind enough to give me and a couple other hikers a ride to the trailhead.
I don’t know what they put in those Hardee’s sausage biscuits, but I flew through the foggy and rainy 13 today. Didn’t need lunch and less than a liter of water. And, it was the first hike in rain in many many weeks. We have had excellent weather. We have about 40 miles to Waynesboro.
Speaking of miles, passed 800 miles somewhere back there!

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The wind came on strong overnight and pushed out the fog and rain completely. So Friday was a long long decent down the Priest mountain after running a nice ridge for a few hours. After a quick trail magic coke at the gap, it was up to Harper’s creek shelter. A mile before I got there, I ran out of energy like someone threw a switch, like 3PO taking an oil bath. Very strange. The shelter was cool, right next to the creek. I also finally got to meet some funny people that I had been reading in the log books for weeks.

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So now we have 27.5 miles to town. How to split that up? Go long today and have short day into town? Two average days? The second shelter was 22. Let’s see how it goes.
Three ridges mountain was a long long ascent, but it came first thing inn the morning so no problem. Then just behind the first shelter, where lunch would happen, a guy handed me an apple and said there was trail magic, with burgers, down the road. Nice! I would need that to do 22. Got there around noon. A very nice crew from Blue Ridge Outdoors were doing trail magic. They took great care of me, two burgers, doughnuts, soda and cider. I did a little interview for them, got some food for the road and headed out.
After hours of walking, I got to the decision point campground and kept going. It was nice it and only 4:30. Those last five miles seemed to take forever! Luckily I had the magic food to keep me going. Like some cruel Lorentz transformation, the more cranky my feet got, the longer the miles got. I was pretty tired and grumpy when I rolled into the camp just before sunset. So now I have my 20+ day and now I don’t need another. It’s tough on the feet and makes the next day difficult as well.
Straight to bed, no dinner for me.
This morning, Sunday, I luxuriously stayed in bed till 8!
Then I did the remaining 5.5 at a leisurely pace, partly because I only had some fruit for breakfast.
I got to the road and the info center and 11. There was a guy there disgorging a hiker from his car and beef instantly offered me a ride into town. Super sweet! He had through hikers last year and was spending the day driving hikers around. Super great. So I was at the hotel  a few minutes later.

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Zeroing tomorrow to rest the feet and to let some of the tribe catch up. Currently at mile 860. The Shenandoahs start next!


20
May 15

Hot Dogs

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After a lovely zero day, spent mostly I the hotel room, remote in hand, it was back to the trail. I did however, score some new shoes while in town. Did a nice 12 miles today (Saturday), taking it easy due to the painful shin coming into town.
Got to Wilson Creek, mile 739, around 3.
20 minutes later, about 30 adults and kids from a church group trotted up to the shelter. Oh boy. But they brought fire wood, hot dogs and smores! So they hung out and cooked and fed us and were very nice. Then, blessedly, they packed up and left. Super nice people, left us doggies and buns. Didn’t have to cook dinner either.

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Woke up Sunday to find my phone drained dead. Weird. Started overcast but didn’t rain and turned into a hotday without a breeze. That equals sweat. But a lovely day running a nice ridge, for a change: smooth with few rocks and relatively flat. Been walking with Luna and the Mad Hatter for a couple of days now. They both are independently from Portland, Maine and despite staying within a couple of days of me, I had never met them. We were going to do 14 but that shelter didn’t have a water supply AND if you just did an additional 3, then you would be at a campsite with a swimming hole. No struggle there.
On the way down those 3, however, I learned what a rattlesnake sound like!
I heard this strange sound that wasn’t very foresty. Add I was going “What the hell is…WHOAH!!” and kept back as I spotted the two footer right next to the trail, cocked back to strike, maybe two feet away. Yikes. Well now what? I flicked some leaves at it, which ironically, did not make it leave. Then a couple sticks went its way to no avail. So I backed away a ways and it eventually slithered away.

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Then I was at the campsite. Set up tent and we headed to the swimming hole to cool down and wash off. As it was still warm, humid and still, it was very cool and refreshing to wash off two days of sweat and dirt.

Monday was the longest 14 ever. Got off too a good start just after 8. We had the big hills today, with a sum elevation gain of roughly 4300 ft. Including a couple breaks, I didn’t roll into camp until almost 6…And once again, just before the evening rain storm. Last couple of days we have been following the Blue Ridge Parkway, which appears took bed a very lovely drive. We should be in the Shenandoahs in as little over a week. Heard they were beautiful.
No snakes today, although I looked for then all damn day.

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Hard to tell from the photo, but this is going down, very steeply.

The bugs were atrocious Tuesday morning, as they were the night before. I put on my bug net, packed up and headed down. It was a pretty standard day. Lots of nice long descents, not to rocky. It was warm but with a slight breeze. Since it was mostly a downhill day, not too sweaty and water use was good. After 6 hours of charging, I crashed, so I set up the tent, had a rest, made some rice and then carried on. Second best part of the day was when I somehow got to the shelter well before I thought I should. It’s a real treat when that happens. So instead of 4 miles too the road,I only had 2 to finish it another 14 mile day.
But at the road crossing, it was still 5 miles from town. I tried hitching but my legs look like something out of a MMR medical book, so no one stopped. I started trudging up the steep and winding road. After 45 to an hour of walking and thumbing, some guys from the wounded warrior program picked me up and I rode the back of the pick up as they thankfully drive me to town. Time for some cleaning and resupply!


15
May 15

Running Ridges

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My Susan Xmas card

Weird couple of days so far.Thursday started at Pickle Branch Shelter and I did 15 miles to Catawba Mountain. It was a nice day, with a stop at the grocery. Half a pizza, 3 Gatorades and an ice cream sandwich have me great energy for the afternoon, basically charging into the shelter but knowing I didn’t have enough for the next four. Friday morning had me up early and at McAfee Knob before 8 am. This is the
most famous photo sites on the trail. I was there so early, there was no one to take a photo of me. Not overly worried about it. Then the rest of the 17 miles was running the ridge, which can be nice but usually is quite rocky, slow and tedious. This made for a long day. Plus, my new shoes are slightly too tight and started to cause painful chafing/pressure on my left heel. At almost the same time, I was getting a shin splint type pain in my right leg. This led to a long slow afternoon. I was flat footing it along the ridge. Plus my stupid food was waning and I felt weak. Sucked. I got to a gravel service road that basically paralleled the trail for the last two miles. I slowly ambled down the road into town and pulled into the hotel for the night and today’s zero day.
Got new shoes this morning and they feel better already.
Sadly, Tortoise and Garmin left the trail due to a family illness. Miss then already and hope to see them in NY. Not too many pics due to low battery…

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Morning start up the hill


09
May 15

Just more miles

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It’s been a nice couple of days.
Leaving the grocery, I headed out for 15 miles on a sunny day. At my lunch stop, Tortoise and Garmin caught up to me and we eventually got to the Woods Hole hostel, a great place with nice facilities and good food. It was a nice surprise to see Forward there, win we last saw in Damascus. Not long after we got there, we pulled into cars and headed to the Korean restaurant for a great and highly food intensive meal.

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They do a great breakfast every morning and we enjoyed that before heading out.
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This is Irish. He had done all the big trails and he is doing his second AT hike…and I can’t really keep up with him.
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Then it was another nice day, an easy 11 into Perisberg. After lunch and resupply, I decided to stay the night instead of pressing on because I had to mail things away and the post office was closed. We have 80 miles until the next town and that’s too far to carry unneeded things.
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Saturday: Post office didn’t open until 10 so it was a late start, but another nice day.

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This is Syd the Kid. First met her in the Smokies and have run into her many many times in improbable places. She is a good spirit. Had two good hills in the 8 miles we did today. Hot and sunny so it was a sweaty day, one of many to come.
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Got to the first shelter at 2 something. It was 12 to the next shelter where T&G were headed. But with no water in between, it would have been a long haul, getting in at dark. So me and Mr. President headed to water and campground a further 1.5 and called it a day.
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Tacos!!
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Sunday was a long day. I was out the door at 7:10 and cranked out the 10 miles to the first shelter and the first water. After good and ready there, it was only 4 and change to the next one, but it was at the top of a good steep hill. Lots of sweating today.
By then it was almost 3 and I pressed on another 5 to a campground.
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This was more hill and lots of very tedious rocks. I didn’t have the mojo (nor the water) to make it a twenty mile day. Grrr.
Monday was not much better. Second day of good heat but no wind at all. Started strong as usual from Wind Rock campground, but the day was tough. By afternoon I had a good hill and some ridge running to do before I got to the shelter.
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See the gap in the trees across the way? I get to the top of that ridge one mile to the right and then have to go to the shelter that is one mile to the left of that gap, and then down a steep half mile.
With no wind, the ascent was steep and long. I was tired and hungry and hot and it was super tedious. I had to lay down on a rock for a while to rest my legs and cool down. I was wiped out at the top and trudged the 2+ miles to the shelter, arriving around 7, for almost a 12 hour, 17 mile day. I should mention, of course, that I am taking longer lunch/nap breaks now. This day was almost two hours, but that wasn’t enough I guess.
Ate a brownie and drank some water and passed out before sundown.
Tuesday broke with some darkish clouds, but only a drop or two before the sun took over for the day. I had more of a leisurely morning than usual and was on the trail just after 8.
Since we were already up on the ridge, we started with some tedious ridge running, but with great views of the valley.

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For the photo: Today’s mission: Run the ridge I am on, cross that valley and then run that ridge off the left edge of the photo. Got to the first shelter after 6.6 , and did lunch/nap for an hour. Then ash the road crossing 45 minutes later, ran into trail magic! A nice couple, former through hikers themselves, had a big canopy set up. They cooked me up some hot dogs, had a banana and a couple of cold Gatorades!! They even had a portable charging station. And now I could test the afternoon good theory on a really full stomach.
The 10 miles in the afternoon went well. The big hill came early in the afternoon, so that helped. I cruised up it pretty well, certainly better than yesterday. Also, thankfully, we had a great breeze all day that kept the sweating and heading way down. The ridge was nice too: wide, grassy and a gentle decent. Then the long usual descent to the road and up to the shelter, done around 6pm. This 80 stretch this week is our longest without resupply to date. Should be in Dalesville in two days, after a quick burger run at a place just off the trail, 13 miles up. Clothes are stinky. Converted a long sleeve to a short sleeve today and my legs look like insect feeding stations. But on the bright side, I am shrinking so much, I only have a couple more inches before my pack hip belt won’t cinch tightly.
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