ERIC CLAPTON - WALKIN' BLUES
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July 3rd, 2010...Todays AT mileage 16.9
This weekend presented an opportunity for me to hike some
more of the AT. This morning I find myself again in Damascus VA. My ride’s name today is Hughes. He retired after 35
years as a Deputy Sheriff and now shuttles for his brother-in-law at Mt. Rogers Outfitters. We arrive at Fox Creek at around
8:55am. Soon after starting I am at Old Orchard Shelter and I run into a young man called Snack Time. He thru-hiked in 2007.
His online journal can be found here: http://trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=4789 . I too was on the trail in 2007 and we both remembered vividly how hot and dry it was. He has some nifty homemade
equipment which I wish I had more time to discuss with him. Onward and upward. Today the trail is very crowded. I meet day
hikers, thru hikers, weekenders and section hikers like myself. The day is clear and cool with spectacular views. I stop for
a break at the Wise Shelter for a snack. There I run into Mr. Roboto a long distance section hiker and a young lady named
Sweeps who is thru hiking. She wanted to make sure I mentioned her in my journal so she could have proof she was on the trail.
Now I just hope everyone believes me. Next up are the Grayson Highlands. Spectacular mountain meadows with giant rock outcroppings
are the highlight of the day. When I reached Thomas Knob Shelter I was ready for an extended break. Staying at this shelter
tonight is a scout troop from Nashville, TN. With them is a High school football player who is lamenting the fact that the
only school recruiting him is Louisville (my home town). He said 2 or 3 times he wanted Vanderbilt to recruit him but has
heard nothing. I kinda felt sorry for him and I hope he gets what he wants. I load up with water and head back out on the
trail to put in a few more miles. Tonight I will be staying at Elk Garden at VA. 600. I am about 50 yards into the woods just
off the trail in an established campsite. I’ll be sleeping in my new Hennessy Hammock http://hennessyhammock.com/specs-ul-asym.html. My belly is full of Chicken and Noodles and I’m out like a light at 9:00pm. Tomorrow is America’s Birthday.
Sunday, July 4th, 2010...Todays AT mileage 23.8
First and foremost…Happy
Birthday to the Greatest Country on God’s Green Earth! Last night I hammocked for the first time on the AT. I crawled
in and was sound asleep in no time. I thought this would be my best sleep ever on the trail and it would have been if not
for a couple of loud mouthed “cowboys” at around midnight. Living in Kentucky all of my life I have always had
respect, and still do, for horse people. First and foremost, I was not aware that you had to yell to have a conversation while
on a horse. Secondly I found it strange that 2 men were riding at midnight. I put on my flashlight to let them know someone
was there just in case they had a wild hair and wanted to shoot their guns into the woods. Now for most people with an I.Q.
of at least 80 this would have “Been Your Sign” that maybe someone was trying to sleep and you should …
shall we say SHUT UP! Not these two mavericks no siree. Fortunately they yelled at each other on which way to continue their
Midnight Ride and I am sure they soon found someone else to annoy. For the rest of the evening I snoozed away except to place
my sleep pad under my body because my backside did get cold. With the pad underneath and using my sleeping bag as a quilt
it was very nice indeed. With a decent night’s rest I was up and on the trail by 7:00am. I wasn’t sure if I were
going to hike the remaining 23.8 miles today or split it into 1-1/2 days. I just decided to let the day play out. The day
started out with a climb up Whitetop Mountain. Whitetop was an open Bald with more scenic vistas. Vistas have been the rule
as opposed to the exception these past two days. I have been making really good time today. I attribute that partly to my
short stops at watering holes. I now use a Sawyer 3-Way Inline filter http://www.sawyerproducts.com/SP122.htm. I use it in line with my Camelbak 2 liter hydration bag which hangs on the outside back webbing on my backpack. At water
stops I use a cup to simply fill my Camelbak and hike off. As I drink from my Camelbak tube the water is filtered. I spend
less than 5 minutes for the process. I am more likely to stop and have not run out of water as a result. Better hydration
and more hiking time equals more miles. Soon after stopping for lunch at Lost Mountain Shelter I run into the section of the
AT that coincides with the Virginia Creeper Trail http://www.vacreepertrail.org/index.html. As I come out of the woods I turn right onto the Creeper and cross over a small gorge on the old railroad bridge. Meanwhile
Bicyclists go whizzing by on the mostly downhill stretch. About a mile later I am back into the woods and climbing. I reach
Saunders Shelter at around 2pm and it is decision time. Do I stay here or go on and hike the other 9 miles today? A hiker
there said his buddies had hiked ahead 2 miles to take the .5 mile side trail to the small community of Taylor’s Valley
to a place called The Creeper Café. His said his friends are to bring him back a Cheeseburger. He proceeded to tell me about
his friends but I swear I can’t remember anything he said past the word cheeseburger. OK it was time for action! I would
hike to the Creeper Café and do my best to financially support the small community of Taylor’s Valley by celebrating
this wonderful 4th of July with mass quantities of grilled food. I cleared the 2-1/2 miles in about 50 minutes.
At the café I feasted on a massive Cheeseburger and fries. Since it was the 4th I also had to have a hotdog. After
about an hour of rest I was ready to hit the trail. I was still not sure about finishing the trail today or just splitting
the mileage between today and tomorrow morning. Again I would let it run its course. I started hiking and decided to listen
to a couple of Adam Carolla podcasts http://www.adamcarolla.com/ACPBlog/ . Since I never hike with both earplugs in due to safety reasons podcasts are the logical solution
since music in stereo require both ears. 2 podcasts and 3 hours later I am again on the Creeper trail heading into Damascus.
I stop at the first snack place just on the edge of town and get an ice cream. Yep I just did 23.8 AT miles plus a 1 mile
side trip. I think I deserve an Ice cream. I hiked the rest of the way into town to The Mt Roger’s Hiker Hostel called
Dave’s place where I have parked my car. It is 8 pm. The hostel is closed for remodeling so I head over to The Place
another hostel in town to shower. I stop in Abingdon VA. at the Huddle House for some breakfast. At 9:30pm I am on the highway
headed home. All throughout Tennessee I am entertained by huge fireworks being set off near the interstate highway.
My dad has a cabin in Somerset KY which I stop for the night at 1:45 am. I sleep there so I don’t arrive at my home
unannounced at 3:30-4:00 and scare the heck out of my family. Last year if you read my journal I hiked around the same amount
of miles on July 4th. Last year my body was devastated. Not so this year. I owe that to a decent night’s
sleep and my Sawyer water filter. I am almost ¼ of the way done with the Appalachian Trail. 504 miles of adventures, pain,
glory, rain, heat and some of the finest people you will ever meet. Happy hiking!
Total miles hiked from Springer
Mountain GA- 504.2
Happy Birthday America...Mt Rogers, VA.