This year I’ll be doing a bit of Slack Packing. I
have my car and a homemade Mountain bike Moped which I built this Spring. I’ll park where I’m stopping…ride
the bike to where I am starting and hike. If I had hair it would be like lather… rinse… and repeat. I’ll
just repeat that process each day. I have spent the last 6 weeks of weekends doing home remodeling and have not hiked a lick.
So, I’ll just take it slow and do whatever is comfortable. I’ll car camp… stay in a hotel or whatever the
weather or my mood dictates.
My goal when I started this quest in 2007 was to experience
as many things possible when it came to hiking the trail. I have not skipped an inch of trail. Nor will I. I have no long
term plans of Slack Packing. This year it just suits my needs. Anyhow… the most I can hope for is adventure… meet
interesting people and chip away some VA miles.
Today is Saturday, June 29, 2013. I’m back on the Appalachian Trail.
I have already had a bit of an adventure today as I have parked my car in Bland Virginia. I then rode a motorized mountain
bike, which I had made, to the place that I left off last year at VA 623 near Burkes Garden. It was a bit of a shaky ride.
I had to travel about 21 miles on the moped that went about 22 mph. The most fun part of that was when I got on 623 for it
is a gravel road full of switchbacks. Strangely at about a quarter-mile from a destination the back chain derailed. Fortunately
it had not broken but had just simply come off of the crank so I was able to fix it.
I’ve just passed Davis
camp site the site where I was scheduled to camp last year when I got off of the trail. The temperature is in the 60s and
couldn’t be any finer. Today I will travel about 15 ½ miles.
I just reached the Jenkins shelter at about 12 noon. I stopped and had a little
snack. I ran into one of the trail maintenance guys. So far the walking is been fairly level and the temperatures of stayed
very mild. Everything seems be holding up pretty good from the first day back on the trail. I’m not sure what kind of
time I’m making or even were Jenkins shelter is as far as mileage goes from where I started, because I left my guidebook
in my car. So I’ll wait until I can connect to the Internet and pull the guidebook up on the iphone and get my bearings.
Right now I’ll just keep on walking and enjoying the day and not even worry about the mileage.
I want to add just one side note to Jenkins shelter. The trail volunteer told
me that the water source there is excellent. He also told me there was another water source 100 yards to the North which is
a Creek and he’s correct… an excellent water source.
Well it’s about 1:20 PM. The day just got a little bit more exciting!
I just saw a black bear or should I say he just saw me. I would have loved to have gotten a picture. As soon as he saw me
he ran up to the ridge top. He did stop to take a look at me and he took off again for which I am very thankful.
Well the day was pretty uneventful from that point. I’m pretty exhausted from the trip since it was my first day back on the trail. I did a little damage
assessment on my bike as I had it on the bike rack on the car. The muffler had come apart and had fallen off. I’m not
sure where it went… it’s just gone. Also some of the bolts in the rear sprocket had come out. I did make a makeshift
muffler out of a couple of soda cans and some metal tape and I am hoping it holds up. Actually it’s a little loud but
It will do the trick. As far as the bolts go I was able to get those at Walmart so all is well with the bike.
Day 2 of my hiking… I was planning a longer trip but due
to the condition of my feet and my legs from being back on the trail the first time in a year …I decided to cut the
next day short a little bit. So I did travel from Bland to VA 611 only about a 10 mile walk. Probably the most exciting thing
I had today was seeing a skunk. In other words the trail in Virginia, while the walking is good and level, there just isn’t
a whole lot going on other than a walk in the woods.
I did run into a section hiker at the parking lot where I had
my car. She said she has a Journal on Trail Journals.com and her name is trail name is “Stripper”. I said I’m
gonna have a hard time telling everyone I met a Stripper on the trail. This was pretty much just an uneventful day. I think
a lot of people quit in Virginia because of that which is a shame. The best part of Virginians is ahead of me. I have Dragon’s
Tooth, McAfee Knob, Shenandoah and of course getting up to Harpers Ferry will be very exciting as well.
I’m giving it a rest here tonight. I was able to do some
laundry and shower and get a full meal. I had originally planned a 20 mile day today. I just basically just cut that in half
and will be doing it over two days to make sure that I have enough in me to make it through the week. That’s the beauty
of my plan to section hike this year using the car and the motorbike. I have a lot of flexibility and I’ll go as far
as I want and get off of the trail when I want to and do it under my terms. The trail again in Virginia is not so exciting.
It gets a little boring at times. It is great walking and the trail volunteers have done a great job. So that’s why
I thought I would try this different method just to shake things up a little bit for me and just get me through the state.
I don’t want to be a casualty like all of all the people who quit in Virginia.
Today is my third day of hiking. I started off the day by deciding
to go get myself a breakfast biscuit at Hardees in Pearisburg. I met a young man named Jason. Evidently he may be a little
bit notorious in this area according to his own account. I noticed right off that Jason had 2 teardrops tattooed under his
eyes. I have always been told that if you have a teardrop if means you been in prison. Well evidently Jason’s been there
twice. He is talking about how he’s having a hard time getting a job and I suggested maybe possibly looking into barge
work or working on an oil rig. He seemed to like those ideas especially when I told him about the kind of pay he could make
on those jobs. I just hope for his sake he can keep it together and best of luck to him.
Well I knew it was
going to rain today and I was just was living on borrowed time as far as my hiking goes when it came to whether or not I would
get caught up in the rain. I started off at state RT. 611 it was dry and I got my bike all stashed away. I had a pretty good
ride on it and I noticed my muffler was gone. That was my makeshift muffler that I had made the other night out of a couple
of Coke cans and some metal tape.
I started my hike and right away I spotted a deer .So that is
three days hiking in a row and three wildlife sightings. I go a little bit further for another mile and another deer standing
right in the middle of the trail and so I get a picture of him. I probably could’ve gone up and petted this dear. I
hope that’s not the case for her sake. It is quite dangerous for a deer that doesn’t fear man. Those weren’t
the only deer sightings I had. Before I had finished 4 miles I’d seen 4 deer. I suppose that it was raining earlier
in the morning when they should have been out feeding and they were just making up for a bit of lost time.
The hiking here is nice I’m still looking for my hiking
MOJO. I understand why a lot of people quit in Virginia… not that there’s
anything wrong with the trails here… it is just a little bit boring. As one hiker told me it’s like you’re
hiking in the green tunnel. Well today I didn’t have much scenery but I started to have adventure after about four and
a half miles into the hike… the downpour came… and I do mean a downpour. I had my little GoLite hiker umbrella
so I whipped that out and things were going pretty good. The rain just never stopped for the entire time I was hiking for
the rest of day. At times the downpours got heavy but I was able to stay dry with my umbrella. That is until I reach some
grass fields as I approached the end of my hike. When I say grass fields it was just areas that were overgrown on the trail
with tall grass and they were soaking my legs and my pants and the water was running down inside my gaiters and therefore
inside of my boots. So then my boots got wet inside. They had been completely dry up until that point.
It was fun going over the suspension bridge there at St Rt.606 at what I believe
is called Kimberling Creek. I then had a choice. I can walk 1.7 miles on the road to my car on fairly dry footing or I could
walk about 1.9 miles through the forest and knock out that much more the Appalachian Trail. So I chose the latter. As I was
getting close to Dismal falls I realized Uh Oh I’m on the wrong side of a rain swollen creek. I had gone to Dismal falls
a couple days earlier, when I taken the day off, for fear that the weather may not hold up for me to photograph the falls.
I was obviously correct in doing so. On that day I had crossed a big long tree that had fallen across the creek. It was wedged
in between rocks and I decided to try and stand on this one end where it was dry underneath and see what happens. Well as
you can imagine... It was slicker than snot. So I decided Oh what the heck I
have my hiking poles and my feet are already soaked. I’ll feel along and make sure it’s not too deep as I go forward.
I’m going to ford this rain swollen creek. It never really got any higher
than just above my knees and I never felt any pressure. Also I did this on the upside of the tree so I had that to hang onto.
So I got to my car and I was no worse for the wear. I had a pair
of jeans that were in the trunk an old T-shirt was in there so I went ahead and the slipped in the backseat of my car and
made a change of clothing. This day helped me to get my MOJO back little bit even though the hiking itself wasn’t anything
spectacular, only about 11 ½ miles, it was raining and it was adventurous crossing the creek and during the rain and with
the banks flooded it was a little bit exciting. I enjoyed all of the wildlife sightings …the suspension bridge and an
overall fine hiking trail. I’m looking forward to tomorrow for it is the Fourth of July. I think it’s going to
rain all day and I’m going to work on getting my boots dried out.
Day 4 of hiking …last night I had ridden the motorbike
and parked it adjacent to Dismal Falls. Well today I did not technically get rained on. It had rained very hard all night
long and a good portion of the trail could be described as a creek. Things were wet and I was going to be hiking from Sugar
Run Gap Rd, just above Woods Hole Hostile, to Dismal Falls. I actually started to run into some hikers today. I ran into the
hiker I had met a couple days ago who went by her the trail name “Stripper” and she talked about how messy the
I had reached a
gravel road that paralleled Dismal Creek about three quarters of the way into today’s hike. I made a decision there.
I could take the gravel road which would be on the same side of the road that my bike was parked or I could take the trail
and ford Dismal Creek. Based upon the amount of rain and the water in the creek the wise decision probably would’ve
been to have taken the gravel road. However, had I done that I know somewhere
down the line 10 and 15 years from now, or whenever I get to go up Katahdin, I would have regretted that decision and it would’ve
driven me crazy to the point that I would’ve gone back and re-hiked that section. I ran into a youth group. I’m
not quite sure what their status was but they were not what I would define as “Hoods In The Woods”, like I had
ran into in Georgia and North Carolina, but rather very polite kids who had very young adult leaders leading them on a hike.
As I reached Dismal
Falls to ford this was not going to be like it had been the other day. The water was up. The current was very strong yet there
were people there that were swimming beneath the falls. I had a decision again to make. I could hike the trail out towards
Trent’s grocery and Highway 606 then hike back up the forest road, which
would have meant another couple hours of hiking or ford the creek. I had purchased a very inexpensive pair of swim shoes for
$4.98 at the Wal-Mart in Pearisburg and I decided I was going to ford the creek above the log where I crossed on day 3. I
stripped down to my compression shorts …stuffed everything in my day pack …took my boots off and put on the water
shoes. As I got to the middle part of the Creek, and it was at least a good 30 feet wide at this point, the current was as
strong as anything I have ever experienced. I’m pretty hard to knock off my feet. I definitely felt the strong current
on this one. As I came out on the other side of the creek I experienced an invigorating sense of accomplishment. I finished another wet day on the Appalachian Trail and I have forded a rain swollen creek.
I pulled the bike out of the woods and I was going to take the forest road to
Sugar Run Gap. Unfortunately the forest roads did not match up with the map, so I decided to take the long route and take
Hwy 42 to 100 to Sugar Run Gap. I actually had a very enjoyable ride on the motorbike going back to my car. As I got to my
car I ran into Stripper again and she was little worse for the wear from the rain. I offered her a ride from the trail crossing
down Woods Hole hostile, 1/2 mi. where she decided she was going to sit it out for the next couple days until she could catch
a bus back home.
Day 5… I get up early on Saturday morning …drive
up Sugar Run Gap, park my car and start hiking towards Pearisburg. For the most part it is an uneventful hike. For the 5th
day in row I’ve seen some sort of wildlife on the trail. Whether it was the deer, skunk, or the bear that I saw the
first day or the deer I saw this morning… Virginia has not disappointed as far as animal sightings go. As I go into
the first shelter I notice the aforementioned youth group was camping there. They’re going to be on their last day of
hiking as well. They’re getting off at New River and going back home today.
Just reflecting a little bit on this trip… I was trying
to get my MOJO back and get through the Virginia doldrums. The rain certainly did not help but it did provide a little bit
of adventure with the creek crossings. Seeing a bear on the first day of my trip was exciting since I had not seen one for
a while. If I had taken this trip a month earlier I would have ran into more through hikers which would have made it more
interesting. For the most part my motorized bicycle was a blast. People in the area always stopped me to ask about the bike
and one commented that he thought that it was the coolest thing since sliced bread.
Slack packing it is fun for a bit but I don’t plan to stay
with it. It was however a good distraction for the most part and I plan to incorporate using the motor bike with backpacking
in future trips. The rain was definitely a bummer but after I’m home and all things are completely dried out the misery
will be forgotten about.
I cruise into Pearisburg
and this is actually the first dry day we’ve had in a while. As I get into
town I stop off at the Hardees and have myself a cheeseburger which oddly enough is something I haven’t had on this
I grab my motorbike
and ride it to Sugar Run Gap to my car and run into 4 guys coming out of the woods. One of them has pretty battered up feet.
They are from Carolina. Two of them had thru-hiked the AT before. One of the guys tells me he’s messed up. They have
one car in Pearisburg and a truck just outside of Bland. He left his car keys in the truck. He’s going to have to try
to arrange a shuttle to get his keys. I know what shuttles run so I offered to take him to Bland no charge. I’m sure
someone else would have done the same for me. It was cool because we got to talk about the trail on the way there. We get
there and I make sure that they get the vehicle started …part ways. I hope I run into these guys some day on the trail.
I’m going to get everything all cleaned up for I’m
heading home tomorrow. I’m looking forward to getting there. It’s
back to work for me on Tuesday. That’s it for the year…for this trip anyway. Maybe I’ll get out here for
a weekend before the year is out and chip away at Virginia as it chips away at me. This is the Flyingfishman saying Happy
Hiking to all.