Brian's Hike on the Appalachian Trail(10)
February 20, 2000 until ????

brianshike10 : April 13 to April 22

(E-Mail Sent April 13, 2000 from New Castle, VA)

just a quick hello to say i got to new castle alright. betsey met me in catawba last night, and i've been enjoying some incredible hospitality ever since. as of now, the plan is to be in waynesboro in about 8 days, where i'll meet up with mom and dad in shenandoah national park. i think i'll be back on my original schedule, just everything moved back a week. but we'll see how that all works out. anyway, the hiking is still great, and i'm still having the time of my life. i met 3 billy goats up on a ridge a couple of days ago, who proceded to give my legs, my pack, and my trekking pole straps a vigorous tongue bath. i hope the pictures came out. ok. i'll see you all later. take it easy, no worries, brian

Brian's Journal

Betsy and Mike's
Near Betsy and Mike's
April 13, 2000 4 miles today to Campbell Shelter and 146.1 till Rodfish Gap

What an incredible ending to an incredible day of rest!

I woke up this morning to footsteps above me, and not being exactly sure of where I was, I said why are those people walking on the shelter? I then glanced around, admiring the fine walls and warmth of the shelter, then saw a neon green clock from a radio, and said, "WOW, this shelter even has a radio." Then I finally woke up my head and realized where I was, then slipped back into the warm featherbed, and slept for 2 more hours. That bed put me out sound asleep for the whole night, the first real, deep sleep I've had in two months. It felt great. I finally crawled out of bed, checked e-mail, talked to Jaimie (which is always nice), and spent the morning eating ice-cream and watching TV. I can't thank Betsy and Mike enough for their hospitality; it really was the first time I could just relax and do nothing. No Worries. I like that.

Anyway, I ended the lazy day with an absolutely AMAZING meal at the Homeplace Restaurant. I can't describe how good it was. Comparable to that first sunset on Blood Mountain. I mean, I had huge expectations, since I've been hearing about this place since Georgia, and it blew above and way beyond all dreams I had.

The food looked like any typical home-cooked dinner, mashed potatoes (REAL mashed potatoes), green beans, baked beans, roast beef, fried chicken, biscuits, gravy, baked apples, BBQ,.....but the stuff tasted better than anything I have ever put in my mouth. It was unreal. I think I'll probably drive the 8 hours from Jersey some day just to eat there again. But enough of that, I'm starting to salivate.

McAfee's Knob
McAfee's Knob
From dinner, Betsy and Aunt Beth drove me back up to the trail, where I logged back in, got my raingear on, said good-bye, and headed back home in a pleasant drizzly rain, I was just going to go to the first shelter one mile in, but felt so good I went past the next shelter after that, up and over McAfees Knob, and finally to here, Campbell Shelter. McAfee's Knob was magnificent. Even though I had no views except the inside of the cloud, just feeling the power and massiveness of that rocky mountain top was incredible. I also had the usually crowded spot to myself, in a mystical, foggy world. It just amazes me that that rock outcrop has been there longer than I can even begin to comprehend. Just an incredible, spiritual spot. I liked it a lot.

So now I'm here, alone in a great shelter, listening to the pitter patter of rain drops and the roar of I-81. I think maybe Ill get my mail tomorrow instead of Saturday. We'll see. OK. After a great rest, it's good to be home. No Worries. BG

April 14, 2000 20.4 + .8 + .5 + 2.5 ARGH!!! finally to Fullhardt Knob Shelter

The Beginning of a "Cloudy" Day
I think today has been my most frustrating day yet. It started good enough, waking up in a cloud, then having a nice hike to Tinker Cliffs, and a nice rainy walk down to the I-81 interchange. Then I guess I got out of my element or something, and things fell apart.

I got to Pizza Hut, which was right on the trail, around 3. I enjoyed 3/4 of a tasty pineapple stuffed crust pizza, even though I was too hungry to wait for it to cool, and promptly scaulded the roof of my mouth with atomic pizza sauce. But anyway, from there the trail goes for 2.5 miles parallel with 81, basically in an overgrown ditch on the side of the road, with litter everywhere, hanging onto rusty barbed wire and the even more vicious pricker bushes. So after 2.5 extremely unpleasant miles, I get to the road I have to take to get to the post office. It's a busy road full of commuters to Roanoke, so of course no one stops to pick me up. Now I enjoy walking in the woods in the rain, it lets you see everything in complete vitality. But walking on the road in the rain sucks! Every car whizzing by splashes you with dirty, oily road grime, accompanied by blank, stupid stares gawking at you from the windows.

I finally get to the post office, where I'm greeted by 8 days and 20 pounds worth of food. A slight exaggeration, but a pack always weighs more when your spirits are low.. Now I have to go to the grocery store, which is another half mile in the wrong direction. Again, no help from the compassionate motorists. I get there, realize I am no longer full on pizza, and impulsively buy another 5 pounds of cheese, cookies, and handi-snack tapioca pudding packs. I beg for a ride at the grocery store, but no one wants to help a poor, wet, smelly hiker. I guess I'm like a wet dog or something, leaving my smell in the upholstery. So I start to walk back.

I get to about 1/4 mile from where the trail crosses, when a car actually stops. I should have kept walking. But next thing I know I'm in a car with an idiot and his wife, and as I'm introducing myself, I realize we've flown by the trail. I see the interchange ahead, so tell him to let me out there. He doesn't really understand my trip, and thinking I'm trying to get to Maine FAST, gets a little offended because he thinks I don't trust him. He assures me he can take me to Roanoke, "No Problem." and tries to win my trust and friendship by offering me cigarette packs, lighters, and soda. I think he thought I was homeless. Luckily his wife was 4 times as fast as he was, and realized I was hiking, "like in the woods?" Guy finally catches on. "What do you eat, do you catch your food?" I tell him I do, after hiking for the day I lay out my traps, then go to stalk raccoons with a stick. He is very impressed. He drops me off back at the Pizza Hut, where I leap out of the car as he writes his address for me, in case I get tired of the woods and want to hang out in Roanoke for a while. I thank him, genuinely thank his wife, crumple up and toss his address as he drives away, and decide to cut my losses and re-hike those miserable 2 miles.

As I do, I become enraged. I mean as mad as I have the capacity to get. I start yelling, cursing, hitting bushes with my poles---an all out furious four-year-old tantrum. I even tell a bunch of calves who stop to watch me, "Veal Tastes GOOD!!" In my rage I miss a turn, and neglect to realize that my path is getting more and more overgrown, until I hit a wall of bushes. I'm furious now, so instead of sensibly turning around and finding the trail, I charge ahead kicking and swinging my poles. Luckily I got to a field I knew the tail passed through, so I got back on, and finished walking back to where I originally left for Troutville.

Home Again After a Bad Day
At least it was a pleasant 3 miles from there up to here, so I calmed down, and slowly began to start enjoying the hike again. When I got here I was greeted by Nighthawk, Katahdin, and a fire--- so at least there's a happy ending. And after my two slices of cold pizza and 2 cups of tapioca, I'm happy as can be.

I don't know if the novelty of "town" has worn off, or if I'm just seeing a lot of them lately, but I'm definitely seeing them as a necessity, not a luxury. I was just as happy to get what I had to get and run back to the woods. I wasn't even tempted by the Enono-Lodge, even on a rainy day. I think I just feel more comfortable out here. Just think----if Troutville gave me a headache, I can't wait for college! But all is well now, and I'm sure I'll be excited for school as it gets closer, and my hike gets finished.

Anyway....the register says there's a sow and 2 cubs plus a mountain lion, so I'm hoping my buddy the fearless Katahdin will keep us safe. Well, time to get out of this cloud and into my bag. No Worries. BG

April 15, 2000 19.2 miles today to Core Mnt. Shelter and 106.5 till Rockfish Gap

I woke in a cloud, walked in a cloud, now write in a cloud. And I do mean cloud. I haven't seen even a suggestion of a breeze in 2 days, so I think I'll walk out of this before it blows over. It's basically 100% humidity; so even if the rain stops, condensation continually drips from the trees. Everything is damp. But what are you going to do?

Anyway, after waking up to the damp gear, damp food, and a damp self, and with no hope of drying out, I slowly removed myself from my sleeping bag, and had a great conversation with Nighthawk. He told me never to believe that one person can't make a difference, since he and a group no larger than 20 succeeded in putting the Atlantic Salmon on the Endangered Species Act. I asked him why he put so much effort into saving (or trying to save) a single species when there are whole ecosystems to be saved. He explained that when he moved to Maine, the river near his house was loaded with salmon. As they started to disappear, he started to wonder what harmful exposure he was living through, even if his immune system keeps him alive. So basically the salmon was an indicator species, telling us all that the basic health of the northeastern waterways were deteriorating. Nighthawk works in forestry, plays a lot, and spends the rest of his time as an activist. It is silly that people like him have to take their own time to tell large corporations that they've been doing wrong, when the same corporations can easily hire their own people and fix their own wrongs. But I wish Nighthawk the best of luck in his endless struggles.

my feet
my wet, damp, sore feet
after too many days of rain
But anyway.....walking in a cloud does let you watch spring bloom in a real time, which is pretty awesome. The downfall is all the dampness causes some extremely uncomfortable chafing in some extremely sensitive areas, relieved only by huge quantities of Gold Bond Triple Action Powder (the manly man's baby powder and hikers cure-all.) only side effect being breaking the peaceful silence with girlish shrieks for three minutes following application.

I crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway for the first time today, then spent most of the afternoon snaking around it. It does make for easy walking (often using the roads 5% grade), but it is funny to hear and see cars whizzing past you. You expect that when you're near a town, not when you're in the middle of a forest. It's a good looking road though, and looking at the pictures on the posters at the scenic overlooks allowed me to see all the views I missed in the fog. I chatted with Gary, who was here when I got here but heading out, and Beetle just showed up. My pack is ridiculously over-weight, so I'm going to eat off some pounds, which reminds me of a witty anecdote...

SoCo was telling me about this hiker who introduced his pack as Melissa. He asked "why do you call your pack Melissa?" Well, she's 30 pounds overweight, and always on my back." Ha Ha Ha. Time to Eat. No Worries. BG

April 16, 2000 22 miles today to Petites Gap and 84.6 to Rockfish Gap

I find myself writing this in my tent tonight. I woke up to see the sun peek through a gap of clouds, and by the time I had walked 3 miles it was a hot, sunny, muggy day. Better than rain though. It seems that a lot of the older trees let their leaves pop out while I slept last night. In another week they'll be big enough to give shade. Not too shabby.

Anyway, I ate lunch at the HUGE Bryant Ridge Shelter with Beetle, Ridge, Ol' Dave, and two day-hikers. First of all, the shelter is magnificent. Three levels, board and baton, enough room for 40. Seriously.

Secondly, Ridge is a thru-hiker I was introduced to at the Homeplace, but first got the chance to have a conversation with today. He is very nice. He's a third year student at Mississippi State, and is best described as Bill (or Ted, whoever Keanue Reeves was) from Bill and Teds' Excellent Adventure. Except give him a Southern accent. Very entertaining.

Ol' Dave was an old guy name Dave, hiking down to Springer. He was a character. Probably late 60's, and acted like a slightly mentally ill genius. Very intelligent, with a wild laugh that would slip out at odd moments. From there, it was a big 2,500 foot, 5 mile climb up to Bryant Ridge, where I met 2 more interesting day hikers who plant trees that produce a berry in hopes of bringing more wild life to the area.

The "guillotine" rocks
From there I climbed over Apple Mountain at 4,000 feet and under the guillotine (one of three spots on the AT where you go under a rock), and ate dinner with Beetle, Ridge, and Trudge---a unique thru-hiker going from Harpers Ferry to Springer, then H.F. to Katahdin. I left them to get a little closer to Waynesboro, and to take four miles off of the otherwise 26 miles tomorrow, and now I'm here, listening to distant thunder and large mammals crashing thru the woods. I got here around 8:30 and after hanging my food and setting up the tent, I just sat outside and listened to the night. The woods are definitely nocturnal. I'm not though, so I'm going to bed. Or try to go to bed, it feels like a sweat lodge in here. OK No Worries. BG

April 17, 2000 21 miles today to Punchbowl Shelter and 63.2 to Rockfish Gap.

For the first time on this trip (only the second time in my life for that matter), I thought I was going to die. Not just thinking, "Oh, I may die..." but actually bracing and getting ready for death.

I left Johns Hollow Shelter after lunch, and headed up to Bluff Mtn. and the nine miles to here. Right as I got to the ridge, 6 miles away, a T-storm blew up the mountain. Next thing I knew I was in the middle of the thunderhead, with lightning strikes everywhere. The closest was about 25 yards. Way too close. I heard the thunder with the lightning, jumped 5 feet in the air, and took about three and half years off my life. But I'm safe and dry right now, watching the lightning display out our front window. was another soaking wet day. I actually woke up to a sunrise, but there were clouds socked in the valleys that swept up the mountain with the morning's T-storms. At one point, before climbing down to the James River, there was a beautiful view of the Bluff Mtn. Ridge and the James River Valley shrouded with the wisps of clouds, lit by a dramatic sun bursting through little peep holes in the clouds. Very nice. It's amazing to watch those low, ground hugging clouds move; it's like they're alive, just graceful, giant amoebae.

Anyway...I'm here with a Good ol Boy and "Son." I feel like I'm in the middle of a father-son bonding trip from hell. But they made me hotdogs and mashed potatoes, so I'm happy! OK...63 miles in 3 days----with the weather I'm not sure that's possible. But how long can it rain for---seriously?! It has to clear up soon. Right?...OK No Worries. BG

April 18, 2000 25 miles today to Seelay-Woodworth Shelter and 38.6 until Rockfish Gap
clouds and mountains
too many clouds

Long wet day today, and since my hand is uncomfortably cold, this will be a brief entry. In a nut shell, I woke up (in a cloud AGAIN!) and walked to US 60, got an immediate hitch with 2 nice guys on their way home to Alabama after going to the IMF protests in Washington. The store a mile away was closed, so I got to hear all about the demonstrations on our way to Buena Vista. I never thought Alabama had a socially conscious person, let alone two. After parting, I called Dad and made plans to meet in Waynesboro. As I lie here in my tent---cold, smelly, frozen, and hungry---I can't wait to be in a motel room. And I think they're bringing my good friend Oliver. Hurray!!

I wasn't as lucky getting a ride back to the trail, and after 1/2 hour of waving my thumb, I called Mr. Williams, an old man who gives hikers rides in his HUGE Lincoln Town Car. Another great ride though. He is a very kind, sincere man who loves hiker's. After being dropped off, I walked in a cloud over what must have been some great views, and finally got here to a full shelter. There's Granddad, two groups of two section hikers, and a group of 3 Sobo's finishing up their trip. Nice Group. We had a good, lively conversation huddled in the tiny shelter out of the rain. OK. Time for bed. No Worries. BG

P.S. Did I mention it's wet?!

April 19, 2000 20.5 miles today to Maupin Field Shelter and 20.1 till Rockfish Gap

blue skies
blue skies again!
For the first time in quite a while I woke up to sunshine and blue skies. Add to that a cool, dry breeze. I was in complete bliss. I took my time getting up, so that my tent could dry off, and had a nice talk with the 3 Sobos. The woman is HIV positive, and the three are being sponsored by some organization. So I have to look them up at I was really impressed by her. She's an extremely strong human, who didn't let some bad news get her down. She's down right inspirational.

But anyway, from the shelter I had a tough day of hiking up and over the Priests, then up another 4,000 foot mountain. I could have taken a short cut, but my AT puritanism/stubborn ego led me to the white blazes over 6 hard miles.

I walked the last six miles with Grandad, and as we looked up from a look out after one huge climb to an even higher peek, we thought, "they won't make us climb THAT, will they...?" They did. I'm really looking forward to a break in Waynesboro, as are my badly blistered feet. My boots have been horrendous since they got soaked through last week. My feet are reminding me of every mile and rock I've walked over during the past 200 miles, and they're a little pissed. Well....a lot pissed.

But tomorrow I'll be clean, wearing sneakers, seeing the folks, seeing Oliver, gorging myself on good food....hell, there may even be a Shonies! It never hurts to dream.

I spent a good part of the afternoon imaging my high school buddies in their various college social circles. I miss them, and hope they're all enjoying themselves. OK. Time for bed. No Worries. Billy Goat

April 20-April 22, 2000 The Waynesboro Inn (Best Western)

Oliver Comes to Visit
Gardens at Monticello

April 22, 2000 106.9 miles to Front Royal, 838.8 from Springer, and 1,321.4 till Big K After enjoying a nice three day break from the trial, I'm packing up and looking forward to getting back on the trial tomorrow. I met the folks at Rockfish Gap, 2 months to the day after being dropped off at Springer. While giving the legs some rest, I bought some new boots, ate a LOT, and checked out Monticello. I was very impressed by the gardens---absolutely incredible. I thought of Mr. Friend and AP Art History, and was glad that I knew enough of the background to really enjoy it. But anyway, I switched some gear, lost my winter stuff, and took about 10 pounds off my pack. I had a great visit with the folks, but I'm ready to move on. OK. got to finish packing. No Worries. BG

hotel room
Packing Up
Leaving Again
Saying Good-Bye Again

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