Brian's Hike on the Appalachian Trail(9)
February 20, 2000 until ????

brianshike8 : April 7 to April 12

Brian's Journal

April 7, 2000 16 miles today to Pearisburg Holy Church Hostel
617.1 from Springer and 1,543.1 until Big K

I'm writing this from the Pearisburg Hostel, my favorite yet! Nice old barn converted into a hostel up on a hill looking out and up to the ridge the AT will lead me out on. Nice board and batten little house with a kitchen, library, sleeping loft, shower, bathroom, and common room. Very nice. Perfect size for my house, even better than the Partnership Shelter.

Pearisburg Hostel
Pearisburg Hostel
Anyway was a painful 16 miles over rocky terrain, ending with a 3 mile free fall from Angel's Rest down to the New River. Those 3 miles took 10 years and 4 layers of cartilage off my knees (and ankles and feet.)

Pearisburg is a little overwhelming. Probably no bigger than Flemington, but the biggest town I've seen yet. Real spread out, and hard to get around. I got here around 3:30, got a fast hitch to the post office where I picked up my 50 pound mail drop! Then I ate an incredible Italian sub, did my wash, bought some groceries, and got another hitch up to this fine hostel. I finished another section on the Data Book, and did a celebratory dance.

I'm here with Gary, whose been ahead of me the whole trip, and Shaman, who hitched up to here with bad shin splints to wait for Nate, whose new trail name is Shakedown. I hear Raphael is at his wedding. His new trail name is Minyana (or however you spell tomorrow in Spanish) since he kept planning on leaving Kincorn in "one more day" for about a week. It was nice seeing Nate again. Beetle and Granddad have been good company, but I've been missing the boys I started the hike with. Word is Damascus is bustling. The Place had people in tents a couple of days ago; so I hope I put enough distance between myself and the masses to be good for at least a little while longer.

Today's shower was terrific! Water feels so good after 9 days of sweat and grime. But all is well, I'm waiting on my pizza to get here, and plan on eating at a leisurely pace, as to please my stomach and make apologies for last night. OK, nothing more to say, so I'll be quiet. Take it easy. No Worries. BG

April 8, 2000 0 miles today

Well this hostel was so fine I decided to stay another day. I was planning on leaving around noon and going to the first shelter, but after a breakfast at Hardee's and a trip to the library the sky got pretty scary looking. Then the temp dropped about 30 degrees in an hour, and we ended up with a snowstorm. Nothing too bad, but a surprise after sweating through yesterday. Chieftain and Southern Comfort showed up last night, and I enjoyed their company. Both are middle aged and married, and have been hiking together since meeting at Springer. They're complete opposites, but they complement each other well. Chieftain is a lively, joking, British ex-soldier, and SoCo is a quiet, gentle vegetarian from Tennessee. Louis and Anne also came by today, as did 2 south-bounders.

Today was a good day, spent with good company around a warm wood burning stove, looking out on a storm and super powered winds, glad I was down here, not up on the ridge across the valley. OK. No Worries. and Sweet Dreams. BG

(E-Mail Sent April 8, 2000 from Pearisburg, VA)

hello everyone, i've arrived safely into pearisburg, 615 miles from springer. i'm a little overwhelmed with a town this big, but i'm staying at an incredible hostel which gives free rides around town. since leaving damascus, i went through the grayson highlands in mt. rogers recreation area. it is a beautiful area, much like parts of montana and california. i was surprised to see anything like it on the east coast. there are several wild ponies in the area, really amazing animals. very noble and humble and stoic. i liked them alot. anyway, i've been getting a lot of april showers lately, and even had 2 inches of snow up at 4,000 feet a couple of days ago. besides that night (my water froze solid) it has been a steamy 75 to 80 degrees. i'll probably move out this afternoon unless it starts to t-storm, in which case i'll lay low for a day. there's not many people up ahead of me, but some people are starting to catch up. i think i have three or four days before the masses. rumor has it that the Place in damascus was completely full with people tenting outside earlier this week. i hiked two 24 mile days to get here before sunday, but ideally 18 miles is a nice day with a long lunch/mid day nap. i'm looking forward to meeting beth and betsey and mike in catawba on tuesday (or wednesday) and then mom and dad later on in the week. i hope you all are doing well, and let me know what you all have planned for the summer months. anything as crazy as tim's swimsuit selling in french canada? hope all is well, and to hear from you soon. take it easy, no worries, love brian

April 9, 2000 19.1 miles today to Pine Swamp Branch Shelter 202.6 mile to Rockfish Gap

Industrial Splendors
Industrial Splendors
Beautiful day today, after an ugly beginning. After waking up to clearing skies, I packed up and got a ride to the trail at 8:00. The first 2 miles followed a highway, then wound around a huge industrial plant, spewing chemicals into the air and making a terrible noise. The description of the paint factory in the Invisible Man was all I could think about. A little stream which ran from the plant passed the trail with a sign saying, "Caution, this stream contains harmful levels of NATURAL bacteria." I had to laugh. I imagined Montgomery Burns and Smythers dumping their nuclear waste into hollow trees.

Do Not Drink
Do Not Drink
But anyway.......the trail climbed up to a ridge with a beautiful grassy meadow where I ate lunch. From there it was all ridge walking for most of the day. Saw a lot of deer today. At one point a herd of 3 or 4 went running past me, followed by a large, scary looking hunting dog. I got to Syms Meadow and took a long nap, then woke well rested and rambled down to here. Nice shelter, with a fireplace and a rambling brook. I'm here with Riki-Tiki-Taki, Nighthawk, and his awesome husky Katahdin, and Louis and Annie.

All is well, and I'm ready to eat. No Worries. Billy Goat

April 10, 2000 18.2 miles today to Laurel Creek Shelter and 184.4 till Rockfish Gap

Tough 18 miles today. Although Virginia has been easy on the legs, it is tough on the feet. One three-mile stretch was just a boulder field. Nice weather though.

But anyway....after slowly getting up and ready, the trail followed some rivers through rhododendron and mtn. laurel thickets, before climbing up to a rocky ridge. After the painful 3 miles mentioned above, I took a nice long nap up on Windy Rock. I eventually woke up when it got too hot to be in the sun. I met up with the crew from last night at the War Spur Shelter, and had a nice, long lunch break.

I think I spent more time today sleeping and eating than actually walking. For the first time on my trip I actually have about twice the food I need, and I'm loving it! I'm full now for the second time in 24 hours, and that type of thing doesn't usually happen out here. I'm not alone in my thoughts on food though, the group I'm with is all planning 3 ridiculously short days so they can go crazy at the AYCE Southern Barbeque at the Homeplace on Thursday. I hope to join them. Anyway, I'm here with the same crew as last night, enjoying their company, especially Katahdin. He is one of the greatest dogs I have ever met.

Yesterday I walked on the border between West Virginia and Virginia. The ground wasn't a pasty yellow on one side and a prissy pink on the other, so I'm not exactly sure where the border is. But this means that I've walked on/urinated in 5 states during this incredible trip. It's fun watching the transitions from state to state, going from the toothless deep south of Georgia and Tennessee, into the softer accented mid-south in Virginia. OK, I'm going to try to make amends with my feet, then go back to bed. Taking it easy (the way it ought to be!) BG

April 11, 2000 14 miles today to where I tented near Audie Murphy Monument

I'm realizing now that my tent is a bit too small for me and all my stuff. But considering how much I use it, I guess it doesn't matter. Anyway, I'm tenting out tonight about 2 or 3 miles north of Niddy Shelter, and I'm hoping that the approaching storm won't blow me off of the ridge I'm not so well positioned on.

Cows and Calves
Today was a good day. I woke up and had a morning stroll through about 3 miles of cow pastures. One field had a bunch of black and brown lumps, that from afar looked like piles of hay or manure, but when I got close I could see that there were about a dozen calves, just sort of lounging out in the morning sun. The cows thought I was pretty peculiar, and all of their heads slowly turned, watching me pass by.

Keffer Oak and me
A couple miles after that I passed the Keffer Oak, which is one of only a few old growth trees still left in the East. Although not as huge as the dead poplar Tom took us to see, this tree was pretty impressive. The trunk is 18 feet around---but more spectacular is the huge network of branches, each one bigger than most tree trunks. It's a shame that we can only see one or two old trees by themselves, and not a whole forest of massive trees. I can understand why the first settlers were so scared of the woods. After admiring that tree for a good bit of time, I climbed up to the Sinking Creek Mtn. Ridge, and stayed up there all afternoon.

At one point, I was scrambling up some rocks, when I look up and see a billy goat looking down at me. Next thing I know it is running towards me. I assumed it was angry since I was using its name and was going to head-butt me off the mountain. So I crouch down and get ready for the impact when it comes to a screeching halt just 2 feet from me and starts licking my legs. I climb the rest of the way up the rocks, with this goat all but under my feet with its tongue planted on the back of my knee. At the top I meet his two buddies, and had an incredible view. I took my pack off to get my camera, and the next thing I know one goat is licking my pack, one is licking my legs, and one guy is chewing on my treking pole straps. I had a good time with them. From all their scat, I presume they live up there, supplimenting their diet of grass and pine nuts with hiker sweat.
Billy Goat
Billy Goat

From there I ran away from my new friends before they ate through my pack, and I headed to Niday, where I had a nice 2-hour nap. After cooking dinner, I ran up here, pitched my tent, and beat the rain by about 5 minutes.

I hope I stay dry, but even if I get soaked I'll be at Betsy and Mike's tommorrow night, so I can dry out there. Oh....apparently there is an AYCE breakfast buffet at the I-81 interchange. This will affect my planning a bit, but I've been craving their breakfast since I started.

It's funny, I didn't see anything dramatic or truly spectacular today, but some calves, a tree, 3 goats, a nap, and a dry shelter is enough to make a great day. If only things were that simple in real life. Talking to Nighthawk today, I found out he is a pretty interesting guy. He's an ex-hippie, probably 35-40, who lives in Maine off the grid. He is a huge environmental activist, and spends most of his time harrassing International Paper and local government. I like the mini-group I'm with now. Riki-tiki is very maternal, and speaks like a second grade teacher. Nice woman. OK. Time to wedge my legs between the tent wall and my pack, and try to wake up dry. No Worries. BG

April 12, 2000 20 miles today to Mike and Betsy's Place in New Castle, Va 150 till Rockfish Gap

Good day today. After a night of restless sleep (some large animal was making noise from 3-6 this morning) I woke up to the cloudy skies in my tiny tent. I did stay bone dry though last night, so I shouldn't bad mouth it. Anyway I finished the climb up to the ridge where I found a completely flat, grassy woods road that would have made a much better campsite, but live and learn! I ate breakfast at the Audie Murphy Memorial Monument, then clambered over the ridge and down to a river with some cold soda a trail angel left for us.

Dragons Tooth
The Dragons Tooth Rocks
From there it was a fun rock scramble up another ridge, then a bumpy walk to Dragons Tooth. I was pretty much blown away. I expected just a look-out, but I followed the blue blazes to two huge, towering slabs of white rock, jutting up from the mountain top. Since I've never seen a dragon, I thought it looked more like a dogs side tooth, but I guess that's not the point. Anyway, these rocks shoot up about 30 or 40 feet up, with nothing else like it around. Just another tree covered ridge. Real neat though, and fun to climb on.

But anyway.....from there it was a tough scramble down. Normally it would have been hands and knees, but I've gotten so used to my poles they feel like an extension of my body. After a bit more ridge walking I got down to some beautiful cow pastures where everything was right about full bloom. Up on the ridge this morning, I could look into 4 or 5 different valleys, and it was neat to see that each one was at a different stage of spring, depending on the micro-climate and dominant plant species. I'm looking forward to seeing everything in full bloom.

At one road crossing I ran into more trail angel work. Some guy leaves a clean, blue cooler stacked with PB&J (made every morning), soda, Hostess Fruit Pies, Snickers, and Apples. I was extremely grateful, and had a nice snack, all gratis. It's always great to get a cold soda or candy bar---whenever you least expect it.

  • Blue Box Trail Angel:
    Jeff Williams
    6632 Newport Road
    Catawba, VA 24070

Dragon Tooth Views
Views from Dragon Tooth Area
Anyway, the day ended by rambling over a ridge, ending up on the section Mom and I ran up to before leaving for Atlanta. It felt weird to return, months later. It was that same feeling, comparing how I expected to feel when I got there, to how I actually felt. I don't feel any different actually, maybe just a little wiser and stronger. It doesn't seem like I left here 50 plus days ago. It does make me smile that one day in a car equals 52 (I just added them up) days of walking. Although more efficient, I think you miss a lot in a car.

But anyway....I got a hitch right away to the Catawba General Store, where I called Betsy who came and picked me up. Since then I've bathed, eaten an incredible dinner, gotten caught up to speed, and talked to the folks. It's nice to have a home to rest in. Much less stressful than getting to a town and thinking you have to do everything at once. And I can't imagine a more hospitable home to lay my head.

OK It's 11:30, and my eyes are getting droopy. Time for bed. No Worries Billy Goat

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