The Trail Journal


"Full Moon" and "Celestial Spirit"

June ~ 1995

Elk Garden, VA to The Priest Shelter (VA)

June 1 Elk Garden Cow pasture to Old Orchard Shelter 15.2 miles

Woke up this morning to light rain. Surrounded 5 minutes later by 10 large black cows. You just can't imagine what it sounds like to have 10 cows snorting and chewing outside your tent, all the while waiting for them to just squash you like a bug in your tent. As we opened the tent flap, there were 3 big sets of eyes staring at us from about 3' away. We shouted, talked to them in cow language - all to no avail.

One had his head buried in my sleeping bag compartment of my backpack which I had left foolishly (or so it seems now) propped against a tree. They wouldn't move - finally took our Lekis (marvelous tools!) and clacked them together. They spooked immediately, turned and headed off down the trail. Wonder if the cowboys on the trail drives used Lekis?

Hit the trail around 0950. We were looking forward to the Grayson Highlands ,however nothing but fog and cold. And this was supposed to be the most scenic spot on the trail! Bummer. Couldn't see 10' in front of us. Stopped for lunch around 12:30 at Thomas Knob - no one there - nice solar privy - the little thrills in life! Would be easy to get lost in the Grayson Highlands if you wandered off the trail. As we tried to stay on the trail, occasionally, through the mist, we would see a wild pony and once or twice cows running across our path.

It was starting to get late as we made the turn and the final downhill to Old Orchard Shelter. We quickly discovered that it was quite rocky , which slowed us enough to where it was turning dark as we finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. Ahead of us was the clearing in front of the shelter and we could see the tents of "Unchi", ,"South Dakota Kid", and "Vortex." As we hit the shelter, it started to rain - but we didn't care then! It had been a long day, made tougher by the fog, cold, and mist.

June 2 Old Orchard Shelter-Dickey Gap (VA 16) 10.2 miles

Today - a day of Destiny! Started off today around 0800 very tired. Started raining as we hiked - stopped for lunch when it quit, got everything out - it starts pouring. Gave up, made it to Dickey Gap. Decided to hitch to Troutdale for hamburger at Ray's. While there, it begins to rain much harder. We find out that the motel in Wingfoot's book is no longer in business, but Ray tells us that there is an Inn high on a hill . We pay an old timer $2 to take us up to the Inn.

Beautiful place - high on a hilltop - magnificent views. We are the only ones there. Watch a major storm roll in as we recline on the sofa watching basketball on TV. Do our laundry, take hot bathes, make coffee,dinner. Sweet. The owner gives us a ride back to the trail in the morning after a big breakfast. By chance "Full Moon" asks him if he might ever need a couple of managers. He tells us to get in touch with him after we get done hiking. And that is how we came to be the Innkeepers at the Fox Hill Inn! You just never know!

June 3 Dickey Gap to Mt.Rogers Hdqtrs. 14.6 miles

Hit the trail at 0930. Nice climb towards Racoon Branch thru lots of flame azaleas . Stopped at Trimpi Shelter for lunch. Trail was very overgrown with brush. Over "Celestial's" head at times. Couldn't see the rocks under your feet, couldn't see in front of you and hot to boot!

Reached the Hdqtrs around 6:30 pm and found "S.Dakota Kid" and "Unchi" there,eating pizza! . Ordered pizza from Pizza Hut in Marion. Went to sleep on their comfy lawn, 10 minutes later started to rain. What else? Slept on the porch.

June 4 Mt.Rogers Hdqtrs to Atkins 11.5 miles

Hiking thru spectacular flame azeala today. Like you are in paradise. Got a great picture of S.Dakota Kid, Celestial Spirit, and Unchi in this garden, just minutes up the trail from the Headquarters.. Stopped for lunch at Chatfield Shelter. Met a trail maintainer there who had hiked with Wingfoot. Said he kept up a tough pace. I know that from his Planning Guide!

Another scorching day as we did the final 4 miles into Atkins over stiles and thru pastures. We did visit the one room schoolhouse near the Settler's museum on the way in. Ate dinner at the Village Motel. Another motel, another meal, more $$$. Dairy Queen is right next door - couldn't pass that up!

June 5 Atkins to 42 Ceres, VA 11.8 miles

Left motel at 10. Crossed a lot of stiles today. Stopped at the O'Lystery pavilion in Ceres with Unchi. Walked down the road to get water. Started to eat dinner in the pavilion,despite signs everywhere "Hikers Stay Out!"

Guess that was a mistake. An older couple drove up on grass, gave us the long stare and drove off. 20 minutes later they did the same thing. We got jumpy, decided to get out and hit the trail. We went about 50 yards and pitched our tents. 20 minutes later, more cars - people getting out with flashlights. They didn't spot us - very creepy though. Glad we got out when we did. Left a bad taste in our mouth for the town of Ceres. Not sure what happened here at one time, but their reaction seems extreme. Heard from "Invisible Woman" later that they kicked her out of there when she stopped for a break at noon.

June 6 Ceres,VA to Chestnut Knob 10.9 miles

Trail was mostly uphill today, but not bad. However, heat and humidity putting a drain on us. Stopped at a real nice pond about 1.8 miles short of Chestnut Knob Shelter. Good water source on far side of pond, not immediately apparent from the trail. Terrain is rather unusual - almost makes you think you are on safari in the plains of Africa!

Chestnut Knob Shelter is cool place (renovated in '94) - enclosed with windows! Lot of Hikers here. Enjoyed 'Steppingstone" playing his harmonica - plays some mean blues. Whipped up some pancakes on our teflon skillet and even had real maple syrup on them! That was quite a hit with fellow hikers - Steppingstone even took a picture of that event! Krusteaz pancake mix - just mix with water - makes really good pancakes (sorry Aunt Jemima and Hungry Jack!) Great views from up here, but due to heat - very hazy.

June 7 Chestnut Knob to Jenkins Shelter 9.8 miles

Tough day today - couldn't seem to get out of 1st gear for some reason. Broke camp around 0930. I think the distance was greater than the data book says (you begin to think this a lot after a while!). Flies were bad today.

We came to blue blaze for Davis Campsite which overlooks Burkes Garden and decided to go down to see if we could get some water. Didn't find the water (supposedly it is there off to the right) and hiked 1/2 mile thru lots of stinging nettles, just to find that out! Great view from the campsite, however! (Views are of a beautiful valley surrounded entirely by one mountain - some of the best farm land in VA - a few Amish folks live down here and run a bakery - very tasty cookies and breads!) Would be a cool place to camp for the night.

Made it to Jenkins around 6 p.m. Tented out at Jenkins - no see ums were wicked. Ever since Hot Springs, we've been plagued with these pesty little gnats that hover in front of your eyes the entire day - I get about 10 of them in my eyes each day, so those who wear glasses have an advantage! These little buggers stuck with us till we reached Vermont!

"Full Moon" has a shoulder rash that he picked up from trying to scrub out his shoulder straps on his pack - unfortunately, he used a bit of soap when trying to do that and apparently didn't get it all out. Prickly heat is another nemesis of both of us - feels like thousands of little needles stabbing you in the back. Quite pleasant.

June 8 Jenkins to Bastian 12.0 miles

Hit the trail at 0815. Crossed Little Wolf Creek about 10 times today. Gotta step on rocks to get across - easy to fall in. In fact "Meterman" and "Steppingstone" coming behind us, both fell in and "Steppingstone" broke the frame on his pack. Bummer.

We were going to hitch from VA 615 to Huntin' Camp Creek Hostel and then get a ride to Bastian for our mail drop, but "Blister" left us a note at the road, saying the hostel was closed, so then we really had to put it into gear. Fortunately, the trail became very easy so we were cruising.

Then as we came out of the woods on US52, a guy came down out of his farm and took us to Bastian! Ah, Trail Magic! Got our stuff at the PO (Mail Drop #8), then decided we were going to be lazy and crash at Big Walker Motel in Bland. Caught a ride with the legendary "Levi Long" of Bastien, who used to run a neat little restaurant in Bastian, but had to stop due to poor health. If you see someone riding around in a pickup with big AT logos on it, then you've found Levi!

We ate dinner and breakfast the following morning at the Log Cabin Restaurant near the motel. Had catfish and french toast in that order. We refigure our mileage and determine that we need to do 12.3 miles per day every day to finish by Oct. 15th.

June 9 Bastian to Jenny Knob Shelter 12.1 miles

Caught a ride back to the trail today from a kid who worked the desk at Big Walker. Started hiking aroun 1000. Hiked a hot,humid day to Jenny Knob. "Flip and Flop" showed up at the shelter - they now have wheels. Brought us apples, cantalope, fresh corn, root beer. Whoa baby! Trail Angels!

They're off the trail to go to a wedding and then are going to Maine to flip flop. (Something they had intended to do all along, hence their trail names!) We tented tonight. Heard someone calling in the middle of the night, trying to find the shelter - "Bald Eagle" finally stumbled in .

June 10 Jenny Knob to Wapiti Shelter 13.8 miles

Started out around 7:50 this morning. Bunch of road walking today (dropped my expensive Canon camera on the gravel road today - almost had a heart attack - it survived), then a tough climb but worth it for the views. Hiking with "Unchi" today. Unchi is a 60 yr. old grandmother who took her trail name from the Sioux Indian word for "grandmother". Tough lady, who is having some problems with her feet. Humidity is outrageous. Apparently we have picked one of the hottest, most humid years in history to hike the trail. Next to my feet, heat is my worst enemy - ho,ho,ho! What am I doing out here?

Stopped at Trent's Grocery after crossing a suspension bridge. (Drank a qt. of diet Coke, 20 oz. Orange drink, sub sandwiches, potato chips,potato salad, then vanilla wafers for dessert, plus a fried pie - coconut cream -love that fat!) Now we feel fairly ill. Laid out on the picnic tables, snoozing, and being generally disgusting. After a 2 hr. break , we hit the trail again at 2:30. Steaming out.

Hiked to Dismal Falls and watched "Blade" dive into the falls in his thong underwear - that had the locals gaping, for sure. Goofed off just long enough to get totally drowned in a major rainstorm as we hiked to Wapiti. Lightning, thunder cracking all around us - water over the tops of our boots. Celestial Spirit and "Unchi" can't see out of their glasses. Periodically, they holler to see where the hell I am. They are following a blue blur (my pack cover). Hiking as fast as we can - 4 miles thru a very scary storm. Fastest miles we ever hiked - eerie going thru Dismal Swamp - surely a fitting name today!

Ran into "Allen" at Wapiti (a good friend now). He came in late - no room left in shelter - had to put his tarp up - fortunately, it had quit raining by then. "Steppingstone", "Bald Eagle", "Owl" here. We fix grill cheese, chicken ramen, and have some popcorn left over from our gorging at Trent's.

June 11 Wapiti Shelter toDoc's Knob Shelter 8.4 miles

Cheerios, Little Debbie Macaroon bars for breakfast. Didn't get started till 11 today. More rocks, some more rain today. Should have stayed at Woodshole, but for some dumb reason, continued on to Doc's Knob, where we found "Allen". (a Financial Guru for the Navaho Indian Tribe out in New Mexico)

Dropped my 20-35 mm zoom in the mud - totally soaked and covered with dirt - anyone have a gun? Amazingly, it dried out, sand worked out of it and it is good as new. Two guys stopped by on ATM (what are they doing on the trail?). Gave us a beer which "Allen" and I split - boy that was nice.

June 12 Doc's Knob to Pearisburg 7.8 miles

Didn't get out till 10. Still raining. Cold today - had to wear our rain jackets. Crossed Angels Rest - couldn't see a thing, just wet,wet,wet and cold hands. Steep downhill into town - muddy. Made it to the Dairy Queen - bet they loved to see us coming! But we loved them!

Headed over to laundromat-did our clothes and then hoofed thru town a couple of miles to the hostel. Nice hostel on church grounds. Ran into "Wall" and "Fish out of Water" for the first time - told them I was sorry I was passing them so often on the trail (yeh,right!). "Scavenger" appears again mysteriously. "Bald Eagle", "Steppingstone" also here. We have a good sleep on the foam mattresses upstairs - I sleep next to "Allen" and he doesn't snore a bit! A moment to remember!

June 13 Pearisburg to Pine Swamp Shelter 19.6 miles

Caught a ride from Bill the caretaker to the bridge. Crossed over the 2nd oldest river in the world (although some debate on this). After climbing Pearis Mtn., we hit a campsite and stop for lunch to ingest some peanut butter sandwiches, coconut fried pie, a few peaches, some Tropical Punch Kool-Aid.. Feel pretty stuffed.

Beautiful views from Rice Field where they are building a new shelter. Had an interesting hike across Rice Field - had a bull give me a fake charge as I tried to circle around him - heart, are you still there? New shelter going up at Rice Field - should be neat - fabulous views from up here.

Reached Pine Swamp around 8:45. Our longest day so far. We meet the infamous "Vermont Trio" here - 3 young girls who are out hiking (Partying?) the Trail. "Special K" ( manager of a coffee shop in Roanoke where we used to stop and get some fine coffee and desserts! - he promises to give us a free cup of coffee next time we show up!) Day hikers at the shelter with propane lanterns, guitars, fire going - nice!

June 14 Pine Swamp toWar Spur Shelter 11.8

Rocky descent down into War Spur. Mountain Laurel everywhere - outstanding! Very nice stream by War Spur. We tented.

Left my water filter and hoses on the picnic table - smoke from campfire blew across them all night. Big mistake. Our water tasted like pure smoke till we could get some bleach and rinse them out.

June 15 War Spur to Sarver Cabin 12.1 miles

Hiking thru a lot of pastures today. Passed the Keffer Oak (fattest tree on the trail). Stepped in a cow patty there to commemorate the tree, I guess. Estimated to be around 300 yrs old - the tree, that is. Alas, the patty was about 5 minutes old.

Stopped at the sign to Sarver cabin. Hiked steep downhill .3 miles w/o our packs (very wise choice) to check it out and get some water. Kind of creepy looking place down there, but good water source just past the cabin. Camped with "Winged Monkey" back up on the trail.

June 16 Sarver Cabin to Pickle Branch Shelter 15.9 miles

Hit the trail around 8:20. Blueberry frosted poptarts and coffee for breakfast. Bunch of ups and downs today. Passed the Audie Murphy Monument. Got my camera out to take picture - starts to rain. Cross VA 620 (thought about camping by road - "Celestial Spirit" didn't like idea), so we started up major climb through blackened area.

Got to turn off to Pickle Branch - very rocky side trail - 1/2 mile down to shelter. Through about 5 different terrain changes before getting to shelter. Nice shelter - lots of tent spaces. We were too tired - crashed in shelter. "Whistler", "Taipei","Stubbs","Winged Monkey","Steppingstone" all here tonight.

June 17 Pickle Branch Shelter to VA 624/Catawba 6.0 miles

Big plans to hike big miles today. Ha! Crossed Dragon's Tooth - beautiful, but very difficult climb down for 5'1" Celestial Spirit. Trail Maintainers out in force on descent from Dragon's Tooth - levering huge rocks into place - looked like very hard work. Got to road crossing - saw "Wall" and "Fish out of Water", who unselfishly offered us a little Debbie Bar and some Gatorade to drink. Trail Magic from your friends!

Decided to hoof it down to a country store for more snacks. Got there, then found out the Home Place was just two miles away and we could get a hitch! So long big miles! Down to the Home Place with "Winged Monkey". Major pigout - fabulous food ($10/each) Quite a site -all of us grubby hikers, mixed in with all the locals all dressed up.

Hitched back to country store - were too full to hike - decided to crash at pond by store with "Winged Monkey" and "Allen". Woke up in the morning listening to "Allen" snore on the other side of the pond. Had to mention that at least once Allen, since I knew you would be reading this! Sure missed our mileage today - and Wingfoot claimed he did 23 thru this section - yikes!

June 18 VA 624 to Campbell Shelter 10.1 miles

Passing thru cow pastures today. Got a picture of Janet stabbing a huge roll of hay with a pitchfork (you gotta do something besides hike!). Stopped at the Boy Scout Shelter for a lunch break. Long climb up to McAffee's Knob. Worth it. Laid out on the rocks with "Winged Monkey" and enjoyed the views. You're way up there!

On to Campbell Shelter where we ran into "Drummer" who we hadn't seen since Rainbow Springs back in GA. Tried out some of "Winged Monkey's" blueberry pancakes. Slept in the shelter.

June 19 Campbell Shelter to Cloverdale/Troutville 15.4 miles

Humidity and rocks zapping us. Looking forward to that Howard Johnson's! Feet are screaming as we finally cross through some grassy areas where we find little bunnies jumping out all around us. Wierd.

Ah, finally there! Did a major pigout at Western Sizzler - 16 oz. T-Bone, salad bar, dessert. I'm going to pay for this. "Scout", "Irish Rover", "Winged Monkey", "Allen", "Mayfly" in town. Our 9th Mail Drop has come here to the motel.

June 20 Troutville 0 miles

A day off to relax! More pigging out - another T-Bone! Another Shoney's breakfast bar! If you could only do this in real life! Tomorrow is "Nude Hiking Day" - also our anniversary. Think we will celebrate here, rather than doing it in the buff on the trail!

June 21 Troutville 0 miles

Two days off in a row! Much needed. Went to Shoney's for breakfast bar. Just loafed all day. Nice room at the Howard Johnson's and decent rates for hikers, still- this town visit is adding up. Takes a lot of discipline though, not to go for it, and right about now, we're not in to discipline!

June 22 Troutville to Wilson Creek Shelter 11.4

Left town at 8:30 Stopped at Fullhardt Knob Shelter for lunch. Heading on - starting to rain - again! Very humid - my polypro shirt is frothing again - looks normal. By the time we hit Wilson Creek, we are in major downpour. Drowned again!

Gee, just when we had begun to get the boots dry! Got to shelter - about 15 backpacks propped against trees and big tarp on shelter. Figures. Pull tarp aside and look inside - big church group. Turns out leader has big respect for thru-hikers - orders all the kids outside to put up huge tarp and let us have shelter. Amazing! Kids didn't seem to mind at all - ended up all the girls slept under the tarp and the guys stayed in the shelter. What can I say? They even offered us their food. We were very, very impressed and very thankful.

"Dave from Philly" comes in wearing only taped up Tevas. How can he hike in these things? Apparently only has two pairs of socks, both soaked and both have "hefty boy" aroma. Unfortunately, I have to sleep next to them.

June 23 Wilson Creek to Cove Mountain Shelter 13.9

Wandering along sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bringing back old memories of all our car camping trips along here. Raining off and on all day. Hit the shelter around 8 p.m. "Winged Monkey" and us are only ones there.

June 24 Cove Mountain to Cornelius Creek Shelter 11.5 miles

Stopped at Bryant Ridge shelter - very classy structure - one of the largest shelters on the trail. Built in memory of AT hiker who died in 1992.

Why does it have to be lunch time? Would love to stay here tonight, but for a change, we don't give in to our impulses and head out for a major climb over Floyd Mountain.

June 25 Cornelius Creek to Matts Creek Shelter 17.7 miles

Hit the trail at 0930. Do we ever get out early? Reached Matts Creek at 8:30 pm. Good hiking day, despite the humidity. Hiked under the Guillotine today (huge rock trapped between two larger rock faces, under which you must walk) - didn't think any bad thoughts, so it apparently decided it wasn't time to fall.

Stopped at Thunder Hill Shelter - nice little spring there. Saw a phoebe nest in the rafters of the shelter - neat! No blazes for quite a stretch today - thought for a while we might be lost, but was not the case. Extremely hot and humid today. Last 5 miles to Matt's Creek is a nice walk, thank God! Followed a deer up the path today, saw 2 box turtles on the trail and 3 snakes today. Matt's Creek has a beautiful stream going by - nice place to take a dip! "Winged Monkey", us, and a Southbounder are there.

June 26 Matts Creek to Big Island 2.6 miles

Heading for Wildwood Campground to get our, 10th maildrop. (This mail drop wasn't planned - we had split up our mail drop in Troutville and mailed part of it to this campground.)Crossed the bridge over the James River. Took forever to get a hitch to the campground. "Winged Monkey" passed us coming off the bridge - last time we would ever see him. Got to campground - got our maildrop, washed our clothes. It started pouring - decided to stay there. No wonder we're not getting to Maine!

Ate at the campground diner - consumed mass quantities. Ate big chicken dinner, followed by barbecue sandwich and fries, followed by coconut cream pie. Back a few hours later for more. Waitress was getting scared, I think. Rained all night - pitched our tent under a pavilion - good idea - packed out with a dry tent! Met the "Jefferson Boots"here for the first time.( a couple from Jefferson, NH who wore the "famous" handmadeLemmer boots ) We had been following them for some time and their interesting posts in the shelter logs.

Janet weighs her pack on the scales at the campground - 44 lbs with a full maildrop in it. This is one tough little girl. We ponder what we can dump.

June 27 Big Island to Punchbowl Mtn. 11.1 miles

Headed out about 0830 after big hearty breakfast at the diner again! Paid the guy at the campgrounds $5 to take us back to the trail. Lots of climbing today - trail very wet, therefore boots very wet! Most of it coming from the brush along the side of the trail.

Stopped for a break on Fullers Rocks - beautiful views. Hit the shelter around 4 p.m. Rain poured on us heavily all night. We hear that flash flood warnings are out for the entire area.

June 28 Punchbowl Mtn. Shelter to Brown Mtn. Creek Shelter 8.8 miles

Tried to wait out the rain. Didn't start till 11:30. Flood warnings out everywhere. In the shelter tonight with "Jefferson Boots" and "Fathat". Trying to dry things out - ha!

June 29 Brown Mtn. Creek Shelter toSeeley-Woodworth Shelter 15.4 miles

Started out from shelter - promptly lost the trail. "Full Moon" (that's me!), trying to hang on to a tree limb jutting out from the river bank, slips and falls in the mud and is covered in it. Fortunately no damage to camera. Within a few yards we came to a stream that was totally flooded - couldn't find a place to cross. Tried throwing huge rock in the stream - they just washed away."Full Moon" finally decided to chance it - (forgot to loosen his pack straps before heading across - something you should do, in case you get carried down stream and need to get out of that pack!). Took huge step out into stream - fortunately hit a rock with no moss and made it across. Took step back into stream to get Celestial Spirit and pull her across. Very hairy - we were lucky.

Finally started climbing up, got out to some bald areas - saw "Jefferson Boots" and "Fathat" heading across the bald, right on each other's heels. We had to chuckle - they looked like the "California Raisins", with their black pack covers and just bobbin' along. Finally hit the shelter around 7:30 p.m. after slogging thru the trail with water up to the tops of our boots.Wonder if we should stop to build an Ark?

"Full Moon" makes the mistake of stepping on a wet log coming down a hill and bites the dirt for the 2nd time today, twisting his knee badly, but after a few moments of checking for damage, discovers that he is OK. Close call. Rain starts again as we finish dinner.

June 30 miles Seeley Woodworth to The Priest Shelter 6.8 miles

Hit the Priest early after getting rained on again! Decided to stop here since the next shelter is another 7.5. "Jefferson Boots" and "Fathat" here. Between the 5 of us, I think we convinced each other, it would be nice just to stop here.

"Billy" stopped in for a few minutes - he was doing 30 mile days - see ya later Billy! "Dog" here - met him for the first time. Very funny guy - eating his Liptons, and everything else cold, mixed with water to keep from carrying his stove - ugh.

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