AT Days 79-87 (Aquablazing the Shenandoah River)

I decided, along with the rest of my tramily to “aquablaze” the Shenandoahs. What that means is we travelled about 100 miles via the river instead of hiking the trail. (I know I cheated, but it was less than 1% of the trail and it was worth it!)

We ordered large 4-person rafts on Amazon. We fit two people per raft plus backpacking gear. Most of us put our backpacks inside garbage bags to keep them dry. We were able to find a shuttle that agreed to pick us up and haul our backpacking gear and rafts to Port Republic boat launch where we started our aqua-blaze trip. We inflated the boats on site, and had to carry the boxes for a few days since there was no trash can.

We floated up the river, occasionally catching class 1 rapids. We beached the rafts and stopped for lunch each day. At the end of the day we would stop and camp just like we would on the trail.

On the third day of our trip we got hit with some heavy rain and pulled over to wait it out. One of the guys in our group hung a small tarp for us to stand under. All 9 of us stood under the tarp for an hour or so telling stories and waiting for the rain to stop.

I made the poor choice of leaving my pack in the raft, thinking it would be safe in the garbage bag. When it stopped raining I found my bag sitting in a few inches of water that the boat had collected. My clothes and sleeping bag stayed dry, but unfortunately my phone and other electronics did not make it.

Altogether it took us 8 days to get to Front Royal by raft. (Mile 971.5)

In Front Royal most of us took a zero day before heading back out on the trail. I was able to get a new phone. It was nice to take a little vacation from our vacation and let our bodies heal a little.

AT Days 68-78

Day 68 Daleville to Fullhardt Knob Shelter (Mile 734.7)

We took a zero day in Daleville to rest and resupply. My body definitely needed the break! The trail goes right through town, so we didn’t need a ride to or from town which was nice.

Also, I’m 1/3 of the way to Katahdin!Day 69 Fullhardt Knob Shelter to Bearwallow Gap (Mile 751.3)

I’m trying out a new breakfast, which I love so far! It’s granola, dried cranberries, chia seeds, almonds and dried milk. It ended up totalling 815 calories!

I got up earlier than the rest of my tramily, and headed out. I got some beautiful sunrise views.

Also saw a snake on the way to the first shelter where I stopped for a break.I later met up with 2Dogs, and we hiked together. We found a road crossing and got a hitch to a lodge and restaurant and had a nice dinner!

We didn’t feel like heading back to trail after dinner, so we camped at an actual campground nearby and decided to go back to the trail in the morning.

Day 70 Bearwallow Gap to Parkers Gap Road (Mile 769.3)

We did manage to get back on trail, but we also got off trail again. (It’s hard to resist actual town food!)

We stopped at a campground and had some burgers for lunch. This time we did get back on trail to hike the rest of the day.

We actually decided to night hike a little to catch up to our group. We stopped a few miles short of them, and camped on a dirt road pull-out. I wasn’t able to stake down my tent due to the asphalt, and of course it rained which didn’t end well…

Day 71 Parkers Gap Road to Glasgow, VA (Mile 786.7)

The next morning I packed up my sopping wet tent and hiked out with 2Dogs.

We ended up in Glasgow, VA, which had a couple small grocery stores and camping!

Day 72 Glasgow, VA to John’s Hollow Shelter (Mile 788.4)We ended up hiking only 1.7 miles and stopped at a shelter. Some of the guys in our tramily had been behind us for a few days. They reunited with us here. It was awesome to see them again!Day 73 John’s Hollow Shelter to USFS 39 (campsite) (Mile 801.7)I made it 800 miles! Woo hoo!Shortly after the 800 mark, we met up with our friend, Laf’s family who brought burgers and beer for us!Day 74 campsite to US 60 Lexington Turnpike, picnic table area (Mile 808.5)We hiked about 7 miles and found another opportunity to hitch into town. It is really hard to stay on trail lately.

Days 75-78

I kinda damaged my phone (more on that in the next post) and I don’t have any photos for days 75-78. Here are the mile markers and stops though…

Day 75 The Priest Shelter (Mile 829.1)

Day 76 Reids Gap (Mile 844.6)

Day 77 zero’ed at Devil’s Backbone Brewery (they had free camping, and a restaurant with awesome breakfast)

Day 78 Rockfish Gap (Waynesboro, VA) (Mile 863.7)

AT Days 63-67

Day 63 Bailey Gap Shelter to Unmarked Campsite (Mile 679.6)

Today I planned on hiking a 20+ mile day to the next shelter. I ended up stealth camping with 2Dogs, Willow, and Platypus. We ended up hiking about 19 miles.

The spot we stopped at was a bit small, but we made it work.

Day 64 Unmarked spot to another unmarked spot (Mile 697.5)

Today I was hoping to make it to mile 700, but ended up stopping before my goal again and stealth camping.

Day 65 unmarked to VA 311 (Four Pines Hostel) (Mile 709.9)

I was low on water, so tried mixing my instant coffee with oatmeal. It was not bad. I still prefer them separately though.

I hit mile 700 today in the rain!

I also hiked Dragons Tooth today in the rain. The climb up wasn’t too bad, but the descent was very difficult. It included lots of smooth rocks to climb down in the rain.

I stayed at Four Pines hostel. They were short on bunks, so they offered to let me stay in a pontoon boat. This is probably the weirdest place I’ve slept so far on the AT.

Day 66 VA 311 to Daleville, VA (Mile 729.7)

Today I hiked to McAfee Knob, which is one of the best views on the AT. Unfortunately, it was another day of rainy weather. I made it 20 miles though into town for a zero day!

Day 67 Zero in Daleville

I took a day off with my friends to rest and resupply, laundry, etc.

AT Days 57-62

Day 57 Chestnut Knob Shelter to Helveys Mill Shelter (Mile 593.9)

I got up early to do a 24 mile day, and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise view.

We found some trail magic again today! People had set up to serve hot dogs and hamburgers to hikers!

Day 58 Helveys Mill Shelter to Dismal Creek Falls (Mile 612.0)

I crossed the 600 mile mark!

I camped with my friends, Lights, 2Dogs and Detroit by a waterfall. There wasn’t much room for tenting, but we made it work.

Day 59 Dismal Falls to Doc’s Knob Shelter (Mile 627.6)

Day 60 Doc’s Knob Shelter to Cross Ave (Pearisburg, VA) (Mile 636.0)

Today I hiked with my friend, 2Dogs. We hiked to a road and got a ride into Pearisburg, VA for some a hotel stay, resupply and Mexican food.

Day 61 Cross Ave to Rice Field Shelter (Mile 643.7)

Back on the trail after a night in town.

We had an amazing sunset view from our shelter site.

Day 62 Rice Field Shelter to Bailey Gap Shelter (Mile 660.2)

We celebrated a birthday on trail today, but still managed to hike 16.5 miles!

We were entertained by an amazing performance from Spankey the clown!

AT Days 52-56

Day 52 Grayson Highlands State Park to Unmarked Campsite (Mile 520)

We woke up to wild ponies near our campsite and more beautiful views.

We stopped for the day at a campsite that was near a road, so we could get a ride into town to buy food. I hitched with my friends 2-Dogs and Laf.

Day 53 Campsite to Partnership Shelter (Mile 534)

We found another road. I hitched into town with 2-Dogs, Platypus, and Bob to get pizza.

Day 54 Partnership Shelter to Lindamood School (Mile 543.1)

I enjoyed some delish leftover pizza for breakfast.

Later on our hike we found some awesome trail magic! An old schoolhouse was stocked with coolers full of snacks, cold drinks, and other supplies. We decided to camp here at the school.

Day 55 Lindamood School to Reed Creek campsite (Mile 552.3)

I woke up early and enjoyed some coffee on the schoolhouse porch.

I stopped at an alpaca farm to do laundry and take a shower.

Also made it one quarter of the way through the trail!

Day 56 Reed Creek to Chestnut Knob Shelter (Mile 596.7)

We stopped for a hammock and snack break at a beautiful hostel.

AT Days 47-51

Day 47 Boots Off Hostile to Iron Mountain Shelter (Mile 444.4)

I spent the morning hiking with Detroit and Lung’r. We have been lucky with weather, having so many beautiful hiking days.

Later at camp, Lung’r made a pizza by campfire.

Day 48 Iron Mountain Shelter to Abington Gap Shelter (Mile 460.4)

Today’s hike was another sunny day.

Day 49 Abington Shelter to Unmarked Campsite near Damascus. (Mile 472.1)

I officially hiked in to Damascus today. I was here a few days ago for the Trail Days Festival.

I ate some lunch in a grocery store and also resupplied for the next few days.

Day 50 Campsite near Damascus to Campsite near stream (Mile 488.1)

I’m trying out cereal on the trail. It’s kind of a pain so far to pack out the cereal.

I found a stream on my hike today and stopped to soak my feet. There were lots of butterflies nearby.

Day 51 Campsite to Grayson Highlands State Park (Mile 501.4)

Today we saw wild ponies and hit mile 500!

Apparently the ponies like to lick sweaty hikers’ arms and legs…

Most of our trail family hiked together to the 500-mark.

AT Days 40-46

Day 40 River Road (Erwin, TN) to Cherry Gap Shelter (Mile 361.3)

When I took my zero day in Erwin, I fell behind a group I had been seeing on the trail and camping with for a long time. I have been in sync with the same people since after Franklin (which was around mile 106).

I decided to push some extra miles and try to catch the group I had been hiking with. I hiked about 17 miles, and ended up camping with three other hikers.

Day 41 Cherry Gap Shelter to Roan High Knob Shelter (Mile 378.9)

I decided to try for another big mileage day, and maybe catch my group in a day or two. I am planning to take 1 or 2 zero days for the Trail Days Festival which is coming up, so it’s a good time to push bigger miles. I know I’ll get to rest in a few days.

I made the decision to hike to Roan High Knob Shelter which is the highest shelter on the AT and known to be cold since it is at an elevation above 6000 feet. It was at a good mileage goal though at 17.6 miles.

I got an awesome view at the top, after a 5 mile uphill climb.

There was also a hotel site, which I was not very impressed with.

I got to the shelter, and looked at the shelter log. Some hikers had written messages that they stopped here for lunch and this shelter was ice cold. I knew I was about to have a cold night but decided to just deal with it.

Day 42 Roan High Knob Shelter to Unmarked spot near Elk River (Mile 401.4)

As predicted, it was a cold night in the shelter. I woke up several times just because it was so cold. As soon as the sun started to come up I packed up and left before 6:30am. The only relief was to hike down to lower elevation. I left the shelter wearing every item of clothing I had including both my puffy jacket and rain jacket.

About a couple hours later I stopped for an amazing view and coffee, and shed some of the many layers I was wearing.

I was looking forward to stopping at a shelter site that was a historic barn, the Overmountain Shelter. I also guessed that my group probably stayed there last night, which would mean I am now only 7 miles behind them (since Overmountain is 7 miles from Roan High Knob Shelter).

The barn was huge. I was a little jealous of everyone who stayed here instead of the freezing ice box I stayed in. It was a nice spot to stop for lunch though!

As I hiked away I got another last view of the barn.

I got a couple milestones today. I officially left North Carolina. I had been on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, but now am completely in Tennessee for a few more days.

I also crossed th 400 mile mark on the AT!!

I ended the day with 22.5 miles and found my friends camped near a river. It was fun to reconnect with them. They already had a campfire going.

Day 43 Unmarked spot to Campsite near Dennis Cove (Mile 420.0)

Today we are all trying to find the best way to get to Trail Days in Damascus, VA. The festival is actually on the trail, but at mile 470, which means we need to find a ride up there since we did not hike there fast enough.

I fell way behind the group. I was dragging from the big mileage days earlier in the week. I stopped to “ice” my feet in a cold river.

I took my time and hiked slowly.

I didn’t find the group so I figured they hiked 2 miles farther to the next shelter. It was late so I decided to camp alone and figure out my plan in the morning.

Day 44 Dennis Cove to Shook Branch Road (Mile 428.4)

I didn’t have phone service, but I heard from another hiker that 8 miles up the trail is a hostile that will shuttle to Trail Days, so I decided to hike to that point.

This section on the trail had some beautiful water falls.

Also as I was nearing the end of the 8 miles, I saw a small snake coiled up on the trail.

I ended up getting to the Boots Off Hostile. I booked a night and shuttled to the festival the next morning.

Day 45 Zero in Damascus, VA for Trail Days!

I spent the day at the festival. There were lots of gear vendors as well as free give-aways. I also reconnected with other hikers I had met early on the trail, but I hadn’t seen in a while.

I walked in the hiker parade with other hikers from this year as well as previous years.

I tented in Damascus in “Tent City” at the festival.

Day 46 Zero at Boots Off Hostile

I took a second zero day and booked another night at Boots Off Hostile.

AT Days 34-39

Day 34 Hot Springs to Spring Mountain Shelter (Mile 285.9)

I have been given a trail name! Sundown… because I usually get to camp in the early evening hours. I like to take lots of pictures and long breaks on the trail.

Today I hiked out of Hot Springs. On the climb out I happened to step right next to a large snake. (The video is a little shaky…)

I am pretty sure it was a Copper Head which is a venomous snake. Luckily I stepped back in time. Also it was already moving away from the trail. I watched it move up the hill before moving on.

The rest of the hike was mostly uphill, which seems to be the case anytime I’m hiking out of a town.

Day 35 Spring Mountain Shelter to Jerry Cabin Shelter (Mile 301.8)

Today I hiked 16 miles and crossed the 300 mile mark on the AT!

I have been playing a little “road trip” game with myself where I try to find snails on the trail. I take a picture and move them across so they don’t get stepped on. My high score is 3 in a day!

Today I hiked on a rocky ridgeline that had amazing views.

I lived up to my new trail name and got to camp around 8:30pm but got to see some amazing sunset views as I approached camp.

Day 36 Jerry Cabin Shelter to Big Flat Campsite (Mile 315.1)

I had a nice hike and took about an hour long break at a shelter along the way. I had lunch and got some water.

As I kept hiking I saw signs for a nearby hostel and stopped by for some snacks and Gatorade. I ended up spending another hour there as well.

Later that afternoon, I actually saw a bear cub in a tree! It was not moving and it was a far away. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a bear or just part of the tree (I always think I see animals and it turns out to be a log or a bush…)

I had planned on 15.5 miles today to the next shelter, but ultimately stopped about 2 miles short at a small campsite instead with three other hikers.

Day 37 Big Flat Campsite to Bald Mountain Shelter (Mile 327.4)

My “road trip” game where I look for snails is getting out of hand. I saw 19 snails today! It was a nice distraction though from just counting the miles all day.

I also saw a snake today. This time I saw it before walking right next to it. I don’t know what kind it is, but it was smaller and had a different pattern than the copperhead I saw a few days ago.

Later at the shelter, a deer stopped by!

Day 38 Bald Mountain Shelter to River Road (Erwin, TN) (Mile 344.3)

Today was very rainy, but luckily I slept in the shelter so I did not have to pack up a wet tent.

I was about 17 miles from Erwin, TN. My plan was just to get as close as possible and go in the next day to resupply.

Most of the trail from here was downhill, and I made really good time. Ultimately I decided to do the whole 17 miles and go into town tonight instead!

I got to town around 6pm and booked a night at a hostel off the trail.

Day 39 zero day in Erwin, TN

Since I got to town late, I decided to resupply the next day and booked another night at the hostel.

Even at the hostel I was able to enjoy local wildlife! A racoon stopped by looking for hiker trash.

I weighed my pack at the hostile and apparently I was carrying more than I thought. It was 37 pounds! I sent home a long sleeve shirt and sadly… my day hammock. I saved about 2lbs and am now at 35lbs if my food and water are maxed out. I also found an awesome free sit pad in a hiker box, which I took.

AT Days 31-33

Day 31 Painter Branch Campsite to Roaring Fork Shelter (Mile 257.0)

Today started with very humid weather. I pulled out my bug net for the first time.

Hours later it started raining.I hiked up Max Patch today. Just as I was about a mile from the peak it stopped raining. I stayed up there for about an hour, eating dinner and enjoying the view!

Day 32 Roaring Fork Shelter to Deer Park Mountain Shelter (Mile 271.7)

Today started off very rainy. I made my breakfast in my tent. I am getting tired of oatmeal, so I made couscous and tuna with my coffee.

It rained off and on most of the day, but I didn’t really mind.

Just a beautiful day for hiking.

Day 33 Deer Park Mountain Shelter to Hot Springs, NC (Mile 274.9)

Today I needed to hike just three miles to get to Hot Springs. When I woke I knew real breakfast was only three miles away. I got up early and got out of the shelter early.

I got to town and spent the rest of the day there. Some friends and I booked an hour at a hot tub with a view of a river, which was amazing.

AT Days 28-30 (Smokies Part 2)

Day 28 Newfound Gap to Peck’s Corner Shelter (Mile 218.2)

After taking a near-o in Gatlinburg (nearly zero miles hiked), I needed to find a ride back to the trail. I tried a few shuttle companies, but all were booked on such short notice. I didn’t know what to do so I decided to start hiking back to Newfound Gap. It was about 15 miles from town with the first shelter at 3 miles from the trailhead. I figured that since it was a flat road I could make it.

I walked about 3 miles near the highway, when a woman driving a pickup pulled over. The truck bed was full of hikers who all shifted around to make room. She got out and asked me if I was headed to Newfound Gap and told me to hop in! She also gave me a Dr Pepper and piece of fried chicken. I packed myself into the back of the truck with chicken in one hand and the Dr Pepper in the other and cruised on the rest of the way!

Thanks to her, I was able to put some miles on the actual trail that day.

Day 29 Peck’s Corner Shelter to Cosby Knob Shelter (Mile 231.1)

Another amazing day in the Smokies. I have been so lucky to have gone through the Smokies with almost no rain.

Day 30 Cosby Knob Shelter to Painter Branch Campsite (Mile 243.8)

I woke up early and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise from my tent. Today was bittersweet as it was the last day in the Smokies.

I enjoyed a mix of beautiful water features as well as some road walking on the trail today.

I did get a couple hours of rain at the end of the hike. I saw a frog (he’s kinda hard to see in the picture.)