Monthly Archives: June 2014

Day 107: Welcome to the roller coaster

Miles Hiked: 18.3
Miles Left: 1186.2
Ending Location: Bears Den Hostel, Mile 999.1

It was a Saturday and a beautiful day so the trail was packed with day hikers. It was kind of funny since I ran into most of them in the intersections that the AT shared with nicer, more scenic trails. That was because for the first half of today the Virginia section of the AT earned its name of the “Green Tunnel” as not only were the trees covered in leaves, but the creeper vines climbing up them finished the task of completely blocking any potential views. I have to admit the most interesting part of the trail was the faces someone had drawn onto many of the white blazes. Whoever did it spaced them out which was nice as it kept me alert looking for the next one.

For the second half of today I hit a section of the trail called “the roller coaster” for all the ups and downs it covered. I was told that originally land prices were so high in this area that they couldn’t just run the AT along a ridge line which lead to this layout. Then over time the trail crews embraced all the elevation change as a feature and worked to enhance it. I had been looking forward to this since the snarky side of me felt nothing could embody the AT experience like 13 miles of pointless ups and downs with no views.

The roller coaster started off promising with a grueling rock climb up a mountain but to my surprise there were a lot of flat sections and most of the other climbs and descents were surprisingly reasonable. I honestly didn’t have anything to gripe about and boy did I have a good rant ready. So now I find myself complaining about how good the trail was instead. The AT does weird things to your head… If you are reading this in advance of hiking that section don’t worry, the roller coaster is like the rest of the AT, just with better marketing. The rocks slow you down a whole lot more than the elevation changes.

I really shouldn’t complain though since I was lucky I made such good time because I arrived at the Bear’s Den hostel before 8pm and was able to stay there for the night. The hostel itself looked like a castle as it was a big old summer retreat for rich folk back in the day. Then the AMC took it over, (I’m pretty sure it was donated), and converted it to a hotel/outdoor center. Most of the year boy scout troops and other groups go there and hike on the many trails around it but they have a bunk room in the basement reserved for AT hikers. For 30 dollars I got a shower, laundry, clean bed to sleep in, frozen pizza, can of soda, pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and all the pancakes I could eat. There was another outdoors group camping and partying out back. Since if you camp you could save a couple bucks all the other AT hikers did likewise so I also found myself with the bunk room all to myself. It was glorious!

While eating dinner I talked with several bikers who had peddled all the way from DC and were staying there for the night. While talking to them I found out they knew many of my coworkers which was surprising until I realized that being back in the DC area, finding people who know of MITRE wasn’t that hard. Still talking to them it did make me miss my time in Northern Virginia. That’s another place I like to complain about but had a lot of redeeming qualities. As much as I liked showing off my hiker appetite surprisingly I wasn’t able to finish my ice cream so I reluctantly saved the rest of it for breakfast, and by the time I finished my laundry it was quite late, (almost 11), so I said goodnight to everyone and turned in. I wanted to work on my journal some but it always seems like something else is going on. I guess that’s why I’m writing this entry almost two weeks after the fact 🙂
















Day 106: A muddy day is had

Miles Hiked: 15.2
Miles Left: 1204.5
Ending Location: Dicks Dome Shelter, Mile 980.8

Mike offered a 9:00 shuttle to the local grocery store so I jumped at the opportunity to resupply. At the same time I skipped over to McDonalds for breakfast so when we got picked back up an hour later I was ready to hit the trail. I was very proud of the fact that I was able to get in and out of town and laundry done without losing too much time. I hadn’t had a zero day since Waynsboro and was feeling great.

The trail today was a muddy mess. The last couple of days of rain had not been kind to it and after a while I stopped even trying to avoid the mud puddles as my shoes and socks were already soaked. Stopping in at the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter I ran into another hiker who was zeroing there. Considering the shelter had a shower, (solar heated so no hot water today), a patio, tons of space, and was clean, I can see why. It was certainly a better place to stay than the Grand Prix motel back in Gatlinburg that’s for sure!

I don’t know the answer to the eternal question of if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around does it make a noise, but one came tumbling down as I was hiking today and boy did it create a racket. I figure the muddy ground was loose enough that the roots could no longer hold it up. A similar story was told to me by another hiker who had been setting up his hammock after a big rainstorm. He choose what he thought were two fairly substantial trees but when he hopped into his hammock one of the trees gave way and nearly crushed him. Luckily it got caught up on the other tree so he managed to escape with a cut up hand and a bunch of scrapes and bruises, but mud is dangerous!

I ended the day at Dick’s Dome shelter which had to be the smallest shelter I’ve seen on the AT so far. Mostly it was just the design that was weird since while it had lots of headroom, the angles we such that you would have trouble fitting more then four hikers in it. Luckily there was tons of tenting spots so that was what everyone was doing. Also thanks to the grass I didn’t have to set my tent up in the mud which was a bonus. After cooking dinner it was fairly dark, (I didn’t get on the trail until eleven), so I called it a night and turned in.