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Travis "BevoHi" Hildebrand
Begins: Mar 20, 2016
Date: Wed, May 11th, 2016
Start: Johns Hollow Shelter
End: Brown Mtn Shelter
Daily Distance: 18.3
Trip Distance: 804.6
Hours Hiked: 7.12
Min Elevation: 986
Max Elevation: 3323
Entry Lat: 37.709442
Entry Lng: -79.268318
Min Temp: 55
Max Temp: 68
Entry Visits: 1,037
Journal Visits: 149,564
Guestbook Views: 4,503
Guestbook Entrys: 223
Day 53: Brown Mtn Shelter
I hiked 18.3 miles today with a 2,337 ft elevation change in 7.12 hours from Johns Hollow Shelter to Brown Mtn Shelter. At this point, I have hiked 804.3 total miles averaging 15.18 miles per day (including 0 days).
Today's journal will start with a guest entry from Ren Maddox. He hiked with us for two days near Daleville, including McAfee Knob.
Old Man Gait
When Bevos AT rumination turned from theory to actual planning, I had to abandon any fantasy I had about joining him for the whole journey Im simply not the camper he is and was no where near prepared for such a long excursion. At the same time, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to join him for at least a few days. Bevo made it clear that I should try to join him for the portion of the trail that includes McAfee Knob, so that provided an anchor for plans.
Given that we live no where near the AT, such planning turns out to be fairly complicated. After a few attempts at finding some flights that would work, I decided that being able to adjust to the variance of Bevos hiking schedule made driving a better choice. Thankfully, Marci let me know that shed be happy to make the trip with me, which opened up all sorts of good possibilities: slack packing, trail magic, and no camping!
In preparation, I ordered a bunch of stuff from Amazon, including copies of Bevos socks and shoes. My favorite items were probably the backpack and the LifeStraw water bottle, both of which Bevo made me leave in the room due to their unneeded weight. Because we were slack-packing, Bevo was able to carry all of my stuff and leave me unladen, which I admit was much better than using my backpack, no matter how nice it is. I *will* use that LifeStraw water bottle eventually perhaps during some Colorado day-hiking this summer.
Due to the particulars of the map, I knew the first day of hiking was going to be the longest. I tried to prepare with some practice hikes in Austin, but the now-infamous Texas flood-causing rain disrupted those plans followed by a cold I caught the week before our trip. Before the rains started, I only managed two hikes of 6 and 10 miles. I did get in a long run and an extra medium length walk on a treadmill during the rain, and Ive been pretty active every day this spring, so I was optimistic that Id manage the nearly 20-mile first day. I almost did, and in fact, at the 18-mile mark I thought I was home free as the downhill to town was starting. As it turned out, that was my downfall. Very soon into the descent, my left knee tightened up and refused to let me take anything but very small steps with lots of pole support.
Before the trip, one of my concerns was that I would slow Bevo down. This worry was amplified by the existence of his trail family, though I figured the rest of them could go on ahead. This turned out to be a completely unfounded concern. First, I kept up what I think was an adequate pace for them for most of the first day until my knee slowed me down. Even then, everyone appeared perfectly happy to stay together at my slow pace. They made me feel like I was no burden at all. It was very nice.
Marci asked if anything was different from what I had expected. Other than my worry not materializing, I really dont think so. There was a spot on the trail where the trail itself was narrow with foliage crowding in a bit. Not to the point of obstructing the trail, but enough that stepping off the trail to let someone by would be uncomfortable. At this point, I mentioned that I had kind of expected the whole trail to be more like that. In actuality, most of the trail at least the small portion I hiked had quite a bit of space to the sides. So, I guess Id say that the trail was more open than I had expected.
A few times early on the first day, while climbing up to McAfee Knob, I would start to slow a bit (while talking, of course) and Bevo, walking behind me, would pipe up with Walking with purpose! and I would speed back up. We were trying to reach McAfee before the rain (which never materialized, thankfully). Later in the day, he said it again and I replied with my purpose is to walk at this pace. When walking faster, I dont have the opportunity to appreciate my surroundings very much. I would suggest that Bevo try to appreciate his surroundings more, but I realize that seven weeks in, trail is trail for the most part.
For a while in the latter part of the second day I was hiking ahead while the rest of the group refilled water bottles. At one point, it occurred to me that I hadnt seen a white blaze in a while. (The entire trail is marked periodically with white rectangles painted on trees, rocks, or other things. Side trails are marked in other colors, or maybe just blue.) I began actively looking for one and went at least a quarter mile without seeing one. I wasnt truly worried that Id gotten onto a side trail, but I definitely wanted to see a white blaze. Eventually, I pulled out my phone to verify with the GPS that I was still on the AT. Technology is awesome. Shortly after that, I saw a blaze.
Another example of the awesomeness of technology is in dealing with the road closure issue Bevo already mentioned. Without GPS maps and working cell service, there would have been no way to have met up with Marci at the alternate location. I think my only option would have been to hike the 11 miles back to the hotel, though I mightve been able to hitch from a road that was only 3.6 miles back. That 11 miles would have included a lot of downhill and would have been really tough with my sore knee. Thank goodness we were able to come up with an alternate plan that was only 2.2 miles further than the original plan (4.6 miles from the 11 mile spot). I was so happy when I saw Marci sitting in the car waiting for me.
Im typing this while Marci is taking a driving shift heading back to Texas. As I sit here and reflect upon my experience, the thing that most strikes me is how great it is that Bevo has found (or gathered) such a good trail family. At the same time, I imagine what it would have been like if our normal friends group had made the hike together (Ill confess that just the guys is the picture that appears in my head, though I think it would be great with everyone as well). Thats fine, weve had our adventures in the past and well have more in the future. This one is Bevos and Im thrilled that I got to experience even a small part of it.
Though my knee and the National Forest Service conspired (along with McAfee Knob requiring a 19.8 mile hike) to shorten my trail time by a day (and ~15 miles), it was nice to be able to use that day for more trail magic and, if my math is correct, an extra 14.3 miles of slack packing for Bevo and his fellow hikers.
Pictures at McAfee Knob
Providing Trail Magic
Relieving Bevo of the old man role (particularly with my knee-triggered old man gait)
Having the rain stay away for both of my hiking days
Introducing Secret Agent to the perfection that is The Princess Bride
Stitch's questions and their answers
Watching Bright Bags eat about half his body weight
Most of all, being able to support my friend on his adventure!
Lowlights: My knee
Bye-bye now! Have fun storming the castle!
P.S. Im okay!
------- End of Ren's entry
I'd like to thank Ren and Marci once again for coming out and meeting me and my forest friends on the trail. I greatly appreciate the support and helping us move about 60 miles without our packs on our backs in addition to carting us around and allowing us to spend 4 nights in a motel with access to real food.
It rained overnight with very little wind. I'm not sure I moved all night long after a few shots of Southern Comfort from Bright Bags. Somehow, I woke about 6AM. The rain had just stopped shortly before then. The timing was great because it is never fun to pack up when it is still raining. I finished packing early and grabbed all of our bear bags from the tree. I had some breakfast while I waited for the others and took a look at the weather radar and forecast for the day. There was a 90% chance of rain at 9AM and we had about a 4.5 mile climb up 2,500 feet. I decided that the kids would catch up to me and left about 5 minutes earlier than the rest of the gang.
The climb was super foggy with a few minutes of sprinkles. I put my rain jacket on, but took it off again shortly because climbing the hill was a lot of work. The sweat inside the rain jacket wasn't worth the possibility of getting wet from rain. Eventually, we made it to the top of Bluff mountain, where we all took a packs-off break for about ten minutes. During that time, I turned on my phone and pinged Sue Tompkins about the possibility of us hikers buying steaks and potatoes for everyone on Sunday, when we are planning to spend a 0-day at her house. It sounds like we'll be able to do that. We are definitely craving some steak and potatoes with some corn-on-the-cob. Stitch tried to make an appointment for a massage for Sunday with info Sue gave us. Unfortunately, that place was already fully booked. I pinged Sue again to see if she had any other places she would recommend. She called another one and found a place with one time slot open. Stitch called them and booked it for Sunday afternoon. Thanks Sue!
Bright Bags turned on his phone at the top of Bluff Mountain to see if he had service. As soon as his phone found service, it started ringing with a telemarketer that wanted to sell him some funeral insurance. Is this a sign that we should be worried about?
Most of the rest of the day was a steady down-hill. We were in and out of the clouds/fog most of the morning. It never really rained on us, so we consider ourselves very lucky today. I did get a few great shots of the clouds/fog below the peak, with some other mountain tops peaking out like islands in the distance. I also got some shots of the foggy trail with a white blaze on a tree.
Water was hard to find about lunch time. Bright Bags and Stitch hiked down a side trail a bit to find some water near a road. The found it an filled a few liters for all of us, but not without Stitch finding a leafy muddy spot that left her foot wet and muddy. This dampened her mood for lunch :(
After about 15 miles, we came across a lake. We took a side trail down about .1 miles to the lake where Secret Agent and I jumped into the water. Stitch dipped her feet in and washed her arms a bit. Bright Bags took a couple of excellent pictures of the water play.
Then, we regrouped and finished the last 3 miles of the day. As we arrived in camp, thunder started and a light rain began. I quickly found a couple of trees and setup my hammock under the pressure of rain. There is a different technique to setup a hammock when it is raining. Start with the rainfly and then setup the hammock under the rainfly. This is harder to do, but is doable. About the time I finished setting up my hammock, the rain stopped. Go figure!
We got water, cooked supper, and had a small campfire with the same four people as last night. Additionally, a German gal that we met at the last hostel also arrived.
Tomorrow is going to be a tough 22.4 miles up and down many hills. We are not looking forward to it, but need to crank it out to get to Waynesboro on Saturday.
First: I started my first audio book yesterday. I'm listening to George Orwell's 1984. It's pretty good. I'm on chapter 5 already. I spent more time today listening to music than the book.
Equipment: My phone got down to about 10% battery on the way into camp today. I had to charge it a bit before I could blog tonight. There is no cell phone signal at the Brown Mountain Shelter. This blog will have to go out tomorrow when I have signal again. I left the bug net over my hammock setup when I put it away this morning. It all worked very well to pack and unpack it fully assembled. I may leave it like this the rest of the hike.
TMI: Stitch told us later in the day that she had accidentally left some underwear in the last shelter because she forgot it was hanging to dry overnight after she washed them the night before. She apparently has two other pair. She realized this about ten minutes into the hike up the hill and decided it wasn't worth it to go back for them. Secret Agent and I used some Gold Bond to cure the monkey butt that started after the day's swim.
Life is avoiding rain and hiking more than 18 miles today passing the 800 mile mark for the hike.
BevoHi Appalachian Trail Journal
Are we there yet?
Just a mile.... mile and a half...
You can e-mail me at BevoHi@jedi.net to send words of encouragement or with questions.
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