This will be my trail journal entry for May 2, 11:00 AM, from the Public Library in Erwin, TN. [Sent via email. Brian]
I will be here in Erwin for the next couple days. The shin feels about the same. The motel is over a mile from downtown and I have to walk to anyplace I want to go. Fortunately it's a friendly place and I was offered a ride before I had hiked a couple blocks.
More evidence that we're in a different universe in NE Tennessee:
1. Prominently displayed in both ends of the dining area of the cafe where I had breakfast this morning (I'm talking 3x5 foot murals) is a list of the Ten Commandments.
2. The grocery store devotes huge shelf space to smoking and chewing tobacco products, none to beer or wine. It's a mostly dry county, though there are a couple licensed outlets where you can buy beer. Nine of us hikers went to dinner last night at the Erwin Burrito. Very good Mexican food but no beer. The owner suggested we walk up the street a couple blocks and, if we were discreet, we could bring a couple six-packs back to the restaurant. We did that.
The library is in the old train depot. I'm lucky that it's Thursday, the only day that the library is open in the morning. There's also a movie theater in town. It's open Thursday through Sunday and is showing that "Ice Age" animated movie. I'm not sure I have the title exactly right but I'll probably go to the 7:00 PM show tonight, for $3.50. How does that compare to our Bay Area mega-theaters?! [$9 Brian]
I found a copy of "The Celestine Prophecy" by James Redfield here. I started reading it at Mountain Mama's hostel and though I only read the first few pages, it kind of grabbed me. If I'm here long enough I may get to read the whole thing. Maybe they'll let me check it out. Better than daytime TV!
Two other hikers, Tom "Loggerhead" and Kathy "Strong Fish" from Georgia, stayed at the Best Southern motel last night and were anxious to get back on the trail this AM. They were part of the big dinner crowd last night. Most thruhikers stay at Uncle Johnny's hostel which is near the trail, but I needed to get some real motel time since I'm not sure how long I'll be here. I enjoy staying in the hostels but it rained very hard most of last night so I had to spread things out to dry.
Oh, the burn on my right leg is doing very well. I took the Compeed patch off last night and it's healed to the point where it won't need any more bandaging at all. Really impressive new technology!
Love to you both, and thanks for encouraging me to sit this out for a bit in hopes of returning to the trail. I felt very discouraged yesterday and for the past few days, not being able to enjoy this experience as much as I would like. I will give you a call tonight, probably after the movie.
5/3 Erwin, Tennessee 5:30PM
I'm at the Erwin Burrito. They make a surprisingly good Spicy Chicken Burrito among other things, and it is a hiker destination. I arrived here in Erwin Wednesday with a very sore leg the front of my left shin just above my ankle is red and swollen making it very painful to walk, particularly downhill. On advice of higher authority, i.e. Julianne and Brian, I went to the doctor this morning. Verdict: possible Cellulitis, an infection of the muscle tissue that can start from a simple scratch or break in the skin. Happens all the time on the trial, scratches, I mean. Anyhow, she (Dr. Pavins) put me on a very strong antibiotic to fight the infection, plus prescription strength Naproxin Sodium (Aleve) in case it's not Cellulitis but simply a bad strain and inflammation. Plus hot towels every two hours to increase circulation. Plus her pager number in case there's no improvement by Sunday. Yes, I was very impressed with her, and feel much better knowing I'm doing all I can to get back on the trail. So I'll be here until Sunday. Then it will be time to leave for either Maine or Los Altos. (home)
I saw J.R. in town this afternoon with Keith. He said Boo and Sasha were here as well, but didn't know where they intended to stay. They took those zero days in Hot Springs and will probably go on north tomorrow. With luck I'll catch up with them somewhere up the trail.
I plan to go to a movie again tonight. Will it be "Spiderman" or "The Rookie?"
5/4 Erwin Public Library 1PM
Everybody's here, and planning to hit the trail tomorrow. JR, Sasha, Boo, Barry(?) the guy from New Zealand whose trial name keeps changing. I came down here mostly to return the library book, "The Celestine Prophesy," and was sure glad to see them all. They seemed just as glad to find me again, one of them even commenting, "We had lost our leader." Does that make you feel good or what?
My shin seems to be responding to the antibiotics. It's still a little sore but the swelling has gone down. I feel confident that I can return to the trail tomorrow. I'll buy some food for the next section and tell Brian to go ahead and mail the next resupply package. Four days ago I was pretty certain I'd be on my way home by now. This afternoon I'm excited about hiking again!
Another report from a different universe: Did I tell you about the library book? I wanted to read "The Celestine Prophesy" after looking at it at an earlier stop. I found this copy at the library and asked if there was any way I could check it out. "No problem," says the librarian. "I'll just put it on my card." Turned out to be an interesting read, but not great. Worth a look if you're interested in a rehash of some "Positive energy" philosophy, thinly disguised as an adventure.
Saw "The Rookie" last night and thoroughly enjoyed it" I will probably check out "Spiderman" tonight. Early show on Saturday starts at 5PM. It rained hard all morning, and then the sun came out about noon. Who knows about tomorrow?
5/5 Cherry Gap Shelter 7:20PM I was really excited this morning to get back on the trail. As I crossed the Nolichucky River Bridge, crossed the road and followed the white blaze through the gap in the foliage and into the woods, I couldn't help grinning. Everything was green, birds were singing, and the sun was doing a good job of burning away the morning mist.
It has been a hard 16.5 miles to get here, with a lot of climbing. My leg is still complaining some but I think it's getting better with the rest and medication.
As I topped the Beauty Spot, a high point with great views about 10 miles into today's hike, I could see several hikers sitting or standing around in a group. Turns out there was a little Trail Magic going on. A couple had brought a bunch of picnic items up there, sodas, fruit, candy, and were passing it out to all the hikers. A coke and banana really hit the spot! The couple just said they enjoy doing it and meeting the hikers.
5/8 8AM Moreland Gap Shelter
A 21 and 22-mile day, and I've made up a full day! It's 14.7 miles into Hampton. The weather's been pretty good except for a couple thunderstorms yesterday afternoon. The shin has been feeling better every day.
7:30PM In the Braemar Castle in Hampton.
The last 6 miles today took me over Cedar Mountain, 2,000 extremely tough feet to climb in high humidity. No switchbacks, straight up rock-scramble. Braemar Castle is a hostel, $15 per night for private room and shower down the hall. There are only 3 of us here tonight, the Noodleheads: Angel Hair and Rigatoni. It's a shame. The Kincora Hostel, about 9 miles back, is closer to the trail, cheaper, and attracts all the hikers. This is a wonderful old stone lodge that was built in the '30s as an executive retreat by some forestry company. It needs a lot of work.
I met Bookworm on the trail today. She remembered Brian from the Gathering in Hanover last year, and recalled that over 200 hikers attended his talk on that Sunday morning.
5/10 Iron Mountain Shelter 7:30AM
It was a pretty easy hiking day yesterday except for the rain that began about 4PM. I stated out of Hampton at 10:30AM and got in here about 6:30. There wwere 9 people sardined into the shelter. They made room for me. It's foggy this morning. Some sun would help a lot. The map projfile looks good no long ups or downs today.
9:30PM Damascus, VA!
It was a great hiking day! I got to my scheduled destination, the Abdingdon Gap Shelter about 4PM, cooked my dinner, and decided to do a few more miles. Ended up doing another 10, getting to "The Place" a popular hostel here that is run by the Methodist Church. Total for the day, 26.3 miles! And a new state! Right now I'm at Sicily's Italian Restaurant enjoying a salad, sausage parmigiana and garlic bread. All delicious!
I think I'm earning a reputation as a real hiker. I keep showing up with the people who are making the miles necessary to get to Maine. Today I caught up with a group who left me behind in Erwin, TN. It was, "Hey TrailDad! Good to see you! How's the leg doing?" I don't think they expected to see me again. The secret, of course, is that I am able to get on the trail early and keep hiking. I have some shopping to do tomorrow so won't get an early start but right now I'm only one day behind schedule is spite of the 4 days spent in Erwin. Very satisfying!
5/11 Saunders Shelter - 7:20PM.
This is a first. It appears I'm going to have a shelter all to myself tonight! I got in here about an hour ago it's only 9.4 miles from Damascus. Most hikers would go on to the next shelter if they started out from Damascus at a reasonable hour. I started hiking a bit before 2PM because I had to do some grocery shopping plus a stop at the bank. Actually, a lot of hikers probably didn't start out this morning at all. It was raining, and today was the start of the weeklong Trail Days festivities in Damascus. Two good reasons to hang onto your spot in the hostel. Trail Days is a big event in Damascus, and a popular diversion for hikers. Campsites can cost $10 per night, just a spot to set up your tent. On the other hand, a bunk and hot shower at the hostel costs only a $4 donation if you're lucky enough to get there first. It's run by the Methodist Church and is quite nice. When the weather cleared about noon, I decided to get some lunch and hit the trail.
This is a very nice shelter, well built and in good condition. If it is typical of the shelters in this state, I'm going to enjoy hiking in Virginia. Virginia, by the way, has more miles of the AT that any other state, about 540 miles. I've hiked about 465 miles so far.
5/12 Thomas Knob Shelter
Just one day behind schedule. Today I met a real Flyin' Brian fan. He was hiking south-bound and was very impressed to find out I was his dad. He had to take my picture and will email me a copy. He and his wife have read all of Brian's journals. I think his name was Herman. He had a bit of German accent and is a forest ranger working at Oregon State.
5/13 Wise Shelter 10AM
Blustery day. We had high, cold winds last night and scattered showers this morning. The famous Mt. Rogers ponies completely ignored me. May have been the smell.
5/14 Fox Hill Inn, Troutdale, VA 7:15AM
On advice of hikers and the trail guidebook, I decided to stay here last night. It is indeed the best sop on the whole trail! No, I haven't done the whole trail yet, but Fox Hill is going to be very hard to beat. It's a B&B managed by two past AT thruhikers, Mark and Janet Holmes. Guests usually pay $80 per night but thruhikers only pay $35, and that includes a breakfast and ride back to the trailhead. Fantastic! I'm sitting in the library with my cup of coffee listening to the cold wind howling outside. Yes, it's still blustery. Yesterday I hiked 21.1 miles + a 2.6-mile road walk into town, from where I called Mark. He picked me up. It rained most of the day yesterday, on and off in the morning, then pretty steadily in the afternoon. I was planning to camp out last might rather than pushing on to the next shelter but then wet weather and gear made that unattractive.
Though the wind is blowing here on top of Fox Hill, the clouds seem to be breaking up. Am I just being optimistic? We'll see. Time for breakfast!
5/14 Partnership Shelter, 5:30PM
14.5 miles today and I managed to dodge the raindrops. It threatened, even misted a couple times, but I never had to get the poncho or the rest of me wet. It stayed cold and windy though. One hiker who was at Thomas Knob shelter last night said there was ¼ inch of rime ice on Mt. Rogers, with high winds. It was 39 degrees at the Inn this morning, and that's probably 2,500 feet lower. Hard to believe this is mid-May. I don't think I'll send my warm clothes home just yet. It's supposed to warm up tomorrow. Later in the summer we'll be wishing for some of these cool breezes!
5/16 Village Motel, VA 8AM
Got in here early yesterday afternoon. Only 12 miles, but I felt tired. Maybe it was the Snickers Bar I had for breakfast. Anyway, the rest here felt good. My resupply box was here and I'll be leaving for Knot Maul Shelter, 15 miles, with full stomach, heavy pack and decent weather. Had dinner last night with Minnesota Mike and Sly the Biker.
Also at the motel were Lee and Dick, and several other hikers. I left the extra Cat Stove in the motel office next to the hiker box with a note and instructions. Hope it finds a good home. The trail has become much more open, and a lot drier. Not a desert, but you have to plan your water. Don't just assume you'll find some when you need it. I think I'll be seeing more farmland and pastures for a while, though the trail profile shows some big hills (2,000 foot climbs) still ahead. The bulls may outnumber the bears in VA, at least until I reach the Shenandoah National Park! I have quite a bit of stuff to mail home but will have to do that in Pearisburg. The post office here is too far away to reach without a car or a hitch, and I have to get moving.
6:30PM, Knot Maul Shelter.
Camped here with Minnesota Mike, Bamboo Bob and Sly the Biker, all grownups, that is, 50-ish or better. Kind of nice. The younger hikers all seem to have hitched back to Damascus for the big Trail Days party. It was another good hiking day. Saw another deer at close range, and bluffed my way through a large herd of skittish cattle. This was in an area where the AT is on private property, on a scenic easement. We are advised not to step off the trail tread without the owner's written permission. Of course the owner's cattle must stand in the middle of the trail!
Dumb stunt of the day: I, who am so careful to always look back after any break on the trail, seem to have gotten distracted at the wrong moment. I left my wide-brimmed hat someplace during today's hike. It's gone unless some other hiker brings it into the shelter tonight, and that's unlikely. I'll have to find another one in Pearisburg. [5 minutes later] Larry, trail name Badger, just walked in with my hat!
5/17Jenkins Shelter 8:30PM.
I hiked 18 miles today with Sly the Biker, Minnesota Mike and Bamboo Bob. They were hard miles and we were all pretty tired when we got here. The second half of today's hike shows pretty flat on the profile, but it turned out to be very rocky with constant ups and downs. Hard going. Then there was a crowd of weekenders filling the shelter no room for us so we're camping out. The weather looks OK at the moment but it can change fast. There's supposed to be a storm on the way but who knows when or if it will get here? We hope it holds off so we can at least pack up dry tents in the morning.
Saw some beautiful views hiking over Chestnut Knob this morning. It was probably our last look back at Mt. Rogers. There were some very large hawks (or eagles?) doing their thing along the ridge line we walked this afternoon. Couple deer in camp this evening.
5/18 Helvey's Mill Shelter 5PM.
The storm hit about midnight and blew through by 6:30 or so. At least we weren't getting rained on while we were breaking camp. Did just 14.3 miles of easy trail today. It's been cold all-day and blustery, but we didn't get rained on. Now it is getting very cold. Mike's thermometer reads 40 degrees. We all wanted to get into a shelter tonight so we could dry out tents, etc.
5/19 Store and campground on VA 606 4:30PM
17 miles today including the 0.7-mile road walk to the store. Oh, it was 37 degrees when we got up this morning, and clear. A nice hike except I'm having some trouble now with cracked calluses on both heels. They're starting to bother me, so I'll have to start taping them up. I just used the last of my moleskin on them, so will have to check at the store to see if they have any.
About 8 miles into the hike today I walked out onto a gravel road and a guy named Wayne parked there called to me, "You look like a thruhiker." I confirmed that, and he broke out his store of apples and bananas. I had one of each, and we talked for a while. He was from Colorado, recently retired, and considering hiking part or all of the trail. It was a nice break.
Farmers in the store are worried about their crops. It's predicted to get down to 28 degrees tonight, a record low. I'm going to wear everything in my pack and hope for the best. This is late May!
It occurs to me that I just finished the regimen of antibiotics and high dosages of Aleve for my leg yesterday. My heels have no doubt been hurting for days but I didn't notice. That's a danger of taking pain medication on the trail. The leg seems to be fine. Now I'll have to take good care of my feet.
13.3 miles tomorrow to Woods Hole Hostel. Sounds like an interesting stop, run by a lady named Tillie Wood. Then, a 10mile walk into Pearisburg.
5/20 Woods Hole Hostel 6PM.
A truly fascinating place, the sort of trail experience you would run into only on the AT. The two-story main house, a log cabin, was built in the 1800's. The "Bunkhouse" hostel where we are was presumably built at the same time and served originally as a barn. Now there are mattresses in the loft and a common area on the first floor. Tillie (wonderful lady whose late husband "Splinter" Roy served as Asst. Secretary of the Dept. of the Interior under Jimmy Carter) serves breakfast for up to 8 hikers. Breakfast is $3.50, and the hostel ifs free! Tillie just explained that the house was built in 1880 from Chestnut logs, and the bunkhouse was built at another location about 6 miles from here in 1830. It is made from oak logs and was originally a house. They moved it here and rebuilt it. The construction is very interesting. The logs have been squared with an adze. You can see the marks. The chinking was originally twigs packed in as tightly as possible, then daubed over with mud. Now they use Styrofoam chinking and a cement mixture for the daubing.
We had a heavy frost this morning. I don't know if it got to 28 degrees but there was ice in my water bottle. I walked in here about 3PM just as it started raining. Another hiker, Ben, came in about 5PM and said he walked through SNOW for about a half-hour up on the ridge. We now have a total of 10 hikers here. Only the first 8 get breakfast. Too bad. Still, a roof over our heads is the main thing. Sly the Biker and I are planning to share a motel room in Pearisburg tomorrow.
5/21 Plaza Motel, Pearisburg 3PM
A pleasant 10-mile walk into here this morning. I'm sharing a room with Sly the Biker. Minnesota Mike and his brother-in-law Tuck (Friar Tuck, of course) are in the room next door. We will all go to dinner later.
We'll probably leave those two behind tomorrow. Tuck just joined Mike on the trail two days ago and he's having some blister problems. They plan some short days while Sly and I will be doing longer miles.
It snowed on us this morning! Yes, just a few flakes, but what a delightful little thrill! We arrived here without getting wet.
The breakfast at Woods Hole was a wonderful experience with Tillie and two other ladies taking good care of us. Grits, eggs, a hotdog, biscuits and gravy, plus juice and coffee. $3.50. Very enjoyable! Good company, and a hold-hands prayer before.
5/22 Pine Swamp Branch Shelter 7:45PM
Probably over 20 miles today if I count the walk from Pearisburg to the trail. It was very cold this morning when we started out, certainly below freezing, but it turned into a beautiful day for hiking. Cool and clear. It's supposed to be cold again tonight but the outlook is for nice weather for the next few days. We are clearly hiking the long ridgelines that are so characteristic of the Appalachians, but it's hard to tell. The ridge slopes off to either side of the trail but the trees and brush almost always block the view of the valleys. The occasional glimpses are pretty and the sounds of trains below carry up to the trail. Sly pointed out two cardinals to me. Brilliant red birds a little smaller than a robin. I had never seen one before, so was pleased to have spotted them.
I hiked most of the day by myself. Sly and I had agreed on our destination. I took it pretty slow because my right knee has been bothering me a bit, particularly on the downhills. It's always something, isn't it? Bamboo Bob is also here, and a couple younger hikers, Crazy Foot who we've met before on the trail, and Squeakyno-more, a southbound section hiker. Time to get in the bag and get warm.
5/23 Laurel Creek Shelter 8:15PM
18.5 miles today but it took me over 11 hours to hike it. My knee was slowing me down quite a bit, especially during the middle of the day. We had several miles of rough, rocky trail this morning and that probably aggravated it. By late afternoon I was pretty tired but the knee felt better. The weather today was warm and sunny, and it looks like more of the same tomorrow. Bamboo Bob, Jake Brake, Sly the Biker and I are sharing the shelter. A younger hiker, Samaritan, is camped here. There was one spectacular overlook, Kelly's Knob, that offered a fine view to the SE. It was a short walk off the trail. Crazy Feet was there as well. We took pictures of each other.
I had planned a 22.3-mile day tomorrow, but will stay at a closer shelter instead. Sly and I talked about it. By taking a shorter day, we can get to a new hostel, the Four Pines Hostel near Catawba, VA the next day.
5/24 Camp at about the 2,500-foot level on the way up Brush Mountain 7PM
An interesting hike today in warm, sunny weather. About 15.5 miles total. We passed the Keffer Oak this morning, at more than 18 feet around the base, it's billed as the biggest tree on the trail.
Later we met the "wild" goats on Braisers Knob, an extremely rocky stretch of ridge top. The goats (2 of them that I saw) come right up to you and lick the salt from your legs. When I backed off to take a picture they immediately began chewing the straps on my hiking poles.
After an early dinner at Niday Shelter we decided to get a few more miles in before dark. That leaves us with less than 13 miles to the road (VA624) to the Four Pines Hostel tomorrow. On the way there we will see the Dragon's Tooth, an impressive rock formation that's just off the trail. Sly the Biker and Bamboo Bob are camped here with me. They were quite interested in the concept of stealth camping. By cooking early at a shelter where there is water, we can then hike on while carrying less water, then camp wherever there's a flat spot. It's an easy way to get some extra miles, and is a pretty common practice on the PCT.
5/25 Four Pines Hostel 9PM
Walked in here about 3:30PM after getting hopelessly lost coming off of the Dragon's Tooth. I made a wrong turn and walked the wrong way down the highway. Added a mile or more to a long day. The descent was about 2.5 miles, a lot of it using handholds down the rock. Nothing like that on the PCT!
17 of us went to dinner at the Home Place in Catawba, VA, a couple miles from here. A section hiker Bruce Grant picked up the bill for all of us! Had to be $250 plus, an excess of trail magic! And the dinner was excellent, served home style, AYCE. They bring bowls of food as long as you want to eat it, including cherry cobbler with ice cream!
The downside of hostel life it's 9:30 and the guitars are just coming out. We will not be on the trail at 6:30 tomorrow morning. At the moment we have two very good guitars and a banjo. They're doing a nice job on "Country Road." A bit ago, "Crazy Foot" showed his skill juggling three flaming torches! And fire breathing! Don't see a lot of that on the PCT either. 13 pretty hard miles today and 16.1 to Lamberts Meadow Shelter tomorrow. Then a short 9.4 miles into a motel in Daleville Monday night.
Talk about trail-fog. It was only this morning when we saw all the car campers that we realized it was Memorial Day weekend. We got to a camping area and "Chief Navajo," a professional wrestler, invited us over for coffee. It was an interesting contrast in styles. The two couples had 3 large tents, complete portable kitchen, electric generator; well, you get the idea. Their frying pans weighed more than my whole pack. It was an interesting break, and good coffee.
5/26 Lambert Meadow Shelter = 7PM
A wonderful but tiring hike today. The weather was warm with afternoon thundershowers. We stayed dry but there's been some thunder and showers since we got to the shelter. I got some pictures at McAfee Knob, probably the most photographed spot on the AT. Spectacular scenery. We next hiked along Tinker Cliffs, where the trail skirts the cliff edge. More pictures. I've hiked 700 miles. The knee is doing better but that may just be the lighter pack. I resupply tomorrow in Daleville.
5/28 Best Western Coachman Inn, Daleville, VA 10AM
The knee was not happy with the downhill yesterday though it was a relatively easy and short mileage day. I'm essentially hobbling along on one leg again. I've got an appointment with Dr. Polk here at 1:30 today. Maybe I should just get a couple of these doctors to carry me to Maine! We'll see what she (Dr. Polk) says, but I'm here for at least tonight another zero day.
Sly and Bob hit the trail after breakfast. It was a very sad parting. Sly calls me his mentor. We got along well, and we talked about doing the JMT together, with him adopting the lightweight-backpacking ethic. I hope that works out. In the meanwhile, I wish them both a great hike. They are proof that some lawyers can be nice guys.
3:30PM Dr. Beth Polk says YES, I can resume my hike. The problem is some arthritis (I knew that.) She gave me 4 Vioxx 50mg tablets to take, one per day. That's a strong anti-inflammatory. She also recommended I give it at least two days rest to allow it to work, so I've told the folks here that I'll be here through Thursday night. Friday morning I get back on the path to Maine! She also gave me a prescription for 500mg Naproxin (that's industrial strength Aleve) to take twice a day for the rest of my hike. So, it looks like I'll "get by (hike) with a little help from my friends," to paraphrase a Beatles song. Anyway, this hike has already been a huge success as a weight loss program. According to the doctor's scale, I now weigh 174 pounds. I've lost almost exactly 20 pounds and am at the weight where I once ran my fastest 10Ks and half marathons. (That was before knee surgery.) The point is, I'm where I want to be and should be to do what I'm doing most efficiently. Now, all I have to do is carry enough food to maintain this weight. That's very important. If I lose more weight, it will be from muscle rather than fat, and I will lose strength. Brian knows what I'm talking about. His hiking weight was 155 pounds He had to force himself to eat enough on his trek to maintain that weight. Fortunately, there's an AYCE Chinese buffet restaurant right across the street!
The rest of this trip is likely to be hot and humid. A hiker suggested that potassium tablets would help the electrolyte balance in these conditions, so I bought some. (Cheap.) But, for those who may be interested, the pharmacist told me that mosquitoes and other insects are attracted to potassium! Interesting side affect! She is from the Texas gulf coast, and said down there people avoid eating bananas or taking excess potassium for that reason. You and I learn something every day.
Check out page 94 of the June 2002 issue of Backpacker magazine for a review of my alcohol Cat Stove. It is indeed the best design you can make!
And, it's close enough to June that I'm mailing my long underwear home. Hope I'm right about that!
5/31 Bobblets Gap Shelter, 6PM
18.5 miles today after an early start from the motel. I was so excited about getting started again that I didn't get a lot of sleep last night apparently enough, though. It was a pretty easy stretch of trail today after the initial climb out of town. This afternoon the trail has been following the Blue Ridge Parkway, usually out of sight but not out of hearing. So I am enjoying the famous Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Lots of flowering Mountain Laurel and Rhododendrons. It's been hot and water is scarce. Other hikers here tonight are Captain, Seaweed, Flatfoot, Dharma, Biff, Weeper, and a southbound section hiker, WrongWay.