Waiting for g OD ot.

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Dick’s Dome Shelter, VA, AT mile 984.3, June 24, 2016 — My friend Denise texted me this morning that she was headed my way, leaving the trailhead at Hwy 522 Front Royal, VA. Her ETA at Dick’s Dome: 7 pm. She’s late, but that’s okay. I’ve been talking to the hikers and exploring the new “Whiskey Hollow” shelter under construction about 100 yards away.

My last visit to Dick’s Dome: Stink Bugs + Notebook Odds and Ends

Denise is my trail crew friend, now known by her trail name “The Optimistic Dictator,” OD for short.  Readers will recall that I hiked with Denise in Georgia as she started:  They’re Off  I’ve also written about our adventures here: Let’s Go Hiking.

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The PATC 2016 Ridgerunners

When she texted I was with the PATC ridgerunners finishing our monthly meeting.

This month we chose the PATC Highacre “cabin” in Harpers Ferry.  It’s within 50 yards of Jefferson’s Rock if anyone cares to look it up.  Regardless, nice view of the Potomac River.

The gathering includes a Thursday evening social followed by a Friday business meeting.  These are hard working folks who patrol the trail, teach Leave No Trace outdoor ethics, act as ambassadors to the hiking community, clean up trash and privies, and patch up blisters and more serious injuries and afflictions.

We learned that the number of thru hiker reaching Harpers Ferry is up 18 percent over last year.  We’re somewhat skeptical of this number’s legitimacy. Here’s why.

In recent years more and more hikers appear to be “yellow blazing.”  That means they hitch rides ahead and don’t actually hike all the trail.  For example, I saw hikers at the Hoodlum’s hiker feed who appeared in Harpers Ferry, 100 miles north the very next day when I was there.  Hummmmm……  The younger generation is going to hell, and it always has!

Flash forward.  With dusk on the horizon, I pulled up my WordPress app and began my thoughts.  Just then OD rolled in. It was marvelous to see her now after wishing her well at mile 80. She’s nearly 1000 miles into her hike.  That’s a big odometer number by foot.

We took up residence for the evening at the Whiskey Hollow shelter under construction.  It’s going to be a nice one.

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Our itinerary marched us through an Appalachian Trail section branded the “roller coaster.”  It’s a series of steep pointless ups and downs, more of a toothache in the grand scheme of the 2,200 mile trek,  than a serious challenge, but nevertheless…  I’ve often said it’s like an outlet mall where Pennsylvania ships its surplus, worn out rocks, and the stones that don’t sell.  This time it occurred to me that the roller coaster may also be where PA’s fugitive boulders go on the lam. That is to say there’s no shortage of miserable rocks on the roller coaster.

So, there I was. It was hot, humid and I was now hiking with someone sporting “trail legs.”  Like a Philip Marlow client, the dame’s spandex oozed confidence and strength. Her glimmering smile stared down the roller coaster like Paul Bunyan making match sticks in the north woods. My role in this little meet up was to act as speed break.

This trip “slow-and-melting” was my middle name and I know Denise took great delight in having to stop and wait for me more than a couple of times.  How do I know?  She loved  telling the story.  Yea Denise!!!

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We found what we thought was trail magic.  Instead it was a refreshment station for a trail running group.  They didn’t seem to mind that we helped ourselves to some of their cold Gatorade!

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Sometimes your dogs need a dip in cold water!

We took a selfie at the 1,000 mile mark (L)  GA in March (R)

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Raven Rock, VA

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Trail Magic at Keys Gap from a 2014 thru hiker and her mom.

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A happy hiker reaches the psychological mid point at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry.

The official enshrinement in hiker history.  This is a strong young woman.

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Did I tell you that a bear tried to chew through Denise’s kevlar “bear proof” Ursack food bag in Shenandoah National Park?  In this case, bro bruin chomped into a bottle of sriracha sauce.  Hope this particular Yogi learned his lesson. That stuff is liquid bear spray.

Oh the adventures OD has had!  Stay tuned…

Independence

These are difficult decisions. You have to know yourself and how deep you can dig. I’m following several faster and much younger hikers ahead of Karma. The snow is challenging both physically and mentally. The cold weather has been brutal at altitude. Then, if you are unfamiliar with high altitude hiking, the shock to your system can be stunning. Altitude sickness is common. It features headaches, lack of appetite, lethargy and inability to sleep. I’ve been there and done that. As Karma says, this isn’t her first rodeo. She’s bagged a major thru hike. Maybe it’s time to savor the journey, and not the death march.

Karma on the PCT

The day of badassery having been acknowledged and celebrated, a human’s got to know her limits. Forester was mine. Not all trails work for all people — and hey, 800 miles is nothing to sneeze at.

At least the desert had hummingbirds! 🙂

Yesterday morning my shoes were frozen solid, and my socks and pants were still wet and icy cold. This morning my tent was frozen. And in addition, someone seems to have flicked the mosquito button to the ‘on’ position. They’re suddenly swarming, and they’re relentless. Also large.

The altitude is affecting me much more than I thought it would. Can’t hike fast, can’t sleep, can’t breathe well. I’m really tired–and it’s making things very hard.

My PCT adventure is likely at its close. I could skip the Sierra, but that’s not ideal. And there’s still too much snow in Washington to go that far north. Best to…

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Weedwhacking

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A ray of light perfectly aligned with my eyes under my hammock fly this morning at 6 a.m.

Shenandoah National Park, June 17-19, 2016 — It was North District Hoodlums trail crew work weekend.  I usually go to the park on Friday early to work on the section of the Appalachian Trail for which I am overseer and personally responsible.  Saturday we do crew work.  Sunday we clean up any odds and ends we didn’t get done on our AT sections.

It’s been raining like crazy on the east coast for the past month. In fact, it’s only recently warmed up.  Add water to vegetation and you get jungle!  Jungle is habitat for the ticks that are the vector for Lyme Disease.  What to do about that. The only logical thing is to chop back the jungle.

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Weed whacker Man – a superhero if there ever wasn’t one.

I spent two whole days week whacking.  First was my trail.  Second was a section that belonged to a dear fellow who left us for the charms of Milwaukee.  Did I mention that it was hot?  At least there were two of us the second day – we are a crew, right?

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The idea is to cut the salad back about double arms length from the center of the treadway.  The hikers should not touch vegetation as they walk.  No vegetation.  No ticks (well, almost).

I have an informal campsite on my section.  No fires allowed people.  They build them anyway and risk the fine.  I break up the fire rings by tossing the rocks a long way away.  This knucklehead obviously had an unsuccessful fire, not to mention ample signs of raging diarrhea.  Poetic justice.  Damn right.  I’m sparing you the shxtty pics, but I always document the scene of the crime.

The third week of June is prime thru hiker season.  Time for the annual Hoodlums hiker feed.  We cooked burgers and hot dawgs for about 30 thru hikers.  Turns out that they were all very nice folks.  That’s not always the case this late into the season.

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Sometimes we see dramatic views.  Worth a whack so to speak.

Love the evening ambiance.

Next up:  I’m about to hike 55 miles through northern Virginia with Denise, the friend with whom I hiked Georgia.  She’s here and off the trail on “vacation.”  After that, I’ll be out for 240 miles with this year’s group of excellent ridgerunners.  Can’t wait to get moving!

Kennedy Meadows

Karma is one tough lady. There is no quit in her character. She proved that on the AT

Karma on the PCT

Boom!

703 miles of desert (with mountains). Beyond my wildest dreams. Certainly, I thought there was a good chance it was beyond my physical abilities. But here we are! 700 miles in 7 weeks. 700 miles of desert.

The last few desert days were hard. Really hard. The whole desert was really hard! (I got sick again; turns out it really is the ibuprofen, after all. I stopped it immediately this time, and immediately got better.) I’ve never walked in 110-degree heat while carrying 20 pounds of water along with everything else. (And I’m not anxious to repeat it!) But it was worth every scorpion.

It’s like the Promised Land when you walk around that bend here at KM. Everybody cheers and claps. Everybody beams. It feels like the finish line. 🙂

I got here the morning of June 11th. I’ll be taking the day, then entering the…

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Utter exhaustion…

Denise is still plugging away. Her miles are amazing. The good news is that she’s now in Shenandoah National Park, and I’ll be seeing her soon. I’m hoping I can keep up!

The Other Road

On the trail we are pushing ourselves everyday. When we first start to head north from Springer Mountain a long day may be 10 miles or so. It took pretty much all day to do the ten miles and you are sore and tired at the end of each day. However, that ten miles slowly becomes 12, and then 15. The longest day I have done so far is 23 miles with my pack and 26 without it (slack packing). It amazes me to think that I can walk that far in a day while going up and down mountains.

We also take days off, zeros as we call them because they are days we walked zero trail miles. These zeros are frequent in the beginning. One every five days or so. But as we move north, and the desire to cover more ground increases, we take less time off…

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Days 46, 47

Karma on the PCT

Day 46 (Saturday, June 4): H-2-Oh
Mile 610.9

The hikers who are passing me now started on May 1 to May 8. I really need to let go of that question, lol.

Good news! The trail near the Chimney Campground fire wasn’t damaged, the fire is controlled, and the trail is scheduled to reopen tonight (Saturday). So the march to Kennedy Meadows continues! It’s 100 miles–6 days (I’ll try for 5 and fail!). In 7 days, I’ll be entering the High Sierra, armed with bear canister, ice axe, and microspikes. ‘Donner, party of one!’

I was on the trail promptly at 5. Long, hot, heavy day today–the first day of the longest water carry on the trail: 42 miles. The streams are dry, the caches are no longer maintained. I heard a lot of people planning all sorts of permutations to avoid carrying 8 or 9 liters of water–paying people…

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Day 48: Scorpions and Devilfish

Electricity for your phone/camera/typewriter/emergency communications device is always an issue. The choice is to carry lbs worth of storage batteries or get on a juice diet. Unlike the AT, on the PCT you can’t run to town every time you need something…

Karma on the PCT

Day 48 (Monday, June 6): Scorpions and Devilfish
Mile 636.6
Kennedy Meadows ETA: Still 6/10, by some miracle

Hey, I canna do what the grownups do, either! I set the alarm for 1:00 AM, then failed to hear it!

It was another freakishly windy night last night. I was in a protected little dell surrounded by Joshua trees, so the blowing itself wasn’t bad, but the noise was awful! A true roar. I put in my earplugs just enough to cut the howl to something less fierce and scary, but I forgot to turn the alarm volume up to compensate. Heh. So I’m cozy and drowsy and wondering what time it is…3:22 AM! Holy crap! So much for my bold night-hiking plan.

But I’ve gotten good at getting things ready the night before, so I was hiking by 4:15. But get this: When I went to put my shoes on…

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Days 43, 44, 45

Karma on the PCT

I’m entering the time of limited internet access. I’m not sure what that means, practically speaking, but worst case scenario is that I don’t have signal until Independence, in about 3 weeks, after I’ve entered the High Sierra and finished the first couple of passes. And I definitely need to conserve battery for GPS/navigation. So I’ll probably be making the switch to light journaling (and letting the pics tell the trail story). Some people may be happy about this. 🙂 Also, rather than slamming people with 21 emails, I’ll gang up the days a bit.

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FYI

Now the magical part of this hike begins. We’ll see how Karma deals with what we westerners call scenic overkill – not to mention altitude, exposure, temp swings, snow, and navigation.

Karma on the PCT

FYI, I’m technically entering the southern Sierra, and Internet access will probably drop. I’ll probably have a signal here and there for a few days, but there’s no signal (I hear) at Kennedy Meadows, so I might be radio silent for a few weeks. Don’t worry! It’s expected. 🙂

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