Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On The Trail Again

Today was our first day back on the AT, doing the eleven miles between VA 614 and Blue Ridge Parkway mile 78.5.  I guess I should explain how we are running our shuttle.

Even though the AT is a footpath through the woods, it often crosses roads.  At those road crossings, there are often small parking areas where hikers can leave a car.  We are using a website which lists all these parking areas to locate a place to park the truck while we hike a section of trail.  We select two parking areas, one on the north end and the other on the south end.  One of us will get out at the north end parking area and walk south on the trail.  The other will drive the truck to the south end and park then walk north on the trail.  We meet somewhere in the middle, have lunch, and then continue to our respective parking areas.  The one hiking to the truck will drive north to pick up the other.  It is a self-supported shuttle.  It’s not ideal and we don’t get to hike together, but it allows us to cover many more miles that we would be able to otherwise.

So, today we got up and hustled to get out the door before 7 AM.  We had almost a hundred mile drive to the south end at VA 614.  It is only about 70 miles via I-84, but since we were dropping me off at Blue Ridge Parkway mile 78.5, we had to take the parkway route.  The speed limit is only 45 mph so we didn’t get to the drop-off point until after 9 o’clock.  I started south in a strong wind and 38 degree temperature.  Gene went down to VA 614 and started north.  We met for lunch at Bryant Ridge Shelter.

Since Gene has already hiked this section, he didn’t have to do the entire 11 miles.  After lunch at the shelter, he turned around and walked back to VA 614 with me.  This shuttle arrangement allows us to decide which direction we want to hike.  Since this was all new trail for me, I opted to hike south--downhill.  I’m a real fan of downhill.  It makes my feet and knees hurt, but I can hike so much faster.  I’d much rather feel the pain in my knees than trudge uphill.  When we get up closer to Waynesboro and in Shenandoah National Park where I have already hiked, Gene will get to selected which direction he wants to hike as that will be new trail for him.

We each saw several hikers out today.  There were about 8 thru-hikers.  I was surprised to see that many this far north.  They must have started in early February from Springer Mountain in Georgia and hiked through all that snow in Tennessee and North Carolina.  One hiker we spoke to, Bloodhound, said the snow was waist deep in places.  We saw several section hikers.  There was one group of 4 older ladies (seemed to be in their 60s) who were out for a week.  They were coming up, very slowly with those heavy backpacks, as I was going down Floyd Mountain.  I felt sorry for them, but they seemed to be in high spirits.  We’ll probably see several of these hikers again tomorrow as we do the next section.

As for wildlife--we didn’t see much.  We saw several deer and a couple turkey as we drove along the parkway this morning.  Along the trail, we saw a lizard, a toad, and a portion of a rattlesnake.  The snake was sunning himself on an old blowdown.  I was in front at that point and just saw him as I walked by.  His head portion was hidden from view behind a piece of bark.  He may not have seen me at all.  I was practically running after I realized what it was, and yelled to Gene to hurry on along.  Gene never saw the snake at all.  As for wildflowers, they are included in the photos.  I tried not to stop to take a lot of flower pictures.  I had too many miles to cover.  There were a few I couldn’t resist.

That’s it for today.

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