Friday, June 29, 2012

2003 AT trip report Day 2

Monday, May 5
Brown Gap

I wake up to the pitter patter of rain on the hammock.  Dang.
I get up and start packing.  No movement comes from the
two tents.

I voice my opinion that it's not going to stop raining, and the
other two start packing up.

It rains.  Rain, rain, rain.  I arrive at the gap where the
shelter is supposed to be.  There's a path.  I follow
it.  There are footprints on it.. there must be a shelter,

Eventually the footsteps peter out and I'm in the middle
of some very nice evergreens.  No shelter.  I go back
to the trail and notice the real path to the shelter, 20
yards down the trail.  Oops.  Once at the real shelter,
I strip and put on warm clothes for the lunch break.

After lunch we put our cold wet clothes back on and
keep walking.   We considered staying at the shelter
but it was early and we wanted to go a bit further.
The campsite we aimed at turned out to be notso hotso,
but we set up anyway.  Nothing else in the vicinity
seemed better.

Getting down to the campsite involves a steep slope
no matter how you do it.  We wipe out.  I do some damage
to the seat of my Provent pants, sliding butt first.

I set up my hammock on a slope, leaving the tiny valley
floor to Leapfrog and 10-kid (Nancy's new trailname.)
It's been raining quite a while and it's still dry, so it might
be okay.

During the night they find that it's not okay.  The waters
begin to rise.  The Nomads turn into small waterbeds.

Leapfrog feels unwell during the night.  I don't feel
so hot myself.  But at least I'm pretty dry.

10-kid shouts over the rain that if a car comes, she's
getting a ride.  Sometime during the night, a car does
come.  She shouts over the rain.  I can barely hear her.
Not wanting to get out of my hammock, I say "Do you
really want to leave that badly?"  Silence.  "If you
feel the same way in the morning, we'll find a way out"
I tell her.  The car has moved on anyway.

Lightning crashes.  It rains really really hard.  I
put in my earplugs to sleep.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

2003 AT trip report Day 1

Sunday, May 4
North of Davenport Gap

With Miss Janet away for the overnight party, a hiker staying at the house takes over breakfast preparations.  I have a yummy biscuits and eggs.  We all hang out in the back yard in the sunshine.  I notice a lot of things hanging out to dry. Hmmm.

Miss Janet brings the first load of hikers back.  She is going to be very busy today.  A bored zeroing hiker offers to shuttle us to our starting point.  It will save us a lot of time.  Yay!  We drive and drive and drive and see a little bit of Asheville and finally get to the AT at I-40 near Davenport Gap.  We've weighed our packs while loading up - 31, 31, and 34 pounds. Not too bad, for five days food.  The others take tons of "getting ready to go" pictures, and we're off.

It's really pretty out.  The sky is hot and blue.  You can smell the pine trees.  I love that.

Soon we have a stream to cross.  In our first injury of the trip, Nancy falls in and skins her knee.  No lasting harm done, we doctor her a little and continue walking.  I notice signs for Standing Bear Farm.

In the late afternoon we arrive at our planned stopping point, a little spit of land between two streams.  The bugs are ferocious.  We quickly set up and get in our shelters. My hammock fly ends up staked in the middle of the stream, as there isn't enough land to go around.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2003 AT trip report Day 0

Before I started using, I was in the habit of posting trip reports to AT-L, the Appalachian Trail mailing list (which I'm still on.)  Because I never throw anything away, I still have those sent emails.  I came across my trip from 2003 last night and decided to repost the entries.  The trip started at I-40 (at the north end of the Smokies).  I hiked with Leapfrog, who I met in 2001 while hiking with DeLee, and Leapfrog's friend Ten-kid.

Saturday, May 3

My friend Alex from work drove me to Miss Janet's House in Erwin, where I met up with Leapfrog and her friend Nancy.  POG is hanging out when I arrive.  What a nifty surprise (for both of us!)  The place is full despite a bunch of hikers heading to the hills for a cookout.

At 11 two beds are still empty but have stuff on them.  Martha Graham thinks the stuff belongs to hikers who've gone to the cookout and tells me to go sleep in one of them.  I do, and end up displacing somebody who was there after all.  Martha Graham can be very firm.

It all worked out.  The other top bunk was supposed to be taken by somebody who was really too sick to be climbing in and out of a bunk.  He slept on the sofa in easy reach of the bathroom.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The body

My speech for tomorrow's Toastmaster's meeting.  Will not be verbatim since I won't be using notes.

In 2010 I took off six months from work to thruhike the Appalachian Trail.  My intent and ambition was to hike the whole thing, from Georgia to Maine, in one season.  While I didn't quite accomplish that goal, I had dozens of irreplaceable experiences along the way which made it worth the effort.

By early summer I was in central Virginia.  On June 3 I saw virtually noone.  I ended my day early at a really nice shelter in large part because another hiker showed up.  I just wanted somebody to talk to.  On the morning of June 4 I moved on, walking quickly in the cool morning air to try to make up some of the mileage I had skipped the day before.

Around noon I arrived at Cornelius Creek.  I was pleased with my progress, and even more pleased that somebody had left trail magic in the form of cold Cokes in the stream near the shelter.  I got some water from the stream and helped myself to a cold Coke to have with my lunch.  With my sugary treasure in hand I walked the two hundred feet from the stream to the shelter and sat down at the picnic table to eat my lunch.

A hiker was asleep in the shelter.  I tried to be as quiet as I could.  It seemed like everything was making more noise than it should, as things always do when you're trying hard to be quiet.  The hiker slept through it all, though.  I got out some snacks and drank the soda while I filtered the water and had a look at my map.

You might think it unusual to find somebody asleep at noon, but during the hottest times of the year, some people hike at night and sleep during the day.  It does help you escape from the heat while hiking, but then you have to try to sleep during the heat.  I don't do it, myself.  But I know plenty of folks who do.  The bugs are so bad that I wouldn't try doing it in a shelter, but some do.   This guy had a couple of flies on him.  I don't know how he slept through that.

Still, the fellow in the shelter was being really quiet.  Shouldn't he be snoring?  Pretty much everybody snores.  I glanced over at him.  I didn't want to stare, but I looked again.  He really wasn't moving much.  I mean, at all.  I started to get a very creepy feeling.  The flies were sounding very loud in the stillness.

Here I was, sitting all by myself in the middle of nowhere, with somebody who may or may not be dead.  Also, I've watched zombie movies.  They seemed a lot more real to me right then.  What if he WERE dead, and I woke him up!

Being a modern girl, I got out my cell phone and texted my best friend.  Who was nowhere near me.  She was several hundred miles away, in fact.  But I needed a second opinion.  "I think this guy might be dead", I typed.  I didn't wonder what that would look like on the other end.  She was confused.  And concerned.  I texted her more details.  

She suggested poking him.  While this might make sense, I was averse to the idea on two levels.  First, I would feel bad about disturbing a sleeping hiker.  And second, I DID NOT WANT to touch a dead guy!  So no matter what, I didn't want to touch him.

DeLee next suggested that I ask if he were okay.  Okay, yes, this makes sense.  I said "Hey, mister, are you all right?"  Nothing.  Then I said "HEY MISTER, ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?!" Nothing.  I got up and slapped the floor of the shelter.  If he were deaf, he should feel the vibrations.  He didn't move at all.

Okay, I'm pretty sure this guy is dead.  I didn't get very close, but I moved to where I could see him better.  He had flies ALL OVER his closed eyes.  And the bottom of his hand where it was against the floor, tucked up next to him, was turning dark purple.  I'm no expert, but I've watched CSI.  I think that's what they call lividity, the blood settling to the bottom of the body.

Diagnosis made, I took the next step.  I called 911.  911 was surprisingly nonplussed.  "You found a WHAT?"  I guess they don't get calls about corpses every day.  Which is weird.  I mean, people die all the time, right?  I was trying to give them details when the call dropped, and I couldn't get them back.  Oh, great.  I figured I would hike out to a road and flag somebody down.

I started packing up to go, then realized that I needed to use the privy.  It felt incredibly insensitive to have bodily functions when the guy was over there being dead.  But it didn't change the fact that I needed to go.  I trudged up the trail to the privy, feeling awkward.  When I got back, another hiker was sitting at the picnic table, eating his lunch.

I asked him if he had a cellphone on a different network from me.  He said yes, but was confused about why I wanted it.  "I think that guy's dead" I said.  "I need to call 911 back."

He hopped up from the picnic table pretty fast.  "He's WHAT?"  I had already been through this conversation a couple of times so I was impatient.  "I think he's dead and I need to call 911 back.  Could I use your phone please?"  He dug it out of his pack with shaking hands and checked, but he had no signal.  I told him I was moving on, and he quickly packed up his gear.  For some reason he didn't want to eat lunch next to a dead guy.

As we were both leaving, two day hikers came up.  I asked them if they had a phone too, and we went through the conversation.  It turned out that they had hiked in from a side trail that morning, had seen the guy in the shelter, and had walked on.  ALL of us had thought he was asleep!  He was a very convincing sleeping corpse.

All of us left the shelter.  The other thruhiker raced away, wanting to leave the memory behind.  I walked at a more normal pace.  Within a quarter of a mile, my phone beeped.  911 had left me a message.  I didn't know 911 would call you back.  They were very insistent.  "CALL US BACK!" they said.  Since I had enough signal to get a message, I figured I had enough signal to make a call.  Soon I was back on the line, explaining about the corpse (… I was pretty sure, though the ranger they got on the line asked me if I had checked the pulse and I had to admit that I had not on account of the zombie fear.)  I hesitantly asked if they wanted me to go back and wait with the corpse, and was relieved when they said no.  They said I'd have to give a report later.  I told them I was a thruhiker, had no fixed address, and had no good way for them to locate me.  They were unconcerned.

Sure enough, three hours later I hear my name called at a road crossing.  Two men two hundred yards away hollered "Mrs Joy?"  Mrs Joy was my trail name.  I walked down to them.  They were police officers.  And sure enough, they took my report.  And then they helped me out by pointing out a shortcut to the next shelter, as they had used up some of my time and it was getting dark.

At the shelter was Roadrunner, the thruhiker from earlier.  He was pleased to have company after our disturbing incident, and so was I.  We ate dinner together, and then retired for the night.  Due to the aforementioned bugs, I set up my tent outside the shelter.  So in the morning when I woke up and I couldn't hear anything, I also couldn't see Roadrunner.  My first thought was "Oh no, not again!"  I called out his name, and was incredibly relieved when he replied with a very normal "What?"

I think we can all agree that finding a corpse is an unusual experience, and not one I probably would have had in my normal life.  It wasn't enjoyable.  It wasn't fun.  But it was incredibly memorable, and I am oddly proud to have done the right thing by that anonymous hiker.  Who knows how many people would have walked by the sleeper before somebody did something about it?  I couldn't save him, but I could make sure his family found out in a timely fashion, and he could get proper treatment rather than being gnawed on by critters.  If it happened again I might be a little better prepared since the first time.. but I still don't think I'm going to poke any corpses.  Just in case.

Monday, June 25, 2012

This blog isn't dead. A little tired, maybe.

eArThworm complained that I hadn't written in a while.  Which is true.  Having a Schnork takes up a lot of my time.  As does preparing for a long distance hiking trip.  And writing speeches.  I'm a vice president now.  I have responsibilities.

But mostly I got tired of spending time writing every night.  It's tiring.

See, this is an example.  I *just* started typing and the Schnork walked up and stared at me and schnorked at me.  It's like having a toddler.  She's going to go write on the walls with marker if I don't pay attention to her.  So now I have to type with her on my lap, schnorking and licking at me.

Anyway, I didn't die.  I'm leaving on a nearly three week hike in a few days.  I mailed out my boxes to Hanover and Glencliff today.  Only a couple more things to do, and if they don't get done it won't be the end of the world.  And a couple of doctor appointments, spa day for Beauty, cleaning up the house so the maids can make the surfaces nice.. the usual carp.

And worrying about Andy, who is losing weight.  Being the nutjar that he is, I never figured he'd be a tremendously long lived cat, but getting tired and skinny at his tender age (he's only nine!) is unexpected.  We're waiting on some test results from the vet.

Also, I discovered Words with Friends and I spend approximately seven hours per day beating my husband at it now.

Long story short, don't expect much from me.  I'm going on vacation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Trip Report: Rockytop circuit hike day two

Big Run campsite to Brown's Gap,  6+miles, home

The voices kept going.  I had my peaceful mossy campsite to myself.  Bears didn't come get my food, though something clumsy did go crashing around breaking small limbs.  Bear, deer?  I don't know.  I was near a great spot on the river for going in to get a drink, so I probably had lots of company that I didn't know about.  I put in my ear plugs so my subconscious sentries would shut up about it.

I woke up at one point to see the moon peeking out through the trees.  Another time I woke to a roar and a spotlight - a low flying plane.  I have no idea why it was spotlighting the trees.

And then I opened my eyes and it was broad daylight.  Dawn kind of snuck up on me.  Usually I open my eyes once or twice and catch it creeping up on me, but not this time.  I kind of wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, but on the other hand the best hiking of the day would be early, while it was still cool.  I told myself that at a minimum I needed to get up and pee, and while I was up I might as well retrieve the food bag.  Once the food bag is down, that gets me rolling on the day.

But once the food bag was down, I realized something.  I had two breakfasts and one dinner in there.  Only one of those items could be served cold.  And my stove was acting up for last night's dinner, so I had used more fuel than expected.  I couldn't cook tonight's dinner or tomorrow's breakfast.  My decision was made for me regarding my path today.  Back to the car.

That decided, I packed up and started heading upstream.  I did the first mile in my crocs, as there were four wadeable stream crossings.  Usually I don't bother, but the trail was so gentle that I could afford to wear shoes with no support for a bit.  It was nice after the fourth crossing to be able to put on dry shoes and socks.

I saw far more people today than yesterday.  At least twenty compared to two.  Hiking in the park on a weekday was genius.  I'll have to do that again.  I plan to work some weekends in near future, which means I'd have weekdays available.

The first couple of miles went by very quickly.  Then I had a long uphill slog out of the canyon.  I drank three liters of water and sweated vigorously.  I started to be glad that I was going home rather than planning to hike all day.  I'd have needed at least five liters of water just to stay hydrated in the heat.  Instead, I got to the car a little after noon and drove somewhere air conditioned for yummy food and beverage.

I noted that the mileages on the park markers did not match the mileages in my guide book.  I haven't bothered to do the math, but the hike I did was a bit longer than I expected.  Which doesn't matter I guess.

I stopped at Loft Mountain Wayside for lunch.  There were a lot of motorcyclists and a few bicyclists there.  Nobody looked as grungy or sweaty as me.  Ah well.  Backpackers are in the minority even in a park like Shenandoah.  It seems odd to me because that's all I go there to do, but the vast majority of visitors just ride down the road on one form of transportation or another, and never see any of the beauty that isn't visible from the road.

Loft Mountain Wayside, btw, has incredibly good pulled pork bbq.  Just FYI.

After my insanely good sandwich, I drove home.  I know I didn't spend more time driving than hiking on this trip, but it sure felt like it!  I have to really want it to drive down to the southern end of the park.  Now I remember why I usually hike in the northern or central sections.

JD was surprised to see me home, not having gotten my text messages regarding my stove situation.  It was nice to see him, though, and to have a relaxed evening.  I don't know if my long weekend made up for my hellish work week, but I know it tried really hard.  The weekend deserves a commendation.  And a bonus.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Trip Report: Rockytop circuit hike day one

Browns gap to big run campsite 7.9 miles tent

Sometimes I need solo time. No horse, no dogs, no cats. No friends. No husband. Just me and the sound of my breathing, the crunch of my footsteps, and the creak of my pack. I need to go somewhere with no people and no responsibilities. I need to just be. 

This week at work, I put in 12 hours on Monday and 17 hours on Tuesday. By Wednesday I was exhausted and stressed out. Time for a solo trip. I packed up Wednesday evening and put my pack in the car. I finished my forty hours for the week at two.   I drove out to see Pluto, gassed up the car, and I was gone. 

Slowly, I was gone. 95 was a parking lot. It took me two hours to go 20 miles. Note to self: do not take 95. However, as soon as I got off the interstate, things got better. Soon I found myself driving through Wilderness Battlefield. I stopped at the "shelter" with descriptions and more importantly pictures. What an amazingly violent and horrible time in our nation's history. 

Soon after that I was in the heartland of Virginia. Cattle, horses, and corn filled the fields by the side of the road. It was unfairly picturesque. 

I was looking forward to getting to my motel for the night in the town of Orange. But as it turns out, I watched a parade first. When I got to Orange I saw a lot of fire trucks, and the populace lining the streets. I gave in to the inevitable and pulled over. My only option for dinner was the Subway. I got a sandwich and a prime viewing spot at the back of the parade. 

Orange has a LOT of majorettes. Spangly ones. With flaming batons. It was a good time. 

When the parade finally ended, I drive on to my motel. There I blissfully wallowed in silence. 

I slept in until eight in the morning (I know!) and what with breakfast and packing, didn't get underway until 9:40. I had an hour's drive through heartbreakingly beautiful countryside. I mean, my chest really hurt a little. It was that pretty. 

When I passed the park boundary sign something in me loosened up and I could breathe more easily. It felt like coming home. 

At Swift Run Gap I waved my ID and park pass at the ranger. She barely looked at them. I said I needed a backcountry permit and she waved me over to the kiosk. As I started to drive over she belatedly asked me if I'd been here before. I grinned at her. 

I parked at historic Brown's Gap and got moving. Within minutes I was passed by a thruhiker. I should have asked his name but I forgot because he commented on my Dirty Girl gaiters. Those things get more comments. 

Shortly thereafter I ran into a ranger, and he was the last human being I saw all day. Aaaah. 

Rockytop didn't turn out to be "extremely strenuous" as promised, but it was nice enough. The trail was seriously overgrown. Some of the growth came over my shoulders. I accepted that I would be pulling ticks off later and tried not to stress about it. 

There was some pretty fantastic scenery over huge talus fields. And blueberries! Mostly not ripe yet, though. 

About 4 pm and 8 miles in, I found a fantastic campsite along Big Run and called it a day. It was still broad daylight and I wasn't tired, but the point of this trip wasn't making miles. So I set up my tent in a beautiful mossy spot, treated water, and made dinner. 

I couldn't find a super great spot to hang my food. It's hung, but it wouldn't take much to bring down the branch. I hope I get to have breakfast tomorrow. 

As expected, I found a tick during my tick check. More disturbingly, I keep finding nymphs crawling on my gear. Not much I can do about it though. I need to make time to put permethrin on my gear. All of it. 

Right now I'm undecided about what to do tomorrow. It's six miles back to the car. Or, I could hike north tomorrow and spend the night at pinefield hut, then hike ten miles on the AT on Sunday. Hmm. I think it depends on how much more solitude I feel like I need when I wake up tomorrow. 

Shit! I hear voices. Might have company tonight after all. Maybe I'll get lucky and they won't notice my super sweet campsite over here. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chewing is overrated

Inspired by friends who have been juicing (in the sense of extracting juice from fruits and vegetables) for health reasons, I purchased a juicer recently.  And I'm kind of in love.  The fresh fruit juices are insanely good, and the fresh veggie juices are surprisingly tasty.  At least I was surprised.  Also, both are far more filling than I expected.

So I've been making the occasional juice.  My friends went whole hog on it, but I'm doing closer to one a day.  I've also been drinking Bolthouse Farms protein drinks, which are also surprisingly good.

Basically, I haven't been chewing as much recently.

I'm not sure how my innards feel about this.  They've been hitting me with some pretty sharp pains.  I think it might be girly stuff, though.  I think one of my ovaries might be trying to secede.  Which is all right.  One ovary is on my list of non-essential items, just like my appendix and gall bladder.  I wouldn't want to give up both ovaries, but one is okay.  When my life calms down on approximately Wednesday, I'll call and make an appointment to see my girly doctor to have her check out the situation.

I was less interested in calling that doctor until I talked to my chiropractor about it (she being my effective primary care physician) and she said that I needed to not be hiking two months from the last time I got the severe pain.  Because if it were my ovary, that would be the next time it would go into action.  Offensive action.  I did the math and realized I'd be somewhere in the White Mountains right around then, which does not count as "near medical care" in anybody's book.  Best to get checked out before then.

In the meantime, that general area continues to be pissy in the non-urinary sense.  It was breathtakingly painful during the one walk I got in this week.  And it's poked me a few times this weekend.  Stupid body parts.

Hopefully whatever it is doesn't get all severe this weekend, either.  It's my last backpacking trip prior to this summer's big trip to New England.  Ah, New England.  Home of epic scenery and even more epic biting flies.

This weekend I'll be trekking out to Shenandoah to do a tough hike in the southern section.  It's far enough away that I think I'll drive out Friday night and stay in Charlottesville.  DeLee had a conflict this weekend so she's not going - and she wouldn't have been up for this hike anyway.  I can't think of anybody in driving distance who would want to go so I guess I'll be listening to some podcasts while walking, this weekend.  I deliberately chose one of the toughest loops in the park so I can get in some training for New England.  We'll see if taking the stairs two at a time has made any difference.

Friday, June 1, 2012

I don't think this happens to other people

The weather was fantastic yesterday.  I didn't get a chance to go for a walk because my job has amped up recently, but I did stop by the farm in the evening to see Pluto.  He's doing well.  I didn't have my wound spray with me (it's too hot to leave stuff in the car during the day) so he still has Swat on his bug bites, but at least they're finally healing.  Bonnie let me use some of her silver solution on them.  Worked like a charm.

When I walked him back to his field, he startled and pulled away from me.  We were already inside the field so no big, right?  But he still had on his halter.  And 10 foot lead rope.  He galloped like an idiot down to the other end of the field to stand with Mystery.  That way they could both stare at Sergio getting dinner ready.

I heaved a deep sigh and started trudging across the field to catch him again.  Pluto saw me and hauled ass back my way, screeching to a halt about an inch from me.  He turned his head so I could unbuckle his halter, and then immediately after I pulled it off he wheeled and galloped back down the field.

I hollered after him "I guess you forgot something, eh?"

At least he remembered he needed to get his halter off.

And he didn't manage to kill himself by tripping over the lead rope.  That was nice.  At this point he has a fair amount of experience with dangling leads.

In unrelated news, I'm going to put up an ad at the feed store and the tack shop.  I'm looking for a dressage rider to half lease Pluto so he can get ridden over a walk.  He misses trotting and cantering.