Saturday, May 31, 2008


Hello from Pearisburg, where its 87 degrees today - a perfect day to not hike, and instead hang out by the pool at my hotel, and use the internet at the cute Courthouse Cafe. Virginia has been very kind to us so far, with relatively easy topography, some nice views, beautiful forests and farm fields, and lots of creeks and waterfalls to wade in. Highlights from this last section include the 544 mile mark - which means 25% of the AT is behind me now. A few of us wrote out "25%" on the trail with sticks, which people behind me have reported seeing. A few days later, we passed the 600 mile mark, which is not only important in its own right, but meant we were 25% done with Virginia. Also hit Partnership Shelter a week ago, where there is a phone and pizza delivery menus. A nice treat to have pizza and beer delivered to the woods! Last Saturday was spent at the SW Virginia Settlers Museum, a turn of the century farm and house museum, where a small festival with live bluegrass and amazing food cooked on a turn-of-the-century cast iron stove. Can't beat fresh blackberry cobbler! The next day, I blueblazed a half mile to a winery tasting room, and ended up packing in a bottle of white wine. Couple days after that I got a delicious breakfast from a local church group, and then crossed I-77 in the pouring rain. It rained all day, which can be difficult, but is good weather for doing long miles. Put the mp3 player on, head down, and did my longest day yet - 18.4 miles. I will be leaving Pearisburg either later today or tomorrow morning, depending on the weather. This upcoming stretch takes us on a ridge along the border with West Virginia for 20 miles before we return across the Shenandoah Valley to the blue ridge proper. Once there, we'll be crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway occasionally. I'm excited because I'll get to see friends at the end of the section in Waynesboro, and then Elizabeth in Shenendoah N.P. Everyone is in good spirits, and even C-Bass, who went home last weekend because he was bored with the trail is coming back today. Guess he was more bored at home. Franklin, who I had hiked with back in the Smokies before he had to quit because of shin splints, is also back. One weird aspect of the Trail is the number of stray dogs that seem to be living on the AT, following hikers around. The real oddity is that they are all purebreeds, not the mutts you might expect. I've met a sheepdog, a black lab, a beagle, a rat terrier, and even a chihuahua. Some of the hikers have adopted dogs - one guy took on the sheep dog who had earned the the trail name "Shit Dread" because of the clump of nappy hair hanging off his back end, got him shaved and found 30+ ticks living on him. If he had followed me another mile, I might have grabbed the rat terrier who is really cute. Luckily a pair of hikers picked her up, had her checked out, and christened her "Ginnie" for her home state. The body is feeling great, running strong. I'm definitely more fit than I've ever been, and nothing is bothering me any more than expected. Some foot soreness by the end of the day is about all, and occasionally something random like my quad muscles or big toe or even elbow will hurt for a half hour for no reason. It helps that the pack is nice and light without the winter clothes and bag, though I think I've made up for the lost weight with more of Elizabeth's delicious food. Definitely have the hiker hunger going on - nothing like hitting up Dairy Queen for two double cheeseburgers, fries, soda, and two blizzards. A nice 3000 calorie meal. By the way, I'm getting a day or two ahead of my itinerary schedule, so if you plan on sending anything, try to do it at least a week ahead of time so I don't miss it. Spence - I'll give you a call in a few days when I get to Daleville or Catawba about getting together in Waynesboro.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Mail Drop Inventory

I've uploaded the mail drop inventory (see link to the right) so inquiring minds can see what our hiker has been eating on the trail, and what I've been mailing out to him.... Thankfully, our firm offered to let me post his mail drops from the office, which means its no cost to us - as a "you're going away, but promise you're coming back" present. So, thanks, KSK!!

Many of the recipes I’ve made, and food ideas I’ve gotten, have been from the “Appalachian Trail Food Planner” by Lou Adsmond. It’s maybe the best trail-related purchase I made, and I highly suggest it if you’re inspired by Shawn’s trip and want to tackle the trail yourself ... It also has a detailed itinerary which Shawn used as a sample, in combination with several others, to plan out his trip and mail drop locations.

Shawn should be in Pearisburg, VA, tonight or tomorrow, and I’ll let everyone know when I’ve heard from him…. I can’t wait! Hope all are well, and have a great weekend!

(please note the farmer’s tan….)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Update from Virginia

Hi all - I apologize for not updating this sooner with Shawn's tales from Atkins, VA, but work has been a little busy! He made it to Atkins last Friday, and spent the evening in a hostel with a few other hikers. The next morning, as he was waiting for my mail drop to arrive, he hiked out to a local historical society festival and got himself a good southern breakfast! Then, mail drop safely in hand, he headed back to the trail.... only to be sidetracked by a small local winery he passed along the way. After a short tasting session, our hiker was back out on foot. I got a "bonus call" two nights ago from Bland, VA, where a group of hikers decided to go into town and have dinner. Shawn got himself two double cheeseburgers (yes, two) and a blizzard from the local Dairy Queen and then they all settled into a hostel in town for the night.... until they all walked back to the Dairy Queen for another blizzard. He asked me to be sure and tell Chris L. that he crossed Route 77 twice ... ah, city planners. I plan to post his mail drop list in the next few days (its all typed up, I just need to find time to upload it!), and I also received about 500 new photos yesterday. Lucky for me, the camera card was in a box with two smelly shirts and a cool weather sleeping bag that should definitely be aired out. I'll post a selection of the photos soon as well... if anyone is interested in seeing all 500, stop on by!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Quick hello to you all after 16 miles of up and down from a little dining room where I'm enjoying the "best burger in Troutdale," by which they mean the "only" burger in Troutdale. Its a 3 building town: store/restaurant, church/hostel, and post office. Funny, there's internet but no cell reception. Great bacon double cheeseburger with fries and vanilla milkshake though. Spence, thanks for the offer - I'm definitely up for staying with you and will give you a ring as I get closer. As it is, I won't be in Waynesboro until a month from now - bout 6/21. Fun times going over the Grayson Highlands, which includes Virginia's tallest peak Mt. Rogers (5700ft). There are feral ponies everywhere on top of the mountains where its bald, and they love hikers because hikers bring snacks. Lots of foals about too. Been interesting cuz Trail Days allowed people behind us to catch up, so lots of new faces. Tomorrow I will be at Partnership Shelter, which is rumored to have both a shower and a phone from where you can order pizza. Should be fun. Then its only 12 more miles the next day to Atkins, VA for my next mail drop!

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Still here in Damascus, finally found a computer I can use, though it will have to be brief. Having a fun time here in town, with the festival and unofficial parties over the last two days. A great way to celebrate turning 33 years old. Friends here got me a surprise cake and everything - a really nice touch. And thank you very much to everyone at home who sent cards, etc! The main event of the festival has to be the hiker parade, where Trail alumni and current hikers line up by class, and townspeople bring waterguns and waterballons to throw at us. Our '08 Class anticipated this and was armed with ballons of our own, chanting the soccer-style chant "Ohhh Eight, oh-eight, oh-eight, oh-eight"... definitely a good time. I overheard former hikers saying that they'd never seen a tighter group of people than the current class. I plan on leaving late this afternoon - C-Bass and I are going to walk ten miles of the Virginia Creeper Trail, skipping a 13 mile section of the AT. This is my first large "blue-blaze" or side route that cuts out part of the official trail. We're doing it after hearing reports that the Creeper Trail (an old railroad bed, now a bike trail) goes through a scenic canyon and the AT crosses one or two more pointless climbs without views. AT purists will frown on our blue-blazing, but in my mind, its a "hike your own trail" experience that counts. It will be interesting to see who doesn't make it out of Damascus. For weeks this town has been the focus of the hikers, and in the last week or so, discipline has broken down and people have been blue-blazing or even yellow-blazing (hitching a ride past a trail segment) more and more often. Lots of people are "slack-packing" too, where they pay someone to drive them to a road crossing and they day-hike back to the hostel or whereever without carrying a full pack. Myself, I am purist as far as wanting to move in a continuous direction, and carry my full pack the whole time. I don't have a big problem blue-blazing, as long as I don't miss anything worthwhile. Still, here is where we enter the "green tunnel" that kills many a hiker's ambitions. The leaves are out, the mountains are lower and have less views, there's no more trail festivals or towns where everyone gathers, and the partying stops. The true sense of how long the trail is and how much time is needed to do the whole thing is becoming obvious. We are at mile 460, and at 6 weeks, slightly less than a quarter done in time. Damascus is the last stop for many hikers, for whom hiking becomes a boring job, not unlike what they left at home. But I feel good, physically and mentally, and am ready for Virginia's 500+ miles! I will hopefully get to a computer in another 6 days, when I reache Atkins, VA. Talk to you then...

Friday, May 16, 2008


Hello from Damascus, Virginia - mile 460 on the AT and the psychological end to the hard South mountains. Got in yesterday afternoon for the start of Trail Days, or Trail Daze as I've seen it called sometimes. Trail Days is an annual 3-day gathering of former and current AT thru-hikers that overtakes Damascus every year, giving it the reputation as the friendliest Trail Town on the AT. Most hikers are staying at the Tent City, a nearly-free campsite a quarter mile out of town, but your favorite hiker has been lucky enough to score rooms from a few residents who are renting out space in their houses. Last night I was at the Hiker Hotel, and tonight I'm at the Dancing Bear. Beats sleeping in the rain, surrounded by the noise of thousands of partying hikers.

Sorry I haven't written anything for a while - there was no internet access between Erwin and here. Since Erwin, the trip has been pleasant with great weather, somewhat easier terrain, and lots of socialization. I've dubbed this section the "Salad Days". I had to slow down a bit too, to prevent myself from getting here too early, which made for lots of easy low-mileage days. Had some great meals at a few hostels along the way, and quite a raucous party broke out at Overmountain Shelter in the Roan Mtn Highlands. The shelter is an old barn near a road and a trail crew made of Appalachian State University students brought up a keg, some moonshine, and lots of hamburgers and hot dogs. Unfortunately, the weather turned foul as the party went on and by 11pm, a full 40mph wind and driving rain was blowing everyone around. My tent blew over, even with all my gear inside, and if it weren't for the heoric actions of Johnny Thunder - he pegged it down with my hiking poles - it might of been lost. Unfortunately, the head of the ASU students lost his tent completely. It blew away never to be seen again. Hiked out the next morning in the same weather, over miles of treeless balds - quite an experience.

Damascus has been on everyone's mind for weeks now. Trail Days is fun, lots of cool stuff going on - talks, slide shows, retailers, free food, drinking, etc.

Oops, my time is up - will finish this later.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Heading out of Tennessee... for good!

Shawn is heading out of the Kincora Hiking Hostel in Hampton, TN, this morning, and on his way to Damascus, Virginia, for Trail Days. He arrived at the hostel Saturday afternoon, caught a ride into town for dinner, then settled in for a Sunday off. Yesterday was spent resting, chatting, and playing Risk (which I can't believe he'd never played before this). He is right on track with the schedule he set out for himself - he'll actually have to hike at a pretty slow pace in order to not make it into Damascus too early! The hikers have figured out that they passed the 410 mile mark this last week, and by the time we talk again, he'll be done with three states - GA, NC, and TN. I'll let you all know when he gets to Virginia!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Photos Added!

I have created a flickr page for Shawn's photos from the trail... to access the page, click on the link on the right side, below our photo. I have been informed that the photos are largely from North Carolina, with a sprinking of Georgia and Tennessee. And, for some reason, they ended up backwards in the upload, so if you want to experience the trail the "right" way, start at the end and work backwards.... Enjoy!

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Still resting here in Erwin, so I have a moment to write some more. I will either leave late this afternoon to get to a shelter 4 miles from here or tent it overnight here and take off in the morning. The latter is looking more likely, since the crew I've been hanging with is spending the night and a whole bunch of others left today meaning it will be crowded ahead. Plus, I don't want to be too early to Damascus, VA - 120 mi from here - for Trail Days, which starts on the 16th. But feeling really good and ready to hike.

I try to do a strenuous day within each section, just to push the envelope. This past section's strenuous day was the 15.5 miles I did before 3pm to get a lousy hamburger and catch some friends who were a half day ahead. Can't tell you how exhausted I was that day, since it was hot and sunny all day and I didn't stop for a proper break or real meal - ate candy bars and quick snacks instead. But its amazing how the endorphines kick in and that night I was feeling great without any pains.

During the section before Hot Springs, our group rose at 4am and tried to make it 6 miles to the top of a big bald called Max Patch for sunrise. We were waylaid in a small gap when we found a van parked there and an orange University of Tennessee tent set up. The guy sleeping inside the van (it was maybe 6am) woke up and rubbed his eyes and told us to wait a half hour and he'd cook us breakfast. Seven of us had three dozen eggs between us. The cook's name is Ox, he thru-hiked a few years back, and says it changed his life. He comes every year to that gap to cook for the hikers coming through. That's the beauty of trail magic. Can't wait til I can run up to some shelter in Pennsylvania some day with a pizza and sixpack.

This upcoming section will see trail magic at an old barn that's been made into a shelter. Some Appalachian State students came by the hostel this morning with a flyer saying they'd be there with beer and food on Thursday, after their exams are over. That shelter is only 3 days away, so its another reason to lounge here today. Should be a good time.

A large group of us has been bunched up since the Smokies because of the festivals and pre-announced trail magic. This will probably stay that way until Damascus for the biggest festival, Trail Days, which supposedly attracts thousands of hikers. Supposedly, Damascus is the last stop for many hikers, who never make it past. Damascus starts the 500 mile trek through the long green tunnel. Personally, I'm looking forward to it, since its getting a little crowded and the hostels are becoming a bit of a party scene.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Hi gang, I've made it to Erwin, TN, mile 339. Funny story about Erwin - three weeks before starting the Trail, i found where hikers keep online diaries, and followed the progress of this one kid Dynamite (looks like Napolean Dynamite) who had started in early March. When Elizabeth and I drove down here over a month ago, we stopped in Erwin for gas and to check the town out. Drove by where the Trail comes out of the woods and who should pop out of the woods just at that moment but Dynamite! So I yelled out the car window at him "Dynamite! I know you, been following you on the internet!" He was a little freaked out, and declined my offer of a ride to town...

So, 33 days later, here I am. Am staying in the bunkhouse at a neat hostel called Uncle Johnny's. Perfect day to be here too, since it just started raining about an hour before I arrived. Should be clear when I leave tomorrow or the next day. I may try river rafting here tomorrow if the weather is nice and the prices are decent. As soon as I arrived, I caught Johnny's ride to town to the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet, which proved to be nice timing. Also got a Tennessee keychain for the pack as this is my only town stop in the state.

Had great weather this past section - the two days I spent in Hot Springs allowed me to miss the freezing rain last Monday night, and its been warm since. Some of my hiker buddies were out here that night and said there was sheet ice inside and outside their tents. C-Bass and I tried to catch up to our buddies, and I managed to do it on the third day, but it meant pulling long miles. Had my personal record of 17.4 miles on Thursday - 15.5 of those miles were done before 3pm so I could make it to a gap where a group of locals were cooking hamburgers until that time. Caught Slo-Goin and Franklin that day too, so added bonus.

The trail went over a series of balds in this section, and i got to cowboy camp (sans tent) on top of one - nothing like waking up in the middle of the night to see stars from bed. Also hung out on top of Big Bald for 4 hours yesterday afternoon to catch some sun and enjoy lunch. Amazing views of the upcoming Roan Mtn Highlands which I will hit this next week. Today, on the 12 mile trek to the hostel, I walked through a small forest fire!

As for my feet, I've come to think its a reinjuring of a sprain I had in high school. I've kept the ankle wrapped in ace bandages and its been slowly healing - still some soreness, but definitely better than last weekend. Its one of those things where I'm going to keep going and it will either get better or worse, we shall see. But I anticipate no problems leaving here on time.

BTW - Mom, you can keep sending cookies - they are easy to finish off at stops so I don't carry them. When I was saying send food to Elizabeth for parceling, I was referring more to folks who want to send trail mix or dried fruit and such. But thank you all, its been really delicious!

Ok, will write more later...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Photos from the Trail!

I received a package from Shawn today, with his old sleeping bag, a shirt, and a few other things he didn't need anymore... but most importantly, there was a camera card as well! Here are a few photos from the trail, so you can see our thru-hiker in action and see some of what he's seeing - at least the portion between Georgia and Tennessee! The first photo is of him at the southern terminus of the AT, at the top of Springer Mountain. I have more, and as soon as I can upload them to flickr, you can see them all...