Pearisburg to Rockfish Gap
Central Virginia

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The journal of Andy Linger ... thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 1997

Back to June 6

June 7—Rice Field Shelter (Day 56 ~ milepoint 619.1)
It was extremely difficult leaving town today. It was cloudy again, and there was too much to do in town (like all-you-can-eat lunch buffets!). Two hikers have been there almost a week, and that's the last thing I wanted to do. (Shelter registers have had drawings of a giant magnet hovering above, sucking a hiker resistant to leave town back in). I finally found the will to leave at 2 pm. Arriving at the shelter was a relief after the slow pace and 20 pounds of food on my back. The shelter was situated on top of a ridge, and on the other side, one could see the valley below (we even watched a fireworks display way off in the distance). Desert tonight was different than usual. Wigly made a pot full of Reeses Pieces, pudding, cookie crumbs, crumpled up Twix candy bars, and graham crackers. Even though I was so stuffed I was almost feeling sick (I ate three nights worth of dinners), I broke down and tried it. I'm glad I did, it was great. After getting to bed at 1am last night, it feels good to be in earlier tonight.—Andy

June 8—Bailey's Gap Shelter (Day 57 ~ milepoint 635.3)
Today was cloudy and cool again. There were some trail maintainers out today trimming the overgrowth, cutting down blowdowns, and repainting blazes. They told me the weather was supposed to warm up to the 80 degree mark. Could this mean summer is coming? I'm not too wild about seeing the dreaded 80's. I have been very happy with the cool and cloudy weather. Yeah, it's tough to get moving in the morning, and the four of us watching the fireworks display last night on the ridge in cold and wind was excruciatingly painful. However, it's a small price to pay for 8 hours of hiking without sweating like crazy. About the only thing exciting I have to report today is the resident cat living at the Pine Swamp Shelter. It looks like it gets fed better than I do. I guess there isn't a mice problem in that shelter.—Andy

June 9—Laurel Creek Shelter (Day 58 ~ milepoint 649.1)
You can probably guess what the weather was like today. Yep, but today it was raining. When I arrived at War Spur Shelter for lunch, Fire Marshall was there eager to spend the night. As he saw everyone else leave he quickly found the will to leave. Shortly after I left, the rain changed to (no, not snow) drizzle, so I took my umbrello-matic down, and enjoyed the cool wet weather that kept me cool during the next 1700' climb. During the last descent of today's rollercoaster of rocks, I had a good feeling the shelter was down there somewhere. It was. There are 10 of us here tonight, but only 4 in the shelter. The topic of conversation revolved around the weather (the shelter registers are becoming full of entries of people complaining about clouds, rain and rocks) and rocky trail conditions. The elevation profile maps are now being referred to as the Map of Lies. Oh yeah, and people who said Virginia was going to be flat and easy are going to be hanged from the shelter overhangs (and to think that some people actually believe this stuff).—Andy

June 10—Niday Shelter (Day 59 ~ milepoint 661.3)
As we looked up towards the heavens, we saw something spectacular, something we haven't seen since first coming into Virginia - SUN! Seventeen days of clouds and rain have ended to give us a day of blue sky. This morning we passed the Keffer Oak, which is one of the largest trees on the trail with an 18' diameter, and estimated to be more than 300 years old. From ridgeline several miles later, I visited Sawyer Cabin (a nice half mile walk straight down the steep ridge), part of an old homestead (also rumored to have a ghost named George) situated in the middle of nowhere. The next several miles seemed endless. They provided great views into the valley to the east, but the rocks were also slanted sideways. I arrived at the shelter, where several people were complaining about the terrain and their feet (a daily ritual for some now). From what I hear, tomorrow's forecast calls for more sun (yes!) and highs in the upper 80's (no!). We'll see what part of this comes true.—Andy

June 11—Dragon's Tooth (Day 60 ~ milepoint 681.9)
Today, something terrible happened. I put my pack on and as I was leaving the shelter ... KABOOM! A cloud of powdered milk was flung into the air. I threw off my pack and dropped to my knees. Tears were streaming from my eyes as I saw the decapitated, mangled mess. "The food keg is dead" was let out in a big scream. What once stood tall and proud was now in pieces as it hit the shelter overhang. Memories of the many varieties of food it carried, and the ambiance it added to my pack cycled through my mind. Okay, I admit, it wasn't quite that bad. It actually was a relief to see the food keg disintegrate. It was already a patched-up affair with duct tape being the only reason it was still on my pack. Now that I've sent some of my cold weather gear home (by the way, the forecast I talked about yesterday was wrong! It was mostly cloudy and in the 60's), there's plenty of room to put food in the pack. I know it will be nice to be able to walk under branches and not have them whack the top of my pack. Alien was eager to participate in the funeral services that were planned for it. However, since a cardboard box was not available for a casket, funeral services were cancelled. Other than that exciting, fulfilling experience, I stopped at Dragon's Tooth, a spectacular rock outcropping jetting into space. From atop the rocks (where I'm writing this journal), I could see forever in all directions, with the mountain ridges to the east painted in a brilliant red glow as the sun dropped below the horizon. As nightfall occurrs, the city lights of Roanoke should be visible.—Andy

June 12—Campbell Shelter Mile (Day 61 ~ milepoint 687.2)
This morning I was greated with more clouds (what a surprise) but fortunately no rain. I finally used the stupid tent I've been carrying with me for almost 700 miles. I don't think I can even remember the last time I used it. The tent also kept me a little too warm. I've been waking up in the middle of the night for the last week covered in sweat. I think it's about time to ditch the 20 degree sleeping bag. I'd rather be cold a couple night than overheat most nights (it was such a cold spring less than a week ago in Pearisburg, hikers were sending the fleece liners from their mail drops back home instead of their cold weather bags.) Today I passed MCafee Knob, a rock outcropping jetting out into the valley. The views from here were great. Cloud shadows passing over the valley floor could be seen, and hawks soaring the ridge could be seen from horizon to horizon. I arrived at the shelter a little before a brief thunderstorm passed through, lighting up the skies, and bringing a thunderous roar to the mountain. Today was also a double trail magic experience. After the long descent from Dragon's Tooth with little water, I ran out about 2 miles from the next water source. Sitting before the road was a blue cooler full of sodas and water. I started foaming at the mouth with the sight of that water. I was able to fill my water bottle up, and mow down a banana to make it to the next shelter. The next experience came from the shelter. The 2 section hikers there threw 2 huge slabs of country ham in my face as their appetites dwindled. Tomorrow looks like it should be a dry day with some great views.—Andy

June 13—Fullhardt Knob Shelter (Day 62 ~ milepoint 707.8)
This morning as everyone got up at sunrise I decided to do the same thing. I ended up leaving the shelter at 7 am, my earliest departure yet. The first destination I was looking forward to were the Tinker Cliffs. They offered great views into the valley below, and the ridges beyond. After the descent from the cliffs, and several more miles, I continued along Tinker Ridge, where large rock slabs jetted into the sky, providing spectacular views of Roanoke and the Carvin Cove Reservior that supplies its water, and the Troutville/Cloverdale Valley. As I finally made the last descent into town, my energy level dropped to almost nothing, and I ran out of water. I finally reached the main highway leading to town. As I looked to the left, I saw a bank sign that read 5:15, and 90 degrees. It was definitely the warmest day yet. I was constantly dripping with sweat as I climbed and descended the many hollows on the ridgeline. When I came out of the trees into the clearnings from the overhead powerlines, the blazing sun made it feel more like 100 degrees. I hitched a ride to the supermarket where I ran in, bought half a gallon of chocolate ice cream, and sat on the bench outside, devouring the whole thing. I saw Grizzly Bear coming into the store. The last time I saw him was in the Smokies. His hike was over now, and he was heading back home to Maine. I went back into the store to resupply (yes, I bought too much again), and after 15 minutes in a downpour sitting at a busy intersection with my thumb out, I finally got a ride to the trail. I was pretty soaked by the time I hit the trail, but the rain had subsided, and the wet shirt felt good during the long climb. It seems whenever I eat ice cream I achieve superhuman speed. The 3.5 mile climb to the shelter on the top of the mountain in 75 minutes was a piece of cake. I stopped only once for water, and blew by another hiker coming out of town (this was after my 1 mile per hour pace into town when my energy crash h
it). It felt great to leave a town so quickly this time. The great sucking sound of Troutville failed to get me. I arrived at the shelter to meet the Vermontsters again, who made some "hawm pie" consisting of graham crackers, chocolate pudding and chunks of Almond Joy and Snickers for dessert. We all went to bed with aching stomachs.—Andy

June 14—Bobblets Gap Shelter (Day 63 ~ milepoint 721.3)
Awoke to rain again, which was on and off during the day. However, today marks the 720 mile point, which is also the 1/3 mark! Today is also the first time the AT parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway. It will do this for the next 100 miles or so. With summer weather now approaching, I started wearing a "mini skirt". It's essentially swimming trunks with the crotch torn out. It's popular with many thru-hikers (although some even wear dresses), in the summer because if you're not prepared for the 90+ degree temperatures, you're not going to survive.—Andy

June 15—Cornelius Creek Shelter (Day 64 ~ milepoint 738.5)
The excitement started today around 2 pm with a dip in Jennings Creek. There were several of us swimming around, enjoying the cold waters after a hot morning of hiking. The Vermontsters were there, along with Red and Jim. I knew with a creek this large, it meant only one thing - a big fat climb ahead. And it was. I arrived dripping in sweat to the Bryant Ridge Shelter around 4 pm. The shelter was gigantic. There was an upstairs loft, enclosed picnic table and even a few small windows. The upstairs loft was full with a trail maintenance crew. They were hard at work building a trail relocation on some newly-acquired AT lands to replace a segment of trail paralleling the road. I was very tempted to stay. I heard the night before, hikers were greeted by a local who brought up a dozen Burger King Whoppers, along with extra food - not to mention the fact that the maintenance crew had extra food. I stayed here for about an hour, but decided to push on. I was told the hike was all uphill, but I would rather do it now instead of first thing in the morning. I left the shelter, turning around to get once last glimpse of its size, and moved on. From the first step on, it was all uphill. Twenty minutes later, dripping in sweat, I saw a clearing ahead and was hoping that was the summit. Nope. A half hour later, I saw another clearing. I got closer, hoping it was the top. Nope. Finally, after several more of these, I approached the real summit, foaming at the mouth from water and oxygen deprivation. No views from the summit, but it's nice to know it's downhill to the shelter. Tomorrow it's up to Apple Orchard Mountain.—Andy

June 16—Matt's Creek Shelter (Day 65 ~ milepoint 756.3)
The skies looked dark and gloomy again today, with a possibilty of rain looking evident. However, as the day progressed, the skies cleared somewhat, making for a hazy day instead. The 3275 foot climb from Jennings Creek to Apple Orchard Mountain was a tough little climb, but fortunately I decided to push on beyond Bryant Ridge Shelter and get the brunt of the climb out of the way. The summit of Apple Orchard Mountain (4225 feet, the highest point the AT reaches until New Hampshire) was hazy and didn't afford many views, but it felt good to be at the top. The was a 3675 plunge to the James River. The drop was over a 13 mile stretch so it included many short, steep climbs. High Cock Knob was a nice one! The terrain I found really incredible. The stretch from Marble Springs to Devils Marbleyard was completely flat. I can't remember the last time I could look straight ahead and see 20 feet down the trail. Usually one needs to look up or down to see the trail ahead. I arrived at Matt's Creek Shelter at about 6:30. There were 4 people tenting and 3 of us in the shelter. Molasses and Shaft arrived at 9:30 after doing a little night hiking. Tomorrow it's off to Glasgow for a maildrop, groceries, shower and laundry.—Andy

June 17—Punchbowl Shelter (Day 66 ~ milepoint 770.2)
Getting a ride to the Wildwood Campground was a little more difficult than expected. It took 45 minutes, but it was still faster than walking the 4 miles. The shower, laundry and phone calls took longer than expected. Getting a ride back was much easier. Ken, a resident of the campground in the summer, was available to give me a ride back. He made the day go much smoother for me. Not only did he give me a ride back to the trail, he drove me 11 miles to Glasgow to get groceries and my maildrop. He took me back to the trail, and the climb was on. At the top of Fuller's Rocks, the views were great. Apple Orchard Mountain could be seen, along with a 180 degree view for miles. The heat and humidity took a toll on my body. I ran out of water at the top. The only things I pictured in my mind for the next several miles were Niagra Falls, The Great Lakes, and anything else containing vast quantities of water. Two hours later, I reached Salt Log Gap. A half mile from the AT was a small stream that saved me. It was now 7:30, and my goal was the next shelter. I reached the top of Bluff Mountain with great 360 degree views, but it started to rain and thunder, so I didn't stay long. Finally, at 8:30, I made it to camp with just enough time to make dinner before dark.—Andy

June 18—Cow Camp Gap Shelter (Day 67 ~ milepoint 784.7)
Last night I found getting to sleep a little difficult. I could hear the hourly chime of a watch ticking away the hours ... 9 o'clock, 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock. Getting up the next morning, I remember hearing 4 chimes. So after midnight, I finally fell asleep. The next day hiking I had trouble freeing my mind of bad thoughts. The terrain has been steep, and the weather has been nightmarishly hot and humid. The humidity has been so high the last few days, thunderstorms develop each evening as the temperatures drop, and the skies wring themselves out of excess moisture. The temperatures haven't been much better, the upper 80's prevailing most days. When I take a mid-afternoon rest, an hour into the break I am still sweating, my entire body soaked, and it sticks to you like glue. It's too humid for the sweat to evaporate, and too hot for me to stop sweating. AS I get up in the morning, my positive attitude quickly darkens as people on either side of me in the shelters take out their maps and radios and groan. Chills run down my spine as I can't help but hear the guy on the left looking at his map, saying we climb 3000 feet this afternoon, and the guy on the right listening to his radio saying the forecast calls for highs in the 90's. The climbs and descents have totaled more than 34500 feet from Jenkins Creek to Waynesboro over a distance of 104 miles, making me frown upon the warm weather and climbs more than I should, and exhausting me mentally and physically. Making matters worse, I have set a goal to arrive in Harper's Ferry and visit Washington, D.C. for the 4th of July. To make this date, missed a lasagna dinner at the Hog Camp Gap with some former thru-hikers, feasting with the trail maintenance crew at Bryant Ridge Shelter, and a visit to Wiggins Springs - the largest on the AT. I'm hoping my attitude will change soon. No matter how much I have tried to think positive, I haven't found much to look foward to for the next few days. I know once I make it
to Waynesboro, things should be a little brighter.—Andy

June 19—The Priest Shelter (Day 68 ~ milepoint 801.4)
I woke up today to a clear sky and crisp temperatures. The first few miles of hiking took me over 2 balds (treeless summits) that offered great 360 degree views. The highlight of the day was Spy Rock (used by Confederate Soldiers to spy on Union Troops during the Civil War). The dome-shaped rock offered great 360 degree views of the Priest and the rolling valleys, ridges and balds surrounding the rock. Today's hiking turned out to be a trail magic experience ... the terrain was flat! Me and several other hikers expected the terrain to be difficult again going up to the Priest. My attitude today looked much brighter with the terrain change and cool temperatures. The weather was clear today, with temperatures in the upper 70's and low 80's, I faced only 2 problems. The big one was inch worms hanging from the trees across the trail. Every few feet, I'd walk into an inch worm, coating me with the web-like thread it hangs from, and itself. This seemed to be a problem for everyone. Many of us were swinging our walking sticks out in front of us to sweep the little critters off the trail. The other nice problem I had was the frass falling from the trees onto me (frass is caterpillar poop). That's the stuff that makes it sound like its raining on a clear day. Leaving the shelter in the morning, the ground and leaves were covered with the stuff, coming mostly from the gypsy moth caterpillar. I hope tomorrow's weather turns out like today. The 3000 foot climb to Three Ridges will be a little tough, but hopefully I'll have that done before the afternoon heat hits.—Andy

June 20—Maupin Field Shelter ( Day 69 ~ milepoint 815.1)
The Priest is a mountain that shoots 3,000 feet up from the valley floor. The climb is steep, and southbound hikers who arrive at the shelter look like they've just run the Boston Marathon. Fortunately, I went down this mountain this morning. The first highlight of the day was stopping the the large metropolis of Tyro (pop. 50). The little store was the size of a small room, and the post office inside was about the size of a phone booth. I arrived in Glasgow before my maildrop, so I had it forwarded here. It arrived about 2 hours before I did, and I was very glad I didn't miss it. It contained a couple days of food to get me to Waynesboro (unless I wanted to survive on chips and bread bought at the store), and most importantly, a lightweight fleece blanket my mom sewed into a sleeping bag. I was finally able to send home my 20 degree sleeping bag that ate up too much space, and weighed too much - not to mention it was a little too warm. Of course, the next objective was to join the other hikers sitting in the shade for the town eating binge. We all had a pint of ice cream in each hand, frantically devouring them to get enough fat and calories for the next 3,000 foot climb out of town. The climb up to Three Ridges was much easier than I thought. The pig-out session and 2 hours of rest gave me the energy to blast out of town and start the climb. The climb seemed endless, but as the summit slowly got closer, I could start to see views into the valley below. My energy level started dwindling during the vertical climb up the last ridge. I was disappointed with the views. I expected to see much more from the top, but only found one good view halfway up. I reached the viewless summit and started the descent. About a mile later, I saw a rock outcropping. I climbed out onto the rocks for a spectacular view towards the summit of Three Ridges and The Priest. It was amazing looking at The Priest and the steep drop it did into town amazed me, knowing I went down that thing. The hour I spent on the outcrop made a whole world of difference on the hike up the ridges. My disappointment with the views quickly dwindled. I continued the descent and ran into Ed, who I've seen off and on the last few days. We climbed down to the next shelter for the next hour or so, eager to get into camp for the night. Ed went a couple more miles to camp, and I talked to a father and daughter team from D.C. hiking for a few days. Tomorrow, Waynesboro will be calling.—Andy

June 21—Loft Springs Campsite ( Day 70 ~ milepoint 833.1)
This morning I got going at 6:20, the earliest yet. I hiked to an overlook where I had some breakfast. I arrived at Cedar Cliffs which has some beautiful views which overlook the Shanandoah Lake Valley. As the temperatures approached 90 degrees, I remembered that today is "Hike Naked Day". A thru-hiker tradition for many years, it celebrates the fact that today is the first day of summer, and the longest day of the year. At first, I didn't even consider doing this. However, with the heat, and the fact that I haven't seen anyone else on the trail yet, I went for it. I took off the shorts (yes, and miniskirt) and threw my pack back on. (yes, I'm using a bandana in the front in case any families pass by). Whoa! It felt a little unusual at first, but was great in the heat. During the first several hours I passed a couple day hikers and then 2 trail maintenance crews. When I reached Humpback Rocks, I threw the shorts back on until I got to the next shelter (many tourists and several families). I Met up with Qtip and Ed at the Paul Wolfe Shelter who were psyched to get into town too. I took a quick dip in the creek, took the shorts off and headed towards Waynes World. When i got to the road (yes, I was fully clothed), the trail maintenance crew just happened to be driving by and picked me up. They offered to take me to dinner with them for the all-you-can-eat buffet at Gavid's. (The outside temperature on the dashboard was reading 89 degrees, but they said it was in the 90's during mid-afternoon.) I think you know how I responded when we met up. I got out of the car and surprised everyone. "Hey, you're one of those naked hikers". "Weren't you hiking with the full moon"? After a few laughs we headed over to dinner. The buffet was great. I stuffed my face with several plates of salad, chicken fingers, vegetables, meat balls, sausage, and desert. The following 60 minutes I experienced a severe food hang-over from overeating. We eventually left the place and the 2 ladies took me to the Loft Springs Camping Area (a wildlife preserve owned and adjacent to Dupont's fibers plant). There were 4 tents set up when I arrived. The springs located on the small tract are artesian springs bubbling up from underground. That evening I saw Yogi and Qtip again. Met several others including Rapsody, Free Spirit, Be, and Kampfire. We sat under the full moon until 1am, talking about everything from space travel to breakfast plans.—Andy

June 22—Loft Springs Campsite ( Day 71 ~ milepoint 833.1)
This morning, the first thing on our minds was breakfast. We headed over to Weasie's Kitchen for the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. Each of us got a plate with 3 giant pancakes on it. We stared at them for a few seconds, amazed by their size. Two of us were still eating after 2 plates, and I won with 8 pancakes down (the record is 23). After struggling to eat the last one (I got that far because they were cheering me on), I had the worst food hang-over yet. Every move I made was painful; and I had to be careful of my breathing so I wouldn't cause undue stress on my stomach. Getting to Kampfire's van (he shuttled us around town) was very painful but I made it. When we got back to camp, the YMCA was open, where they allow thru-hikers to use the showers and pool. We showered, ran (oops, walked) to the deep end and made the largest splash we could. We experimented with our body fat levels by sitting on the bottom of the pool, and trying to float on the surface. After a couple hours of the pool, we went back to camp. It rained on and off the next couple hours while we were at the picnic table under the tree. We were busy looking through gear catalogs, looking at stuff we wish we had (the sleeping mats that weigh half as much as the ones we have), etc. Fire Marshall, Wizzlestep, Flying Dutchman, and Alien showed up. The first thing Alien did when she saw me was to make fun of my miniskirt again. A little later, we headed to the grocery store (nope, I didn't lose control of myself and buy 25 pounds of food - I was stuffed) and I walked out with my groceries and a half gallon of ice cream I ate walking back to camp. That evening, we headed out for some Chinese food and a movie. The Chinese food was great. I got a small portion of Hunan Chicken which was more than enough. We all struggled to finish our meals, and I ended up eating some of the extras, with the rest going into doggie bags to be given to other hikers. The next plan was to head to the movie thea
ter, unfortunately when we got there for the 9:15 showing, we saw the last show was at 7 pm. We all headed back to camp and called it a night.—Andy

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