A Spattering of Odd Events

Posted from Waynesboro, VA @ mile 862

Glasgow, VA to Waynesboro, VA

July 19 to July 26

77 miles – This section of our hike was characterized by mostly pleasant weather and a spattering of odd events.

Glasgow to Punch Bowl Shelter

Sunday July 19

10.5 miles – Beyond Hot!

I was not looking forward to today’s hike because the temperatures were again going to be in the 90s and we would be walking uphill most of the day! It was beyond hot and it wore me out! Even though we took lots of breaks, and drank lots of water, it was a very tiring day because of the heat.


Where we came from!

Somewhere along the way, Seabiscuit came hurrying past us. (He’s the hiker we met two days ago who started in June and was trying to get to Maine by September!) We hadn’t seen him yesterday or the day before and wondered what had happened to him. He should have passed us by now. As he sped by us he said that he’d taken two zero days at the shelter where we had met him and was making up for lost time by doing 45 miles today!! We wished him luck, but thought he’d set an impossible task for himself, especially on such a boiling hot day.


Ottie Cline Powell Memorial


Today’s hike took us past a memorial to a little boy named Ottie Cline Powell who died at the age of 4 years, 11 months in November of 1891 while trying to collect firewood for the school house and became lost. His body was found the following spring 7 miles uphill from the school. We thought about our little grandson, Ethan, who is close to the same age and felt saddened by the loss even this many years later.

Punchbowl Shelter to Brown Mountain Creek Shelter

Monday July 20

9.5 miles – Milestones!

Backfire and I passed the 800 mile mark today!

We started out early to avoid some of the heat of the day, but the morning ‘coolness’, if you could call it that, didn’t last long. It was another hot, humid day and even though the trail was relatively easy, we were again tired from the heat. Backfire was sweating so much his clothes were dripping wet!


Breathtaking skies!

About two miles out from our shelter, we came to a bridge and a “swimming hole.”  It was hardly a “swimming hole,” but it did have a spot with deeper water that I might have been able to float in, but the rocks hurt my feet so much I couldn’t even walk to it. So I cooled off as best I could by using my bandana to wipe off.


The “swimming hole”

Between the swimming hole and our campsite, there was a memorial dedicated to the 1.4 mile area through the woods that used to be called ‘Brown Mountain Creek Community’ where, in the early 1900s, freed slaves formed a farming community. I found that fascinating and would like to research it more.


A lovely bald

Tomorrow we have a hellacious climb up Bald Mountain with over 2000 feet of elevation gain over 4 miles! So we’ll leave as early as possible to avoid the worst heat of the day.


Where’s Backfire?

Brown Mountain Creek Shelter to Hog Camp Gap

Tuesday July 21

8.1 Miles – Weighing In

We set the alarm for 5:30 a.m., hoping it would be light enough to get going and avoid the heat of the day. It wasn’t light enough, but we got moving soon afterwards and left the campsite by 7:00.

The day started out muggy, but about an hour into the day, we were pleasantly surprised by cooler temperatures and eventually a cool and gentle rain. What a gift that was! I remained energized in spite of the climb!

Three Springs Hostel near Hog Camp Gap

We got to Hog Camp Gap at about 12:15 – very close to the time that Backfire had predicted and had told Oma at Three Springs Hostel, where we were going to stay tonight. The hostel was a mile and a half down a very rocky road and Oma was going to pick us up.


Three Springs Hostel

Ever since we decided to end our hike at Harper’s Ferry, we have been doing shorter miles and taking more comfort breaks – like this one at Three Springs. For $50 each, the hostel provides breakfast and dinner, laundry, and a shuttle to and from the trail. It was just what we needed!

It’s an idyllic little setting with a pond and a garden outside and a comfy, homey setting inside. Since we had arrived early in the day, we had time to relax and read magazines and visit with Oma and her business partner, Marcia. We also got to know their very friendly kitty named “Skitty” (who used to be skittish!).

Skitty and Backfire

Three Springs Hostel had a bathroom scale–something we hadn’t seen since we left home! According to this scale, Backfire has lost 30 pounds and I, on the other hand, have lost 8! Granted, if I lost 30 pounds I would have to be hospitalized, but I don’t know how this works: We have hiked the same miles and he consistently eats more than I do yet he loses 30 and I lose 8. It sounds like a story problem gone amuck!


Hog Camp Gap to Priest Shelter @ 827

Wednesday July 22

14.3 miles – Howling at the Moon

It was very cool last night and extremely refreshing. We had all the windows and the door open in the hostel and slept with our sleeping bags loosely draped over us on our bunks.


A lush ferny wood!


After a tasty breakfast, Oma shuttled us back to the trail. What a refreshingly cool and pleasant day it was today– and there were only a few hills! With such wonderful weather and moderate trails, it was quite easy to do 14 miles. On a hot, humid day, I would have been exhausted. What a delightful change!


Another beautiful overlook

When we got to The Priest Shelter (where you’re supposed to confess your sins in the log book), there was no one there. Not long after we arrived though, this old guy shows up (old like us), wearing nothing but a knee length, ‘loin cloth’ made from a semi-transparent material –and nothing else but his shoes and socks! Even by AT hiker standards, this might be considered odd apparel. He immediately started ranting and raving to me about the awful mess left by previous hikers and I did my best to extricate myself. Later in the evening, after it was dark and the moon was out, Backfire and I could hear him howling–perhaps at the moon?? Very odd indeed.


The Priest Shelter to Harpers Creek Shelter

Thursday July 23

7.6 miles – Wise Company

We woke up early again and hoped to get on the trail quickly while it was cool and before we had to engage in another ‘conversation’ with the ‘loin cloth’ guy up in the shelter!

Today was a long downhill (4.3 miles) with a 3093 foot loss of elevation, then a shorter climb (2.8 miles) back up with 1120 feet of elevation gain. It wasn’t boiling hot today, so that helped, but it wasn’t deliciously cool either like it was the other day.

It was a short day for us–only 7.6 miles– and we got to the shelter quite early. It was tempting for us to continue on to the next shelter, but it was over 6 miles away and half of the journey would be straight uphill! (2074 feet elevation gain). Given those odds, we opted to spend the afternoon reading and napping so that we could attack that big hill first thing in the morning when it was cooler and we were fresher.

For the last two nights, we’ve tried something new for dinner. Oma, at Three Springs Hostel, was selling freeze dried meals from Wise Company and they have been really tasty! Instead of just barely tolerating dinner, we looked forward to it. Unfortunately, these dinners are sold as a “meal for two” but it’s more like a “meal for one” when you’re hiking–and we’re not even ravenous like some hikers! It would be expensive, and heavy, to carry a lot of these meals (compared to our cheap Ramen/Knorr’s meals), but they certainly were yummy.

Harpers Creek Shelter to Dripping Rock

Friday July 24

12.7 miles – No clothes!

Today we set the alarm again to get up by 5:45 so that we could get an early start in the cool morning air and go up Three Ridges Mountain (the one with over 2000 feet of elevation gain).

When I got out of the tent at 5:45, it was still fairly dark, but I could just barely see that all of our clothes were missing from the clothesline! On closer examination, I noticed that the clothesline was missing as well! Who would steal damp, smelly hiker clothes??


The clothesline where the clothes went missing!

It was still sort of dark and I didn’t have my headlamp on, so it took me a minute to notice that all the clothes were on the ground along with the clothesline! At first, Backfire thought his knots had failed, but when he started gathering the line he saw that it was sliced in two. The only logical explanation was a mouse. Maybe the mouse thought if he chewed through the line, a food bag would magically drop down! Then, for a minute I couldn’t find my bra and I thought perhaps the mouse was a girl and had run off with my bra to use as bedding for a nest–but she hadn’t. I found it lying behind a tree, blending in with the dirt!


Rocky, rocky day!

Because it was early and the air was cool, I didn’t have any trouble with the ‘big climb’ today, but I did have trouble later in the day even though I thought it would be an easy afternoon. The map showed no hills–just a a relatively flat trail. Piece of cake! What the map didn’t show, was the miles and miles of rocks! OMG my feet hurt–and so did my brain! It takes so much concentration walking over those rocks trying not to fall! I finally stopped to cool off a bit and see if an ibuprofen would help. It did.

Dripping Rock to Paul C. Wolf Shelter

Saturday July 25

9.3 miles – Hornet Trouble

It was a cool but sticky-damp night–maybe because we were down by the river. I was too hot with the sleeping bag on, but too cool with it off. I tossed and turned most of the night–as I often do.


A snack that expires in 100 years?

We left about 8:00 this morning and headed up Humpback Mountain and it was relatively cool to start with, but got warmer as the day wore on. There were quite a few rocky stretches, but not like yesterday where they went on and on for miles.


High on a ridge!

As we were walking along today enjoying a flat, easy section of the trail, Backfire says, “Oh look, here’s an old hornet’s nest in the hollow log of this tree!” (He likes to examine interesting facets of nature.) It wasn’t enough for him to just look at the nest, he had to start poking it with his hiking stick–and, to his  surprise and my horror, a hornet crawled out–then another and then another! We took off down the trail as fast as we could as I hurled a  barrage of unprintable expletives at Backfire, who, I might add, was way ahead of me and not at all in a position to be stung! Nice move, Backfire!


We’ve seen so many of these lovely butterflies.


We got to the Paul C. Wolfe Shelter around 2:00 and cooked lunch. It was only  5 more miles into Waynesboro and we could  have continued hiking, but we had already made arrangements with a friend to be picked up tomorrow morning. So, we spent the afternoon reading and relaxing. We’ll get up early and hike in tomorrow.

There’s a nice stream running in front of the shelter and we both used it to rinse off. I wet my bandana and scrubbed as much sweat off as I could, then rinsed the bandana and started all over again– but it’s virtually impossible to scrub away ‘sticky’ without soap!


The almost invisible toad

Paul C. Wolf Shelter to Waynesboro, VA

Sunday July 26

5.1 miles – Mecca!

Waynesboro at last! Five days without a shower or decent food makes coming to town an extra special treat! The hike  into town was mostly easy and pleasant–probably because we knew it was only 5 miles before reaching Mecca!

After we rejuvenate in Waynesboro for a few days, we’ll head into the Shenandoahs where there will be frequent Way Stations and campgrounds with showers and laundry–a much more relaxing hike than we’ve been doing.


A rare picture together!

The Shenandoahs cover a little more than 100 miles and it will take us about 10 days –a pace we can enjoy. After the Shenandoahs, then, we’ll only have about 50 more miles before reaching  Harper’s Ferry and the end of our journey for this year. I am approaching the finish line with mixed emotions.


The Spider Diaries

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