Back to Full Pack
We’ve had 4 days of slack-paking thru Giles County thanks to Ginny & Greg my Sister and Brother-in-law. Slack-packing is hiking without a full pack, only water and lunch and snacks. Greg drops us off at a trail head and picks us up at another at the end of the day and we go back to a shower and clean sheets. Our big day of slack-packing was 21.5 miles over some serious terrain in my home county where I saw views and vistas I had not seen in my 63 years of life having lived in the area a third of that life. Giles is beautiful in the mountains with abundant streams and wildlife although we did not see a lot of wildlife on our hikes. Woodpeckers are seemingly everywhere.
We had picked up a third hiker in our group, Slo-Mo from Arkansas, he slack-packed with us all but the fourth day when he decided he had all he could of the AT. This was the 3d time he had called it quits so we weren’t sure if he was done or not but sure enough, he called his sister to pick him up and another hiker bites the dust. We are noting thru trail registrars many of the hikers we have walked with, met at shelters and criss-crossed via slack-packing have called it quits. Many hikers hit VA with the notion that Va is flat for hiking the AT. They soon discover how wrong they are. We pass many hikers doing a SOBO slack-pack that have been hiking slightly ahead of us and they are envious of our light packs. We’ll soon catch some of them NOBO when we begin full packs in another day. My in-laws have been wonderful and have been more than hospitable. I love them and appreciate how they took care of me. I needed these 50-60 miles of easier hiking.
On 4-14 we start full packs again as Greg drops us off for the final time at Craig Creek and we meet Greg’s son, my nephew, Seth at the trail head. He is going to hike with us the next 3 days to Daleville. We do a short 9 mile day reacclimating to our full weight which is now in the 30-33 lb. range down from my start weight of 38 lbs. We hike up to Audie Murphy Memorial where the WWII hero (most decorated soldier of WWII died in a plane wreck years ago. The memorial in the middle of wilderness has a crisp American flag flying year round and is well maintained for its location. Folks have left dog tags and other mementos all along the memorial. I found a flat rock and used my “Squish” stamp on it and left it as my memento. We ran into another NOBO hiker “Wallett” who hikes slow like us and he hikes the rest of the way into Pickle Branch Shelter that night. We arrived around 3:30 PM, early by hiker standards but not wanting to push on with full packs our first day. Around 7:30, K-Train comes into the shelter and joins us for the night. We have met her several times, the first when she had just developed shin-splints just outside of Atkins. Then in Atkins where she took a zero to recuperate. Later we noted a log book entry that indicated she had zeroed for two days at Woods Hole Hostel outside Pearisburg and met her as we were heading into Pearisburg and she was slack-packing from Pearisburg back to Woods hole to test her shin-splints. K-train truly flies on the trail with a 20 mile day her norm. As you can tell our pace even keeps us up with these younger and stronger hikers especially when they have to take time off trail to recuperate from injuries. This is probably the last we will see of K-Train who has been fun to be around. Seth has brought a 40 degree bag with a silk liner and thinks he will stay warm in this but says he slept cold all night which makes our up-coming 15 mile day difficult.
We stopped for lunch at a Gap in Catawba where we got a burger and fries. The best burger on the trail so far. Well worth the .5 mile off and .5 back to trail head. We had crossed Dragon’s Tooth in the morning to early afternoon which is a spectacular rock formation on top of the mountain. Wish I could post the pictures but using a hotel computer I’m technologically challenged to do so. Dragon’s Tooth is the hardest and most challenging climbs and descents we have faced so far. Exceptionally difficult even for a day hiker but carrying 30+ lb packs makes it even more arduous. We curse the ATC for this section of trail. We intend to stay at the first of two shelters leading to McAfee Knob which will be tomorrow’s hike. When we arrive at VA 311 to cross the road we are told there is no water at the first shelter and we will have to go to the second shelter if we need water. WE NEED WATER. Two more miles and we arrive at 7:30 into camp. Beat after a tough day of hiking, we get water, fix dinner and go to bed. Seth was worn out for the 2d half of this hike and sleeps cold again.
We do a short 9 mile day to McAfee Knob which was just 2-3 miles up trail from Catawba Shelter. We spent a lot of time enjoying the views and taking pictures from the rock outcroppings. This is the most photographed spot on the entire AT. We’re gone from McAfee by 11:00 and hear later that a wedding was taking place up there right behind our leaving. Glad we made it when we did. There is a parking lot about 4 miles from McAfee making it a very accessible scenic hike for day hikers as well. I highly recommend this hike to anyone. Great views. Simply beautiful. Again would love to post my pics from this setting. I managed to send a couple of pics to some of you via text msg. Hope you enjoyed them. I’m ashamed I haven’t figured out how to post from my phone to these hotel computers yet. Back on the trail thru an area called Tinker Cliffs which truly gives about 24″ of tread to walk along the cliffs which are a sheer drop off of some 80-100′. Beautiful vistas and we lolly-gag thru this area enjoying the views. Seth has new found energy and hikes ahead. Once at the shelter we are staying at for the night, Seth texts me and says he is pushing on 10 more miles to Daleville this evening as he can’t stand another cold night. He texts me 4 and half hours later and says he has made it and been picked up by a friend. We have a good evening at the shelter with a number of week-end tent campers and section hikers. Stories abound and we meet “Meat Wagon”, “Emma” and “Whitey” as well as another thru hiker whose name we didn’t catch.
So, a lot of trail names thrown at you and some are asking how and why “Squish”. I named myself before starting this trek based on a leaky wet boot that continued to ‘squish’ with every step. Later I realized that I need to ‘squish’ things into my pack, ‘squish’ into a shelter, and ‘squish’ between rocks on the trail. It just fit. A juvenile who worked at our facility and was most artistic drew a boot for me which I had Staples reduce to a stamp and I stamp my presence at every trail register I come across. It has drawn a lot of attention and folks are pleased to meet me when they realize I am the one with the boot stamp. I’ve questioned my choice of trail names as I tend to reward myself with mini-accomplishments with one of my many vices. I may chew a little tobacco, smoke a cigar, drink a beer, curse like a sailor so with many vices I thought I should rename myself “VA Vice”. But Squish it is and I enjoy the comments from fellow hikers about the stamp.
With Seth already home and between his own sheets we start out the next day to Daleville for 10 miles where we intend to spend the night, clean clothes and eat real food. After a more difficult than expected climb before dropping into Daleville but beautiful views of Corbins’s Cove and the Roanoke valley we find ourselves at Howard Johnson’s where they give us a 49.99 hiker rate which we split. This is a 5 star accomodation by back-packers standards. We note a bunch of backpacks in the lobby and are told they are slack-packers coming from Four Pines Hostel 26 miles away. This is where we left Wallett after crossing Dragon’s Tooth. Seth comes by at 6:30 this evening and takes a mile down the road to Three little Pigs restaurant, a great barbecue place with good local beers (Imagine that). At 9:30 I walk to the lobby and see “Wallett” who zeroed at Four Pines Hostel. He had just arrived following a 26 mile slack-pack which he finished with his head lamp coming into Daleville. He was glad to see a familiar face when he got here. Will meet him for breakfast. We go to bed around 11:00 and sleep-in and upon waking we eat breakfast, waffles and eggs and sausage gravy over biscuits with good coffee. We are not up to hitting the trail and will zero here in Daleville which allows me time to get this blog out. Beautiful day that I will spend nursing my identical blisters on my heels and giving my knees a day of rest. My back and shoulders are weary and a couple of falls have given me a few scrapes and bruises. A good day to stop and smell the roses before heading back to the wilderness.
Logistics in this up-coming area for shelters, water and resupply are challenging and we will plot our course for the next week during the course of the day. Should be in Waynesboro (home) in a couple of weeks give or take a day or two. One day of rain forecast for Thu or Fri and will try to shelter or tent for the heaviest portion of rain if possible. Hate being wet but temps are up and wet and warm is a helluva lot better than wet and cold. I have read a number of the inspirational quotes my sister and niece provided and they bring a smile to my face and give me a lift when needed most.
I love your comments so keep posting comments to the blog.
Until next time, “Squish”
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Enjoying your posts a lot! Hope things continue to go well for you. Take good care of yourself and enjoy the adventure. I will be looking forward to the next one.
You should be with us.
It sounds like you’re having fun. “A short 9 mile day….” I might have the opportunity for a SOBO next year and these posts are making me realize that I need to get in much better shape.
Love reading about your journey, SO happy for you!!! XOXO
Johnny and I are so happy for you….really glad you’re enjoying this beautiful trek. Love reading your blog! Take care, friend!
Nice update – keep them coming! Looking forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks and hearing all about it!! Beer’s on me :-).
Give us a pix of the Squish stamp … soon to be a famous artifact from AT 2016.
Love to read your posts and live vicariously through the ups and downs of hiking the AT. Stay safe, Squish??
We’re enjoying your post. We think about you a lot of mornings wondering how cold, wet, or snowy your night has been. Will continue to keep you in our prayers and hope to see you soon.
Hi Squish. I’m back home. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. Good luck and HAPPY TRAILS.
OH – I LIKE THE CIGAR!!!!!!
Keep posting!! I’m so jealous!! One day I hope to do what you’re doing out there. God Bless! Love the name Squish!!