Day 46: New Kicks and Second Lunch

Sweet Feet

I passed the 566-mile mark yesterday. That means it’s been 400 miles since I broke out a new pair of shoes. So, today I pulled on a brand-new pair of the exact same shoes. Such sweet relief.

If you’re planning an AT thru hike and can only do one thing to prepare, make sure to figure out your footwear before you leave home. I’m happy with my Altra Olympus V’s, but I know that anything over 400 miles out of them is a bonus.

Same ‘Ol Same ‘Ol

The trail immediately put my new kicks to the test, starting out just as rocky as what I’d hiked yesterday afternoon. But I hardly noticed until I found myself looking at the scenery. Then I realized the trail had improved enough that I didn’t have to stare at my feet to avoid tripping or turning an ankle.

From then on, I walked through the long green tunnel, sometimes on abandoned wagon roads (love ‘em) and sometimes on newer single track (love ‘em less). The woods were quiet and lonely, as usual, leaving me plenty of time to think. Today, mileage occupied my mind.

Mileage Math

It felt right not doing a 20-miler today. I done my share of them and have survived, but they take a toll on my old joints and ligaments. At this point, sixteen to eighteen miles is more in my strike zone. And if I manage to do six 16-milers a week, I’ll get to Katahdin by the end of September, including my upcoming trips to San Diego and Alaska. That’s exactly when I want to finish.

I Could Get Used to This

I stopped for lunch at the scenic Laurel Creek Bridge. I had the usual: tortilla, cheese, chicken, with some raisins and an orange. Yum. Nothing fancy, but enough to power me through the afternoon. I ate quickly, packed up, and started the climb out of the river valley.

Fifty yards later, I saw a large tent through the trees and smelled hamburgers grilling. Some Christian missionaries called out to ask if I was hungry and thirsty. Sadly, I told them I’d just eaten and hiked on.

Not really. I pulled in, sat down, and wolfed down a cheeseburger, a hot dog, some chips, and another Gatorade. Second lunch. A new tradition was born, as long as the magicians keep showing up at the mid-day road crossings.

In retrospect, second lunch might not be the best idea right before a big climb.


At first lunch I chatted briefly with a section hiker I’d met yesterday at the Chestnut Knob Shelter. I mentioned that I don’t normally see hikers on the trail in the morning because I usually start at 7:00 or 7:30 am.  He responded that he’d started hiking at 4:30 this morning. (Ok…in the dark? And you only did 7 miles since then…in 7 hours?)

Then he mentioned he’d seen a bear yesterday afternoon. After listening to his story, and teasing out the details (it was black and it ran away), I told him that I’d seen three bears so far, and started to tell him my bear cub story, but only got half a sentence out before he interrupted to tell me that he’d seen six since Springer. (Ok, but didn’t you say you’re doing a one-week section hike?)

And so it went for the entire conversation. I’ve been calling him “Topper” in my notes.


The climb up from Laurel Creek Gap had an insane number of switchbacks. I’m not complaining, mind you, but it was only a 500-foot climb. But they should post a sign or something, since one of us might be recording the Topper story on video and not notice how the close switchbacks take you to within earshot of trailing hikers.

Daily Stats:

  • Start: VA 623 (Mile 576.0)
  • End: VA 612 (Mile 592.6)
  • Weather: Overcast, occasional sun, chilly
  • Earworm: Good King Wenceslas. How weird is that?
  • Meditation: Mt. 5:16
  • Plant of the Day: Bead lilies
  • Best Thing: Trail Magic (2nd lunch)
  • Worst Thing: Hill climb after 2nd lunch. Urp.

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Comments 4

  • Terry C Smathers : May 27th

    “Sadly, I told them I’d just eaten and hiked on.”

    You got me on that one 😀. I stared at it without reading on, because I was thinking “said no thruhiker EVER! Then you redeemed yourself and I could breathe again 😊. Thanks for sharing your hike with us!

    • Jon : May 27th

      Even when I’m not hiking…free food is always a yes.

  • thetentman : May 27th

    Just imagine the climb’s agony if you had not eaten. It is almost always better to eat whenever you can, which reminds me, that I have a leftover burger in the fridge. Sorry, but you make me hungry.

    Thx for the post.

    How is the van?

    • Jon : May 27th

      LOL. Tomorrow is the next chapter of the van story.


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