Day 54: The 700-Mile Pie Tradition is Born

The Late Bird Gets the Heat

Northstar found us such a nice AirBnB in Roanoke neither of us felt like getting up early to get back to the trail. So we didn’t. Well, I did. I always get up early, but Northstar likes to sleep late. I only planned on 13.8 miles of hiking, so we had no need for an early start.

But a stop at Krogers and Starbucks, as well as a 40-minute drive back to Trout Creek, put us at the trailhead at 10:00 a.m. That’s late for me, though not so late for a lot of thru-hikers, especially the younger ones, a few of whom I passed still sitting around at the shelter I passed.

Gus got to hike again today. He excitedly ran circles inside the van, crying pathetically before I finally let him out. He went straight for Trout Creek and dove in. Smart dog. I wish I had. It was the hottest day yet on the trail.

The Triple Crown

Today’s hike started me on Virginia’s Triple Crown, which consists of the Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee’s Knob, and Tinker Cliffs. Other than the fact that there are three of them, I have no idea why it’s called the triple crown. There’s no race, fastest known time, or any other competition that I know of.

I passed the Dragon’s Tooth today. McAfee and Tinker come tomorrow.

The Dragon’s Tooth

The climb up to the Dragon’s Tooth was only about 1,100 feet, but it kicked my butt. The elevation gain was no problem, but the trail was steep, rocky, and required hands and feet for at least a mile on either side of the Tooth. That kind of hiking wears me out.

The Tooth itself was a 20-foot-high bedrock spire at the end of the ridge and looked enough like a dragon’s tooth to earn its name. And heck yes, I climbed it. Gus couldn’t make the required chimney move to reach the top, and ran around looking for another way up, whining so much I came right back down before someone reported me to the SPCA.

700 Miles

I passed the 700-mile mark on the climb up to the Dragon’s Tooth. I’d been anticipating this milestone, math nerd that I am, and came prepared.

700 is One-Pith of the AT

The AT is 2,198.4 miles long. If you divide its length by Pi (π), which has a value of 3.1416, you get 700. And because I like pie (and pi), I packed an apple pi(e) in, intending to eat it all to celebrate the occasion. I got about a quarter of the way through the pie and realized this might not be my best idea.

Gus initially offered to help, but declined the taste I offered him. Just then, Thorn hiked up. We’d never met before, so she politely declined my offer to share. But I could see that the math nerd in her was intrigued. And she just happened to have fork and plate handy that came out nearly as fast as her initial polite refusal.

Thorn’s Norwegian friend Viking showed up next. He took no convincing at all, though I’m not sure he crossed the language barrier enough to get the pi/pie thing. But he did get the pie part of it. As a side note, Viking had Tolkien’s “One Ring” poem tattooed (in Elvish script) on his chest. But he wore no ring, which explained why I could still see him (his joke).

Seeing Thorn and Viking dig in convinced Gus that he was missing out, so he finally went to work on the little piece I had put down for him and then sniffed around for more.

In retrospect, sharing a pi(e) between three of us fits better than wolfing one down by myself, because the inverse of Pi is 1/3. Or close enough. Plus, eating a whole pie is gross. After downing my share, I walked with a belly tart the rest of the day and rode a sugar high for two hours before brutally crashing in the last few miles. If I’d eaten the whole thing, I’d surely have left most of it somewhere in the bushes along the trail.

What Happened to Spring?

Three days ago, I was on the edge of hypothermia. Today, I was looking for creek deep enough for a swim. It hit the mid-80s in the sun by early afternoon, making me happy about the long green tunnel’s cool shade. The heat did not help me digest that pie.

And Tentman, you were right. I miss the cold.

Falling Down

I had my first fall earlier in the week, after 600+ miles. Today, I fell twice. The first was a simple slip. My foot got a little muddy just before I had to traverse a tricky spot with a sloped rock. It was a soft fall onto my most padded equipment.

The second fall was a one-in-a-million shot. I somehow caught my left foot on a root that had a little protruding, downward-pointing knob that slipped through (or made) a little tear in my shoe’s upper fabric. It stopped me cold like I’d caught my foot in a bear trap. I caught myself with my poles, but couldn’t quite balance with my foot twisted up behind me, and slowly toppled on my side into the brush.

I’d just passed two younger hikers who immediately rushed up to help the old man who’d obviously had a heart attack. I just lay there laughing, trying to explain what happened. They helped me get up, looking at me like I should be in a rocking chair somewhere. So I said thanks and then crushed them on the next climb.

Odds & Ends

  • I got a text from my brother saying he’s in Richmond visiting his youngest son and might be able to meet up on Sunday somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Small world.
  • I asked Alaska to release me from this summer’s field work so I can keep walking without a two-week break. The logistics of leaving for that long were getting really complicated for Northstar and making me worry that I wouldn’t be able to finish on Katahdin. Plus, I’m worried about getting injured up there and ruining my hike. Fingers crossed that it works out.
  • I’m starting to feel my left knee a bit and my Achilles are pretty tight by the end of the day. They’re not quite painful but are definitely letting me know they’re there. I need to stretch regularly.
  • The woods smelled like summer today. As I walked, I tried to think of how to describe that smell. Then I realized it was cow manure. Perhaps that’s the less glorious part of my childhood woods-and-meadows memories.

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Trout Creek (Mile 676.7)
  • End: VA 311 (Mile 710.5)
  • Weather: Sunny and warm. Not a cloud in the sky.
  • Earworm: Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go. I’m ashamed to admit this one came from passing a very short person. But there it is.
  • Meditation: Mt. 5:43-45, 48
  • Plant of the Day: Pipe vine
  • Best Thing: 700 miles
  • Worst Thing: Almost having to eat a whole pie. And Achilles pain.

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Comments 4

  • Harry Poppins : Jun 3rd

    Your post left me a bit pi eyed.

    • Jon : Jun 5th


  • thetentman : Jun 4th

    Falling is a part of hiking. I once stepped on a broken root that as I stepped on it rose up and caught the laces of my other boot. My leg stopped but I did not. Over I went in what seemed like slow motion. I was laughing before I hit the ground. I remember the totally helpless and shocked feeling as I went down. I wish I could have pulled off an I meant to do that look, like so many cats I have seen, but I was laughing too hard for that. Anyway, no harm, no foul, and I went on.

    Great post and good luck.

    • Jon : Jun 5th

      “Like so many cats I’ve seen” LOL!


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