It’s Not Bears We Should Fear, its the BEES

NOT THE BEES” – a quote not only from Wicker man, but from Reset, AT FF ’23.From VA 620 Trout Creek (just south of Roanoke, VA) to Woods Hole Hostel – 1572.9

Day 115 – VA 620 Trout Creek (1501.7) to Niday shelter (1510.6) – 8.9 miles

The day I waved goodbye to my family, also turned out to be a day of thunderstorms.My mom drove me to VA 620 Trout Creek in the afternoon. There we hugged, and as she pulled away, I began my climb up a hill. At this point, the sky was dark and cloudy, but no rain had started yet, and I held out hope that I could make it to a shelter that night before it began to pour. However, about halfway up the incline, I heard the sound of a van pulling in. I turned around to see a big white van covered in stickers, and I saw a group of people hop out and start to set up tables and put food on the table.Trail Magic?! The southern half of my flip flop had practically been barren of other people, and so I had not seen, nor did I expect much trail magic. Yet here it was. I had heard rumors that Fresh Ground was in the area. For those of you who do not know, Fresh Ground is a guy famous on the trail for providing some of the best trail magic… and so, even though I was full of food, I still decided to turn around and hike back down the hill to the van, just to see if it was him.And IT WAS!!!
I basically sat and talked with him and the others for an hour. I was full, so I turned down most the food he offered (I know, I was shocked by this too, but I did accept the watermelon), and learned he had been helping out a thru-hiker named Prickleberry, who was also looking to finish her flip flop! She didn’t plan to head out that day but she would the next, so we exchanged numbers as rain began to sprinkle down on me (which I took as my sign to leave and start hiking).I had a moment as I hiked away in the pouring rain, where I was really truly sad and I missed my mom. For those of you who do not know me, I am not the most emotional person, but as I walked along I felt tears welling up, and I pulled out my phone and gave my mom a call, just so I could hear her voice again.For those of you who read my last post, you know that I hit kind of a slump as I went through the Triple Crown. And while I knew I still wanted to keep going, my goal to complete the AT never wavered, I was still struggling to find the motivation in each individual day to make that happen. I knew that I would eventually get out of the mental slump, and for me, the only way to deal with it was to keep pushing forward until I was past it. That being said, the pouring rain was not helping in the moment… but, the sound of my mom’s voice on the other end of the line did.After talking on the phone with my mom, I called my brother. Talking with him further helped, and next thing I knew, I was hiking into the shelter while still on the phone (comically, it poured rain as I hiked, and within 5 minutes of me hiking into the shelter that night, the rain stopped). As I said goodbye and hung up the phone, I heard a voice yell out “Reset? Is that you?”The voice belonged to Billy Goat, a SOBO Thru-Hiker. He and I had been around the same sections of trail for a while, and we had both heard of each other, but never actually met. A fellow thru-hiker, Geisha Girl, had finally gotten us in touch with each other, so that we could try and coordinate hiking together, but with all the time I had taken off in Roanoke with my family, I had not expected to see him so soon. That being said, it was great and we instantly began talking about how tired we both were of being alone on the trail and silk blazing every morning. I went to sleep that night, the knowledge of a hiking buddy making me feel just a little bit better about the upcoming days.

Day 116 – Niday shelter (1510.6) to War Spur Shelter (1529.0) – 18.4 miles

The next morning, I was somehow the first person to leave the shelter (I tend to be slow compared to other thru-hikers but I could not sleep well that night and the others in the shelter were section hikers). The irony of this is, even though I finally met up with someone on the trail to hike with, I was still the one silk blazing.About 10 miles into the day, Billy Goat caught me (turns out he is a super fast hiker), and no less than a mile later, we ran into Fresh Ground!! As we approached he told me that he had thought of me the day prior, as I hiked out in the rain, and he had decided he wanted to give me trail magic as well. What proceeded was maybe the best trail magic meal I have had as of yet. He cooked us VEGGIES and CHICKEN and TASTY HEALTHY FOOD and he had Gatorade and water and a CHARGING STATION ON HIS CAR. I learned that Fresh Ground has been doing Trail Magic for ~11 years now, and every year as the hiking season commences, he hops in his van and lives out of it for 6 months driving up and down the trail providing trail magic.Fresh Ground truly does this for the hikers, and I want to give him a shoutout here. If you want to read more about his trail magic, here is a Trail Angel Spotlight written in 2018, and he has a Facebook and an Instagram you can follow.While Billy Goat and I sat there, Prickleberry hiked up as well! Thus, I left Fresh Grounds trail magic with not one, but now TWO hiking buddies!!! Things were looking up in the world as we crested some fields; We excitedly chatted and got to know each other as we climbed some hills; and I was beginning to think that maybe we could all stick it out together till the end when I stepped over a fallen log on the trail and I WAS STUNG in the left ankle BY A BEE/HORNET/WASP (I am not sure which exactly stung me because I got out of there as fast as possible after feeling the sting).
The sting hurt but the frustration was worse… you might remember that since getting on the trail going south I had already been stung 2 times! And one of those times had also been on my left ankle (that must be the tastier ankle). Each time I got stung, that body part had swelled up, s this time around, I immediately popped a daytime anti-histamine in my mouth and mentally made a prayer that it wouldn’t become a problem. Once we arrived to the shelter, I took a Benadryl and tried to ignore the feeling of my ankle slowly pressing out against my sock (and the sound of mice scurrying around us in the shelter throughout the night).

Day 117 – War Spur Shelter (1529.0) to Pearisburg

When I woke up the following morning, I tentatively took a glance at my ankle… it wasn’t good, but it could be worse I told myself.
My ankle that morning
As the three of us set out, I immediately began to fall behind, as stepping on my ankle was painful. I hiked up and over a 10 mile section of trail that felt like one large mountain. When I came down the other side, I was almost trying to hike without using my left leg (doesn’t work so well). Luckily, Fresh Ground had decided to once again treat Billy Goat, Prickleberry and I to lunch, and he was waiting there at a road crossing.Fresh Ground had already cooked up a tasty meal of spaghetti, toasted bread, and salad that Billy Goat and Prickleberry were chowing down on by the time I hobbled to them. I immediately asked if he had any ice I could put on my ankle, then proceeded to sit down and remove my shoe and sock from my left foot. It looked WAY WORSE.At the same time, another thru hiker came down from the north COVERED in a rash. Her name was Birdie and she was pretty sure she had a terrible cash of poison ivy . She was also pretty sure that the oils had gotten into her sleeping bag. After some encouragement from the others, Birdie and I agreed to let Fresh Ground take us into Pearisburg (the next closest town), her to buy Tecnu, me to get off my ankle. To do so, we went to Walmart first, and I got to ride around in one of these!!!Another example of Fresh Ground’s kindness is this: when he took us to Angel’s Rest Hostel in Pearisburg, I asked him if I could be dropped off at the church hostel instead, because it was free (I had not planned/budgeted for a hostel in Pearisburg and considering how my ankle was ballooning, I feared this could turn into a multi-night stay). In response, Fresh Ground then gave me $25 to cover the cost of staying at the hostel that night :’) truly an angel.Once I was settled in at Angel’s Rest (they gave me a set of crutches to use), Hot Tamale (employee of the hostel) gifted me more Benadryl, drove me to the grocery store and then to the post office so I could pick up the package. The woman who worked at the post office then insisted on carrying my package out to the car for me so I wouldn’t have to.I befriended another hiker in the bunkhouse (it was only the two of us). We chatted and found out that we had both heard great things about the local Mexican restaurant. It was within walking distance for a normal person, but not for me, so he offered to bring me back something from the restaurant, and when he returned, he refused to let me pay him back. I won’t lie, getting stung again and having my ankle swell up so much had taken my already wavering spirits, and shoved them lower. But these instances of kindness, from Fresh Ground, Hot Tamale (who didn’t have to drive me anywhere), the postwoman and this fellow hiker really cheered me back up.As predicted, my ankle was not better by the next morning and so I ended up taking a zero in Pearisburg. Billy Goat and Prickleberry hiked in that afternoon and we all got to hang out.

Day 119 – Pearisburg (1561.3) to Woods Hole Hostel (1572.9) – 11.6 miles

The next morning, I decided my ankle was decent enough for me to get back on trail and hike out with Billy Goat and Prickleberry.Not even 5 miles into my hike and I was stung again… three times this time. Yes, as you must have guessed, one location was on my left ankle. The other was twice on my left bicep 🙁 The left side of my body truly is the juicy oneTo my surprise, in addition to the pain of the stings, getting stung brought on a rush of emotions. Tears started streaming down my face. I was so tired and frustrated with getting stung. It was starting to feel like an inevitability, and the fact that when I get stung I had to get off trail due to swelling brought back all the feelings of disheartenment I had while going through the VA triple crown.I immediately took a Benadryl, no messing with daytime allergy pills this time, straight to the hard-core stuff for me, and I called Angel’s Rest hostel, assuming I would need to get off trail since I now had 3x as much venom in my body.We agreed to meet at the next major road crossing which was 5 miles up the trail. It also happens to be the road that Woods Hole Hostel is located on, so I asked them to pick me up from there, since I assumed Angel’s Rest would be cheaper than Woods Hole (not to mention Angels Rest was in a town in case I needed anything). As I hiked down to Woods Hole, I passed Prickleberry and Billy Goat hiking back to the trail. They said the place was gorgeous and they had been really tempted to call it a day and stay because it was so nice, but they had flipped a coin to decided to keep hiking on.Woods Hole Hostel is one of the oldest hostels on trail. It is owned by Neville, a woman whose grandmother owned this land. Apparently they used to own many more acres, but overtime it has shrunk. There were goats and cows and pigs and chickens (actually, maybe not chickens… I don’t know). And the caretaker I met, an past thru-hiker named Jaws, told me they home make almost all their food, and if they don’t, then they buy from a local Amish market. The place was amazing, the views gorgeous, the beds terribly comfortable, and magically, they had decided for the SOBO 2023 season, to be donation based. So I was not hard pressed to call Angel’s Rest and tell them I did not need a ride back and I would instead be spending my night at Woods Hole.Jaws gave me ice packets for the locations where I was stI took a nap from from 4:30 to 5:30. And woke to the sound of a bell being rung for dinner. I was the only hiker staying there so I got to eat with the caretaker Jaws and Bruno, who as far as I can tell, is Neville’s significant other (Neville was sadly gone the night I was there). At that point, they clattered a bell of some sorts and informed me that dinner was ready. Dinner was pasta with a homemade pasta sauce and pesto and home baked bread and a salad. I found it all delicious as it was all homemade. At this place, they can all their own food. There’s cans of apple butter, cans of jam everywhere. The place look like an amazing place to live. They also had a great view of sunrise.The following morning I discovered, to my surprise and joy, that my ankle+arm had not swollen up to un-hikeable proportions, which meant I could hike on.
My arm the following morning, markedly red, but not swollen.
Despite how angry/frustrated I had gotten the day before when the bees stung me and I thought I had to get off trail for the bazillionth time, now that I was faced with the chance to keep hiking, I was actually sad, because Woods Hole was such a beautiful place.That being said, after helpful conversations with family and tedious research via google, I was informed that bees “don’t like the smell of peppermint”. So, after asking if I could use some of the peppermint growing in the hostel’s garden, I stuffed a bunch in my socks to deter future bees and packed extra in a bag to take with me for future protection😂

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Comments 6

  • thetentman : Oct 14th

    Your best defense against Bees is not Peppermint, it is your eyes. You are being stung because they perceive you as a threat to the nest. I know it will be hard but avoid the nest and your chances of being stung goes way down. Keep your eyes peeled.

    Great post and I admire your perseverance.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Jim : Oct 16th

      Yellow jackets are especially dangerous because they nest in the ground. Glad you made it through. I spent a lot of time in the woods growing up, and got stung a lot. Where I live now there’s not many yellow jackets, but in Eastern Kentucky where I grew up, they were thick.

      Reply
  • Bluewhale : Oct 15th

    Years ago hiking in NC I was taught to be wary when hiking 3rd or more in a line because yellow jackets build ground nests. The first hiker wakes them up going by, the 2nd pisses them off, and the 3rd (4th, 5th, …) gets their wrath. Your post indicated you were 3rd in both cases of being stung. The bees stay pissed for awhile, so just hanging back a little doesn’t help. I was with a group off trail so whoever noticed the bees yelled “ground nest!” and everyone behind scattered and gave the area wide berth. I’m not sure how this translates to the AT, but possibly just the 3 of you spread out more. Since the screaming hoards of NOBOs are gone, the bees may have taken the opportunity to nest on/near the trail.

    I look forward to your posts on your way to Springer!

    Reply
  • Ea : Oct 15th

    Consider carrying unflavored powdered meat tenderizer. Make a paste ASAP after a bite, let it sit on the bite for 15-20 minutes. Won’t work for all insect bites, but will for bees.

    Reply
  • Curtis Monroe Dempsey : Oct 15th

    Why is it always bees wouldn’t you think if it’s in the ground it was most likely yellow jackets, or do you know the difference. This is what gives BEES a bad name.

    Reply
  • Big Catt : Oct 17th

    During my ’22 SOBO thru the yellow jackets were terrible in Virginia. We were told they get pissed off when the temperatures start to fall. There’s no good strategy on how to avoid them other than not using trekking poles to avoid disturbing the ground surrounding the trail. Our group text was constantly dinging ‘bees at mile []’ or ‘someone got stung at the water crossing!’ I’d sprint down the trail just hoping to avoid their wrath. The worst day was right before The Priest. It sounds like you’ve had a pretty shit time with them.

    Fresh Grounds is awesome. Woods Hole was one of my favorite hostels. The wasps eventually fade away into just one more challenge. Have a great rest of your SOBO!!

    Reply

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