It’s not where you go, but who you go with …
Since my last update
I have been struggling with an injury I sustained to my knee while running towards Hot Springs trying to avoid the storm. In my haste – I slipped on a tree that had blown down across the trail. In the process, I twisted/sprained my knee. I have been trying to take it easy and avoid putting too much load on it, but so far – nothing seems to help. The few other falls I reported on last time didn’t help matters. A popular saying on the AT is – No Rain, No Pain, No Maine. I’ve had plenty of rain and pain now and I’m only 1/4 of the way done. For those of you who believe in divine intervention, I would welcome your prayers for the healing of my knee. I know my friends in my men’s group back home will get on that!
Back to the trail. Recently I have been enjoying the company of DoorDash (Dash for short). We met on trail back at Station 19 right after the big ice storm and have been hiking together ever since. It’s nice to hike with someone of similar age and ability. The young guys I had been with (Ope, Hiker 109) were running me into the ground. Dash and I made our way to Boots Off Hostel, where I rented a cabin. Dash was heading out the next morning while I was going to take a zero and wait to be joined by a good friend from Michigan – Cookie.
Hiking with old friends and new
I have been looking forward to having Cookie, join me for a few miles. Cookie, aka Craig, was the designated cook for my first ever section hike of the AT some 8 years ago. He was also a very close friend with Downhill and he wanted to help me carry his ashes to Katahdin. Cookie arrived as planned and was ready to hit the trail. In all fairness, I had forewarned Cookie as to the weather I had been experiencing. As he was from Michigan, Cookie assured me he would be fine. As it turned out – we did get a couple of evenings where temps were, shall we say, uncomfortable. One night we actually spent an hour or so gathering firewood and getting the fire ready to go – just in case. In the predawn hours, we had to light the fire to stave off frostbite and hypothermia. Oh Michiganders.
I was hoping that we would be able to rejoin Dash before too long so Cookie could meet him as well. As it turned out, a couple of days later we were able to reconnect at a wonderful hostel in Damascus – Lady Di’s. The breakfast at Lady Di’s was fabulous. The home was very clean and it was obvious Lady Di knew what she was doing. As she should being a successful thru hiker herself. It should go without saying, but another benefit of stopping in town is eating town food. While I love me some ramen, a good steak, salad and a beer aren’t bad from time to time.
Reunited with Dash, we left Damascus. Next up, Grayson Highlands. I took quite a few photos of the highlands, as they are beautiful, but nothing really captured the beauty experienced first hand. Instead, I decided to post the requisite picture of a wild Pony. The horse pictured here I have claimed for my Granddaughter Rowan. His name is Spirit.
We had one more “cool” night while in the Highlands but warmer weather was on its way.
After spending the night near the top of Mt. Rogers, we began our descent towards Marion. I believe it took us two days in total. The last night in the woods for Cookie was at Hurricane shelter. We had a fair night, as far as weather goes, and got some good sleep.
Cookie’s last night was spent at the Merry Inn Hostel in Marion. It was great to grab a shower, do some laundry and, of course, eat one last town meal at the Wooden Pickle. Perhaps the best meal we had in Marion was breakfast the next morning at Sister’s cafe and Gifts. I highly recommend a meal there if you’re in town. The French toast and grits are well worth the trip.
All that remained of Cookie’s visit was a 14 mile hike to the Settlers Museum where he had left his car. We covered the miles easily and quickly (at least as quickly as my knee would permit). It was a bittersweet moment when the museum came in to view. Another destination reached, but time to say goodbye to a good friend.
Craig, I don’t know if you will see this, but it meant a lot to me that you would take the time to come hike with me. You came at a time when my spirit was willing but my body was weak. Thank you for helping keep me moving north. Thank you for your friendship. I hope we can do it again – SOON.
It is both amazing and refreshing to experience the good will of others directed towards thru hikers. Dash and I had just said goodbye to Cookie and were making our way to Atkins, VA. Dash had heard that the Mexican restaurant attached to the Exxon station at I-81 overpass was supposed to be pretty good. Not wanting to miss out on a chance for a good meal, I said – “let’s go!” We walk into the restaurant and start reviewing our choices, when in walks the young man pictured below. He rushes up to greet us and asks if we were thru hiking. We answered “yes.” He then says to the hostess, “Anything these guys want, is on me.” Turns out, he had recently returned from an Army deployment to Egypt (Thanks for your service!). On one of his section hikes of AT – someone had bought him lunch at this same restaurant and he was paying it forward. What a great example – I will be paying it forward as well. So, we invited him to join us and we shared experiences from the trail.
- Completed Tennessee – 3 Down
- Passed the 500 mile mark & 1/4 way point
- Falls holding steady at 6 – praise the Lord
- Finally got Big Agnes to send replacement pole segment for tent. Hope it arrives soon!
Never Been Closer,
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