Into town

Pearisburg
Day 49 and 50 (5/29/19 R and 5/30/19 R)
Miles – 7.6
Total miles – 639.7

5/29/19We woke to a strong wind blowing through the trees and a few clouds. We did not have far to go to reach town, but we did have one climb before dropping down. It was a well contoured climb and we reached the summit pretty easily. We had a great view to the South, looking down on a peaceful valley of pasturial farmlands. The trail soon came to the end of the mountain and dropped toward town. It was late morning when we came to the road to town. Of course the one mile walk was all up hill. The first thing we came to was a DQ, so we stopped for lunch. We usually like to get cleaned up first, but we were hungry! Dark clouds started to collect as we walked over to the nearest hotel. We settled into a big room and much needed baths were begun. So many rooms we have had lately have been tiny with no room to spread out in. When thru hikers get to town and in a hotel room, they usually have what is termed a “pack explosion.” Try four packs in a tiny room. There is no floor space to manuever around. There is no bed space to sit down. The extra space is much appreciated! This past five days of hiking were not physically difficult however the heat and humidity made it mentally hard. We were worn out, dirty and sweaty like we have never been before. Feet swell in the heat thus feet hurt. Mama Raven has rashes on her lower back from all the sweat dripping down and the hip belt rubbing causing three inch diameter stinging raw patches. We will be looking for large bandages to cover them up. We got our boxes and worked on sorting food for the next section. Much needed laundry was completed. There was so much sweat, the shirts could almost stand up on there on because of salt content. In the late afternoon, thunderstorms began. There were a number of them and it rained hard. Our room is upstairs with a porch landing out front to enjoy the valley and mountians views in front of us. Whisper and Bling stood outside for a long time watching the bolts of lightening strikes and counting how long it took to hear the rumbling thunder. Thunderstorms are a pleasant thing to be in when you are in a dry room to enjoy them. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Slearner and Kim, who is now Shortcake, were there amongst a large group of hikers eating dinner. They came over to our table and talked a bit with us. It is always good to see them!

Pearisberg is a historical town with a Civil War battle taken place here. The North lost to the South. Yesterday, we walked through several local museums. It is not difficult to realize we are in southern territory because a number of homes displayed the Confederate flag. It was interesting to hear Linda, the guide of the museum, talk about the communities attitude of the war. Being a true Southerner, she said the war was never a war of slavery for them. Instead it was the war between states. She continued to say there were a few wealthy land owners, but most Southerners did not have slaves because they did not have the money. The South simply wanted to keep their independence and to continue making laws for themselves. What a great history lesson for Bling and Whisper! Whisper loves American history, especially anything to do with the Civil War. She asked recently can someone major in American Civil War history in college?

5/30/19Zero.

Tom

Advertisements

Of stores and hostels

On a ridge (605.0)
Day 48 (5/28/19)
Miles – 21.8
Total miles – 632.1

It was a warm night. Our mouths were quite parched because all of us were out of water. However we knew there was Kimberling Creek one mile down the trail. Once at the bottom, a long suspension bridge spanded across the river. Here there was plenty of water. Papa Raven gave the family a choice, to filter water here or go .5 miles off trail and down the road and get water that did not need to be filtered. We headed off down the road. Mama Raven asked if it was a spring? He said no. It was at a building. After a pause, she asked what type of building? Papa Raven confessed it was a small grocery store, with all kinds of other good things. A short time later we walked up to Trent’s Grocery. We got fruit juice and milk, Gateraid and water, bananas and breakfast sandwiches. It was a great surprise! One Gear was there. He had spent the night on the front lawn and had dinner here last night. After starting later than we should have, we headed back to the trail, by way of a road, which turned into a dirt road. It deadened at Dismal Creek. This was not our route to the sore. It was a shortcut back to the trail without having to back track. Our experience on the CDT, where there was very little trail to follow, trained us to be creative when hiking the trail. We looked at the map and if we did a little cross county, we would hit the AT. Not too long, we crossed the river and wondered about in the tangeled branches of rhodedendrons. After 15 or 20 minutes we found the trail and we all regrouped. As we got back on the trail, we bumped into One Gear, who had left Trent’s atleast an hour before we did. So the shortcut did save time. He jokingly said “hey this is not the CDT!”, We all laughed and hiked up the valley. Over the next hours, we crossed and recrossed Dismal Creek. Finally, toward the head of the valley, we came to Mucky Lake. It was not a big lake, but it was nice to see any body of water. Leaving the lake, we started our big climb of the day, 1,500′ in 2 miles. Actually it was not necessarily a difficult up, however we did it at the hottest time off day. It was slow work climbing up, but we did feel better once we reached the cooler temperatures and breeze’s on the ridge. As we followed the ridge, Square Peg and Cowboy told us about the Woods Hole B&B/Hostel coming up. They said it is the finest hostel on the AT. When we reached it’s cutoff, we decided to head down and check it out. It’s original building was built in the mid 1800’s and it has been tastefully added on to keep the authentic feel. We got a few drinks and filled out bottles with water. It was tempting to stay. There were dogs to pet, new baby goats, free yoga classes, homemade bread and meais. They asked if we were staying the night and they would give us a deal, but the kids wanted to get a few more miles in today since tomorrow is a town day. So in the end we hiked on. It would have been nice to stay there. We hiked until 8:00pm, before finding a place to camp. We have about 7 miles to go before town and we will be there mid morning. Everyone is excited that we will be taking a zero.

Out of water

Before Kimberling Creek Bridge (584.84)
Day 47 (5/27/19)
Miles – 22.8
Total miles – 610.3

Wow, did it rain. Just after we laid down to sleep, the wind came up. It grew harder, then it started to sprinkle. Next the trees above us started to violently sway as the wind blew, large drops of rain fell down upon us. With every blast of wind, rain pelted us. We were concerned that tree’s limbs would break and land on us, that is how strong the wind was blowing. After 15 to 20 minutes the wind and rain let up and silence fell over the forest. This was a relief. We could fall asleep without worrying about being crushed by a down tree. We started hiking a bit late this morning. A long traverse was the first job at hand. After several hours of hiking we came to Hwy 52. There was a little cafe there. We did not go in, but out front they had left a few bananas and apples. We took one of each. Also there were some jugs of water that we used to top our bottles off. We did not realize that today’s section had so little water and we were very low. We crossed the highway and hiked down a road. Where the trail left the road was a camper. A woman came out of the camper and offered us some trail magic. She helped us to fill our water bottles, additionally, we got brownies and glasses of orange juice. It was all very much appreciated and needed, especially the water! It was hot and humid and are intake of water in this climate is great. They rest of the day continued the same way, walk up from a road, follow a level ridge, and drop down to a road. The final road we crossed, we stopped to cook dinner with the last of our precious water. We are now camped above the next road and are once again, out of water.

A little Trail Magic

After Laurel Creek (562.41)
Day 46 (5/26/19) R
Miles – 20.8
Total miles – 587.5

After the heavy rain settled down, it lightly sprinkled all night. In the morning, we had the enjoyable time of packing our wet equipment. Once complete, we started up the trail. Our day stared with a big 2,200′ up in 4 miles. The first 2 miles were very steep and then it kept climbing gently through open fields. It ended at Chestnut Knob Shelter, a large stone shelter in the top of Mt Walker. The trail then run long a ridge slowly dropping until we came to Hwy 623, which actually is a gravel road. The sun was out and we had open flat places to dry our tents and sleeping bags so we stopped for a break. As we were putting out our gear, a car drove up and offered us trail magic. Fish had just finished her two year AT hike and wanted to hand out drinks at different locations. We had Sprites and beer. After everything was dry, we packed up and headed out again. The trail continued on the ridge for a time before dropping. Shortly after passing Jenkins Shelter, Mama Raven said that she would like to soak her feet. We called the kids back and decided to have an early dinner. We all walked in the stream and cooled our feet as dinner cooked. It was a nice break. Whispered laughed as small fish swam through her feet sometimes touching her skin and tickeling her. After eating and drying our feet, we hiked until sundown. First we had a 700′ climb away from the stream, then a long down to Laurel Creek, and finally a climb back on to the ridge East of the creek. A good flat spot presented itself and we called that home.

Humid

On a ridge after Lick Creek
Day 45 (5/25/19) R
Miles – 20.0
Total miles – 566.7

We left our hotel room and headed to The Barn for breakfast. Once again it was good and did not cost much. One of the unexpected surprises we have had being in the South is how cheap food is at restaurants. Paying three to four dollars for a cheeseburger is the average price we have paid on the trail. Back home in California, the average price is nine to ten dollars. After we ate, we stopped by the gas station for some drinks. Then we hiked out of town. The trail lead into some pastures for a few miles before cutting back into the trees. We always look forward to hiking through the meadows because it is out in the open and not in trees like most of the AT is. The day was not too warm yet, but we could feel the humidity. As soon as we entered the trees, we came upon a newly established memorial set up for the two hikers involved in the tragic act of violence on the AT recently. Five miles ahead is where the horrible scenario began for the group of hikers. We had a moment of silence before we continued down the trail. Before we came across the memorial, we were feeling good and enjoying the scenery, however the reminder of the violent act that occurred nearby altered our mood as we hiked through the area. Shortly after we entered the trees we came upon One Gear, Levi, and AKA breaking camp. The hiking was easy for the next few hours as we climbed a mountain ridge and dropped into the valley on the other side. One very steep climb slowed us way down. In the afternoon, we exited the trees and hiked through a very hot, humid pasture. Chirping crickets in the grass surrounded us. We were all sweating profusely by the end of it. As we crossed into the next valley, we came to a road were someone had left two cold Gatorades and a Dr. pepper. We split the Gatorades amongst us and left the Dr. Pepper for Levi, who was close behind. Just up the road was a pavilion with picnic tables and hopefully a trash can. We stopped in there too eat and discovered One Gear, who stopped by to get out of the heat. We also found a trashcan to throw away the drink containers. The next few hours were the same as we traveled from valley to valley. Finally, around 6:30 we stopped by Levi to talk and have dinner. He was beginning to set up camp for the night. Enjoying Levi’s company, we talked longer than normal. We hiked out around 7:30 because we wanted to get closer to tomorrow’s big climb. We found a small camp on a ridge and settled down. Today’s hiking was the hottest day we have had and it was still hot in the tents in the evening thus we had all the doors open when it began to rain. It came down hard and fast for a bit of time, but now it has ended. Hopefully that is all we will get.

Papa Raven and Levi

Levi

Short day

Relax Inn
Day 44 (5/24/29)
Miles – 10.79
Total miles – 546.7

It was a good night, no bears. We woke a bit late with Mama Raven the only one moving. Everyone else did not want to get up. We were tired from the lack of sleep the night before. Mama Raven bugged us until we did got up. Today’s hiking was easy with just two climb which were not very long. There were clouds most of the morning that kept the temperatures down, but it was still a bit humid. We were looking forward to a room and a shower. Just a few miles before the Relax Inn we came to the Lindamood Schoolhouse. A one room schoolhouse built in 1894. A local church maintains trail magic in the schoolhouse. We got cold drinks and chips. From there we hiked to the hotel. Soon after arriving, showers were had by all. We had dinner at The Barn. Their burgers were great. We’ll have breakfast there tomorrow.

Smily

Big miles

About the Mt Rogers Visitors Center
Day 43 (5/23/19)
Miles – 22.8
Total miles – 535.9

No bears bothered us the rest of the night. We had wet tents because we camped in an open meadow, although @that was ok after last night’s events. We ate, packed, and headed out. While we packed a fog moved in. It was not thick and we knew that it will burn off quickly. We hiked up away from Hwy 603. As we climbed several other hikers past us. From them, we found out that for many long hours a bear had tried to get food from everyone staying at the shelter 1.5 miles back (South). One person said that he got only 2.5 hours sleep with all the yelling and people running about. I’m not sure how many bears were roaming the area. Obviously there was a few of them. Today the terrain was easy, low hills with well graded trail, a little ridge walking, some pastures with cattle, and one small waterfall. With all this easy tertian, we decided to make a big mile day. We even past by the fancy shelter with piped water and showers. Supposedly there is a near by pizza store that will make deliveries to the shelter. The place was filled with hikers, so we decided to move on. We went only half a mile up a ridge before we found a camp spot. We could have gone farther, but the location had wonderful views of the evening sun set. Hopefully they will not be any bears tonight. None of the trees around us are good for hanging food. For several days we have been seeing problem bear warning signs for the area we just left. That was 22 trail miles back. I don’t think we’ll have a problem tonight. We will get to our next food drop tomorrow and leave the day after.

Mama Raven has been having fun hiking in this section because there are many land features titled Holston: Holston Mountains, Holston River, and there was even a high school in Damascus named Holston High School. Last night we were looking over our next sections map and discovered Pennington Mountains. Pennington is her middle name, and Holston is her last.

Bearly handled it

Horsecamp on Road 603
Day 42 (5/22/19)
Miles – 19.4
Total miles – 513.1

We woke to fog surrounding us and our first thought was, how was Bling? Well, Bling said he felt good. No pain, no nausea, nothing. Hooray!! That was great news. We can hike on and not have to find a way to a doctor. Papa Raven got our food down out of the tree and we had breakfast. After breakfast we had an easy traverse from Whitetop Mountain over to Elk Garden. Clouds kept passing up against the side of the mountain and rolling over the top. The wind was cold. We were not happy about all the clouds. We were heading into the Grayson Highlands which is an area of open land known for herds of wild ponies. Mama Raven is concerned we will not see any ponies through the fog. Upon leaving Elk Gardens, with it’s field of yellow flowers, we headed up our first bald shrouded in clouds. We worked our way near Mr Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia, then around to its eastern shoulder. Soon we came to Thomas Knob Shelter and, to our surprise, ponies. They was a mother with her foal right next to the shelter. They were not concerned about the people at all. Infact both Bling and Whisper pet the foal. Over the next few hours, we worked our way deeper into The Grayson Highlands. We saw a number of herds of the small horses. At one point Mama Raven was taking pictures of a small group and 4 or 5 horses gathered around her. She became a little concerned, because we have been told that they will bite. She backed away. Around 1:00 the clouds started to break up and we could see the surrounding mountains. We ate lunch on a bench with a Maer and her foal behind us. The foal laid down for a nap as we had lunch. The mother just circled the foal munching on grass. The rest of the afternoon we past though big open fields, encountering small herds of ponies. After leaving the Grayson Highlands we past through a herd of Texas Long Horn cattle. It was a little intimidating to walk near a large animal with such big horns. Usually Mama Raven is not afraid of cows. She walks right up to them to take their pictures. but these cow and their menacing sets of horns looked intimidating. In the evening we past by the Old Orchard Shelter and camped near the road.

With our food hung in a tree we settled down for the night. About 9:30 Papa Raven heard the sound of claws on wood. He climbed out of the tent to find a bear trying to get our food. He started grunting at it and it dropped to the ground. Mama Raven came out of the tent and joined in the excitement. Whisper woke Bling and the two of them came out also. We tried to scare the bear away by yelling, banging things together, and throwing rocks and sticks at him. This did not work. He was unafraid of the four of us. Infact he was a little too confident for are comfort. He never lunged at us, however he got angry at us by growling and huffing at us. He kept circling our camp by going between out tents and the hung food. Whisper was getting really scared and Mama Raven broke her hiking pole trying to scare him away. Mama Raven and I knew we were in for a long night. Being the only hikers camped near here, we felt uneasy. To Whisper’s delight, we decided to pack up and move out camp. Bling and Papa Raven guarded the camp while Mana Raven and Whisper packed everything. Not quite sure where to go, we quickly decided to go down the road to a horse campground. As we walked up in the dark, we saw another bear near a horse trailer. What we were looking for was some way to secure all our food safely away from bears. We found it in the form of a large trash dumpster with doors on the side. It was empty and we could lock it up. We pulled all our food and smelly stuff in it and pitched our tents as a bear pestered the horseman on the other side of the river. Somebody shot a gun at one point. Mama Raven kept wondering about the lotion she had put on her legs. Then she said what about the chap lip medicine she put on her lips? Will the bear smell these items on her? We hope the bears leave us alone for the night. It is 12:30 in the morning and we all need some sleep. We were wondering who technically won? The bear got us to leave but it did not get any of our food. Bling said it was a tie.

So what happened to Mama Raven’s hiking pole?

Well, you see there was this bear . . . . Wait a minute, let’s back up a bit. When we hiked the PCT, I splurged and bought the $150 Black Diamond poly Carbonite hiking poles. I loved those poles, despite their issues. I like their lightness and the feel of the handles. By the end of the PCT, they were worn out. When the CDT came along, I was unable to afford such a luxury item. Instead I used an inexpensive pair I picked up through CostCo. The lasted the whole trip, but I never loved using them. I always missed the feel of my Black Diamond poles in my hands. For last Christmas, Papa Raven surprised me with a new set of Black Diamonds. I was set to go on the AT.

Now back to my bear story and my beloved Black diamond hiking poles. There was a very confindent bear that invaded our camp one night after we had all laid down to go to sleep. After twenty minutes of fighting off the bear from our food, he hid behind our tents while all four of us were protecting our food. Whisper and I went to the tents and too our surprise the bear was next to them in the bushes. Papa Raven originally claimed it was just a little bear, however I would beg to differ. When it stood upright next to a tree, it stood at least six feet tall with a very wide girth. In my eyes, he was a beast of monsterous size. Nonetheless, the bear was next to my tent. It’s eyes were glowing in the dark through the leaves of the rhodedendron as I shined my head lamp at him. I was mad at him for causing such problems for us, and he was mad at us for causing him troubles. we just stared at each other through the leaves. I just wanted him to go away. Whisper was having a conipsion (mispell) fit! I yelled at him, but it did not phase him. There were no rocks, or pieces of wood to throw at him. The only thing I saw was my hiking pole next to the entrance of the tent. Promptly, I picked it up and began to hit the bushes. He did not budge. Through excitement, trauma, and fear, I swung my beloved hiking pole at a tree near him. A loud crack echoed out. I realized the error of my ways as I looked at my pole in pieces in my hand. I was really mad now. However by that time the bear was gone. So my story ends with my pole hitting the tree hard and loud that the bear was so scarred he left quaking like an Aspen tree in his paws as he scurried away! My beloved hiking pole saves the night.

Mama Raven

Mary Poppins

Somethings wrong with Bling

FS 89
Day 41 (5/21/19)
Miles – 19.47
Total miles – 493.7

We were all up before 7:00 and ready to go. We walked over to Mojo’s Trail Side Cafe for breakfast. Bling, Whisper, and Papa Raven had pancakes with 2 eggs and home fries. Mama Raven had home fries and a smoothie. We all gave her some of our pancakes because we were struggling to eat all the food. From Mojo’s we hiked out of town. Bling was having stomach and digestive issues all morning. Last night’s dinner did not sit well with him. It seemed to have cleared up by mid day. Leaving Damascus, we hiked a short distance on the Virginia Creeper Trail. This is an old railroad that has been converted to a trail. It was very easy hiking, with a very gradual grade. When we joined the Virginia Creeper Trail, the AT cut up a mountain side climbed to a ridge before winding back down to the Laurel River. If we took the AT, we would be hiking in the same “green tunnel” that we have been doing for weeks now. Following the Creeper Trail we would parrellel the Laurel River, which was very beautiful and different than what we are use to. In the middle of nowhere there was a tiny community with a cafe that had icecream. We could not resist and had to stop at a cafe for ice cream. Mama Raven had a slice of chocolate cake since she is lactose intolerant. She wanted ice cream however the aftermath would not be good. Miles later the AT one again joined the Virginia Creeper Trail next to the Laurel River. At this junction, nearly twenty hikers were held up at the rivers edge, injoying a lazy afternoon of playing in the water and sitting in the sun. This was the first opportunity to do such an activity since we began the trail. The Ravens found a more private spot up river to take a break and wade in it’s waters. After leaving the river, we had several easy miles crossing back toward our next big up, Beech Mountain. Bling started to not feel well again. As we neared the top of Beech Mountain, we stopped to cook dinner. Bling ate well but Mama Raven was not feeling so good. She thinks there probably was milk in the cakes icing causing her problems. We needed water and there was a spring a little further. As we hiked Bling started to get a bad stabbing pain in his stomach. By the time we reached the water he was feeling terrible. He was very pale too. We filled our bottles up with cold spring water and began to look for a place to camp. Bling physically could not go too much farther. We found one just the other side of a road. Mama Raven unpacked his pack for him and put him straight into his tent where he promptly rolled up into a tight ball with severe stomach pain. At this moment, we think it might be a case of food poisoning. He had not vomited or had a fever, but he does feel nauseated. He was even more pale than earlier. Falling asleep was difficult for him. We hope he finds a way to sleep and that he feels better in the morning. If he does not, we will have to find a way off the mountain and to a doctor.

Zero in Damascus

Damascus
Day 40 (5/20/19)
Miles – 0
Total miles – 474.2
We took a quite zero today. Laundry, repacked the food for the next section, and working on the blog were the order of the day. We had are bump box so we were able to replace some equipment and do some repairs. We recoated our shoes, socks, and pants with permethrin. A tick deturant. Tomorrow we will be headed out for our next four day section.

Into Damascus

Damascus
Day 39 (5/19/19) R
Miles – 21.5
Total miles – 474.2

We got up early and we were hiking by 7:15. Gutsy will be hiking with us. We have over 400 miles of toughing up so we hike faster then she does. So, Gutsy started to hike an hour earlier then we did. We will catch up with her later today. Today’s trail is even easier than yesterdays. We had an easy up in the beginning of the day and then we walked the ridges. There were a lot more clouds this morning and a higher chance of rain later today. We hiked quickly throughout the morning, with only one stop. As we were hiking, we bumped into Legs and Marathon still camped. Legs was sitting on a log looking a bit forlorn. We asked how is he doing. He said fine except a bear got to their food last night despite having Ursa Sacks which are suppose to be a bear proof bag. They are much lighter than carrying bear cannisters thus preferred by backpackers. Despite this, many National Parks that require bear cannisters do not allow Ursa Bags because they do not believe them to be bear resistant. The bear actually did not get the food out of the bag, however it was mutalated. Food was crushed and liquid or paste like items oozed out. They are half a day from Damascus, so they will be fine from the stand point of food. We walked on down to Low Gap and found a cement picnic table. Of course we had to stop for a break. It is a treat to sit at a table and eat. Throughout the day the clouds thickened. In the mid-afternoon it rained. The thunder rumbled about us. Soon after the rain started we caught up with Gutsy. It was a small thunderstorm and soon passed by. Odometer showed up as we got close to Damascus. He informed us of an older couple who were camped just a head with their two cats. Being cat lovers, we would have to stop by and meet these two and their pets. Soon we came across them and yes they had their two cats with them in a carrier that was open so they could come and go as they pleased. They had leash on. The cats were named Gitzmo and Punkin. We talked a few minutes before heading on. Soon we were all walking into town. Trail Days ended today, but there still a good number of hikers in town because it was difficult to find a place to stay that was not filled up. It took a number of calls to nail down a room for tomorrow, but we found a very nice one called The Dancing Bear Inn. We will be taking a zero her tomorrow to take care of everything. After unloading our gear from the van, we had to say goodbye to Odometer and Gutsy. They have a five hour drive home and after a twenty one mile day of walking, Gutsy will be tired. We appreciate everything they have done for us which has been quite a bit since our tip began. Thank you Gutsy and Odometer!!!!

Thoughts on the horrible hiking incident on the AT:

There are lots of emotions on the AT, as information has come out about the horrendous attack and murder of fellow hikers. Some are distraught and others just do not want to talk about it. For ourselves, we see another horrible deed committed by a very messed up human being that has occurred. He has destroyed the life of others and himself. We are thankful we were far away from the situation. We are no more afraid of being out here on the trail than at home. As Tolkien’s famous quote says, “It is dangerous business stepping out your front door each morning. . .” In the beginning of our trip, due to being so sick we lost nearly a week of hiking time. I have been frustrated that I caused so much delay. We could be one week further along. Odometer pointed out to us that if we had not taking the time off in the beginning, we would have been right in the middle of all the mess. We would have encountered the young man at some point and who knows what else. I now say thank goodness we lost six days of hiking!

Mama Raven

Dearest Mother,

As we entered Virginia today and left Tennessee behind, I was busy thinking of you. You always wanted to go home to Tennessee. When I was a little girl, you read a peom to me about the Smokey Mountains. The only line I can remember said something like this, “when I look out across the Smokey Mountains, I see more shades of green than a box of Crayola Crayons.” Finally after witnessing the Smokey Mountains for myself, I clearly see what the poem was saying. I also was blessed with a sighting of your favorite Tennessee flower, the Lily of the Valley, a rare flower to spot on the AT, according to Gutsy. I miss you terribly even though you lived such a troubled soul on this planet. There is not enough space in the universe to contain my love for you. Such an old soul you were, who was way a head of your time. Your heart and soul were more evolved than most preachers I ever heard speak in church. You are right, about our world, one day a big rock will be removed and all the ugly, creepy, crawly stuff of the world will be exposed. No longer will it be able to hide. Things will get worse before they get better. You read the future well. You were far too sensitive for this world, which repeatedly delivered many cruel blows to you. You could never find your shield and sword to defend yourself. Nearly every night as we hiked in Tennessee, I would go to sleep listening to a song by Aurora called Why Did You Have to Go? I need a box of tissue everytime I listen to it. However I do not have any. Instead all I have is the back of my dirty hand. It has been a treausre to walk in your home state that you loved so much.

Mama Raven

Gutsy

Sparkeling Wonder

Switchback Creek Campground
Day 38 (5/18/19)
Miles – 20.7
Total miles – 452.7

We were on the road back to the trail by 7:20 and off hiking around Watauga Lake by 7:40. We continued around the lake for about 3 miles before we came to the dam. The lake had many fingers and inlets to walk around. A morning fog shrouded the lake to add to the beauty of it. Fisherman in their boats floated along the shore as we hiked around. We passed a shelter however there is no overnight camping at it because of bear activity due to all the fisherman that clean their caught fish in the lake. The remains that are discarded are a bear favorite. Once we crossed the eastern dam, we started a long but easy up. The rest of the day we walked atop a ridge that ran straight northeast. The hiking was easy and we moved along at a good pace. Once the fog burned off, the sky was a clear blue with no clouds to be seen. It was one of the warmest days of our trip and a bit humid, but nothing like what it will be in the coming summer months. We stopped for a break at a small outcropping of rocks overlooking the lake. We stayed longer than normal for a break, about 40 minutes. Because it is Saturday and the busiest day for Trail Days, our hiking for the day was uncommonly quiet. The trail was void of human activity. We enjoyed it this way. On our CDT hike, rarely did we come across another hiker on the trail, except for Colorado. The AT is the complete opposite. That is why it is referred to as a social trail. Today we only saw Legs and Marathon and a large group of high school students and their chaperones. We stopped and talked to them a while. As the day wore on, clouds built to the South.
There is a lot of ground cover and everything is still wet from the rain a few days ago. Poison Ivy is everywhere. We all have walked through some of it at one time or another. Luckily, Mama Raven, is the only one that has gotten a itchy rashes. Another annoying plant that grows profusely here is stinging nettle. We have come across it occasionally on the other two trails, often times not realizing we were walking through it until instantly feeling our legs sting and looking down at all the small welts covering our lower extremities. Out here it is too common, completely covering large areas of land. Given all the ground cover, it is sometimes hard to find a place to sit for a break. Logs work best. However there is usually never enough for all of us, thus somebody has to sit on the ground. This is something we try to avoid because of ticks. While we were eating a snack on a few logs, we picked up a small piece of decayed log and squeezed it. Water came out. Everything is very wet and does not dry fast in this climate. We reached TN 91 around 6:00. A bit later than we wanted, but not too bad.
Gusty and Odometer were in the parking lot waiting for us. Legs and Marathon were also there. We took a short break and then piled into the van and drove to a camp ground for the night. Legs and Marathon continued up the trail. During the late afternoon, the clouds had built up into large thunder heads. As we ate dinner, thunder rumbled to the west and north. We sat and talked as we ate a dinner of hot dogs that Gutsy and Odometer brought. At one point Bling asked when will we get to see fireflies? Coming from the west coast, we know nothing about the bugs other than they show up often times in Disney movies. We have yet to see any and Odometer and Gutsy suggested that they probably will come out when the temperatures increase a bit. That was the end of that conservation. At dusk we all crawled into our tents and settled down for the night. We left the doors open to watch the flashes of lightening off too the west as the distant skies gently rumbled. All of a sudden Mama Raven excitedly exclaimed she saw a flash of light in the field, and then another. Whisper said she saw the same thing. Mama Raven was sure it was a firefly. Bling and Papa Raven said it wasn’t. We watched intensely as we started to see many flashes in the trees. They were fireflies! We all became very excited. Mama Raven had seen fireflies when she was three years old, but the rest of us has never seen them. We all got out of the tents and walked about the field looking at them. All the trees sillouted around us in the dark night were twinkling bright. Some would appear next to us as we walked around. It was a beautiful light display of a sparkling wonder!

Trail Days

Elizabethton
Day 37 (5/17/19) R
Miles – 8.5
Total miles – 432.0

We sleep well in a nice warm room. It rained lightly just about dawn. After a quick breakfast, we loaded the car and headed to the trailhead. Gutsy joined us for this section of the hike. The trail was very easy as we headed out. We hiked along Laurel River. A few miles in we came to Laurel Falls, a large cascading waterfall. The trail then followed a ledge just above the water. This area was stunningly beautiful with the unique rockwalls, rock stairways, the river and falls itself, and of course the lush moss and fern carpeted forest floor. Our favorite section of the AT!!! A short time later we started our only up of the day, 1,700′ in 2 miles. The climb was well graded as we worked our way up. When we reached the top, we stopped for a break. As usual when we decide to take a food break, it started to lightly rain. We all pulled out our rain coats, except for Papa Raven whose did not manage to make it into one of the day packs. And as usual, Gutsy to the rescue with a spare umbrella. After eating we started down to US 321. It did not take long to reach the road. Odometer was there to pick us up. We all piled into the can and headed off to Damascus and Trail Days. We also picked up Strider, a young woman from Vermont and brought her to Trail Days. It took an hour to get there. Yes we told you we wanted to avoid Trail Days, however plans change.
Several days ago Papa Raven was walking around the tent vestabule when he stumbled over a tent line and stepped on the vestabol and tore a hole in the top of our tent. The tent was in a very precarious position that made maneuvering around it very difficult. The tear made closing the zipper tricky with the potential if making the tear worse. Mama Raven suggested at the resort yesterday that Trail Days should have a booth for gear repair. We were not positive about this but we decided to give it a try.
There was a lot of people and vendors at the event. We did stop to buy 6 new tent pegs. Gutsy treated the kids with ten dollars each for icecream and whatever treat they wanted. We walked around the vendor s and did not see tent repair. Odometer and Papa Raven left the vendors and drove over to Tent City. There they found all the repair people. They approach the Etowah Gear tent. The gentleman agreed to look at the tear in our tent. He offered a bowl of beans and cheese while he fixed the tent. He did not charge for his work! That task finished Odometer and Papa Raven picked everyone else up and we drove to Elizabethton for the nights stay. Tomorrow we head off to the next slack pack. The 20 miles between US 321 and Tenn 91.

Whisper, Bling, and Gutsy

Bling dream backpack

Nero

Black Bear Resort
Day 36 (5/16/19)
Miles – 0.9
Total Miles – 423.5

With less than a mile to town why get up? We started to move about 7:00 and were hiking by 8:00. It was in the low 40’s as we came to Dennis Cove Rd. We turned southeast and headed down to the Black Bear Resort. There had a cabin ready so we were settled in by 9:30. The one problem is our boxes were not here. I called my mom and found out that the boxes should be here today. We took showers and did our laundry while we a awaited the arrival of Gutsy and Odometer. They will be slack packing us one last time, from Dennis Cove Rd. To Damascus. Our boxes did arrive about mid-afternoon. Mama Raven and Whisper got new shoes and everyone got new socks. Gusty and Odometer drove in around 3:00. As Mama Raven and Gusty talked our plans for tomorrow changed a bit. We will still be slack packing a short section, but afterwards we will drive over to Trail Days in Damascus.

An easy day

A shot way before Dennis Cove – 400.44
Day 35 (5/15/19)
Miles – 20.73
Today miles – 422.6

Another cold morning awaited us. Not as cold as yesterday, but cold enough to make leaving the comfort of a warm sleeping bag difficult. Papa Raven really wanted to linger a little while longer. Additionally, we have reduced our miles in this section to avoid Trail Days, so we are not in a hurry to rush out in the morning like normally. As we packed, we had to wipe down the nights condensation off the tents. Camping in a stream valley tends to cause night condensation. It is also colder! As we were taking down the tent, Papa Raven stepped on the vestibule and tore a seam and the tent fabric at the top of the tent making zipping the front door difficult. When we get to Dennis Cove, we will have to figure out how repair it. Today’s hiking was some of the easiest so far. The ups were gentle and not very long. We moved along quickly though deciduous forests and a lot of rodedendrums. We took the side trail to see Jones Waterfall, which was a 50′ cascade of water. After leaving the falls, we dropped down to Elk River. We hiked along the side of it for awhile, passing through some beautiful meadows. It was nice to be down off the ridges and walking some of the valleys. We have known for several days that our paper guides and the phone app do not agree on the distance from Erwin to Dennis Cove. There is about a 10 miles difference. Well, this very nice hike along the Elk River is part of the problem. It is not in our app. The app shows Mountaineer Falls and the near by shelter, but it’s trail goes someplace else. Nonetheless, all we could do is just kept hiking the trail. Our mileage remains a mystery. At some point, we would get back on the apps trail. As the afternoon wore on, we covered the miles easily and we took a short break at Moreland Gap Shelter. Second Chance was already cooking dinner there and No Slack arrived shortly after us. We have been bumping into them off and for several days now. Trying to slow our pace down to avoid Trail Days, we decided to hike on to the lookout tower where we would spend the night. Once again the app was out of sync and we never reached the lookout tower. In fact we started down the mountain toward town. We tried to stop for the night, but we cold not find a camp site. The first one that came along, we took. We only have .7mile to get to Black Bear Resort. We will get there early tomorrow morning.

Oh the wind!

Beyond Campbell Hollow Rd – 385.47
Day 34 (5/14/19)
Miles – 18.5
Total miles – 401.9

Bitter cold was our night. In addition to cold temperatures, the wind blew through the trees, but it did not effect us much. We were slow in getting up because it was so comfortable in our sleeping bags. We put on most of our clothes before getting out of the tents including long johns and gloves. The location of Carvers Gap we slept on was a thick grove of 20′ trees, which protected us. The other side of the gap was an open bald, with the wind howling across it. The entire gap was covered in fog. As we hiked up the bald, the the fog flew past us. The wind pushed us off the trail. We felt like a dish towel on clothesline on a windy day. Any exposed skin to the brutal wind hurt. We worked our way to the top of Round Bald and then Jane Bald, before dropping. A sea of thick grey fog surrounded us. There are supposed to be beautiful views all around but not today. We stopped briefly at Stan Murray Shelter to get out of the wind. Finally, we had gotten low enough to be out of the fog. It was cold thus we soon departed. We stayed just long enough to eat something. The trail kept dropping and we came to Yellow Mountian Gap and the 7 path to the Overmountain Shelter. Yellow Mountian Gap is a pass where 1,000 North Carolina and I and Virginia solders headed 170 miles south to fight the British during the Revaluation War. We had never realized that some of the war was fought so far south. We took a break at the Overmountain Shelter. It is an old barn that has been converted into a hiker shelter. The clouds were starting to break up as we left the shelter. The wind has also lessened. Soon we started a steep and long up to the top of Hump Mountain. This area was very beautiful. It is one green bald after another with views off in every direction. We were glad that we were no longer in clouds and could see out. The wind still blew up on those exposed ridges. Finally we started miles of down crossing the North face of Hump Mountain. For many days now we have been hiking right on the North Carolina/Tennessee border but at Doll Flats we left N. C. And hiking strictly in Tennessee. In a few days we will be hiking in Virginia. We have slowed our hiking miles down because coming up in Damascus is a large four day event where thousands of people come to celebrate trails of the East Coast. It is not just for hikers. But also horseman and motorcyclist. There are many events such as identifing birds and plants, fly fishing, hiker talent show and parade. Many gear companies come to show off their newest equipment. There are booths with doctors to check out hiker’s aches and pains. Also there is a gear repair tent. Shuttles will pick up wherever you are to bring you to Damascus and then shuttle you back to the trail. Thousands of hikers will be camped out on huge lawn areas. There are a few hikers like us, who try to miss the event. However, if we kept our twenty mile a day hiking we would be there right in the middle of it. Thus we have slowed our pace down so we get in on Sunday when the event is basically over with. It has been somewhat frustrating for us to do this but we really have no desire to be amongst such a large crowd of people. That’s just The Raven way of things.

From wet to cold

Carver’s Gap
Day 33 (5/13/19) R
Miles – 19.1
Total miles – 383.4

It rained all night. Sometime hard, sometimes lite. When the wind blew, the trees dropped large drops of water down on us. The kids are trying a new brand of tent. It is a Six Moons Luna Duo. It is a single wall tent. That means that there is only a single piece of material between the inside and the outside. Single wall tents have a major problem with condensation. They would be best in drier climates. However they work best when you can leave a door open for air flow. With it raining all night, that was not an option. Needless to say, the kids got a lot of condensation overnight. So much, it ended up raining inside of their tents. When the trees dropped their heavy branches of water on to the tents below, the big water drops hitting the tents would push the condensation off the roof of the tent on to their sleeping bags. Needless to say everything in their tent was soaked. We really needed to have the sun come out today to dry out. The storm that has been going on for the last two days is suppose to break up today. We got out of the tents an hour later because of the weather. It is very unpleasant to pack wet gear in the rain making everything worse. It had stopped raining around 6:00 am, however the high wind kept the trees dropping water on us. With great excitement, sun light hit the end of our tent. By the time we were up and packed, the trees had finally stopped dropping. The days hiking began with a few ups and downs before we went down to Iron Mountian Gap. The sun peeked out for a few minutes and then the clouds reasserted themselves. Mid morning it began to rain again. We quickly put on our rain gear, including skirts. It did not last long, but everything was wet again. We hiked for hours longer than normal before our first break and we had not found a place to dry out yet. Finally around 2:00, we came to a paved road that was dry, but very windy. Windy will dry out equipment just as well as sun, thus we took out the tents and sleeping bags. We held on to the tents as they became oversized kites in the wind. Rapidly they dried. Sleeping bags did not dry as well as the tents however they were drier than if we did not bring them out. We also made the last of our sandwiches. The wind was too cold to leisurely sit around and eat, so they were consumed quickly. It was comforting to know that when we pitch the tents tonight, they will at least start off dry. We were at the bottom of the climb up Roan Mountian, 5 miles and about 2400′. Crypter warned us that tonight’s low up there would be 37°, with wind. The climb was not bad, we just keep plugging away at it, but the wind was bitterly cold. We hit the top but did not stop. We started down the back side. When we reached the Roan High Knob Shelter, we paused long enough to decide that lower elevations would be warmer and hopefully less wind. So another 1.4 miles and 700′ lower, we came to Carver’s Gap. The Ravens were miserably cold. We found a flat place big enough for our two tents and that was home for the night. We did not realize that we set up camp just below a trailhead parking lot with toilets. We kept hearing cars door open and closed which made us curious enough to come out of the warmth of our tents to investigate the situation. It took awhile to start warming up. Roan Mountian is the last time we go over 6,000′ on the AT. Tomorrow we will drop to lower elevations and hopefully sunnier sky’s. We are thinking about purchasing a better tent for Bling and Whisper for the wet environment of the AT. The tent we got them was a three hundred dollar tent so to buy them another one is a painful pill to swallow. However it has become obvious that their current tent is not adequate. We need a double walled tent for them like ours is.

Out of a dry room into the rain

Cherry Gap Shelter
Day 32 (5/12/19) R
Miles – 17.0
Total miles – 364.3

We woke up early and headed for breakfast in the hotel lobby. After breakfast Papa Raven arranged a ride back to the trailhead for 8:30. We finished packing and met our ride. A short time later, he dropped us off next to the hostel where we were picked up the other day. We usually do not stay in the hostels because they charge twenty-five to thirty dollars a night per person. Since there are four of us, a hotel room is cheaper. Plus we have a private shower and bathroom, clean towels, and often times a free breakfast. Like yesterday, today’s weather calls for rain and that is exactly what it was doing as we started to hike. For a few moments we wondered if we should have stayed another night in the hotel to wait out the bad weather. Nonetheless, we made our choice, so into the rain we wen. Hiking in all day rain is slow and miserable so there was some dread as we began to hike. At this point, it was not a hard rain, just light sprinkles. Suddenly, within 15 minutes it stopped. Our spirits lifted as so did the grey cloud cover. Our trail started off easy and was quite beautiful and lush with ferns, moss, mushrooms, and wildflowers covering the forest floor. If ever there was a place to find fairies and little people tending to the forest, here was a spot. We walked long the Nolichucky River, which only added to the beauty of our morning walk. We stumbled across a few orange newts crossing the trail. As we broke away from the river, we climbed up the a river valley until we reached the Curley Maple Gap Shelter. No one was there as we ate a quick snack. Just before we left three other hikers showed up. Two of them were planning to spend the rest of the day out of the weather in the shelter. For the next several hours we climbed up higher and higher into the mountains. We came to a clearing under some power lines. We decided to stop and eat lunch. We carried out the fixings for sandwiches and we were all looking forward to them. Just as we were starting to make the first sandwich, it started to rain. Quickly, we ran around getting everything back into the protection of the packs. Then we waited to see if it would stop. It did not. Onwards we hiked in the rain. A short time later, it did stop but only briefly. We kept going on and dreaming about turkey sandwiches. About an hour later, we reached a big bald called the Beauty Spot. The Ravens were famished. For the moment it was not raining so we quickly fixed our sandwiches. Seeing more dark clouds coming our way, we ate fast and continued hiking. When we came up of the idea of sandwiches on the trail, we invisioned a leisurely scenario that was very different than what we actually had. We have enough makings for sandwiches again tomorrow. Perhaps it will be better. We continued to climb as the afternoon went on, and luckily it did not rain much. What rain we did have was light. By 4:00 the light rain turned into heavy and the wind began to blow sideways. Quickly we were getting soaked. We had not put on our rain skirts earlier because there was such lite rain, but now we really needed them. Bling had stopped behind a tree for a little protection, and Whisper was putting in her skirt. We walked up and helped protected her with our umbrellas. Then it was Bling’s turn. Mama Raven came next. And finally Papa Raven. With the skirts on, all felt a bit warmer. There was so much rain the trail became a fast flowing river for miles. Our socks and shoes quickly became water logged. The rain lasted longer this time, but it let up by the time we reached Cherry Gap Shelter. This was far enough for today. We were cold and wet, and done for the day. We found a place away from the shelter. Luckily it only sprinkled as we pitched the tents. Soon we were all inside and trying to dry out. Rain stopped while we cooked dinner in our tents, however just as dinner was ready, it started up again. It rained pretty hard when Whisper came over for their food. An hour later it is still raining. The weather calls for rain during the night and only a 30% chance of rain tomorrow. We are in for a wet night and we will see what tomorrow holds. there are some days of hiking that you feel as if you are the luckiest parth to be doing what we are doing. Then there are days that are really difficult that make us wonder what in the world are we doing. . . this just is not fun! Today was one of the those days.

Erwin

Erwin
Day 30 and 31 (5/10/19 and 5/11/19 R)
Miles – 5.97
Total miles – 347.3

5/10/19

We woke early, ate, and got out of camp. We’re heading to town. Today’s short trail was not hard, just had a number of PUD’s (pointless ups & downs). Finally we dropped down to the valley floor. We needed to find a way into town. It is 3.8 miles and we do not want to walk it. Where the trail bottom’s out, there is a hostel. They will drive us into town for $5 a person. Papa Raven walked out to tell Mama Raven and saw another hiker shuttle dropping off some people. He asked for their rates, $7 per a car load. We piled in. 5 minutes later we are in front of the Super 8. By 10:00 we are in our room. As the day went on, we sorted our boxes, got extra food, took showers, and did laundry. We are ready to head out tomorrow, except for one thing, the weather. A storm is heading this way and it should start tonight and continue through Sunday. We will decided if we hike out tomorrow morning or not.

One Gear

5/11/19
Another day in Erwin due to heavy rain. Most hikers in town are staying put for the day. Tomorrow it is also suppose to have rain but not as much as today. Some are planning to stay till Monday when the weather is suppose to clear up and others are leaving tomorrow. We attentively will be headed back out tomorrow.
There are many rumors on the trail right now about the machete weilding hiker that was taken under custody a few weeks ago. Flower Man has filled us in with the most accurate details possible sense we do not follow Facebook. Recently the Machete Man was released from police. He came back on the trail here at Erwin where he headed north on the AT. He made it a hundred miles before he attacked two hikers in separate incidents. This is where the rumor gets muddled as to the status of the victims. Some say one was killed and another injured while others say only one is injured. Anyways, the trail is closed temporaryily ahead for police investigation. The suspect has been once again arrested. We hope rumors of a hiker murdered is just that and nobody is hurt. By the time we reach this section of the trail will be opened and no more news of the Machete Man.

A quick day

No Business Knob Shelter
Day 29 (5/9/19)
Miles – 19.4
Total miles – 341.4

The wind blow hard all night long and then it continued through the morning. The last few times this happened, we got rain several days later. We were told that there is a 20% of rain today. We hit the trail a little late, 7:30. We started the day with a down, that is a nice change. After a few miles, we came to Sam’s Gap and then we started our big up of the day. It was well graded so we were able to climb it without any problems. After a few hours of working our way up, we reached the summit of Big Bald Mountain. Truly, it was a big bald, with views in every direction. There are not many clearings like this on the AT, but the few we have come across make us excited. The AT is described as a green tunnel and it is an accurate description. When an opening comes along with out trees above us makes us long for the trails out west. The only problem was the wind, it was blowing very hard. It pushed us around a bit. We hiked across the bald to Little Bald Mountain. Finally and sadly we left the bald and back into the tree. At least the wind settled down in the trees. The rest of the day was traversing downs puncuated with short ups. We made very good time and the time just rolled by. We did not want to push all the way to Erwin tonight because we would have to take a zero to get everything done we need to. Our plan was to go into town early in the morning and take a nero. We decided to stop at the last shelter South of River Road. We only have nearly six miles to town tomorrow morning. We can’t wait to shower and feel human again. The humidity out here is horrible and it is only early May. We have never sweat as much as we have out here on the AT. It can be a perfectly dry night, yet our down sleeping bags in the morning are damp and sticky from humidity. Even on cold rainy days, the sweat drips down our faces as we hiked. It is the craziest hiking we have ever done!

Lost Larry