Harper’s Ferry

Harper’s Ferry
Day 74 and 75 (6/23/19 and 6/24/19 R)
Miles – 15.9
Total miles – 1024.6

6/23/19
With the Roller Coaster behind us, we left camp in high spirits. Being a town day only adds to the good mood. Harper’s Ferry is our next destination. Although not exactly the mid point of the AT, Harper’s Ferry is considered by the hikers the halfway point. Most take a few days off the trail at this location. Many often go on to Washington DC. We are uncertain of our exact plans other than Whisper gets her birthday present of riding a horse in Harper’s Ferry.

With fifteen miles to town, we left camp at a brisk pace. The morning began, with an easy up to a ridge that we would take us all the way to town. At close to the days midway point, we took our first break of the day. Of course we took our break just 100 yards from a shelter without knowing it. So we missed out on a table and a swing. Hoping for water, we went to the building anyways. Once arriving at the shelter we discovered that the water was half a mile away. Thus, not being completely out of water, we chose not to make the trip down to the water source. Despite this we still enjoyed the beautifully made shelter with a swing, and big porch. After our break we continued on. Hiking along the ridge was fast and easy. We soon came to Keys Gap and trail magic. Fruit, drinks, chips, and candy was to be had. We all had a little bit of everything. Our favorite item had to be the cherries! We did not stay long, town was calling. We said our thanks and on we went. Just before dropping down to Harper’s Ferry, we crossed into West Virginia, or fifth state. Next we came the expansive Shenandoah River, which we crossed over on a bridge. When we looked backed up the river we saw where the Shenandoah and the Potomac River joined together. We are so looking forward to seeing this historical area! It was mid afternoon when we walked into town and up to our hotel. We were hot, sweaty, and especially tired from yesterday’s hiking.

We all cycled through the shower as we did the laundry. By five o’clock, Papa Raven looked into the horse riding for Whisper. Tragic news for Whisper, who has been dreaming about her adventure on a horse since we began the AT. Horse rides are only Friday, Saturday, and Sunday’s. Today is Sunday, but after closing hours. Being one not to show much emotion, Whisper took the news well. However, we knew that she was crushed. We could see it on her face. Nothing we could do other than hopefully find another location up the trail at some point. Finally we walked into the old part of Harper’s Ferry to look for dinner. We were too late on a Sunday evening, because every place we went was closed or closing. Luckily we kept looking and found The Rabbit Hole still open. It was a very good dinner. On the way back to our room, Whisper and Papa Raven drove Bling up the wall by reading all the historical signs, and there is a lot of them in Harper’s Ferry! As we have stated earlier, Whisper is fascinated by all things history, especially Civil War. . . and Harper’s Ferry is were the big event started with John Brown. The museums were closed by the time we got there. For now, Bling was saved from having to read signs inside the museums, but tomorrow we will be back!

6/24/19
Zero. Papa Raven, Bling, and Whisper took a very long walk to 7-Eleven, for drinks and a bit of food. Mama and Papa Raven took a walk to the PO for our five boxes. One box was missing. After looking into it I found out that it should be here tomorrow. We sorted the next sections food and we are ready for the next section. We did take some time and walk through more of the older parts of Harper’s Ferry. It was an easy zero.

The Roller Coaster

Sand Spring (976.1)
Day 73 (6/22/19)
Miles – 19.7
Today miles – 1008.7

The sun hit our tents first thing this morning. That has not happened very often on this trip. This got us moving sooner than we have been and we were on the trail before 7:00. Our day started walking through open fields before heading back into the trees and down to Ashby Gap. As usual, we needed water. We stopped at Rod Hollow Shelter, filled our bottles and had a snack on a picnic table. It is a treat to eat at a table and to dangle the feet down. One of life’s daily routines that so many take for granted. Three meals a day, we sit and eat on the dirt along with the creepy, crawly things of life: ticks, caterpillars, ants, spiders, beetles. If we get lucky, there are rocks offering a relatively clean place to sit. From here we started the Roller Coaster. This is a series of small ridges and mountains that we needed to cross. The climbs and drops were no more than 400′, but there were a lot of them and no switchbacks. This meant that the trail was steep. The Roller Coaster went up and down for 13.5 miles. There was basically no views except for the Ravens Rocks right at the end. The other problem was that the trail was very rocky causing twisting and turning of the ankles all day long. Everyone’s feet, including Bling and Whisper, hurt by the end of the day. It was a tough day. Towards the end Mama Raven simply sat down on a particular hard up an claimed she was done and going home! She said this is cruel and some sort of unusual punishment! The Roller Coaster whooped us!!! We are all physically tired and ready for bed. We should reach Harper’s Ferry tomorrow.

A little trail magic

Dirt road (956.5)
Day 72 (6/21/19)
Miles – 22.1
Total miles – 989.0

The wind stared to blow real strong shortly before dawn. This made sleeping difficult. At one point we woke up and looked about. What we found strange was the bright lights shining on our tents. We thought that the kids were having a problem with their tent and trying to fix it, so Papa Raven popped hishead out of the tent. It was not the kids. There were two people standing just beyond the tents. They asked if they could pass. He said sure. They said that they were out for an early sunrise hike. After they passsed by, Papa Raven looked at the time, it was 5:05. We started our day a bit early. A short distance from departing the camp, we past out of Shenandoah National Park. Everyone was very low on water so we stopped a mile or so farther at a shelter and got just enough water to hold us until a better spring came along later in the day. It was a bad source of water that was incredibly slow and very dirty. Throughout the morning the hiking was easy. We are hiking at a lower elevation, around 800′ to 1500′. Being lower means that vegetation under the trees is dense. This can be a problem when we are trying to find a camp. Our second break for the day was an unplanned surprise. We came out at Fiery Run Road at about the same time as three other hikers. Someone was meeting one of them and she had brought food from Chick-fil-A. She gave us some fruit and we each got a box of chicken nuggets. It was a great treat! We did not stay long and headed for I66. We stopped just before the freeway, at a stream and snacked a bit more and soaked our feet. Leaving I66 marked the beginning of a big climb, 1,200′. It was not badly graded and it took several hours to reach the top where everything was covered with green vines. We believe that it was Kudzu, a vine that grows profusely over everything. We had to hike farther than we wanted because there was no place to camp. Finally, we came across a clear enough area to set up the tents. It was next to open grassland on one side, hence we would be entertained tonight by the fireflies!

Rattlesnakes

Edge of Shenandoah National Park (934.7)
Day 71 (6/20/19) R
Miles – 22.7
Total miles – 966.9

We woke early and headed over to breakfast by 6:00. After pancakes and French toast, we headed back to the room to close up the packs. Our ride was coming at 7:30. Not wanting to be late, we walked to the front of the hotel 5 minutes early, she was waiting for us. The sky was filled with clouds and today’s forecast called for 50% chance of thunderstorms. With a lots of good food in our stomachs, we hiked out at a good pace. We covered the first eight miles easily and we got to our last Wayside store around 11:00. Thus we decided to have an early lunch because this particular Wayside had a grill! Excitedly, we ordered grill cheese sandwiches, burger, chili fries, soup, and milkshakes. All these food stores along the trail are spoiling us. However this will be the last one that we are aware of for a long time. We definitely have enjoyed them! We left good and full. The clouds continued to threaten and sprinkled for a short time. At one point we saw a very fat rattlesnake that had recently eaten. It was too full to do much of anything, not even rattle at us. It just sat there off to one side. Later we saw a baby constrictor that had also eaten. It just waddled down the trail. In the late afternoon we saw another rattlesnake. The rattlesnake look like the diamond backs we have in San Diego, but they are much darker. Black is their main color. We are uncertain what type they are however we guess they are the Timber rattler.
The trail crossed Skyline Drive many times. Sometimes at a gap other times you can walk to a parking lot or a turnout for a view. Feeling starved for a view and wide open sky, periodically we took the road. We choose to eat dinner at a turnout, which provided us with beautiful views as we ate. After dinner, we bumped into the Tilton family, who is sectioning the Shenandoah’s. They are a family of nine, seven kids and two adults. The kids ranged from age five to fourteen. Their plan is to piece together an AT hike over the next few summers. Kudos for them! Mama Ravens says the parents deserve parents of the year! We wish them luck. Tonight we are camped on a dirt road just shy of the Shenandoah National Park boundary. It was the only place we could find to set up camp for the night because of the thick under brush. It’s dark and we are tired so we set up camp. We should be out of here in the morning before anybody is out and about.

Luray

Luray
Day 69 and 70 (6/18/19 R and 6/19/19 R)
Miles 9.9
Total miles – 944.26/18/19
We had a good nights rest at Skyland Lodge. Hoping to wake up to clear skies did not happen. Instead thick ominous dark grey greeted us. A gentleman we talked to last night said we are hiking a difficult year. He said the weather is just not normal with much more rain than usual. A number of people have told us that. However we keep telling ourselves that this time last year, two hurricanes came through Virginia with twenty-one days of straight rain. Now that is worse! It was a high rate of hikers quiting last year, but there were those that somehow stuck it out and made it to the end. Yes we are having lots of rain, but we are dealing with it. We are spending more time in towns than we would like to. The poor weather conditions definitely make hiking harder and less enjoyable. Infact it can make it down right demoralizing at times. Nonetheless we cannot change it. Lifting our spirits, we keep telling ourselves that atleast the rain keeps the temperatures down and bugs away. . . we’ll sort of. Yes temperatures down but bugs no. We have been told to just wait and see what happens to the bugs when the summer temperatures go up. Great! Already we are experiencing bad bugs. On the west coast, the only annoying insects are the mosquitoe that last a few weeks. Since day one we have been eaten by all sorts of unknown obnoxious flying pestilents! Whisper and Mama Raven have suffered the most with bug bites. Very few have been mosquitoe bites. Two of the most notorious attackers are small flies and a tiny black flying insect. Mama Raven spends much of her time itching. She says the worst spot are the ear lobes and behind the ears! Papa Raven keeps telling her to stop itching and they will not get so bad. She got her revenge when Papa Raven recently encountered a bite on the back of his leg that actually itched. He kept itching it. Mama Raven told him “I have heard that itching bug bites only makes them worst.” She also added “try twenty or thirty bites that itch at one time!”We ate a quick breakfast and were on the trail by 7:00. We only had 10 miles to Hwy 211, our road to Luray. We had just a few little ups and a good bit of level down. The sky was covered in clouds but no rain, yet. We hiked quickly hoping to get to town before the clouds decided to release their water content on us. We reached the highway in 4 hours, with only one break. We ran into a problem, how to get to town? With a very weak signal, no one to call, and light sprinkles falling on us, we finally hitch hiked. Four people with backpacks have problems getting rides, especially in the rain. Vehicle after vehicle drove past, finally a small truck pulled over and we piled into the back of it. Bling and Whisper loved their ride in the back of a pick up truck. It is illegal in California. A father and son heading to Luray for lunch picked us up. They dropped us off at the center of town, which was where the post office was located. Thus the PO was the first task at hand. Then we walked over to a hotel to get a room. We have been trying to decided if we should stay a day and see the Luray Caverns or not. We sorted our food and could leave tomorrow. Although, there is an eighty percent chance of rain tomorrow. We’ll see what happens.6/19/19

We decided to be tourists today and visit museums. We are 10 days ahead of schedule and a zero would not hurt. So Luray Caverns are on our schedule today. We had a short mile walk over to the caverns. We got over there by 10:00 and soon were headed down into the caverns. We were surprised how big the caves were. Our tour took 1.5 hours. Along with the caverns, there were three museums: toy museum, car and carriage museum, and a Luray Valley museum. We walked through all three of them, but we spent the most time in the Luray Valley Museum. Whisper really liked seeing the early 1800’s town and all the museum itself. Everyone agreed that it was a good choice to stay an extra day. All the Ravens enjoyed the day, especially the caverns. Tomorrow morning, we have a ride lined up to take us back to the trail head. We should be in Harper’s Ferry four days from now.

Surprise! A room

Skyland
Day 68 (6/17/19 ) R
Miles – 21.5
Total miles – 934.3

It was a quite night, another words no bears. The Shenandoah area is known for it’s black bears and by not sleeping at shelters, we are at a greater risk for encounters. So far so good with bears! Again, we got walking by 7:00. We wanted to cover more today so tomorrow would be shorter. Not fifteen minutes from our camp we saw a mother black bear with two cubs. She was about 50′ down hill from us and the cubs were even lower down the hill. She watched us for a bit while we watched her and then moved towards her cubs. We only had five miles to reach Lewis Camping and store.before we reached the store we hiked through a cemetery that had both new and old graves. The most perculiar thing about this is that it is located in the middle of a National Park. The most recent grave we found was 2014 while the oldest was the late 1800’s.e The store was what we were looking for. We got a bit to eat and drinks, filled our water bottles and used restrooms. It was an hour break before we got walking. So far, the hiking through the Shenandoah’s had been easy and today was no exception. We moved quickly and hours later we came to the Big Meadow Store just in time for lunch. As we came up, ADD and Wheels and two other hikers were just leaving. Yesterday was a rare clear day despite the weatherman’s prediction of thunderstorms. Instead, today it looked as if the storms was arriving. As we ate lunch, a thunderstorm passed to the South of us. Then another passed to the north. We hiked out hoping that would be it. We left Big Meadow by the way of a road not trail. The trail would have taken us back into the trees, but the road would take us through the meadows with views. This is called blue blazing which is walking another route other than the AT. There was a rock wall parrelleling the road which we walked on and made us feel safer. Road walking is always a bit nerve racking, especially around curves. Hikers have been known to be hit by cars. Many years ago there was Jane and Flika that were both killed on the PCT in the Mojave Desert.

The meadow area did not last long, however we still had open views around us, which we are longingly missing on the AT. An hour later it started to rain, not hard or long, but it did get everything good and wet. At Hawksbill Gap we took our afternoon break. The ground was wet, but a car left the parking area and left behind a big dry patch where it had been parked. We sat there in the dry gravel spot.

As the day grew late, we cut off the AT up to Skyland Lodge for water. In front of the lodge office we found a drinking fountain. We filled all our water bottles. As we were doing this it started to lightly sprinkle with ligtening and thunder coming our way. The question of the cost of a room came up, so Papa Raven went and checked. It was not too expensive. He returned to ask if we should take it. Looking up at the swollen dark grey clouds, we decided to say yes. Mama Raven stayed behind while everyone else went to get a room. During this time, the thunder started and then it poured down rain. Mama Raven was quickly trying to get everyone’s packs out of the deluge. Bling ran up to help her. After obtaining the room, we all met back with Mama Raven. Everyone shouldered their packs and headed back to the lodge office and it’s large overhanging deck where we could get out of the rain. We stayed in the lobby watching the rain come down. We decided to eat dinner at the restaurant, so we stashed our packs in a back room and went to dinner. As we ate the storm broke and we had great views of the valley to the west. There was another couple hiking the AT doing the same thing we were. Finally we walked to our room in the dark except for the dancing fireflies flickering in the grass that lighted our path. As usual they mesmerized us as we walked. Mama Raven keeps wondering if people that live on the east coast realize how amazing the little firefly is or are they so use to them they do not even think about it? Anyways, we sure are enjoying them! Once in our room came showers and bed. Tomorrow we will hike 9.9 more to the highway into Luray. We really did not expect to sleep in a room tonight, but we did not want to sleep on muddy ground either. We have done it many times, but we could not pass up the opportunity!

A long day

South River Fire Road
Day 67 (6/16/19)
Miles – 25.0
Total miles – 912.8

We had a good night’s rest except for the wind that blew all night long. That is what you get when you sleep at the top of a mountain. We packed up and got out of camp by 7:00, which is what we wish would happen every morning. More often than not we are out of camp by 7:30. The hiking was fast and easy over to the Loft Mountain Store, where we took our first break. We picked up chips, drinks, ice cream, and a chicken sandwich for Bling. After leaving the store we headed back to the AT and continued on our way. Today’s trail crossed the Skyline Drive many times. We would walk a ridge up to a small peak and then drop to a gap where we would come cross the road. Then we would do it again and again. We passed a number of shelters but never stopped at any of them. We did walk down to the Simmons Gap Ranger Station, where we could get water. Nearby the water pump at the ranger station, we soaked our feet in a small stream and had lunch. It was a long relaxing break. After lunch we continued today’s pattern of of walking up to a ridge and dropping down to a Gap and road. Late in the day we stopped at the Hightop Mt parking area for dinner. By this time we were getting tired and needed some calories to keep going. As it happens way too often, the last thing we do for the day is a big up. When at the end of the day you are so tired a big up is not what you want to be doing. But that’s what we do. After several miles of up, we traversed along the side of a ridge. Finding a place to camp in the Shenandoah has been difficult although we finally came to an old flat dirt road and called it a day. Today was our biggest miles so far.

Into the Shenandoah’s

Blackrock Mountain
Day 66 (6/15/19)
Miles – 21.3
Total miles – 887.8

We had another good night’s rest, breakfast, and an easy ride back to the trail thanks to Vintage. He picked us up at 7:30 and dropped us off where we left the trail several days ago. Thanks Vintage for the rides and trail talk. We crossed US 250 on an overpass and headed into the Shenandoah National Park. The Skyline drive follows the length of the Shenandoah National Park and the AT crosses it many times. A short ways into the park we got to the self registration for back country permits. We filled one out for our group. While Papa Raven was doing that Bling found a large round cutoff from a log. He picked it up and wanted to show it to Mama Raven. When she went to look at it, he dropped it on her foot. It smashed down on four of her toes. She let out a loud yell. Great way to start the day.

The hiking through the Shenandoah is not difficult. The trail does not have any big ups so we could move along pretty well. Our path parrellel’s the Skyline drive coming out at parking lots and overlooks. Sometimes it will come above the road for better views. There was a short detour around power line construction. On the far side of that detour, we stopped for a short break. As we were setting there a hiker passed us. I looked up and saw a Japanese man with a gotee. Papa Raven recognized him, so he called out his name, Sketch. Many weeks ago we had heard that he was on the trail and we were hoping to run into him. Mama and Papa Raven and Whisper met Sketch on the PCT in 2015 up near Mt Rainier. This was after Bling broke his femur and left the trail. After a moment, he remembered playing Frisbee with Whisper in a parking lot just east of Mt Rainier. Sketch also did the CDT in 2017, the same year we did, but he SOBO’ed it while we NOBO. Neither of us saw the other. He is trying to finishing his Triple Crown, just like us. We met up with him later in the afternoon and talked about the two other trails and people we knew. He also showed us his six small sketch books he draws and paints in as he hikes. He says he takes an hour a day to take time to draw. He is a talented artist!
Tomorrow we will run into our first store up here. We discovered that we are one breakfast short. We goofed up yesterday when sorting the food thus we will get something at one of the stores. Through the Shenandoah National Park, there are stores and restaurants along the trail. We are not sure if this is good or bad. It will be fun to get icecream along the trail, however, each stop will take time out of the day’s hiking. We will see how it works out.

Memorial

Sketch

Sketch and The Ravens

Into Waynesboro

Waynesboro
Day 64 and 65 (6/13/19 and 6/14/19) R
Miles – 6.0
Total miles – 866.5

6/13/19
Constantly it rained all night but not hard. Since we did not have far to go this morning, we got a late start and finally it stopped raining. Trying something new last night ended up being an absolute failure. Knowing we would have condensation issues throughout the night, we put our large backpack liner bags over our sleeping bags. The liner bag is a large contractor trash bag that we line the inside of the backpacks to keep what is inside dry when it rains. Our thinking was it would protect the sleeping bags from the falling condensation dripping down. Instead, the large trash bags created their own condensation directly on top of the sleeping bags causing our down bags to be even wetter. We might as well slept outside with no tent in the rain. On the CDT we tried something similar. We stuck the end of the sleeping bags inside the trash bags with the same soggy out come. This time we thought we would have better air flow just laying the bags on top. WRONG!!! Oh well, lesson learned. We packed the wet tents and sleeping bags and headed towards town. The trail was not difficult with the usual ups and downs. As Mama and Papa Raven came up to the road to town, we found that Bling had lined up a ride for us already. No calling or waiting. Vintage, an AT section hiker from Waynesboro, was dropping off two hikers when he saw Bling and Whisper walking into the trailhead parking lot. He drove us the 4.5 miles down to Waynesboro where he swung by the PO so we could pick up our boxes. Then he dropped us off at the hotel. Thank you Vintage!!! We had to wait for about a half-an-hour for the room to be cleaned. Food was a priority so after dropping our packs we headed toward a restaurant. As we barely reached a block down the road, Vintage stopped and picked us up and drove us to the Cook Out. We invited him for lunch but he had a doctor’s appointment. He recently picked up Lyme disease while hiking the section of trail we just completed.
The Cook Out is an Eastern fast food chain. We were told they have them were ever colleges are. Back in Lexington was our firs we went to. Really good burgers and fries at equally cheap prices. The best thing they make are the forty different milk shakes they offer. Our favorite so far is the fresh banana. Being lactose intolerant, poor Mama Raven cannot partake in the joy of a Cook Out milkshake. However, she said next time we eat at one she will be well supplied with her lactose pills!
After eating came showers and laundry. For dinner, we had our first Chinese food on this trip, an AYCE (All You Can Eat) buffet. It was good and we walked away very, very full. A-D-D was there by himself so we had him join us. We are taking a planned zero tomorrow. We are now nine days a head of schedule. If we do not take it we will be ten days ahead.
In the beginning of our AT hike we were hoping this would happen. The less the kids miss of school, the easier it is on them. Also we are hoping to take some time off to be tourist. We had three goals: see New York City, Washington DC and to stick our toes in the Atlantic Ocean. Mama Raven would like to add having Maine Lobster to the list. All are very doable. Already we are making arrangements with step brother Adam for New York. He and his family live in New York and near the trail. He has offered a home cooked meal and said he would love to be a tour guide of NYC and we would love to take him up on that! Since he lives so close by to the trail, we do not have to worry about lining up on specific day or time. Whenever we get there is fine for Adam and his family. This makes things very easy for us. We may see Washington DC at the end of the trip and fly home from there. We will see!

6/14/19
There was too much to do to leave Waynesboro this morning. One of the most time consuming task was to spray our gear with tick spray. Every four weeks we send ourselves spray to apply to our shoes, socks, shorts, and backpacks. Supposedly it will last six weeks no matter how often laundry is done but we do not want to take any chances. We have seen videos of ticks crawling on a piece of clothing and it shriveled up and died pretty quick. Mama Raven recently found a tick crawling around on her shoe gaters, which did not die as the video showed. However she immediately removed the tick when found. She did not wait around to see what happened to it overtime. Since we are starting to encounter more ticks maybe we will do better at observing the ticks on our gear to see how well the tick repellent works. Nonetheless, we have to spray each piece of gear, wait for it to dry and flip, and repeat. Thank goodness we had a good bit of sunshine today to help dry. We did not have enough spray for everything because our box with the spry was crushed in the mail and one of the spray bottles leaked out. Since that took lots of the day to complete, we stayed the remainder of the day. We have made arrangements with Vintage to pick us up in the morning and return us back to the trail.

Whisper, Papa Raven, and Vintage

Ticks

A trail junction (825.7)
Day 63 (6/12/19) R
Miles – 23.4
Total miles – 860.5It was the first time in quite awhile that we had sun on the tents first thing in the morning. With high spirits, we rose, ate, packed, and on the trail by 7:15. Yesterday, it did not rain. It has been quite a while since we have had no percipatation falling on us. Could we make it two days in a row of no rain? We continued the long drop down that we started last night to the Tye River. Long steep drops in elevation are hard on our feet and this one produced sore, aching feet. Nonetheless, we crossed the suspension bridge over the river and began a big up, 3,000′ in 6 miles. This was not as steep as yesterday’s up but it still took us hours. There were high clouds that muted the sun. This helped keep the temperatures down. In fact, at times, it was a bit cold. Once we reached the top of Three Ridges Mountian our hiking became much easier. We had more ridge walking and, once again we crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway. In fact, we crossed it a number of times. There were several places where the trail became very rocky forcing are feet and ankles into unnatural positions. Overtime this causes sore feet. Additionally, this type of terrain slows us down.
As we hike we did periodically check ourselves for ticks. Having found no ticks on us, we have become very lackadazecal. We had only seen ticks a few time on the ground and one on the outside of our tent. Well, today we found five of them on us. We had been walking through some trail grass and we stopped for a short rest. Papa Raven felt something on his leg, which caused him to look down. A tick was crawling up his leg. As he flicked it off off, Mama Raven looked over her legs and feet and found one on her. The kids did not have any. After we set up camp, we did a more thorough check and found three more between Mama and Papa Raven. Still the kids found none. None of the ticks we found were the types to carry Lymes disease. . . we think?
We had only about 6 miles to reach the road to Waynesboro, our next food drop. It is good that it is so close, because at sunset the dark clouds rolled in and rained on us. Infact it is raining right now. We do hope it will let up before morning. Since it is a town day, we will have plenty of time to dry out.

Sunny day

Before Cripple Creek (802.3)
Day 62 (6/11/19)
Miles – 22.6
Total miles – 837.1

Our ride back to the trail was coming at 7:30, so we were up and moving a little after 6:00. All those last minute things take time, so we were a bit rushed when the taxi arrived 10 minutes early. We quickly got our packs closed and out to the car. With one last look about the room, we were off. We were miles out of town when Mama Raven remembered the sandwich meat and cheese in the frig. Well we weren’t going back for it! Instead of ham and cheese sandwiches,we will have Nutella sandwiches.
Our hiking started out with a steep up, 2,700′ in 4 miles. A clear blue sky was overhead, although the air was cold with a strong wind blowing. The steep climb warmed us up. After a few hours, we reached the top of Bald Knob. A clear grassy area with views in almost every direction. This was the first time in many days we were able to see anything because of the thick, gloomy, rain clouds surrounding us. There rest of the day was uneventful. We hiked on a ridge top with very little change in altitude. At one small gap, we came across an old apple tree, with small unripe apples. We had heard that we would see apple trees along the way, but this was our first. Around 6:30 we stopped for dinner. Then we hiked past Priest Shelter and on to the top of Priest Mountain. The kids did not stop at the top like they were told but instead started down the other side. This was a very big down on a steep mountain side. Camp spots would be very limited. We ended up walking a mile down before we found a possible place to camp. It was not level and filled with roots and rocks. Since it was nearly dark and unknown when we would find a better location, we set up camp. The bottom was still miles away. Tomorrow’s forecast is cloudy and chance of rain in the evening. We hope the forecast is wrong because hiking today without rain was blissful! There is nothing we can do about the weather, nonetheless the rain is mentally hard to deal with day after day. The AT gets a lot of rain and the shelters help with the weather issues. We do not use them and have been told it is foolish not to. We are not use to shelters. On the other long trails we have hiked, they do not exist. We see that shelters can be valuable when weather is bad. Tents do not get wet. No condensation issues. However shelters fill up, especially on rainy days. There is limited space in them thus hikers have to claim a spot early on. We like to keep hiking later in the day and do not want to quit early. Thus we do not use shelters the way many hikers do on the AT. We pitch tents in the rain, and we take down in the rain. Yes, we get wet! That is how the Ravens hike. We are not the only ones that do not take advantage of the shelters, but we are a minority.

ADD

Buena Vista

Buena Vista
Day 60 and 61 (6/9/19 and 6/10/19)
Miles – 21.8
Total miles – 814.56/9/19
It was nice to be warm and dry in a room as it rained outside. We have a ride back up to the trail at 7:15, so we ate breakfast and got two packs ready with food, water, and rain gear. By 8:00, we were slack packing up the trail as it drizzled down on us. It was a gentle rain that added to the peaceful atmosphere we hiked in. Most of the day was easy hiking except for the 2,000′ elevation increase at the beginning of the day. The trail was exceptionally void of hikers. Most are holding up somewhere or another out of the rain. If we were not slack packing, we probably would be doing the same. Nonetheless, there still are a few hikers on the trail. One of them is doing the same thing we are doing. Cloud Buster was out and a group of four hikers we did not know. Also we bumped into Memorial, who we have not seen in weeks. We first met him before Hiawasee, Georgia. It was good to see him again. After we completed the up, hiking was mainly down except for a few PUDS here and there. The day ended walking up Brown Creek River Valley that was so stunningly beautiful. On the AT, the trail designers keep you high up on the ridges, so the opportunity to hike along a river valley is rare and special. It is one of our favorite hiking ecosystems. Brown Creek was an absolutely beautiful river tumbling down moss covered rocks and downed trees. It was stair stepped as it flowed over large flat blocks of rock. The vegetation was typical decedious trees, ferns, and other woodland forest plants. Everything is covered with thick, lush moss. As we walked up the valley we kept seeing signs of someone living here long time ago. Old rock walls followed the river for over a mile. Huge, tall rock wall, and rock wells. We later learned that freed slaves began a sustainable community in the mid 1800’s. They grew wheat and other grains and had a mill to process flour. It was sold to local towns. We passed by a shelter that had a few hikers settling in for the night. Again, it’s location was beautiful. We are jealous of these hikers who will be spending the night next to Bear Creek while we will be in a hotel room. Yes we will be warm and dry, however who really will have the best night? The rain stayed away just until our ride arrived to pick us up. It started pouring hard as we drove back to Buena Vista. We will sleep well tonight in our dry room!6/10/19
It was another rainy night and we were glad we were not in it. This is our unexpected zero day. We were at the post office by 9:00 to pick up our re-supply boxes. Back at the hotel room, we organized everything. Bling had been having problems with his new shoes. The insoles in his new shoes were roling up underneath his feet as he walks. This has made walking difficult. The only way to solve the problem was to remove the insoles all together. There is a fifty cent shuttle from Buena Vista to the larger town of Lexington where we can find some sort of insoles for his shoes. Waiting for the shuttle, we saw Slearner and Shortcake waiting for a taxi to take them up the trail. They were suppose to leave yesterday. Because of the weather, they took another zero. After our return from Lexington we had a lazy afternoon as it continued to rain.

Lots of rain

Buena Vista
Day 59 (6/8/19) R
Miles – 11.7
Total miles – 792.9

Wow did it rain last night! It literally was a down pour all night. On top of the constant rain, the wind blew equally hard. It was the type of wind that made us nervous about falling trees. All of our sleeping bags were wet from the condensation water dripping from the inside of our tents. The kids had it worse because their tent is a single wall tent. Since there was so much water coming down, everything lose in the tents was damp. Despite this, we were warm underneath the soggy sleeping bags. Looking over the maps in the morning, we had several options. We were not looking forward to sleeping in all this wet gear tonight, so we figured out a way to dry out and still finish this section on time. Deciding to hike only 11 miles to a main road, a taxi could pick us up and take us to Buena Vista, which is where our next food drop is. This would allow us to dry out. Tomorrow, which is suppose to rain again, we will slack pack the remainder twenty-one miles of this section. We would return to a dry room in Buena Vista. Monday, the post office will be open to pick up re-supply.

The hard rain that battered us all night stayed around till midday morning. We did not want to go out and take down the tents in such bad weather. At 9:00 am, we grudgingly crawled out. In the other tents around us, nobody was moving. They probably were going to to wait for the rain to stop, which was one of our options we came up with this morning. In the end we decided to pack up and get moving and hike a short day to get out of the weather. The hard rain made for a difficult job of packing. Finally, all bundled up with our soggy and muddy gear on our backs, we started hiking. The only real climb of the day was first thing. It took several hours to reach the top, which happened to be the only location in the area with cell phone reception. Thus we stopped to call about a room and a ride. It is hard to use a touch screen as it is raining. The screen does not work when it gets wet. It was nearly impossible to keep the warm cell phone, condensation free in the cool, wet air. With umbrellas overhead, and constant attempts of drying off (mind you that we do not have anything dry, including our clothes, to dry off with), Papa Raven finally got everything lined up. The simple procedure that took great effort! Nonetheless, we had to cover 9 miles in 4 hours. As long as there are not too many slow ups, we should make it. Around 11:00 the rain thankfully began to let up. For the rest of the day, it would come and go. We took one quick break around noon to eat something and continued on. A few miles from the road, we sent Bling ahead to make sure we would not miss our ride. Finally, with a soft rain coming down, we reached the longest bridge on the AT, the James Face Bridge. Bling was waiting on the far side for us as we crossed. Arriving ten minutes before the taxi was to pick us up, we all sighed in relief that we were not late. However we waited and waited. There was no cell service at Hwy 501 so we could not check on our ride. Did we give them the right time? Or the right location? Thankfully, at 3:00 they showed up and we quickly loaded up and were off to Buena Vista and a dry room to somehow dry out all the gear. Once in our room, we pulled everything out of our packs to dry and set it outside on the walkway to dry. The walkway was covered with a wide overhang. If there was sunshine, everything would dry quick. However no sunshine was to be found, thus a very slow drying process began. Mud and water had to be wiped off. It took several hours but the job got done. Long showers were taken to warm up. Also, we did a load of laundry. Subway sandwiches were for dinner. To be warm and dry and out of the rain is comforting. Actually it is quite peaceful and beautiful to walk in the woods in the rain. However, it is even better knowing a dry bed is waiting for you at the end of the day. We are lucky for this opportunity! Slearner and Shorcake zeroed here today also. This was their second day in Buena Vista. We have been one to two days behind them for weeks now. Towns are the only time we see them. It is always a treat for us when we bump into them.Tomorrow we will be slack packing 21 miles, rain or shine. It should be easy to cover the distance with only one pack that is lightly loaded.

Rain

Before Petites Gap (747.3)
Day 58 (6/7/19) R
Miles – 20.6
Total miles – 781.2

We had just a few light sprinkles just as we went to sleep, then more in the morning. We were able to take down the tents and keep them dry. There were two big climbs today. The first was right off the bat. A 1,000′ up and a 1,000′ down. It would have been easier for everyone, including the trail builders, if we could have contoured around keeping the same elevation, but this is the AT! For some reason, trail designers think hikers want to reach the top of every ridge. Not true! On the CDT, or the PCT, at least we would be rewarded with an amazing view. Not so on the AT. It is just another tree lined ridge with absolutely no view. This is what we call a PUD (pointless up and down). It is a lot of hard work for nothing and drives hikers crazy! The second big climb went on forever. We had 3,000′ but over many miles. It started off steep and leveled off. As we climbed the rain came and went, but it was always lite. The higher we went the more constant the rain. We took a break at the first shelter we came to. Bryant Ridge Shelter Shelter was the most beautifully designed shelter we have seen. Two story with windows. Much thought went into it’s design and construction. The whole structure was timber frame using only wooden pens and joinery to piece the large beams together. We stayed there for an hour enjoying and studying the shelter. For us that was a very long break. The second shelter we came to we also stopped to eat. On rainy days the shelters are very handy for this purpose. They give us a dry place to get out of the rain. We joined back up with the Blue Ridge Parkway and followed it on and off. The third shelter we came to we past by, it was around 5:00 and we wanted to get a few more miles in before stopping for the night. Shortly after leaving our drizzle turned to a hard rain and it would not stop. We hiked several hours because we could not find a place to camp. When we did, three other people were there already. We got completely soaked setting up the tents. It is a good thing we carry extra dry clothes. We know it is suppose to rain tomorrow, hopefully it will not be as bad as it is right now. We shall see!

Nice long day

Cove Mountain Shelter
Day 57 (6/6/19)
Miles – 24.5
Total miles – 760.6

We slept well, yet everyone was up by 6:30. After breakfast, provided by the hotel, we headed back to the trail. The first thirty miles of this section were easy so we hoped to hike a good distance today. Our biggest concern was the weather. Forecast was for rain Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Our plan was to get into the next town early Monday morning, but with that much rain we are going to try and push to get there noon on Sunday. For many miles today’s trail followed and crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway. A scenic highway that runs for more than a 100 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Supposedly, this was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite section of Virginia. He traveled this route often to enjoy the views. We stopped at a number of it’s turnouts because of those grand views. At one point Mama Raven saw a small reptile crossing the trail in front of her shoe. Thinking it was a lizard of some sort, she stopped for a closer look. Then she realized it was a baby snake about six to seven inch long. Papa Raven came up behind and said it was a Copperhead. Not a snake to play with. Baby poisonous snakes are the worse to get bitten by. They cannot control their venom. As she was trying to get her camera out, the snake went into a bush right next to the trail. We walked wide around it. We have been seeing at least one snake a day, for a while now. The other day, we saw three with each one being a different type: rattlesnake, black rat, and a racer. We also saw our fifth box turtle. Being tortoise owners back home, we get excited with each one we see! Today’s tortoise had a terribly beat up shell with cracks and chunks missing from the edges, but it did not slow him down. He moved quickly away from us. Around 7:00 we started to look for a camp, but none could be found. There was just to much undergrowth. We just keep walking until we got to a shelter and found a flat place on the hillside above it. Despite the weather reports, there was no rain today. However we did see signs of possible rain in the evening. With luck we will not have any overnight. That way we will have dry tents for tomorrow night.

Happy town day, happy birth day!

Daleville
Day 55 and 56 (6/4/19 and 6/5/19 R)
Miles 10.7
Total miles – 736.1

6/4/19
We slept in. It was 6:50 when we woke up. There are two good reasons: First there was the mouse. It started off in some of the trash outside Papa Raven’s door of the tent. Of course he slept through it, but Mama Raven did not. She tried to scare it away, but it kept coming back to chew on our food bags in the vestibule. Finally, Papa Raven got involved, and decided to fill him up with almonds. It worked, now back to sleep. No such luck for weary Ravens. Another mouse or the same one decided to nibble on Whisper’s bags, waking her in the process. She was not happy! We told her to crumble up some crackers to fill up the mouse. She crunched up two Wheat Thins for him and tossed them away from her vestibule. It did the trick! Finally Ravens sleep. The second reason to sleep in was all Whisper’s fault. Today is her birthday and as usual when there is a birthday on the trail, sleeping in permitted. What would she ask for next? Getting to go horseback riding? Before we left our home, Whisper researched locations along the AT that she could ride a horse. The only location she found was in Harper’s Ferry, four food drops away. Thus she will have to wait a little while for her Birthday present. This is a short day of hiking, a little more than 10 miles. We set out on a easy ridge walk. There were some small PUDs, but for the most part it was level/downhill. We walked into town at about 11:00. We got something to drink and then found a room. The room we got was run down. Nonetheless it was cheap. We quickly got showers and did laundry. Bling and Papa Raven walked 1 mile to the PO. Luckily, a man at the PO offered to gave them a ride back to our hotel. Given we had 5 boxes, we eagerly excepted. Addition to the usual food boxes, we also had the bump box and a large box of new shoes for Papa Raven and Bling. We worked at getting ready to hike out, we just did not know if we would be leaving tomorrow or the next day. It is suppose to rain tomorrow and it would be a birthday present for Whisper. We have not yet decided. As night came on Whisper got to choose where we would eat dinner and we walked over to the Cracker Barrel. We will decide tomorrow if we go or stay.

6/5/19
We stay, but not in our existing hotel. The rooms lack of cleanliness condition has gotten to us. There are three other hotels in town that we will try. Whisper and Papa Raven walked back to the PO to mail our bump box forward. Next, they headed to the store to pick up a few lunch items before we leave. Whisper had them wander through a cemetery. The oldest grave was a gentleman, who died in 1830’s and was 66 when he died. That means he was born in the late 1700’s. After getting back to our room, we loaded up the packs and headed to another hotel. Two out of the three hotels were filled for tonight. The weather calls for heavy rain today and next four days. This means the rooms are filling up with hikers wanting to stay out of the rain. Luckily we got a room at the last hotel. We will not worry about the upcoming weather until tomorrow. For today we will enjoy ourselves in a dry room.

Cheesecake

A ridge (693.0)
Day 54 (6/3/19)
Miles – 20.2
Total miles – 725.4For a change, we had a dry night. Today’s hiking began with miles of ridge walking around Cove Mountain. At times it became very rocky and that slowed us down as we maneuvered around small and huge rocks. Other than Yosemite National Park, Virginia has the best monolith boulders we have ever seen. As we came to the far end of the mountain, we saw a turn off for the Dragons Teeth. This was a formation of several free standing rocks that shot up 50′ or so. From there the trail drops toward the valley through a mass of rocks. We had to scramble down on all fours. In some places there were metal rungs mounted to the rock to help aid the descent. Slow going was the only way down. At the bottom we crossed a stream and took a break. The trail turned a bit east as we hiked across the valley. Switchbacks took us up to the main ridge and then headed in a more northerly direction. We followed to ridge for many miles before coming to the parking lot at VA 311. We were surprised by the number of cars in the trailhead parking lot. We had not past anyone on the trail we just came down thus they all must have gone towards McAfee Knob. We set off for the knob. Four exhausting miles later we reached the top. There are several classic pictures everyone takes along the AT. One of them is a hiker standing on a rock overhang with green mountains in the background. McAfee Knob is that location. We did not know that the famous rock was here. Of course we took the classic picture. We had to be patient because there were many people doing the same thing. We had an early dinner at Campbell Shelter before continuing on the ridge walk to the Tinker Mountains. We reached Tinker Cliffs shortly before the sun set. This section of the trail was very long and steep, one ridge after the other. At one point we looked out at our next up and could not believe how steep the next up was. We made it up but the trail did it again and again. We were so tired by this point. Nonetheless, we made it to the top of Tinker Cliffs. Our exhausted effort was rewarded with great views to the west. After pitching camp, we had Dark Chocolate Cheesecake. Tomorrow is Whisper’s birthday and we got it for her. Everybody enjoyed it.

Long day

On Cove Mountain (672.7)
Day 53 (6/2/19)
Miles – 22.9
Total miles – 705.2

It was a very wet night and not from rain, but from fog and condensation. One mistake we had made was to leave our tent doors open. Everything exposed in the vestibules got dripping wet. We wiped down the tents the best we could before packing them. Hiking through the fog shrouded pastures was very beautiful and very wet. There was no hope to keeping our shoes dry. We past the Keiffer Oak tree. The largest oak along the AT and it was big both in girth and in height. Standing there, the old tree gave a wise and stately presence. This whole section had been a series of long mountain ranges that we hike to the top of, go along for some distance, and then drop down the other side, then we would repeat over and over. This makes for a tiring day. Today was no different. Our first for the day had a very long ridge walk, with rocky outcrops covering a good bit of it. These made hiking slow. We did find a good place to dry out from last night’s dew and condensation on one of the rocky outcrops. At the bottom of our second climb, we came upon a truck giving out amazing trail magic. The gentleman had a grill going and was making hot dogs and hamburgers. There was ice cold drinks and fruit as well as chips and other nibble foods. We stayed longer than we should have while enjoying the magic! Comfortably full, we finally walked away. At the bottom of our third up, we stopped for a dinner of Mountain House Lasagna. Within minutes of leaving, we saw our first rattlesnake on the AT. It had the traditional diamond shaped head, dark makings and an almost black tail. We were on a hill and it had coiled up right at the edge of the trail. We ended up walking through the bushes above it to get by. We were not intending on hiking far after dinner, but we could not find a place to camp so we just keep going up. Upon reaching the top the sun had set. Putting on headlights, we kept going. It took awhile until we found a place to camp right next to the trail. It was after 9:00 when we put up the tents. We had a long day!

Fireflies

Before Va 42 (651)
Day 52 (6/1/19)
Miles – 19.9
Total miles – 682.3

For once Mama Raven did not want to wake up first thing in the morning. She is usually the one waking everyone else up, but not this morning. Today we had two big ups and downs, totaling more than 6,000′ of elevation change. Not an easy day! We started the day with our first big climb, which was slow going, being so steep. Part of the way up, we took a break just before Bailey Gap Shelter for water. This took a little bit of time because we needed to filter. We have filtered water only 5 or 6 times in nearly 700 miles of hiking. The rest of the time we have had spring water, which we are confident in it’s safety. After filtering our water, we completed the climb. On our up, we met Bear Bait, a very sweet hiker from Virginia. We hike similar speeds so we probably will see her a good bit during this section. A short time later, we came to VA 613, a road cutting across the AT. It was a gravel parking lot so we pulled out all our wet gear and placed it in the sun to dry. It rained a bit overnight and we got a lot of condensation causing our tents and sleeping bags to be wet. There were fewer clouds at that moment, so we had plenty of sun to dry the equipment. We are relieved for the opportunity of sun this morning because it is suppose to rain later today. After the long break, we swung by Wind Rock Overlook, before hiking down to War Spur Shelter. As Bling walked up to the overlook, he spooked three vultures, who immediately took to the air. The overlook had sweeping views to the north. We also noticed the sky had small puffy clouds beginning to build but nothing big enough to worry about. We will keep an eye on them. It would be wonderful to have the weather reports be wrong about it’s prediction for rain today! After leaving War Spur Shelter, we hiked down to another dirt road then up again. This climb was better graded in the beginning, but just before Rocky Gap, it became steep and had quite a few steps. We took a short breather before we continued up the last 500′. After we reached the top, the ridge walk was easy and we quickly started down the other side. Stopping for dinner at a stream near Laurel Creek Shelter, we rested and relaxed a bit. With only hour and a half of sunlight left, we continued down. Near the bottom, we came to open fields with grazing cattle. We stopped short of VA 42, because we found a pretty place to camp under some trees, at the edge of a field. It was a very picturesque location. Down in the valley hound dogs barked. Cows mooed off in the distance. Fireflies surrounded us. A peaceful ending for a long, hard day of hiking.

Bear Bait

Thunderstorms

Va 635 (633.0)
Day 51 (5/31/19) R
Miles – 22.6
Total miles – 662.4

We were up early and at Food Lion grocery store when they opened to buy breakfast and a few last minute items for lunches. Despite these errands, we were on the trail by 8:00. A short time after getting back on the AT, we came to a cemetery. Of course we had to walk through it. The oldest grave we came across was Captain Pearis, dated 1810. On his stone, it stated that he fought in the American Revolutionary war. Our trail took us on a gradual up for several hours. Near lunch time, we broke out of the trees into a large open field with great views to the north across from Rice Field Shelter. We stopped for lunch on a small outcropping of rocks. Big puffy clouds covered the sky. There was a 50% chance of rain today. So far no rain! For lunch we made sandwiches that we eagerly devoured. Afterwords, we continued a long ridge walk. Most of the time we could not see anything but trees overhead, which is normal for the AT. Around 2:00 we heard the first rumbling of thunder. Soon it was all around us. It is exciting to hear all the thundering in all it’s tones, however there also is dread and fear. It is never pleasant to hike a length of time in rain. In fact, it can get down right miserable. Additionally, when we are high on the ridges, we are more exposed to lightening strikes. During the last bout of rain we had, a hiker one day behind us was struck by a bolt and was left unconscious by it. When he woke, he had a large gash in his head requiring ten staples. He is uncertain if he was hit in the head with the lightening or fell and hit his head on a tree? He really has no memory of the incident. When the wind picked up, we knew that rain would soon follow. We put on our rain skirts and got out the umbrellas. Immediately, it started to rain and hail. This went on for 15 minutes or so then followed by light rain. Not long after it stopped, all together the trees just dropped their leave’s water on us. An hour or so later, another thunderstorm rolled over us. We just kept hiking. As we started down off the ridge towards Pine Swamp Branch Shelter, the third thunderstorm began. This thunderstorm was on the far side of the ridge, so we did not get hit that hard. It was 6:00 when we walked up to the shelter. There were three other hikers hiding from the down pour. We came in out of the rain and cooked dinner. The rain soon stopped and blue sky popped out. After eating, we hiked on. We went a few more miles and stopped at the last road before our next big climb. There is a low chance of rain over night, but it has already sprinkled on us. Fireflies sparkled around us. We have learned that fireflies stay low in grassy areas during the day and come out at night and head for the trees at night. This explains why we do not see them very often because most of our time on the trail is deep inside trees. Very seldom have we had the opportunity to camp in a meadow area. Tomorrow has a 40% chance of rain, which we have learned pretty much guaranties rain!

Square Peg & Cowboy