Appalachian Trail journal

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Week Ten: Nude hiking, rattlesnakes, and other fun stuff!

Sunday June 12th, 1983
Today was quite a day. I stopped at a wonderful rock formation known as the Dragons Tooth about 11:00am. I climbed both the tooth and another less dangerous pile of rock, but took pictures only from the nearby rock. I needed both hands to get to the top of the "Tooth" and did not want a camera dangling from my neck on the way up or down. It was a bit difficult picking my way up the best route. The view was spectacular from the top. I continued on toward the road below and stopped at the grocery store where the trail crosses VA 301. I only bought one thing, a coke - and that broke me. Now I have just three cents to my name.

Today's hike was long and hard with the temps in the 80's. I must have lost a gallon of sweat. The last two miles (around Scorched Earth Gap) were practically straight up, and after 18 miles - they damn near killed me! I do feel good now though, and not as exhausted as I would have been when I first began this trip. I saw another large black snake and many lizards on the rocks on the side of the trail. Once again I heard many deer.

As I said, today was quite a day. Claudia and her friend Sue Konopka hiked into camp tonight around 11:00pm, and all they had on were boots! They said it was too hot to wear clothes, so they peeled them off and hiked in the buff. I hope they are not allergic to poison ivy. Claudia was a bit embarrASSed and immediately put her shirt on as soon as she got into the shelter. Sue didn’t care so much. I remember the next morning Sue waking up still topless while saying good morning to me. Suited me just fine. Last I saw Claudia, she had a bum knee and was headed back to Levi's Place. Apparently she decided to do a "flip" for some reason and that's why she was there.

Claudia told me that they had hiked in from the North. The shelter was off trail so I wouldn’t have known unless they had told me.

(Dragon's Tooth Monolith) (View of Catawba Valley from beside Dragon's Tooth) (Catawba Valley from beside Dragon's Tooth)

Monday June13th, 1983
Today was very hot as well, but I resisted the temptation to hike in the nude. I hiked through Cloverdale, Virginia today. It was tough not to stop for the night, or even just a few minutes, because the trail goes right by Coke machines, stores, Pizza Hut and an A.Y.C.E. (all you can eat) restaurant. With my three cents, I had to move on. Aahrg!!

(Note 2016: I had a bank account at home that my parents would tap into. They would send Travelers Cheques when I requested them. Usually one hundred dollars in twenty dollar increments. I just wanted out of that town as quickly as possible to get my resupply in the next town. I became more cautious after this incident and made sure to stretch my money long enough to reach my next resupply point.)

I was hiking down VA652 when I began talking to one of the locals I encountered along the road. We had a pleasant conversation, and they shared some ice water with me. People are nice around here.
I only hiked 14 miles today because it was too hot.

According to the register here at Fulhardt Knob, everyone else had a good time in town. Bad planning on my part.

Tomorrow will be a 13 miler to Bobblets Gap Shelter, the last shelter south of Buchanan, Virginia. I have been able to hike 120 miles without restocking. Looks like tonight I sleep in Fulhardt Knob Shelter alone.... unless some nudists arrive later tonight.

(Carvin's Cove Reservoir) (Mountain Laurel in Bloom)

Tuesday June 14th, 1983
An easy day today. I met two college kids at Taylor's Mountain Overlook and will be sharing the shelter with them tonight. Traveling along the Parkway, a girl in a Triumph TR7 stopped and offered us some watermelon, and I pigged out - no questions asked. The trail intersected the Blue Ridge Parkway three or four times today, and the second intersection is where I got the delectable fruit.

Here, in the shelter (Probably Cove Mountain Shelter) there is a flyer describing the hostel in Buchanan, Virginia. For $8.00 per night you get kitchen facilities, bunk, shower, cable television, stereo, and a ride back to the trailhead. It's an old converted hotel, and it sounds great! I made a notation on my trail profile that there was no water to be had at the Cove Mountain Shelter. I had selected this shelter because I always wanted to spend the night closest to the road leading onto the town when I had planned a stay in town.

Tomorrow, on to Buchanan, Virginia!

Wednesday June 15th, 1983
This afternoon, when I reached Bearwallow Gap, I got a ride into Buchanan to end my day on the trail. The post office was the first order of business. I picked up mail, which included much needed funds, and ate some of the goodies sent to me. The next stop was the Hostel, where I became acquainted with the other hikers and those in charge, then got a room. I moved on to the IGA (Independent Grocer Association) grocery store, then to the Laundromat. At the Laundromat I met a local guy who invited me to his house where we drank beer, and talked. To be truthful, the guy wasn’t actually a local. He was an electrician staying there for an extended period of time as part of a work crew. He was installing motion sensitive light switches in the rooms so the lights wouldn’t be left on when the rooms weren’t being occupied. He told me about himself and his job and I told him about me and the hike. Eventually he showed me a dice game similar to Cosmic Wimpout, which many hikers play. He seemed quite interested in the hiker society and I don’t know if he gleaned the information for a future hike or just to quench a cerebral curiosity.

About 8:00pm I got back to the hostel, cleaned my gear, and finally called Dia. Talked till about 10:30pm before going to bed. A bunch of bikers doing the bikecentenial trail are also staying here for the night.

(Sign at Sharp Top Overlook)

Thursday June 16th, 1983
Sloth is the word of the day. I've decided to stay in Buchanan another night because it was late and hot before I got out of the cobblers. The cobbler, Lloyd Long, is a man afflicted with a muscle disorder obtained during his service in the Korean conflict. The tank he was in got hit by a shell. He still carries many pieces of shrapnel throughout his body. Despite his handicap he's one hell of a cobbler, and an even better man. You can tell that he loves life and people too. An outstanding example of personal triumph and heroism.

Imagine this man, who has endured so much pain in his lifetime, admiring me for hiking fifty miles on a little nail pushing through my boot. A truly humble person.

I met "Fuzzy Jim" again today. We had crossed paths yesterday for the first time, and I am not sure exactly where I first met him, but apparently we became friends quickly. Jim was funny with a dry, dark sense of humour. He was out there having fun, and hiking to Katahdin while he was at it. Having fun people around me helped me be more balanced. That is why I gravitated towards them, I think. Fuzzy liked to talk to people so I met people through him without actually being part of the conversation. I could sit back and assess others from a distance before I decided to befriend them myself. This was not a conscious decision but something that I learned about myself subsequently. W
e went to the bar room, ate hot dogs, and played pool.

All re-supplied now, and having done no hiking today, I am ready to go tomorrow. I did manage to get my hair cut today as well.

Friday June 17th, 1983
Got back to the trail by 10:00am, and hiking today with "Fuzzy Jim". We met Sue about eight miles up the trail and she cued up and tagged along with us. Her previously nude hiking buddy, Claudia, is hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway, which parallels the trail, because it's easier on her leg.

Floyd Mountain, a mountain I thought would be difficult, wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

When I got into Thunder Hill Lean-To, I found Claudia and a few weekenders there. Another thru-hiker, "Fish" just came in, and he is also hiking the parkway. I remain true to the white blazes. Having just done 15 miles, mostly uphill, I feel great.

Saturday June 18th, 1983
Hiked 21.5 miles today, and saw my first rattlesnake on the journey. As I was walking on the trail, I happened to look down at my boot only to spot a three foot rattler coiled up under the leaves of a short plant about 2 inches from my foot. I jumped aside, but he was quite placid and luckily did not strike. I dropped my pack about 20 feet up the trail, and returned to the snake to prod him with a stick, and a camera to take a picture. It worked, and in fact he even rattled at me before slithering off into the underbrush.

(Rattlesnake!) (James River)

After that it began to rain, which prompted me to stay at Matt's Creek Lean-To for a while. The weather cleared by 6:00pm so I continued another five miles toward Johns Hollow Shelter. In those five miles, I descended to US 501 where the trail crossed over the James River via a bridge. Once across, I began climbing out of the valley. Upon arriving at the shelter, I found it full of fat weekenders so I did not actually get to stay in the shelter, but tented nearby instead. When shelters were full like today, I only needed the water source nearby so I tented far enough from the weekenders so as not to hear them, but close enough to the water source to easily utilize it for dinner and rehydrating my body.

My shoes and socks are soaked from the rain.


Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983