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Week Eleven: Dobermans, dropouts, bad tents, and past thru-hikers

Sunday June 19th, 1983
The worst thing about using my tent is getting off to a late the following morning. Why? Because I had to repack that extra equipment.

I hiked with Sue to Punchbowl Lean-To where she stopped due to sore feet. Sue couldn’t keep up and was struggling. She had developed blisters on her feet. Her feet had been wet so she changed to wearing sneakers instead of hiking boots. Bad idea! I stayed with her for a while, but she knew that she was slowing me down and told me that she would be okay. I wanted to keep going, so we said good-bye, and I hiked on. I resumed my pace as she faded into a memory.

I met two guys and a girl at a road crossing, struck up a conversation, and began drinking a beer they offered me. It seemed to me the guys were looking for a little action. I didn’t want to be a fourth wheel so I drank it quickly so I could move on. Once finished, I began preparing to depart when they offered me another one, which I accepted, and placed it in my pack as I was already feeling a buzz from the first one. As a result, the hike up to Brown Creek Lean-To seemed like a short hike due to my condition.

Brown Creek Lean-to was not empty when I arrived. Two female thru-hikers and their Doberman had reached the shelter before me and had their stuff strewn about. I came into camp tired, hot, hungry, and of course a little buzzed, so I was not to be trifled with. As I arrived and began to sit on the extreme opposite end of the shelter, the dog got quite protective, bared her teeth at me, growled and began a cacophony of barking. I did notice that she was scared though; for as she barked, her tail was between her legs and she backed up several steps as she sensed that I was not the least bit intimidated. One of the women shortened her leash but did not apologize to me so I sat down to rest. The dog continued to bark aggressively at me so I told the women to be sure that I wasn't bitten, as I would snap the dogs neck like a toothpick if the animal bit me. Although it was quite warm that night, the climate in the shelter was cool. I did come away with the distinct impression that all three were lesbians.......not that there's anything wrong with that.

Brown Creek Lean-to stands out in my mind for another reason as well. I was hot when I got there and the front was only feet from the cold creek. It was also nestled in the trees. I was footsore and tired so I took my shoes and socks off and plunged my feet into the cold water. To my surprise small fish started nibbling at my toes and I was concerned that they would bite me. They never really did anything like a Piranha, as a matter of fact it felt soothing and tickled as they mouthed my feet. I don’t know what the attraction was for them but it felt amazing. Eventually I washed up and spent an enjoyable night there.

I saw a beautiful stand of virgin old growth forest by Peddler Lake, and even had a bath in Brown Creek.

I found out why I shouldn't hike in the rain. Your feet get soaked, soften and begin hurting - especially the bottoms.

Monday June 20th, 1983
Today I am hiking with an English teacher from Idaho who thru-hiked in the 70's. He has been telling me the tales of his thru-hike. I listened intently and told him of my journey so far; we've been comparing notes. No, he didn’t correct my grammar faux pas’ which is why I let him hike with me. He was from Pocatello, Idaho and often spoke of the Sawtooth Mountains fondly.

Staying the night at Wiggins Spring Lean-To. The shelter is true to its name with a big spring in front of it. Scott and I will hit The Priest tomorrow. Or will it "hit" us?
We hiked a tough section today, and plan on a tough 20 miler tomorrow.

Tuesday June 21st, 1983
Hiked to the Priest Lean-To concluding a roughly 13 miles day. We did not actually get to the Priest as I had thought last night, but only part way up. We were going to hike more, but it started to pour just as we got to the lean-to. The hike was very easy and featured alternating periods of sunshine and cloudiness culminating in the downpour that stopped our progress. It turns out that being forced into this lean-to was a blessing because while reading the shelter register I found out there are grocery stores both one mile east and west off the trail and I will hit one of those tomorrow. I have three dollars in my pack. Plenty!

Wednesday June22nd, 1983
Woke up to a cloudy, dank morning. I hiked up the rest of the Priest, and began the descent down the opposite side. I met a large bunch of kids hiking up to The Priest with several gasping for breath while croaking out, “ How far to the top”. I told them that it was still a long way up - which I was sure demoralized them. You must encounter the devil before confessing to the Priest. Hiking down from the Priest summit to the Tye river took forever. I don’t remember it being particularly muddy though even though it had rained so much. I loved the swinging bridge as I always liked a bit of adventure. Wasn’t that what I was here for in the first place?

Once at the road, I had to make a choice of which way to the store. One to the right and one to the left.....a choice like this and picked the one store that had gone out of business! I had to backtrack to the other option to get some munchies. Thus began a love/hate relationship with the 50/50 chance syndrome. I always seem to remember the times that it doesn’t work out for me rather than the times that it did. At the store I bought one bag of Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies and one pound of pasta.

Even though I was told that the hike today was to be extremely difficult, my body feels fantastic, and in fact I've never felt so strong since the beginning of the trip. I flew up three ridges at over two miles per hour and the climb is four miles uphill. I arrived at Maupin Field Lean-To to find Scott, who had taken the easier blue blazed trail, already at the shelter and sleeping. Tomorrow will be an easy seventeen miler into the big "W" - Waynesboro.

Thursday June 23rd, 1983
Had a long, but easy day today. Scott and I saw some outstanding views, especially from Humpback Mountain, and got some good pictures too. Where the trail crosses the parkway, there is a visitor's center with a reproduction of an old mountain homestead. We checked it out and I took lots of pictures. I must say that the Blue Ridge Parkway was very beautiful and well maintained.
Tonight I will be tenting at the firehouse in Waynesboro, Virginia. But first I went inside and had a shower there, then thanks to Scott, pigged out at Pizza Hut. Yes, Scott did buy me a Pizza hut AYCE dinner - and I tell you I got his monies worth. I had heard stories that some thru hikers actually would throw up in the bathrooms and come back to eat more. I could see that happening, but fortunately not to me. On this day it was close though.

I ate Cavatini Supreme, garlic bread, a large Pepsi plus, I went back to the salad bar five times! Boy was I stuffed!

Word from the trail grapevine: Frank "The Merry Slav" Krajcovic quit the trail. Too bad.

I met the "Three Dobermans" once again while in Waynesboro. I had encountered them a few days back at Brown Creek Shelter where I faced off against their barking Doberman. While in Waynesboro we all slept at the fire station, but kept a respectable distance apart.

(View South from Humpback Rock) (Views from Humpback Mountain Summit)

(Reproduction of a Mountain Homestead)

Friday June 24th, 1983
Last night was very noisy, not much sleep. The local hangout is right beside the firehouse, and all I could hear was screeching tires and blaring radios.

Scott decided to get off of the trail in Waynesboro, so we said our good-byes. He also added that he knew that I would finish the trail because I had the drive. It felt good to hear that from an ex-A.T. thru-hiker!

The day consisted largely of grocery shopping, laundry, post office stop, and pigging out.

My stove has been leaking recently, so Dia sent a repair kit. The needle valve was bent and a bit of white gas would escape from where the handle met the brass part of the valve. It was not a critical failure but I did not want it to get to that point. These stoves were prone to this failure as I had dealt with this problem before this hike. I had these types of stoves for many years and knew their weaknesses. The caps and pumps to pressurize them were a more recent improvement which enabled them to perform in cold weather. Because I hiked in cold and extreme weather I had adapted this stove with a pump kit which made it easier and more reliable to operate at all temperatures.

Now installed, the new part seems to have done the job, but the real test will be on the trail. I believe that I may need a new pump and cap as well, so I will have Dia buy new ones and send them to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, or possibly bring them with her to Harpers Ferry. I called Dia this evening, and found out she wants to meet me in Harpers Ferry for the 4th of July. I can't wait. Unfortunately, mom and dad were on vacation, so I couldn't talk to them.

I was tempted to see Superman 3 tonight, but I just don't have the time. Besides, tonight I am a minority as there are six women here, and just Paul and me.
This is where I first met Paul "Damien" Nichols.

Saturday June 25th, 1983
Eager to get on the trail today, I got up early and went to the post office to send extra weight home. Took a shower, shaved and ate a five dollar breakfast at McDonalds. Paul and I hitched a ride back to the trail, and got to the trailhead by 11:30am; rather late, but we got sidetracked as we had to pick up permits to travel through the Shenandoah National Park.

Once we actually got going, I found travelling quite easy and the views were beautiful. My travelling partner Paul Nichols lives in Western Massachusetts, and is a soft spoken person. He and I both dislike all of the rules and regulations put up by the park service - and they are extensive. And as the cartoon character Anglehead, drawn by Fuzzy Jim, might say after finding out about all the rules - "Oh, Bummer".

We've hiked only ten miles to Sawmill Run today due to our late start but tomorrow we will resume 20 milers…I hope.

Lately, my one man tent is intolerable. There is a large hole that allows ants to venture in. Luckily, here in the park there is a system of cabins so my tent will have limited use. But I will have to hang my food tonight so the bears won't get it (One of the many rules). I hope that I see one!

(Waynesboro from Shenandoah National Park) (Me, Rhode island Red, On Bear Den Mountain) (From Bear Den Mountain)


Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983