A Hodge Podge of AT Miles

Earlier in July, Kelly and I met my parents for a long weekend up near Roanoake, and then Wintergreen, VA. We rented a condo through HomeAway (it was a great deal and an awesome place, ask for details if you’re ever looking for a place to stay in that area). Saturday night, we stayed near Roanoke and my mom shuttled us to the first trailhead where the AT crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway. We hiked south into Troutville to where we had begun our Memorial Day weekend hike. We got caught in a torrential downpour, complete with lightening and thunder. We were thankfully in lower elevations but a brief hike across a cow pasture towards the end of the hike provided enough of a scare. Right after we left the pasture and entered the woods, lightening struck close enough to send the herd of cows that had been grazing across the field. Cows can be scary!

Thanks to soaking wet shoes, our hiking plans took a change of plans and we ended up getting another 16 or so miles between Dripping Rock and Rockfish Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway over the next few days.

When we weren’t hiking, we went driving along Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. We did some brief hikes/walks with my parents at different waterfalls and vistas along the Parkway. The highlight of the weekend was the fresh blackberries we found while looking at the ’20 Minute’ overlook.

Trip Miles: 29

2013 AT Miles: 64.1

Total AT Miles: 694.9 (31.82%)

VA 621 to US-11

Guess what we did over the Memorial Day weekend?

That’s right, we went for a hike on the Appalachian Trail! It has been over six months since we hiked new miles on the AT and almost 18 months since we attempted a backpacking trip. Kelly talked me down from the 41 mile 4 day trip I was scheming and we settled on what we thought was a 33 mile 3 day trip. It turns out we can’t do math very well and the trip was 35.1 miles even. It would have been nice to realize that before the middle of day 2. But life is what it is.

It also would have been nice had someone suggested that I not be insane enough to attempt Tinker Cliffs, McAfees Knob and Dragon’s Tooth in a span of 30 hours. These are tough climbs, especially Dragon’s Tooth, and the trail was rockier than we expected. Still, the views were every bit as beautiful as we expected, if not more so. And the weather couldn’t have been better. The evenings were a little cold (37 and windy the first night!) but we stayed warm in the hammock thanks to having packed appropriate clothing and a new trick we tried out (boiling water at dinner time and filling Nalgenes with them. Tuck the bottles in your sleeping bag and you have a heating pad that lasts throughout the night. A little warmth tucked under your legs goes a long way!).

After the hiking trip we headed to Durham to catch up with some friends. We had a really great cookout today and enjoyed catching up with everyone.

As of tomorrow, its back to the real world. At least for 48 hours!

Trip Miles: 35.1

2013 AT Miles (new miles only): 35.1

Total AT Miles: 665.9 (30.49%)

VA 611 to VA 606

I’ve been awfully quiet lately. I’m sorry (or you’re welcome, however you see it). We’ve had plenty of adventures in their own right with family and friends visiting, a beach trip, house projects, and a late summer triathlon. I’ll post about some things soon enough.

This weekend we headed out for our first hike on the AT since we moved. The drive to get new miles is now 5 1/2 hours. We love Athens but drives like this definitely make us wish we could disapparate. Thanks to some hotel members points, we actually had a pretty lush weekend with hotel stays Friday on our way up & Saturday in between hikes. We hired two separate shuttle drivers, one took us to the start of our 14 mile hike on Saturday and the other to the start of our 10 mile hike on Sunday morning. We had great weather! Well, despite the near constant drizzle on Sunday.

During this hike we filled in a gap that we had created when we last went hiking with our friend Haywood. We can now say that we have hiked from Springer Mountain (the start of the trail) to Pearisburg, VA. This may well be our last hike of the year as we have many booked weekends and the trail is so far away.

Trip AT Miles: 23.6

2012 AT Miles: 123.7

Total AT Miles: 631.3 (29.91%)

Welcome Home: A Sneak Peak

Not the best lighting, but a nice view of how great our wall of photos and trim look against the paint.

A view of Kelly's office. One of the wrong shades of grey. From a distance, you can't tell, but trust me, when you get it there it's like swimming in lavender.

The other side of the living room and the front door entry way. We love our house!


In the last couple of weeks, I’ve accomplished a major goal from my list: buying a house! Kelly and I moved in on the 30th of June and have been busy bees cleaning it up, working on projects, and doing lots and lots of painting. I’ve been terrible about before and after pictures, although we do have some from when we were looking at the house. Somewhere we have a picture of the exterior of the house, but for now, here’s a sneak peak of how we’ve been setting up.

It took a long time to decide on a paint color because I got a hankering to go with grey. In case you were wondering, grey can go very wrong. We tried seven different colors and decided on two that I love. As it turns out, with greys, the undertones really matter. If it looks even remotely purple on the card, it will look very lavender on the wall. Same thing with blue. We ended up with greys that look brown on the card. On the wall, the browns wash out and voila, we finally have grey! We chose frappe for the light color (behind the TV) and artichoke for the dark color. All the fancy trim in our house really pops out against the darker grey and we love it.

Our TV never looked too small until we mounted it above a mantle. As you can tell, we've been getting lots of inspiration from HGTV while we work.

Sugar Run Gap to VA-641 (Pearisburg)

Hot and humid weather cleared to just a tad warm and sunny for our last day hike. In five days, we’ll move back to Athens and will be too far to drive to the trail to justify just a single day hike. We enjoyed this hike with our friend Haywood. His company and conversation was great. We should have taken him hiking last summer to get him hooked- it would have been great to share other hikes with him!

We skipped ahead on the trail to try to find a good distance for a day hike with some views. It ended up being a perfect section. We even decided to check out an extra 1.3 miles of proposed trail. Well, we didn’t so much decide to do this as all three of us walked right by a pretty clear turn of the trail. Fortunately, with our fast pace, we absorbed the extra distance and still made it back to our car by 4 pm, enough time to enjoy an ice cream cone and still get home in time for dinner.

Trip Miles: 13.8 (12.5 on the AT)

Total 2012 AT Miles: 100.9

Total AT Miles: 608.5 (27.86%)

VA 615 to VA 611

What an amazing gem of a day! A high of 66 in the mountains on June 2nd with enough sun to warm us when we stopped in it and a breeze to cool us after climbs. We got up nice and early this morning (5:45 am!) to meet a new shuttle driver at his business where he lets thru hikers sleep. This guy, Nigel (TrueBrit) is setting up an outdoor center in Bastian, VA and advertising his future business with free services to hikers. We were a bit hesitant as no shuttle driver has ever taken us anywhere for free (and they’re not always particularly reliable even when you’re paying them!) but we showed up 45 minutes early and he was ready to take us! We helped shuttle a few hikers to breakfast, followed him up the road to drop a few others off, and then we were on our way. We were hiking by 10:20, a record early time for us this season. The day was really absolutely beautiful. We had slow and long or short and steep up and downs for the first 8 miles until we had a long road walking stretch to cross I-77. After the climb, we sat at an overlook of the interstate and enjoyed sun, the breeze, and the sandwiches we had packed for lunch. Another 7 easy miles and we were at the car! We spent much of this hike on a ridge which provided peek-a-views occasionally through the trees but nothing expansive. Still, this was the best hike we’ve had all year in terms of speed (we hit 3.2 miles an hour if you subtract our break times from the total). Due to parking issues, we hiked southbound which meant we saw many hikers. We kept a running count of people who could viably be thru-hikers and hit 42. It was great fun to see people every so often, especially since we had seen many of them at Nigel’s place that morning.

After enjoying an ice cream cone at a nearby Dairy Queen, we made it home in 2 1/2 hours, the shortest distance we’ve traveled to hike since an easy road crossing in Georgia.

Trip Miles: 16

This Year’s AT Miles: 88.4

Total AT Mikes: 596 (27.11%)

VA 42 to VA 615 (Laurel Creek)

Last weekend we set out for our first backpacking trip of the season. The plan was 26 miles. They rocked us. We had 3,000 feet of climbing until we got to a rocky section that we knew would be tough. And boy was it. We were supposed to lose 500 feet of elevation on this range. And we did. But we also gained another 1,000 feet of elevation. We were not prepared for this. We arrived at a gap with water intending to camp but as we were making camp, a ride to town presented itself. It was a bit of an adventure translating this ride to town into a ride to our car, but we did it.

Yesterday, we headed out to tackle the last 12.5 miles, a beast of a section that has been looming large over us every time we looked at our maps. We hiked the section southbound, gaining only 3500 feet of elevation rather than the 4500 we would have gained going northbound. The views near the beginning were phenomenal. The next 10 miles of hiking were pretty traditional woods walking. We did stop for a long break to soak our feet in a creek, a first for us. It was quite enjoyable given the hot temperatures yesterday.

And now, finally, the weight is off our shoulders and the beast of a section is done. There will be tough sections to come but at least the next 20 miles will be smooth. And we will more than welcome them.

Trip Miles: 26.0

This year’s AT Miles: 72.4

Total AT Miles: 580 (26.56%)

US-11 to VA- 42

We had grand plans for a 29 mile weekend. I felt pretty unsettled about the plans and when the last road we would need to take turned into gravel 5 miles from our destination, we regrouped. Instead, we opted for a 12 mile first day with the second day to be determined. Unexpected rain and an unconfirmed hotel reservation sealed the deal and we ended with a 12 mile day hike. I felt great coming off the trail and it was awesome to have a really good day of hiking under our belts. Lots of climbing, as always. Virginia’s trail is studded with meadow walks through cow pastures which breaks up the monotony. And this weekend we finally got to see rhododendron in bloom. We always walk through these trees but have missed their flowering in all of our past seasons. Hopefully they’ll still be some out next weekend when we go back out.

This weekend we saw a good bit of wildlife. We can’t confirm it, but I think I saw a bobcat (puma) cross the trail in front of us. Kelly heard the rustling and stopped us (we thought it might be a bear) and while he was looking in the brush, I saw a feline-like animal dart across the trail. It was definitely bigger than a squirrel and ran like a cat. Bobcats are suspected to be living along the AT in Virginia but people aren’t confirming. So who knows. A few miles later we had another wildlife encounter with a rattlesnake. We had just finished a tough climb and descent and entered into a nice grassy stretch where the trail was wide enough to walk side by side. I caught up to Kelly and commented on how lovely it was to be there at that moment when, just as the last word came out of my mouth, a loud rattling sound jarred us to reality. We ran backwards a few yard and saw a fat rattlesnake coiled up in the trail, now about 10 yards in front of us. This is the second we’ve seen on the trail and it was no less of a stressor. We were a good distance from the snake and threw some large sticks at it to get it to move. This did not please it and it rattled away for what seemed like minutes. We moved back and found a place to sit it out. A minute later and a thru-hiker came up to join in our adventure. We crept back to where the rattler was resting and saw it slithering back into the grass on the sides of the trail. In turns, we ran past where it was. We hiked the last several miles with the thru-hiker, hearing about his adventures and talking about life in general. It was great company and made the time go by so quickly. With this hike, we have officially hiked more than 25% of the trail. Virginia is slow-going but nice. The trail is still pretty tough (it’s supposed to get easier in about 30 miles) but in general we are appreciating the change of scenery with the increase of pastures. Looking forward to some more hiking soon!

Trip Miles: 11.8

This year’s AT miles: 46.4 miles

Total AT miles: 554.0 (25.4%)

Dickey Gap to US-11 (Groseclose/I-81)

My Facebook feed was full of people running half marathons this weekend. We didn’t run a half marathon, but we almost hiked a full one. 14.5 miles on Saturday and 11.6 on Sunday. Our plans for the hiking weekend changed at the last minute and we didn’t have time to set a shuttle. Truthfully, this was OK with us as it let us off the hook from carrying our full packs. Two day hikes would be a good distance warm-up. We’ll save the weight warm-up for later. The hikes were relatively uneventful- beautiful weather and the crisp air of spring in the mountains were the highlights. We had some views here or there but the best views were of the many mountain creeks and streams we crossed. At several places we hiked along them, enjoying their gurgling down the mountainside. In between the day hikes we tested out our tent at a nearby campground. It passed the inaugural test! Fairly easy to set up, plenty roomy enough, and toasty/cozy warm. Thanks to Mama S for the new tent, Jess & Jim for my new headlamp, which also got its first usage this trip, and Papa vanDellen for my new (and favorite) running/hiking shorts. The new gear all tested well this weekend!

Trip Miles: 26.1

2012 Miles: 34.6

Total AT Miles: 542.2 (24.82%)

AT: Fox Creek to Dickey Gap

The last few weekends have been the best kind of spring. Sunny with cool mornings and comfortable afternoons. Last weekend we stayed put for the UK basketball games (go Cats!) but we eagerly made plans to get some hiking done this weekend. One of the guys from the small group Kelly led for four years in Texas is thru-hiking this year and we made plans to try to meet up with him and his hiking companion. We figured the best plan would be to repeat our last hike of the Fall through the Grayson Highlands (with the ponies). After waiting a few hours for them to emerge from the forest (during which time the National Forest Service entertained us with a helicopter landing and resupply), we got concerned that we had missed a message from them saying they weren’t going to make it. We left a note and some cookies we had made for them and headed off to hike a nearby set of miles we hadn’t yet hiked. The best part of the hike was a rushing waterfall that we passed near the end. The AT maps mark vistas quite well but I don’t think they mark waterfalls. It’s been quite pleasant to bump into and cross over them on our recent hikes. This was a really nice one! (It turns out that the folks we were trying to meet are just fine but that they had a later start than expected. We are going to try to meet up with them in two or three weeks.)

And so, just like that, our hiking season has begun. I have a mini-goal to get to Shenandoah National Park on the trail before we call it quits for this season. That’s about 340 miles away from where we currently are.

Trip Miles: 8.5

2012/13 AT Miles: 8.5

Total AT Miles: 516.1 (23.63%)