April 10, 2018
Destination: Campsite at mile 521.2 Today's Miles: 17.60
Start Location: Wise Shelter Trip Miles: 521.20
It was chilly when I woke up, but I could see from the light coming into the shelter that it was going to be a relatively clear day. Last night it was just me, GerMan, and Dimples in the shelter, and then Sauerkraut nearby in his hammock.
I tried some new earplugs last night and they were amazing - so much better than my old pair. In the morning we all made breakfast. I decided to have ramen with TVP in addition to my two oatmeal packets. I may have snuck in a few sporkfulls of Jif Maple as well. Remember that one time back in high school when you had that one really awesome idea and you felt like you were on top of the world, indestructible, and could do anything you wanted with one hand tied behind your back, influencing the fate of mankind forever? Jif Maple.
We discussed resupply plans. Originally I was going to resupply in Atkins, but there is a shuttle that runs from the Mt. Rogers Visitor Center just off the trail at Partnership Shelter, which is a day before the trail runs near Atkins, that can take us into Marion. Marion is bigger than Atkins and has a lot more store choices. I will need fuel, and I think Walmart in Marion will have that - I doubt Dollar General in Atkins will. Also, apparently you can have pizza delivered to the visitor center! This all sounded like a better and more fun plan than Atkins. It also meant I could eat a bit more food now - extra bonus. I do really notice a difference when I eat more in terms of feeling strong when I’m hiking, and even enjoying it more.
After breakfast, Sauerkraut and I talked about how trashed the shelter was. There were all kinds of wrappers in the fire pit - it was really a shame. Sauerkraut said he was going to pack it out, so guess what? I finally was able to bequeath the Trail Karma necklace that Chloe the Ridge Runner had bestowed upon me in the Smokies. Awesome, and I think Sauerkraut really appreciated the spirit behind it. Now the challenge lies with him to find the next recipient! We all trickled out of the shelter and headed off. The plan was to either camp just before Trimpi Shelter, if not make it to the shelter. Sauerkraut and I would camp at the same spot. He had misplaced his food bag hanging line and wouldn’t be able to get another until Marion, so he was hanging his bag on my line. Dimples had a bear canister, so it made sense that Sauerkraut and I camp together before Marion.
I stopped to filter water just past the shelter, and then trekked on. It was a gorgeous day walking through the rest of Grayson Highlands Park. I was really glad I didn’t blow through it all yesterday in the crummy weather. I kept looking for more ponies, but didn’t see any. The Highlands landscape was gorgeous though. At times when the wind would die down there was kind of a stark, lonely sadness to it. I kept wondering if places like the Scottish Highlands ever felt like that. After a while I descended to a spot called The Scales. This is basically a large pasture in the highlands. It has an informational board in the middle of the pasture. The highlights are that farmers used to raise cattle and graze them in the highlands. They would sell them based on weight. They figured out that when they herded them all the way down out of the highlands into the valley to sell, the cows lost a lot of weight and so their return was smaller. They built the scales pasture so they could weigh the cattle in the highlands. Pretty smart! Also, later they introduced ponies to help keep some of the grasses down year round. The ponies live wild, but every year they are counted and, as the herd grows, they cull a few and relocate them. Interesting stuff.
Right before I hit The Scales, I ran into an interesting thru hiker named Gnome. He basically looked like the Travelocity roaming gnome, with a big pointy white beard and dark glasses. He was a lively guy and told me that he’d been getting turned around. It’s definitely true that the trail is hard to follow in the Grayson Highlands as there are a LOT of side and cross trails. There are also a lot of white blazes painted on the rocks, which can be challenging when the rocks have snow on them. Gnome said he slept at the same shelter two nights in a row because he basically walked in a huge circle one day! Hilarious, but also a little terrifying as I can totally see myself doing that (reasons I got Guthook). He said he was hungry and low on food, so I offered him some snacks. He declined and said he had been foraging, and so we had a whole conversation (3 minutes) about foraging. I told him I am basically a three trick pony when it comes to foraging, and he started telling me about all the things he was eating. He mentioned that he had been finding ramps, and he also was eating mushrooms. He told me about a mushroom called turkey tail that looks like a turkey tail growing out of a tree. He said that it has a compound in it called PSK (poly something or other) that has, in several cases, proven useful in fighting cancer. He told me that in some cases it had reversed stage 4 cancers. Now, seeing as I knew Gnome for all of 3 minutes and he was lost in the woods, I figured I would probably look this stuff up later. Whether it is all true I do not know, nor do o know the details of the studies he mentioned. I like the idea of a cure all mushroom though! Gnome’s stories went on. He said that he had bought a boat in Rochester, NY for $50. I asked him why it was so cheap and he then said that the hull needed refinishing and it needed a lot of work, and also that he had traded his car for it. As part of the deal, the guy that sold him the boat let him stay there and use his tools to fix it. Gnome fixed the boat and then sailed it down the intracoastal to the Florida Keys where he lives. Hurricane Irma later destroyed her.... Gnome is originally from Franklin, NC. Interesting guy.... I also found out later in the day that Gnome told Sauerkraut that he had seen about 25 ponies. He had gotten lost on one of the horse trails!
After The Scales, the trail once again ascended and woven through the highlands until coming to a fence and a cattle gate. There were some large flat boulders around, so I decided to dry out my tent from two nights ago. I never had a chance to dry it out yesterday as it was too wet and overcast. I spread my tent, footprint, and tarp out and placed rocks on them. I hung the tarp over a short wood section of the fence (the rest was barbed wire). It was a good place to eat lunch. I had some tuna and crackers and trail mix. Dimples passed by, and then Sauerkraut stopped by as I was getting everything packed up. I had kind of envisioned a horde of ponies sidling up to me while I ate lunch, curious to seen Hungry Cat trail life, but alas, no ponies visited. I headed out with Sauerkraut behind me. We crossed paths with a friendly day hiker, and then the trail became rocky and more technical. As I walked I planted my left trekking pole and it just folded in the middle. Yikes! The poles I have a quite good - Black Diamond - but, in fairness, they are break-down poles for traveling and not really meant for the abuse of a thru hike. I fully expected they would give out at some point. I decided to use my gorilla tape to try and tape the pole at the broken link. This worked ok until I slipped and had to put my weight onto the left pole to keep from falling. The good news was it sufficed to stop a fall. The bad news was it snapped and cut right through the gorilla tape. Sauerkraut and I stopped at the next shelter for a break and to sign the log, and I doubled down on the gorilla tape. I figured it would be good for one more solid brace. I hiked along awkwardly until the terrain got smoother, and then it was easier to work with one pole. I came upon a cool bridge crossing and saw Dimples there. Sauerkraut rolled up, and then I headed out, only to shortly run into a guy named Odie heading southbound. Dimples passed me as I chatted with him. He said he had previously thru hiked and he asked if I had seen the hiker yearbook. I had seen this at Mountain Harbour Inn. It’s basically a yearbook of thru hikers. He said we could be in it if we just sent him a picture with our trail names. Apparently Odie created the hiker yearbook. That sounds kind of neat, so it is on my list of things to do later. We have a lot of time to send him photos. I finished the climb and finally got to a ridge, or more precisely a small knob, and decided to drink some water and rest for a minute. I checked my phone and finally had a signal, so I texted Gillian and googled the number for Black Diamond customer service. They were great and even though my poles were well out of warranty and not designed for thru hiking, they gave me 40% off a new, more suitable pair. It worked out great and they shipped them to Pearisburg, where I already have a box to pick up. That was also the last phone signal I would have all day! I decided to keep using the gimpy pole as I figured it had one last good brace in it, but I decided to try and find a stick I could use as a substitute for a week until I got to Pearisburg. No luck finding one yet!
Sauerkraut caught up at the top of the ridge while I was making the order, and we walked together the rest of the day to the campsite just a few miles before Trimpi Shelter. There was no real reason to push more miles and we both were keen to set up camp and relax a bit. Dimples was pushing to Trimpi, so we figured we would just get an early start to catch up with her tomorrow so we could all go to Marion together. Sauerkraut is hammocking, so I checked out his setup at camp. There is a lot to dial in with hammocks, but I do think there are a lot of advantages over tents. Two guys named Wallace and Hot Tang showed up at the campsite. It was a long day and I needed sleep, but I ate two dinners - a rice side and a mountain house - before going to bed. After all, I was going to resupply tomorrow or the next day anyway!
I was happy to have good camaraderie on the trail today and very grateful for such awesome weather. It was nice not to see snow and just a solid day of good hiking with no foot issues. Tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer!
#1 - thank you David for the kind offer! I didn’t even know where Waynesboro was, so I looked ahead in my guide. Apparently it has the reputation as being one of the friendliest towns along the trail! I guess good folks like yourself give it that reputation! Thank you!
#2 - Shane - tuxedo bear? I love the name! Not sure how you got that, but there is no going back now! You have to own it ;-)