Yes, I made it to Walker Gap in Virginia and camped there last night. It’s 6:00 a.m. – too early to get up and a good time to write a post. Walker Gap even has 3-4 bars of AT&T cell coverage!
I left the Relax Inn at Atkins at 7:30 yesterday after raiding the hiker box for some dried peaches that someone had left. A hiker box is a box that hostels, hotels and inns that cater to thru-hikers keep in a central location like the office or lobby for hikers to put extra stuff that they don’t want or don’t need…and definitely don’t want to carry.
At this point on the trail hiker boxes mostly contain food items that hikers have shipped to themselves care of the hostel. This is called sending yourself a mail drop and quite a few hikers do it. Actually someone back home is probably doing it for them and timing the drops to arrive about a week before the hiker. It takes a lot of advance planning and preparation but some people like to do it, especially if they have unique dietary needs – vegetarians for example.
I rarely take things from hiker boxes and if it is a food item it has to be unopened. In the box at the Relax Inn there was a big Ziploc bag of beef jerky that was very tempting but I didn’t want to take a chance with it. I suspect that the dried peaches I took from the box may have been left by Whiskers and Rocket because they received a huge resupply at the Relax Inn and they are very healthy eaters. Other items that I have taken from hiker boxes include Clif bars, Ramen noodles, packets of Jif-To-Go, a packet of chicken, and packets of hot chocolate. When the Princess and Liam brought me back to the trail after the Florida trip we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Erwin, TN and I checked the hiker box there and got a nice pair of extra thick Smartwool socks and a pair of ZPacks cuben fiber mittens. I sent those home with the Princess so that I can wash them and have them for hiking in the New England states where it will be colder.
One last thing about hiker boxes. The number one item found in them, according to my informal survey, is packets of instant oatmeal. I believe the reason is that people get tired of eating oatmeal, plus it’s a pain to clean oatmeal out of a cooking pot. Also, after a while on the trail most people don’t want to take the time to cook a hot meal in the morning, they just want to get up, pack up and start hiking.
One highlight yesterday was trail magic left by Lumberjack (2006 AT hiker) and Lab Rat. I came upon their coolers at 12:30 and enjoyed a PB&J sandwich, a Little Debbie oatmeal sandwich and my first ever Dr. Thunder which is like Dr. Pepper (see photo).
Today I’m heading to Bastian, VA and I’ll either camp near there or stay at a place called Fort Bastian. According to the trail guide it’s run by a British fellow named Nigel, a former thru-hiker with the trail name True Brit. It might be interesting to stay at his place and meet him.