The Princess posted about how much we enjoyed Whiskers and Rocket as house guests. As I write this I’m enjoying a breakfast of Currant Scones from Concord Teacakes (you can check them out of Facebook) and coffee from Lexington Coffee Roasters that Whiskers and Rocket left us. I would just like to add that they are great hiking partners too and I really missed them yesterday after we said our goodbyes at the trail head. My hope is that I will see them again but they’re strong hikers and it’s not likely that I will catch them any time soon.
Yesterday I covered 25 miles from Route 60 east of Buena Vista to Route 56 at the Tye River. It’s a stretch of the trail that I know very well from my training hikes over the past year and a half. So I used the hike to test myself against my previous times for hiking various parts of this trail. I can tell you that after 50 days hiking the AT I am much faster than I was before I started.
For example, there is a stretch of the AT from Route 60 at Long Mountain Wayside to the peak of Bald Knob which is a 2000 foot climb over about 2.25 to 2.5 miles. My previous best time for this stretch was one hour and fifteen minutes. Yesterday I did it in 54 minutes – that’s a huge improvement! It just goes to show that the best way to get in shape for hiking is to get out on the trail and hike.
Even though I was hiking alone I enjoyed the hike a lot. I ran into a friend from Lexington who was hiking at Cold Mountain, and had a chance to walk familiar trails and see familiar scenery and that’s like seeing an old friend too. The first 3.5 hours of the hike was great but after noon it got pretty hot, even at the higher elevation with a nice steady breeze from the west.
I made a big mistake that I would not normally make when hiking with a full pack – I ran out of water. Normally I would carry my water purifier (Steripen) but when slack packing I only carry a small pack with a three-liter water reservoir. Because of the heat I was drinking more water than usual and I ran out at about the 18 mile point – with seven miles to go. Oops! I knew that there were several creeks about five miles ahead and that if I felt like I was in bad shape I could drink the water there, even without purifying it. As it turned out I was doing okay and didn’t need to drink unpurified water from a stream but I did take my shirt off and dunk it in the cold water, then put it back on. That is so refreshing!
I finished the hike feeling strong (and thirsty), having averaged exactly three miles per hour, including a couple of short breaks. I started driving home and about a mile down the road I saw two hikers hitchhiking and pulled over to pick them up. They didn’t care where I took them, they just wanted to get close to a town so that they could find a ride to Damascus, Virginia for Trail Days, a fantastic festival that celebrates the AT, draws huge crowds and is supposed to be a lot of fun. I had plenty of time so I drove the hikers to Buena Vista and dropped them off at the Blue Dog Art Cafe, a cafe and hostel that caters to AT hikers. I hope they can find a ride to Damascus.
Late in the day I got a text from Whiskers saying that they had made it to the shelter at The Priest, which is a well-known mountain in our area. I had left a mark in the trail for them at 12:00 and he said that they had passed my mark at 12:50, so they were making excellent time even carrying their full packs. I was happy to know that they had made it to the shelter which was a 20-mile hike for them.
As I mentioned, yesterday was my 50th day since starting the AT on March 27th. I’ve taken nine zeros, so I’ve hiked 41 of those 50 days. As of today I’ve covered 787 miles of the trail. So my average daily mileage is just under 16 miles per day. If you throw out the nine zeros my average miles per day is just over 19 miles per day. So I need to stop taking zeros…and that is bound to happen now that I will be north of ‘home’ and it will not be easy for Princess to come visit me. If you’ve been following the blog closely you know that the Princess and I have taken a couple of trips together since I started the AT – one to Florida to visit our daughter and her family and one to Richmond and Norfolk to visit our son and his wife and the Princess’ mother. As I move north past Virginia I will not be able to take these kinds of trips as easily, so I’ll just need to focus on walking 20-25 miles per day and enjoying life on the trial. If all goes well I should finish in mid-August, maybe sooner.