700 down

Today I am visiting Salem Va to stop in with some old friends from Roanoke. It has been nice to be back in this town, I always forget how peaceful it is.  In the past week I passed the 600 mile point, just outside of Bland Va, and the 700 mile mark, yesterday before Catawba where I got off the trail.

Every time I reach one of these little milestones I get a boost of accomplishment. Hikers on the trail ahead of me have been marking the hundreds with sticks forming the numbers to let people know how far they have come. I always enjoy it because it gives me perspective on the fact that everyone ahead of me has been past this point, and while I may not know them we share a common bond by having walked up and down the same mountains seen the same views. It helps me feel that sense of community when I can step back and look at that angle of the trail.

I went over some parts of the trail yesterday I had taken day hikes to while I was going to college in the area. The one I remember the best was the dragons tooth. A rock out cropping that gives a great view of the Catawba valley. I took the time to walk out to it and climb to the top.

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As many mountain vistas as I’ve seen I never get tired of taking in the majesty of it.

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Hiking down from the top of the mountain was some of the most technical hiking the trail has thrown at us yet. I didn’t take any pictures of it but I had to climb down these rock slabs, some of which had to have ladders bolted on. It was a little sketchy but I had a blast going down and only had one point where I almost busted my butt.

Apparently yesterday also happened to be the day of the lizard, I saw two lizards on the trail.

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The first lizard

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And the second

Bland Va, Mile 587.4

I took the past two days off in Bland. My Father came down to visit me for a few days off the trail. It has been good to get some rest, the past few weeks I have been pushing myself hard and my body was at the point of breaking down. Towards the end of most days my feet feel like they are going to fall off, and my pack is constantly sitting heavy on my collar bone. I need to figure out a way to add some extra padding to the strap on my shoulder where my collar bone healed uneven when I was 16 and broke it in a car crash.

Yesterday Dad and I drove down to Damascus to visit Trail Days. I am glad that I went to see it the town was swamped with hikers on all points of the trail, there was a poster with the trail profile where hikers were able to mark where they were on the trail. There were hikers who hitched up from Georgia and down from Pennsylvania. I was able to catch up with some friends on the trail who have become scattered on the Trail. I was able to talk to the people from Hennessy Hammocks (the makers of my “tent”) and they gave me some free gear to make my hammock more comfortable, snakeskins to make pack up quicker, and water collectors for my rain fly (attach a water bottle to the funnel and as it rains the bottle fills and keeps tension on the fly.)

It was a weird experience going through the Grayson Highlands this past week, I had hiked the stretch of trail there about two years ago with my friends Cory and T-Mellow. When I hiked the 20 mile stretch back then we took 3 days to hike. When I went through now I took two days, only because I decided to stop hiking the first day at the beginning of the Highlands so that I would be able to enjoy my walk its one of my favorite stretches of trail, that I have been to before. The weather wasn’t the best, it was a mix of fog and rain, but the clouds lifted enough that I was still able to get some half decent views

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I also enjoyed the hike because the Konnarock trail maintenance crew, which T-Mellow use to be a crew chief for, was doing trail work. I was able to stop and chat with the crew leaders and they remembered Ted (T-Mellow) from when he worked with them. I also ran into the ridge runner, Johnny, for the Highlands who remembered Ted fondly from both when he worked Konnarock and when he did his SOBO thruhike. Whenever I see ridge runners or people doing trail maintenance I always stop to thank them for the service they are providing, with out them the trail would be a lot wilder and more difficult to walk. I know that when I finish my hike I will be doing some trail work to give back to the community.

500 miles down

Its been a while since I have updated my progress. I have been putting in miles and trying to minimize the amount of time spent in towns. I have hit a few big milestones in the past week or two. I have crossed into my fourth state, I made it to Damascus Va, and I have walked 500 miles. Only 1600 miles to go