Sunday 2 July to Tuesday 11 July
Total Distance: 728.1 miles
Elevation levels according to Guthook app: total ascent 6214.4m, total descent 6321.8m
Mountains: Johns Creek Mountain 3782, Sinking Creek Mountain 3368, Brush Mountain 2988, Cove Mountain 2968, McAfee Knob 3197, Tinker Cliffs 3000
There were a number of awesome and dramatic scenes during this section, along with a couple of harrowing climbs, nerve racking poses and plenty of biting stinging insects which are the bane of my existence.
Firstly I am ecstatic over the fact I can eat pretty much what I want when I get to town. You know with the amount of upcoming activity, you will wear it off. However I have been careful, due to the drop in milage, to be mindful of this. All the same there are some yummy desserts here in the USA. Everything including desserts in America is just that one step bigger, that one step more over the top and just plain larger than anything you will find in NZ or Aussie. Enjoyed every bite.
Since my experience with the two little bear cubs, I have now seen another couple of bears and heard half a dozen run away from me as I’m coming along the track. At one of the Shelters I was alone and woke up because I heard a bear crashing through the forest running up the hill and into the campsite. He stayed, sniffed around for a while and despite my telling it to go away from inside my tent it didn’t. So true to form I thought oh well carry on as you are then and promptly went back to sleep!
Below is the only bear to stop long enough for me to take a picture. Otherwise they are off like a shot when they hear you and when a safe distance away turn to make sure you are still where you should be then disappear quite quickly. The only pause for thought is that; the foliage is so dense and tall, when the bears lower their heads/themselves you can either see nor hear them. They can move very stealthily.
When it comes to nature it isn’t always the big animals that are intense, annoying or scary, unfortunately for me it is the smallest of the small that make my days hell. My arms, legs and forehead look like I have the measles due to mosquitoes, March Flies (they call them black flies here), and chiggers. I ran out of insect repellent for two days and this is the result. The little chiggers fly around my head in a little cloud while I walk and frustrate me no end!
Then when you get to have lunch on a mountain overlooking some dramatic scenery it makes up a little for it all.
It rained for about three days straight and stopped almost as suddenly as it started. When it stopped it was so hot, that what looks like mist is actually steam rising. It evaporated quite quickly and was truly amazing to behold.
I no longer watch the weather forecast as it is rarely right and what does it matter in the end? It won’t influence my hiking or plans and can be a source of frustration.
There were a few miles of this rocky path where I managed to stumble and hurt my foot again. I was so frustrated and angry with myself because I awoke that morning my foot was feeling so good I got a bit over confident. I didn’t hurt it too badly luckily but I did feel it for the next few days. My foot is always a bit sore but I am learning to work with and around it. Still have to yellow blaze (jump ahead via a vehicle) for a while longer by the looks of it.
When ringing shuttles or speaking to anyone other than fellow Australians over the phone no one can understand my accent. It is both amusing and irritating. Also I have had three non-hikers find out I’m Australian then proceed to tell me their thoughts on immigrants and African Americans and it isn’t always that nice. While they are talking to me I sit and wondered what they expect my response to be, why are they telling me this, do they realise how they sound and what do they hope to gain, do they not see I am Polynesian? Given where I am and what I am doing along with the fact I do not intend to get into some huge political debate with people in a country that has no real bearing on me, I politely listen, look at my watch to indicate I have better things to do and swing the conversation around to hiking and that I must be off. Intersting times.
There were a couple of things I wanted to do during this section: stay at the Captains place (a past thru hiker who lets hikers tent in his yard, use the outdoor facilities and you get to his place via a zipline over a creek), and get a photo on McKafe Knob.
The Captain however had surgery and his place was shit down, disappointed but totally hope he is all good and recovers nicely.
Managed to get my photo, but didn’t have the courage to get the classic shot with legs over the edge of the rock.
- I like how trail maintainers let you know that they don’t want you to go into a certain area and guide you – with logs spread out or piles up. You can clearly see many people do not listen as some of these have been shifted slightly to be walked around.
- There are so many different species of caterpillar I wish I had of taken photos from the beginning
- Water sources are drying up and becoming a bit dodged so luckily I found an outfitter with the same Aquatabs I got in Australia
- No matter how good your shoes are or how much you test them at home…the majority of hikers I have spoken with have changed shoe types out here. The difference of over 700 miles on shoes, feet and knees is phenomenal.
Being able to take a zero in Blacksburg was just what the doctor ordered. The town was quite out of the way, however it had a local bus service so you could get around cheaply, a picture theatre where I saw Wonder Woman and Transformers along with many good restaurants and sights.
Oh well I have procrastinated enough, I am finishing this off on the trail where I managed to find reception and have a long day and many mountains in front of me. 😊