Friday, August 7, 2015

Day 61: Eight hundred miles done!

May 7: The day started off hot and humid and continued that way for the entire day. The views throughout the day were disappointing--the humidity cut visibility and left the horizon with an ugly haze. At least it wasn't raining, however!

The humidity in the air was awful! But it does kind of make these trees glow nicely. =)

I decided to hike an easy 18 or so miles to the Brown Mountain Shelter. With my early start, I'd finish early as well. Or at least take plenty of breaks along the way. And I noticed in my guidebook that we would pass the 800-mile mark this afternoon. It was located precisely 0.4 miles past the Pedlar River Bridge, at the top of a short but steep climb from the bridge.

I told the other hikers about my plan to create a 800-mile marker if they wasn't one already. I saw a marker at 500 miles and 600 miles, but I was dissatisfied with them. They had both been located on the side of the trail and I liked a marker than I could step over. Like a finish line. I wanted to teach everyone behind me how to create a good mile marker! Nothing at 700, though. It's hard to guess where the mile markers might show up. Who knows if someone had already created the 800-mile marker? But if there wasn't one, I wanted to create it.

I couldn't be certain I'd find the necessary rocks near the 800-mile mark to make a proper marker, so I stopped at an abandoned dirt road littered with rocks over a mile before the 800-mile mark. I used it as a quarry, looking for good rocks I could use for the marker which probably added a solid ten pounds of weight to my pack. Fortunately, I didn't intend to carry it more than about a mile and half!

Fog blankets the James River far below.

At the Pedlar River Bridge, I saw Oyster with his dog and he had a GPS unit that could precisely pinpoint the 800-mile mark ahead. I didn't have a fancy GPS so he showed me his and the exact location of the point which mentally matched what I had in my head at the top of the hill up from the bridge.

I continued onwards while Oyster held back at the bridge smoking his cigarette. I reached the top of the hill and continued a bit further checking for any other 800-mile markers but saw none. It looked like I had the field all to myself.

I backtracked to where I thought the 800-mile best fit my memory and scratched out an 800 in the dirt as a pattern to follow and started placing the rocks onto it. I was mostly done when Oyster arrived. He shook his head sadly and pointed behind him. Apparently, I had overshot the 800-mile mark slightly, but I knew it wasn't far and wasn't going to worry about rounding errors.

He continued onwards and I continued working.

After laying out the rocks, I was dissatisfied with my own work. At least it was directly on the trail, but it almost blended with with the dirt of the trail making it hard to see. I could totally imagine people walking over it without even noticing it.

But I had an idea! In a fit of inspiration, I started grabbing some of the large green leaves from the trees behind me and putting them behind the rocks to give it a nice pop. I liked the effect, and that would get people's attention. It might not last long, but that's okay. With constant reroutes of the trail, it'll be obsolete soon anyhow.


I continued onwards to the Brown Mountain Shelter for the night. The shelter was set just up a hill from a river and the bugs were awful, but I hung out there for awhile just to chat with other hikers. I decided to camp next to the river, however, hoping it would be a bit cooler and maybe the bugs won't be so bad. And it wasn't supposed to rain, so why not? =)

I'm not sure it was that much cooler or the bugs were less, but it was a wonderful place to camp!


I know you're probably thinking, but these views are great! The humidity doesn't seem to be that big of a problem. Except that those mountains you can barely see in the distance really aren't very far away and on a clear day, they'd be bright and vibrant--not muted and barely visible like that. And there are probably mountains even further out that I can't see at all either.


This was a sad little monument. My guidebook said there was a monument to Ottie Cline Powell so I was expecting a monument, but not this! I had no idea it would be such a horribly sad one!
View from Bluff Mountain. Stupid humidity!



I quarried this bag of rocks for my own monument further up the trail... A happy monument!
Now that's a delicately balanced cairn! I was afraid just walking past it would knock it over!

The Pedlar River Bridge was my major landmark for identifying the 800-mile mark of the AT. Just another 0.4 miles ahead! (That's Oyster with back turned towards me.)

So here's how I made this mile monument: First, I lightly traced what I wanted into the trail at my best guess for the correct location.

Then I start putting rocks on it, but at this point, I realize they don't really "pop" as much as I wanted. I could imagine people walking right through this without even noticing it.
So in a fit of inspiration, I added leaves behind the rocks to really make it pop. POP! Now that's a monument people are going to notice! Oh... and yea me! I've finished 800 miles now! =)


Forrest (L) and Oyster (R) take a break at this creek.


When I arrived at the shelter, another hiker was looking through the register and I asked if there was anything interesting in it. He said, "Well, there's a ziplock bag of dead gnats taped into it." Yeah, well, that is kind of interesting and not something you'd normally see in a register.

Later, I read the register entry myself and learned it was done by Blueberry. And somewhat surprisingly, my first thought was, "I should have guessed.... That sounds like something he'd have done."

The register entry reads: "I got into a tussle with some gnats last night. Included is most of my kills. Can you kill as many as Blue Berry the gnat smasher can? I challenge you!" (Speaking of which, I should point out that I spell his name Blueberry. It wasn't until a month after I first met him that I noticed him signing his name Blue Berry with two words, but I'm still calling him Blueberry.)

My campsite for the night. You can't see it in this photo, but there's a nice little creek just to the right of this image. Also, watching out for low-flying aircraft in this region. There was a fighter jet or something that tore through sounding like it was just a couple of hundred feet above us at 10:00 at night which, I suspect, caused a lot of people to wet their pants!

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