Monday, June 29, 2015

Day 44: The Marion Zero

April 20: Finally, I would get my much needed zero day. Amanda left in the dead of morning, having to get back to work and other life commitments. I was on my own now, and I spent the first part of the morning working on Atlas Quest and this blog. I didn’t work very late into the morning, however, because although the rain had stopped during the night, the Weather Channel was predicting rain later in the afternoon. I wanted to get all of my tasks around town completed before that happened.

Marion, a small little town in Virginia that I never visited during my first thru-hike. This was new stuff for me!

So I walked downtown, both to sightsee and get photos for something that was visually interesting to post today. =) I crossed a creek that was clearly flowing much higher and faster than normal—no doubt due to the excessive amounts of rain the day before. Many of the trees and shrubs normally on the banks of the creek were now definitively submerged in the rising water.

I stopped at the post office where I picked up a priority mail flat rate box. I’d need it to ship my laptop ahead to Daleville. On the way back to the motel, I stopped for lunch at Taco Bell, then resupplied my food at Food City.

I got back to the hotel before any rain started—but in hindsight, that wasn’t much of an accomplishment because it never did rain today. I was a little disappointed when I realized I had “squandered” my zero day on a day that didn’t rain a drop and spent my zero day hiking all day in the pouring rain. Argh! Stupid weather would not cooperate!

In any case, once I got back to the motel, I stayed there for the rest of the day and evening working on this blog, but did take a break to watch a little TV and relax.

But for the most part, nothing really noteworthy happened today. Not a very exciting post!

Walking into town, it didn’t look like rain was imminent, but I knew weather forecasts predicted rain later in the afternoon and planned my day around that assumption.

The old train station is now a collection of businesses like for getting your hair done or taxes filed. The businesses weren’t interesting, but the train station was adorable. =)

Spring blooms near the local courthouse.

A mural in downtown Marion.

I was really curious about this store, but it was closed when I arrived so I could only look through the windows. A Bruce Manor art gallery? I’d never heard of such a thing! (See my reflection of me taking this photo in the window?)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Day 43: The 15-Mile Zero Day

April 19: When I woke in the morning, the rain was coming down strong and steady and waiting until today to take a zero day looked like a brilliant idea. Amanda and I headed down to the dining area for breakfast and took our time chatting with the other guests, then I headed back upstairs to get online and start working on blog entries.

Amanda throws me out into the pouring rain. Today was supposed to be my zero day!
Worse zero day ever!

At around 10:30, I was flipping through my AT guidebook and a thought popped into my head. I needed to cover a bit less than 15 miles to reach the Partnership Shelter and logistically, that would be a much better place for me at the end of the day. Amanda and I planned to move our base of operations to Marion that afternoon, which was now much closer to my location on the trail than Damascus. And I knew transportation from Marion to the Partnership Shelter would be a lot easier than from Damascus to the Partnership Shelter. Not to mention that Amanda could leave all of the food and snacks that she bought for trail magic at the shelter itself which was practically right at a road crossing. It’s so close to the road, in fact, that you can even have pizza delivered from Marion directly to the shelter. It’s one of the things this shelter is famous for!

So I told Amanda my idea—despite the horrible rain happening outside, maybe I should actually hike anyhow. She wouldn’t have to drive me back to the trail the next day, I’d be able to get back on my own just fine, she’d have a place where she could leave all of the extra food and drinks for hikers to enjoy and I could just take my zero the next day to catch up on blog posts—it was supposed to rain tomorrow anyhow. I’d rather hike into town on a rainy day than out of it!

So we quickly packed up our bags and practically ran out the door. With the very late start I was getting, every minute mattered! I checked out of the B&B and had Amanda run out to Subway to pick up lunch for me while I walked over to the outfitters to look for a new pair of pants. (A large seam had ripped out right at my crotch, and these were due to be retired!) Alas, the outfitters hadn’t opened yet for the day and I didn’t have time to waste. I’d just use my spare pants that I normally wore in camp.

Someone is stalking me on the trail!

I met up with Amanda again and ate lunch in the car while she was driving. I didn’t really have time to eat on the trail and with the heavy rain, I probably wouldn’t find a good place to sit down and eat it anyhow.

Amanda had purchased two sandwiches, not sure which one I would prefer, and during the drive out, we caught Chuckles and Little Red walking out of the woods at a road crossing. Amanda stopped, backed up, and we jumped out asking if they wanted some trail magic. We gave them a soda and the other Subway sandwich, then jumped back into the car and continued the drive back to the trail where I had gotten off.

I was finally back on the trail and hiking at high noon. The rain was still coming down in buckets and looked like it had no intention of letting up, so I borrowed Amanda’s heavy red umbrella rather than using my flimsy, lightweight one and started hiking.

Just look at all those puddles of water in the trail!
I hiked more-or-less non-stop the entire distance, except for one quick stop at the Trimpi Shelter for a second lunch break. Four thru-hikers had already stopped for the day and built a fire inside. A tarp covered the outside and I startled Ha-ha with my unexpected arrival so badly, she actually screamed out loud. I was just trying to get out of the rain!

I hadn’t met any of these hikers before, although later I would hear from Little Red that Ha-ha is a stand-up comedian back in the real world and how awesome it must be if she gave performances in the shelters in the evening. =) If she does that, however, I haven’t had the joy of hearing her work since I have yet to share a shelter with her for the night. In fact, I never saw her again after this brief little lunch break of mine. (Maybe further up the trail, but as I type this a month later, I’ve yet to cross paths with her again so far.)

When I arrived at the Partnership Shelter, a few hikers had already made it there for the night, including Shoelace again who was surprised to see me since I had told him I was taking a zero day today and wouldn’t be seeing him. Ha! =)

“What did you do for your zero day?” I imagined Shoelace asking.

“I hiked 15 miles in the pouring rain.”

“That’s a pretty sucky zero day.”

“Yes, yes it is.” *nodding*


Amanda wasn’t there when I arrived—she had checked us into a motel in Marion and was still there, but she arrived quickly and we left most of the trail magic she still had in the trunk at the shelter. They already had Cokes and pizza, and we were going to leave all of the food there, but one of the hikers freaked out about that idea worried that bears would attack the shelter.

Whatever… Frankly, if she was really that worried about bears, she shouldn’t have a bunch of pizza boxes sitting on the picnic table in front of the shelter. Did she think bears would eat Skittles but skip out on the pizza? The shelter was a two-story structure that required climbing a ladder—leave the food there if you didn’t want it with you.

Amanda and I, in any case, were really quite surprised that the woman was so insistent that we not leave any food there. The place positively reeked of pizza already, and if bears were a problem, there would be a lot of signage about it. The biggest thing she should be fearing were the rodents that almost certainly prowled the shelter. Those were the only animals that would be raiding her food.

We did leave all of the canned drinks behind, though. She didn’t seem to worry about bears wanting to drink cans of cola.

We headed into town where I changed into dry clothes, then headed out for dinner choosing to dine at Macado’s. We also spotted two thru-hikers leaving—Wolverine and Germany—who we let raid what food we had left. The section-hiker’s loss was their gain! The food was good, but Amanda was disappointed to learn that the restaurant was a chain. When we arrived, we assumed it was a local, one-of-a-kind restaurant, neither of us having any idea it was a local chain until we saw the list of their other locations.

With dinner completed, we headed back to the hotel. There was a brief 15 minutes during my hike when the rain had stopped, but otherwise, it had been relentless all day long and when we flipped the TV to the Weather Channel, we learned that flood warnings were in effect all over the area.

Yep, that’s what I did on my zero day—hiked through the worst rain of the entire trail so far! I’d had better zero days. =)

The rain never let up!

I found these logs stuck in this tree with a single large rock on it. I felt the structure needed more rocks, however, and actually took the time to create the cairn in the tree despite the pouring rain. =)

This little fellow didn’t seem at all bothered with the rain!


The Partnership Shelter is famous because you can have pizza delivered to it!

The Mount Rogers Visitors Center is right next to the shelter, but it was closed when I arrived.

We ate at Macado’s for dinner. =)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day 42: The Boy Scout Interrogation

April 18: Amanda and I had checked into the Dancing Bear B&B and as everyone knows, B&B is short for Bed and Breakfast. Amanda was excited about the breakfast—she does enjoy good food. For me, the breakfast was an obstacle. There was nothing wrong with the breakfast per se, but I was anxious to get on the trail as early as possible because weather forecasts predicted heavy storms late in the afternoon and I wanted to finish before they started. And at the B&B, breakfast was at a specified time so we couldn’t leave before then—at least without not missing it completely!

I didn’t see any wild ponies today when Amanda dropped me off at the Grayson Highlands, but the views were still great!

Eventually breakfast was served as we chatted with other guests, and with that out of the way, Amanda drove me back to the Grayson Highlands to continue the hike. I didn’t get on the trail and start hiking until a little after 10:00, though—quite a bit later than I would have preferred.

At the Wise Shelter, I ran into my first pack of Boy Scouts for the day. One of them was flipping through the register—and I wondered if he should even be looking through it because sometimes there’s stuff in the registers that isn’t particularly kid-friendly—but he found something that he got all excited and went to show it to one of the adult chaperones. The chaperone hadn’t even looked at the entry yet but saw the register and said aloud, “Hmm… I’m not sure you should even be reading that.”

I laughed. A little too late for that! I never saw what entry had perked the kid’s interest, but the pack of 12 Boy Scouts continued down the trail and I continued eating my first lunch of the day. And started flipping through the register making guesses at which register entry the kid had found. I also flipped to the back cover the book to check if there was anything there—a week earlier, Salty had done so and produced a photo of a scantily-clad woman taped into the inside back cover and told me that such photos were taped into many of the registers. Ever since, I started peeking at the inside back cover of the registers more out a curiosity than anything. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to which registers have the photos and which ones don’t. Sometimes there would be long stretches of trail without any photos, then several photos in three consecutive shelters. But in any case, it wasn’t a photo that grabbed the kid’s attention because this register didn’t have one.


Throughout the day, I would pass about half a dozen groups of Boy Scouts with about a dozen people per group. The sheer number of them was astounding! Not to mention that hoards of other day hikers and weekend backpackers—the trail was positively crowded today!

But my favorite event of the day was when I arrived at the Old Orchard Shelter. The shelter itself was empty of people, but through a thin layer of brush ahead of it, I could see a group of kids and three thru-hikers standing in front of them being interrogated.

“How do you charge your cell phone?” one of the kids asked.

“How much do you walk each day?” another one asked.


I couldn’t see the hikers very well through the brush, but I recognized the voice of Rise—who I had last seen nearly two weeks earlier and figured another one was Hercules who I knew he’d been hiking with quite a bit lately. The third guy I didn’t recognize at all, but I guessed he was Numbers based on the fact that I knew Numbers was just ahead of me on the trail (based on register entries and sightings from other hikers) and the fact that he fit the description I had heard of him (in which the word “bald” was often used). I wanted no part of the interrogation, however, and was content just to sit in the shelter and watch it happen. I could imagine that the three of them just wanted to keep hiking, but these kids—which I assumed was another group of Boy Scouts—weren’t going to let them!

After about ten minutes, the thru-hikers managed to extract themselves from the interrogation and continued onwards. Shortly thereafter, one of the adult chaperones approached the shelter and started his own interrogation of myself. “Are you thru-hiking?” he asked.

I so wanted to lie. I imagined the kids would interrogate me if they found out I was a thru-hiker, and I was slackpacking and clean-shaven and didn’t even really look like a thru-hiker. I could pretend to be a day hiker. I knew I could.

But I couldn’t make myself lie, and I admitted that yes, I was a thru-hiker. So he started asking if I slept in the shelters every night. (Not every night, but often.) And when I had started hiking. (March 8th.) And a few other questions, but I got off pretty light. Nobody else ever came up to the shelter to question me and the kids never suspected a thing. =)


Later in the afternoon, I caught up with Rise and Hercules—and they confirmed that the third person being interrogated had been Numbers after I mentioned that I caught the last ten minutes of the interrogation. They had a pretty good sense of humor about the whole thing and told me that one of the adults had approached them all but begging to tell the kids about thru-hiking because it was their first time backpacking and he wanted them to learn more about it. And they said it was kind of fun getting all that attention, although they wouldn’t want to do it every day. I told them I only caught the last ten minutes or so of it after slipping into the shelter unnoticed and laughed my butt of the whole time. =)

I’d pass one more shelter by the end of the day, where I caught up with Shoelace. Shoelace is section hiking the Appalachian Trail and I had seen him in each of the last three days. The first time we met was at the shelter where I took off my shoes and socks and started hiking barefoot which likely made an impression on him. =) So I was chatting with him and Rise when an older man with a giant pack walked into the shelter and groaned loudly as he took off his pack and sat down.

“Sure looks like a heavy pack,” I said, trying to be friendly. “A rough day of it?”

“My pack isn’t heavy!” he said, angrily.

“Uhh… okay… I thought it looked a bit heavy.” Heck, my pack I think feels a bit heavy, and even my full pack looked about half the size of his pack. It wasn’t meant as an insult—just an observation.

“Well, it’s not!” he told me, putting me in my place. “It has absolutely nothing more than it needs!”

At this point, the guy was just starting to annoy me, but I wasn’t going to let this go… “Oh, I bet there’s something in there that you really don’t need. Even my pack has stuff that I don’t need in it.”

A privy with a view!

He went on a rant about the pack being full of food and if he got rid of any of it, he’d starve to death. I finally decided just to tune him out and went back to talking with Shoelace asking him how far he planned to go tomorrow, and he said to the Partnership Shelter.

The old man lit up and said that that’s where he had come from that day, and it was long, hard and rocky—suggesting that maybe Shoelace wasn’t fit for such a long hike tomorrow. He could do it because he was tough and made of iron, but most others wouldn’t be able to keep up with the likes of him.

Shoelace merely noted that he felt he could do it. I had no doubt he could do it. It was all of about 15 miles and Shoelace had been doing those kind of miles already. Frankly, I could have done that distance in my sleep at this point. Maybe it would be more difficult for Shoelace since he wasn’t thru-hiking and wasn’t in thru-hiker shape, but 15 miles with a reasonable-sized pack didn’t seem out of the question to me. The old man was just an idiot, carrying too much weight, out of shape and an ass.

Rise said something about hiking on with Hercules, and the old man piped up again making some sort of comment that Hercules couldn’t leave yet. He had seen Hercules at the trail junction for the shelter and Hercules had offered to get him water so Hercules couldn’t go until after he had gotten his water. I’m sure Hercules offered to get water out of the goodness of his heart, but had he any idea what an ass this guy was, I bet he’d have had a change of heart!

Rise and I soon left the shelter to continue onwards. I felt a little sorry for Shoelace knowing he was planning to spend the night there and was now stuck with that old man who’d likely make the evening miserable for everyone, but glad it wasn’t me spending the night there. =)

I arrived at Dickey Gap, where I had planned to meet Amanda for the day. I saw the red rental car parked on the side of the road, but she was nowhere to be seen and the door was locked. And it started to rain. It was just a light rain—at the moment—but it was somewhat annoying for me. I had made it to Dickey’s Gap before the rain had started, and I’m still getting caught in the rain!

Amanda showed up a few minutes later, walking down from the Appalachian Trail in the other direction. She unlocked the door and I quickly got in before the rain got me too wet. On the drive back to Damascus, the rain started coming down hard and I was glad I didn’t have to hike or sleep in it. =)

The Dancing Bear B&B where Amanda and I would spend a couple of nights. =)


Although the Wise Shelter didn’t have a scantily-clad woman in the register, this one did! (The poem on the other page usually isn’t there—as far as I know, it has nothing to do with the photo.)



These little buggers are everywhere on the trail!

Rise is on the trail!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Day 41: Mount Rogers and Grayson Highlands

April 17: Once again, the morning’s weather was looking good and I decided to continue hiking onwards to take advantage of the nice weather while it lasted. Amanda and I checked out of our hotel—largely because the nightly rates would spike from $50/night to $150/night for the next two days due to some sort of race car event just down the road in Bristol during the weekend. Instead, we reserved a spot at a B&B in Damascus which was not only half the rate than hotels along the Interstate provided, but also closer to the trail I’d be hiking. =)


However, Amanda pretty much wiped out whatever we would save on our hotel by getting a speeding ticket along the way. She was clocked going 52 mph in a 35 mph zone. Oops! I didn’t have to get back on the trail that quickly!

Amanda dropped me back off on the trail from where she picked me up barefooted, and off I went. The highlights today included Mount Rogers (the highest point in Virginia) and the Grayson Highlands (wild ponies!). The trail for much of the day, however, was absolutely awful. Large sections of it were covered with water and had streams running down them, and large rocks in the trail slowed hikers down.

The very top of Mount Rogers is about a half-mile off the Appalachian Trail on a blue-blazed trail and there’s really no reason to go up there except to brag that you’ve been to the high point of Virginia. The top of Virginia is in a thick forest with no views, and being located in a wilderness area, it seems very unlikely there will ever be views unless a major wildfire blew through the area and cleared it of the trees. I didn’t even need the bragging right to go up there—I did it during my first thru-hike! But I went up anyhow just to get photos for Walking 4 Fun. All in a day’s work. =)


At the top I met a couple of day hikers who, as it turned out, had no idea that they were at the highest point in Virginia until I told them. This amused me to no end—this trail probably wouldn’t have existed except that it was the high point of the state, and they had no idea why it would lead to a dead-end at the top of a mountain with no views. We discussed high points for a bit and shared stories of other high points we had visited. I asked them if they’d been to Clingman’s Dome—it’s a huge tourist draw and not that far away. They had been, and neither had realized that it was the high point in Tennessee. They seem to make a habit of hitting high points without even knowing it!

The Grayson Highlands, however, made up for the lack of views on Mount Rogers. Not only did much of the trail contain wonderful views, but it also included herds of wild ponies roaming the countryside. I didn’t see any until near the end of my hike when I spotted half a dozen of them wandering around and eating grass. One day hiker who had left his pack unattended while he chased after a pony taking photos didn’t see another pony that started poking at the unattended pack—presumably looking for food. People aren’t supposed to feed the ponies, but they were clearly used to people around and definitely thought we had some food!

The one other thing I would note—the number of day hikers and weekend backpackers skyrocketed throughout this section. The fact that it was a beautiful weekend probably contributed to the hoards of people, but I found it somewhat distressing. I don’t go into the wilderness to see hoards of people, and they were everywhere! And not just a couple of them here and there, but often times in large groups of a dozen people. I passed by multiple such groups of Boy Scouts. Not that I have a problem with Boy Scouts in general, but I’d grown accustomed to the trail being a solo endeavor and the sheer numbers of people wandering around started to grate on my nerves. Too… many… people…

My new shoes worked out well enough. If I had one complaint about them, it was that they weren’t waterproof. After having so little rain and mud on the trail thus far, I decided that I didn’t need the waterproof shoes anymore and—of course—that’s when the mud and water would begin to plague the trail! So my feet were quite wet at the end of the day, despite the lack of rain. Hopefully that wouldn’t continue…

I’d been told during my hike on the Long Trail that these tubes stretching out between the trees was for collecting maple syrup! Looks like they’re doing some collecting in these forests too!



Not much to see at the top of Mount Rogers!

The high point of Virginia was marked with this. I don’t know who left the shell behind, but it made me think of the Camino and perhaps someone who had just hiked it left it behind. =)




Here the trail runs through this small “cave.” See the blaze on the tree? That’s the official route! But it is possible to go around the side rather than through if you’re feeling claustrophobic.

I’m halfway through the cave, now heading back out to the sunlight.

I saw these rocks on the side of the trail and thought, “Sooo… what?” It wasn’t until the next day when I looked at my photos on the computer when I realized it was 500 and represented the 500th mile of the Appalachian Trail. I’m so blazĂ© about miles now-a-days, I hadn’t even realized I had walked through the 500-mile mark until long after I had passed it! It’s just 500 miles, after all. It’s not that big of deal!


Ponies! Wild ponies!

This is the guy who left his pack unattended and later found another pony sniffing around at it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Day 40: Shoe Blowout!

April 16: The weather, as per usual, turned out to be dead wrong. Predictions included rain for the day, but when we woke in the morning, the sky was sunny and clear! I immediately canceled the zero day I had been planning on and had Amanda drive me back to the trail. I’d take my zero day on a rainy day—not a beautiful day like today!

Another wonderful mural in Damascus as I walked out of town.

The trail out of Damascus followed the Virginia Creeper Trail, an old railroad grade that had been turned into a hiking and biking trail. A few miles out of town, a sign on a tree warned of a trail detour due to a washed out bridge. It sounded short and a non-event, and it was. The detour didn’t last long and didn’t really add much in terms of miles to my distance.

Late in the morning, however, I noticed a growing problem with one of my shoes: the bottom of it was starting to fall off. The entire front half started flopping around making walking difficult. I’d pick up my foot much higher than normal hoping the flopping front wouldn’t catch on rocks or logs across the trail, but I stumbled multiple times.

My first thought was to duct tape the sole of the shoe in place, but I was slackpacking and my duct tape was back in my pack at the hotel. As the sole of my shoe continued to grow increasingly disconnected from the rest of my shoe, however, I remembered that I used quite a bit of duct tape to fix up my trekking pole hundreds of miles back. My trekking pole, lest you’ve forgotten, had broken and I replaced the broken piece with a tent pole I found abandoned at a shelter. It was slightly too small to stay in place, though, and I wrapped duct tape around it multiple times to make it wide enough to stay in place and it had been working great.

But I really used more duct tape than was necessary and decided to take off as much as I could from the trekking pole and wrap it around my shoe. It wasn’t a very thorough fix—I could have done a much better job if I had plenty of duct tape, but it was better than nothing.

Trail detour! But not to worry, it didn’t look big or significant.

It worked for a short while, but after five or ten minutes of walking, I noticed the duct tape slowly working its way up my shoe and starting to come off. I would stop to adjust it, and it would continue to work for another five or ten minutes before needing adjusting again. It got really old, really fast and every time I adjusted it, I had to unwrap the duct tape from around my shoe and reattach it so it was becoming less and less sticky with every fix. It would, I feared, fail completely at some point.

I started imagining a worst-case scenario—a total shoe failure and having to walk essentially bare-footed along the trail. Temperatures were cool, but not so cold I’d have to worry about frostbite or anything, and the trail actually didn’t look terrible for bare feet. It had the occasional rock and root in the trail, but mostly it was just dirt and leaves and could probably be walked on without too much trouble. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, I decided.

I continued using the duct tape solution for a couple of hours and grew increasingly annoyed at its performance and eventually decided to continue on without it. I’d walk until my shoe fell apart completely. Slackpacking was really doing me in! Normally I carried more duct tape, but that was in my regular pack and not the one I currently carried. I could have switched to hiking in my Crocs, but those too were in my regular pack and not in the pack I currently carried. Slackpacking might be easy on the back, but it certainly didn’t include the “ten essentials” that would help me out in a situation such as this.

Amanda left her mark at one of the road crossings along the trail.

But that floppy front was super annoying and at the next stop, I studied my guidebook. The next shelter was only another mile or so ahead, then there was another 1.1 miles to US 58 where Amanda was planning to pick me up, and I started warming up to the idea of hiking completely barefoot. I’d never hiked barefoot before, and if there was ever a good time to do so, now would certainly be it! At the very least, I could try hiking barefoot and if it really wasn’t working out, I could put my shoes back on and keep muddling along like I have been.

The rest of the way to the shelter I spent talking myself into hiking barefoot. When I arrived at the shelter, a few hikers were already there including Goosebumps, Shoelace and a third guy whose name I wasn’t sure of and I showed them my shoe upon my arrival. Goosebumps looked surprised saying she’d never seen a shoe do that before. I ate a quick snack then started taking off my shoes and socks, and Shoelace seemed surprised. “You’re really going to hike barefoot?”

“I’m going to certainly give it a try!” I told him, “But if it really doesn’t work out, I’ll be putting the shoes back on!”

I tied the shoes to my pack—I wasn’t going to leave them behind!—picked up my pack and hit the trail again. I only had 1.1 miles to the next road where Amanda would pick me up. I could make it.

Yep, still following the AT detour.

And I did make it. The walking went slower since I had to be more careful where I put my feet, avoiding rocks and roots that I’d walk over in a heartbeat if I had been wearing shoes. The roots, I was somewhat surprised, were the most difficult sections to walk on since they were hard and cut into my feet. The rocks weren’t so much a problem since they were generally large and flat. The nicest parts of the trail to walk on was where it was slightly muddy—almost like a foot massage walking through those sections. That surprised me the most because when I wore shoes, I would typically avoid trying to step in those areas. When I was barefoot, I preferred them!

Near the road, I passed two pairs of socks laying on the side of the trail with a note that they had been left there was trail magic. Socks? Really? What kind of stupid trail magic is that?! The socks looked like ordinary cotton socks—not even particularly good for hiking in. But seeing as I was hiking barefoot at the time, I couldn’t help but feel like someone was mocking me. Whoever left them couldn’t have known I’d be hiking by barefoot, but it was an usual coincidence to find “trail magic socks” (something I’d never seen before!) on the 1.1 miles of trail I had ever walked barefoot! Someone was mocking me…

I left the socks behind—I didn’t need them—and eventually arrived at US 58 where Amanda was waiting for me. It was also the most painful part of my walk because the shoulder of the roadbed was made up of crushed rocks that hurt to walk on barefoot. It was only a few steps, but I winced as I walked across it and Amanda didn’t notice my bare feet until she saw me wincing as I walked onto the road.

“What happened?!” she exclaimed, concern in her voice.

So I told her about my shoe problem and my decision to give the bare-footed hiking a try but that everything was otherwise fine—including my feet. Just the shoulder of the road was difficult to walk on, but the actual road surface was asphalt and felt fine.

We first drove back to Damascus where I stopped at the outfitters and bought a new pair of shoes—priorities are priorities! And although my bare-footed hiking went well enough, I had no intention of doing that permanently.

Then we headed back to Abingdon for the night. My day was done!



Although rain had been forecast, it held off for the entire day. I did start worrying a bit later in the afternoon after the clouds started rolling in, however.

A quick lunch break at Saunders Shelter.

Now that’s a real shoe problem!

My first attempt at a fix didn’t really work for more than five or ten minutes at a time before I had to unwrap the duct tape and reapply it because it kept sliding off the front of my foot.


The AT follows a small section of the Virginia Creeper Trail, an old railroad right-of-way that has since been turned into a hiking and biking trail which is why this section is so flat and straight. (And a lot easier for me to walk on with a problematic shoe!)


The Virginia Creeper Trail crossed multiple trestles, and this one towered over even the tallest of trees!

What a spectacular trestle!

But enough of falling apart shoes… it’s time to try some bare-footed hiking!

Trail magic socks… someone is mocking me!

Yep, still barefoot 1.1 miles later to the bridge just before US 58 where Amanda was waiting to pick me up.

Amanda first notices that I’m waking barefoot as I hobbled onto the street.

Several days later, the Four Horsemen would catch up with me and tell me that they had a photo that I “had” to see. This is that photo! They found Amanda’s chalk writing on the trail and one of them go the idea to take this photo of three of them with their shirts off laying in sexy poses next to the “I heart Green Tortuga” message. (From left to right, that’s Blueberry, Superman and Heavyweight respectively. Bostrich—the forth horsemen, took the photo.)

The video of my hiking barefooted!