[at-l] April 24-30: Gravel Springs Hut to Rusty's Hard Time Hollow
hikertrash at gmail.com
Thu Jun 9 18:30:10 CDT 2011
Hmmm... on again, off again. According to Rusty, himself, he wasn't
going to open this year.
On 6/8/2011 9:34 AM, Mara Factor wrote:
> Sunday, April 24, 2011: Gravel Springs Hut to Pass Mountain Hut
> Sure enough, I woke up at dawn with that third log coming back to
> life. But, having slowly burned from the inside out all night, it
> broke into three small logs and would likely burn itself out before we
> all left the hut. I did my best to help them along but left before
> the rest and encouraged them to ensure that one last log was out cold
> before leaving.
> Back at my car, I changed and then waited for the hikers to come up to
> give them some fresh fruit I had in the car. I took their garbage, too.
> I then started driving slowly, watching for wildlife and turning into
> the overlooks on the way to Elk Wallow wayside. I got there shortly
> before 9am when the bathrooms usually open but a nice lady that I
> recognized from my time at the wayside during my 2008 hike came out
> and opened them up early. I then made my way to Thornton Gap to get a
> permit for four more nights in the huts and with plenty of time to
> kill, went back to the wayside. I hung out, ate lunch, caught up on
> my journal, read more of Jared Diamond's “Collapse” and ran into
> Solitaire, another thruhiker. [This may have happened on the 25th.]
> I eventually made my way back to Thornton Gap, made sandwiches for
> dinner and packed them along with all sorts of trail magic and humped
> all that up the hill to the Pass Mountain Shelter. Diggit was
> apologetic for taking the trail magic because he was going to be
> getting off the trail in Harpers Ferry. He had walked there from
> Georgia and had nothing to apologize for. I shared the trail magic
> with a section hiking couple, Nimblefeet and Bearchaser and enjoyed
> swapping tales with a Dad and his two kids out for a first but
> obviously not last backpacking trip with his kids.
> Just as we turned in, the lightning storm we had been watching for
> hours made good on its promise and started to rain.
> Monday, April 25, 2011: Pass Mountain Hut to Rock Spring Hut
> I took my time leaving the shelter today and by the time I got back to
> Thornton Gap, it was too hot to walk the road to the parking lot so I
> stuck with the trail for a bit longer. As I started driving, I saw my
> first deer in the park alongside the road and was surprised to have
> not seen any sooner.
> A short while later, while parked at the Tunnel Overlook, a man told
> me about a bear cub in a tree a couple of overlooks further on. Sure
> enough, when I got there, it was easy to find given the tourists with
> their cameras pointed in its direction. But it was high up in a tree,
> well off the road, and not being bothered by the attention. I walked
> the road to a better vantage point, got some pictures and just watched
> it for a while. Then back at the overlook, I saw a family hanging out
> on some rocks. When I went over to see the view from their rocks,
> they mentioned they were watching a bear. Sure enough, there was
> another bear. I had only heard about the one I had already seen so I
> mentioned I was happy to see two. They didn't even know about the
> bear everyone else had been looking at so I pointed that one out to
> them. As I watched this second bear, it climbed further up its tree,
> and then down out of sight. So, I think this family and myself were
> the only ones to have seen both bears. Needless to say, I feel very
> At Skyland, I got some ice for my cooler, got online, and eventually
> went for a ranger led talk about “Ancient Volcanoes.” Our guide,
> Mara, (yes, she had my name, too) showed us the difference between
> different types of volcanic rock along the A.T. as well as the
> hexagonal basalt columns on the A.T. that many of us are more familiar
> with from places like Devil's Postpile, Devil's Tower, and other
> similar locales. I recognized similar formations when visiting a dry
> waterfall in El Salvador as well as during my Overland Track hike in
> Tasmania, Australia.
> This was also the stretch of trail where I remembered seeing a sow and
> cub during my 2008 hike.
> Back at Skyland, I ate a quesadilla and eventually left for the
> trailhead only to find it closed and under construction. So, I ended
> up parking a mile down the road and had to do the mile road walk just
> to get to the fire road into the hut.
> I got in much later than expected and was surprised to find only two
> hikers at the hut, Magic Bag, a thruhiker, and Jim, a man who gave me
> a funny look when I introduced myself. It turns out we know each
> other electronically. We're both on the AT-L backcountry.net
> <http://backcountry.net> mailing list. He recognized me when I gave
> my trail name but mentioned I wasn't thruhiking now. We were soon
> joined by Tigger, Red Rider, and Flying Squirrel, three more hikers
> getting in very late for thruhikers.
> Do four thruhikers, one former thruhiker, and one wannabee in one
> place on the trail qualify as a mini-Ruck?
> There was a lot more lightning but no rain here. But it did remind me
> that I was here on July 4 in '08 watching the fireworks in the towns
> below from the cabin just below the shelter. There was also thunder
> and lightning storms around that night but also pouring down rain in
> '08. Glad not to have that on the trail this year.
> The salty chips I brought in were very welcome after a very hot and
> sweaty day for the thruhikers.
> Bedtime was after 10pm – very late for hikers but not surprising given
> that some didn't get in until nearly dark.
> My arms got sun burned. They hurt a bit.
> Tuesday, April 26, 2011: Rock Spring Hut to Bear Fence Hut
> While not very early, I did want to get out before the heat of the day
> hit the road as I had that road walk to reverse – this time going
> marginally uphill. I was hoping to get a ride but nobody offered so I
> just walked. I went back to Skyland to use their internet and saw
> Flying Squirrel and Red Rider there. Flying Squirrel needed to
> recharge his iPod so we plugged it into my computer's USB port while I
> got online. We sat and talked until lunchtime. At one point, Red
> Rider mentioned hitching from Partnership shelter to Marion and having
> an old lady in a small car going the other way stop and ask them
> “Trail names?”. Before he could get any further, I stopped him and
> much to his amazement asked “Kinnickinic?” Sure enough, it was a
> trail angel I knew from the AT-L mailing list who also did trail magic
> for me in 2007. She turned around and brought them to town, too.
> At this point, I moved on to Big Meadows. I ate at the Wayside, spent
> time at the Visitor's Center exploring their display about Shenandoah,
> and tried to nap in the car but it was too hot sitting in the sun in
> the parking lot.
> I eventually went on to the trailhead for the shelter and got to watch
> a road painting crew do their thing.
> There were on and off showers all afternoon with rumbles of thunder
> mixed in. I sat out one shower in my car and then made my way to the
> shelter – the shortest hike so far at only .25 mile or so.
> There was nobody at the shelter but a Nikon lens cap was on the table.
> I put it in my camera bag to bring out the next day but the owner
> showed up to reclaim it – that's much easier.
> Nobody else showed up so this is probably my first night camping alone
> since 2008.
> Wednesday, April 27: Bear Fence Hut to Pinefield Hut
> I woke up to fog and dripping trees which was no surprise after my
> early morning, when it was still dark, run to a tree. It was very wet
> then, too. There was no real rain this morning but just a lot of mist
> and everything was wet.
> I took my time this morning, eating, packing, and reading before
> heading back to my car. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was
> nearly 9am when I got to my car. I had feared it would still be much
> earlier. The fog was so dense on the parkway that I rarely approached
> 35mph while driving to Lewis Campground.
> When the staff there couldn't confirm one way or another whether the
> Birds of Prey program at Big Meadows would be on or not this morning,
> I drove back to find out. It turns out, they hold the programs even
> when raining as long as there isn't thunder and lightning. I dressed
> for the wet but was happy when John Manko, the ranger, pulled out a
> squeegee and towel to dry off some of the benches. One of the kids
> from a family there for the program dried off a few benches
> (optimistic!) and then we sat down to a program featuring a Barred Owl
> and a tiny Saw-whet Owl. There was a family of four, a couple and
> myself there for the program. All of the birds they use for the
> program are rehabilitated but deemed unfit to survive in the wild on
> their own. A few deer wandered past during the program, too.
> It spat a little and the sun came out every now and then, but mostly
> it was a cool and windy day. I read and listened to NPR in the car
> and then had lunch in the wayside where I met Waterbear on his way out
> as I went in. I met Rev, an eight year and counting section hiker who
> came in and joined me as I ate lunch.
> Then I made it to the “All About Bears” talk given by Mara which
> mostly reinforced information I already knew but I was glad it was
> more about bears than what to do during bear encounters. At 3:00 with
> the weather mostly clear, I went on the “Meadow” walk and learned how
> Big Meadow is kept cleared in thirds by mowing, burning, and just
> leaving fallow for one year at a time. The meadow itself is much
> smaller now than it once was.
> The history of the meadow is interesting but Kate, our ranger guide,
> didn't delve too deep into the prehistory. She mostly concentrated on
> the CCC camp and history of the local family that lived here at the
> time the CCC came in.
> Tornado watches for the entire state and warnings for some specific
> areas didn't bode well for the weather tonight but I managed to drive
> to the trail head and get to the hut before the weather turned
> ominously dark and it started to thunder.
> Like last night, there's nobody else here at the shelter so I'll
> likely have it to myself tonight. The whippoorwill that just started
> up seemed to be chased off by my poor imitation. That's a good thing.
> If you've ever tried to sleep with a whippoorwill calling not far
> away, well, let's just say it's annoying.
> One shower did come through this evening and more is likely but with
> the limited sight distance at this shelter, it's hard to tell. The
> lack of views here are more than made up for by the burbling streams here.
> Thursday, April 28: Pinefield Hut to Waynesboro, VA
> Wow! What a day! Last night's thunder eventually turned to lightning
> before I went to sleep. Then, at 3am, the rain came pounding on the
> roof and woke me up. Of course my bladder kicked right in so I waited
> for a lull and made my way out of the hut to find a tree. Sometime
> after I crawled back in but before I fell asleep, I heard a loud
> metallic clang. I couldn't imagine what could have caused such a
> clang in the vicinity of the shelter in the middle of the night so I
> looked around and when the shelter looked OK and my food bag was still
> hung on the bear pole, I shrugged and went back to sleep. It was
> about 5am.
> When I got up at 8am, I realized at that point that while my food was
> still hung on the pole, the incredibly heavy poles they leave to help
> hang food bags was off its own hook. Given that it was too heavy to
> blow off and extremely unlikely to fall off, I assumed a bear may have
> knocked it off though the ground was covered in needles so there were
> no prints.
> It was a rainy morning and I made it back to my car mostly
> successfully between showers. I went to the Loft Mountain Wayside
> only to find they had a blackout. Not only that, but Lewis Mountain
> and Big Meadows were also affected. It turns out they get their power
> from the town below and the entire town was without power having been
> knocked out by the storms.
> As the day went on and news that almost 300 had been killed, a
> blackout, as annoying as it might be, didn't seem all that bad though
> I did feel for the thruhikers I met at the wayside who had been hoping
> and maybe counting on lunch at the Wayside.
> I had a permit for two more nights camping in the backcountry but
> decided to head for Waynesboro instead so that I would get there
> during the week. As is my wont, I pulled into every open viewpoint
> along the way. Many are closed in preparation for the 75th
> anniversary of the park this year. Many of the southern viewpoints
> have the AT going through them. At one, I met Niners, Stillwater,
> and Katmandu. At another, Spam and his Dad, John, then Kodiak and
> Teddy (two of the three bears), and d'Artignon (sic), followed by the
> Corsican who was surprised and a bit disappointed to find out he
> wasn't the first Corsican to have thruhiked the trail, and then Ghost
> pulled in too.
> At Rockfish Gap outfitters, I met the Red Team (Riding Hood and
> Wagon), a couple who needed a ride to town. After dropping them off,
> I was on my way to the YMCA when I ran into the Three Amigos, Sgt.
> Pepper, South Butt, and Leaf Guy, who were looking for a nearby B&B.
> They had know each other since kindergarten and were celebrating one
> of their birthdays. I got them piled into the car and drove to the
> B&B only to find out they didn't have room at the Inn. So I brought
> them with me to the YMCA.
> The Y is still putting hikers in awe at their generosity. They
> provide free showers, will allow hikers to leave their packs there
> during the day, give them goodie bags with everything from toiletries
> to munchies, and provide a free place to camp along the river. While
> in town, I would be hanging out at the river a lot in order to help
> out hikers.
> Waynesboro also has a listing of trail angels and phone numbers so
> that hikers could make phone calls and get a local to come drive them
> to or from the trail and then around town if they needed to go
> somewhere beyond normal “town” walking distance.
> So, I drove over the the campsite and there, I met Sqush (sic), Polo
> (from Spain), and Silver Heels, a guy I knew from marathon porch
> sitting at Miss Janet's in 2007.
> Used the wifi at the library and then had AYCE dinner with the guys at
> Ming's. I mostly ate peel and eat shrimp and sushi, leaving the
> Mongolian barbecue, Chinese, pizza, and other options for others. I
> dropped off the guys at Oasis, a bar, so that they could celebrate
> with South Butt who was legal for the first time that day.
> I found ice and wireless at the fast food central part of town then
> talked with Polo for a while before turning in. I set my alarm for an
> early wake up in case I felt like getting up for the Royal Wedding.
> Friday, April 29: Waynesboro
> I got up to my alarm and decided to hit a wifi hotspot to watch the
> Royal Wedding. Along the way, I started listening to the silliest BBC
> broadcast I had ever heard. When I finally got online, I realized the
> radio had much better commentary than the video feed. For about five
> hours, I watched and listened to the analysis of the clothing, hats,
> transport, ceremony, and crowds. When it was done, I was disappointed
> to find my inverter hadn't worked as promised and depleted my battery
> to the point where it wouldn't start the car. With nobody around, I
> called AAA and quickly got a charge. Live and learn.
> Back at the campsite, with no hikers needing shuttles, I went and did
> laundry. I also made dinner plans with the Radney's, a couple I knew
> first from the PCT, then CDT, and finally from my 2008 AT section hike.
> I ran some errands and hit the library, typing until I was too tired
> to type any more.
> At the campsite, I met V-8, a 28 year old Japanese man finishing the
> Triple Crown with his AT thruhike. He's doing Ray Jardine proud with
> very lightweight homemade gear, and moving 20+ miles per day. V-8
> ended up joining me for dinner and there was no surprise that he knew
> some of the same people Walt and Pat knew, especially the prior
> Japanese hikers.
> After dinner, I took V-8 to do his laundry and ran into Rusty at the
> laundromat. I had been planning on visiting him the next day. He has
> a homestead on the Blue Ridge Parkway and has been hosting hikers for
> years. I stayed there in '99 and hadn't managed to get back since. I
> know he enjoys when us old timers and alumni stop by.
> Mongo and Johnny Appleseed had arrived back at the campsite when we
> got back.
> Saturday, April 30: Waynesboro to Rusty's Hard Time Hollow
> I woke up with a hankering for Weasie's, a greasy spoon type of diner
> popular with thruhikers for their large portions and AYCE pancakes.
> Thinking it might be my big meal of the day, I had the three smaller
> pancakes, one egg, and bacon. Kevin, Windscreen chowed down on
> humongous omelets and V-8 did the chipped beef gravy on two biscuits
> proud. He likes the variety in American food and described the
> typical breakfast in Japan with rice, miso soup, and maybe some fish
> which to most Americans sounds nothing like breakfast food.
> Went to the library for a couple of hours then packed up and met Grizz
> '10 and his girlfriend who were hanging out at the campground and
> going to lunch with the other couple of hikers who had come in the
> night before. I went to Riverfest, a one day festival in town. Much
> was geared towards kids but not all. There were plenty of groups
> there espousing environmental protection. Reptile World was there
> introducing kids and their parents to an Alligator Snapping turtle,
> American Alligators, Nile Crocodile, Spotted Lizard, Albino Python,
> Anaconda, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Copperhead, and a Pakistani
> Cobra. The Wildlife Center of Virginia was also there with an
> opossum, screech owl, broad winged hawk and more.
> A hot dog sufficed for lunch after my big breakfast and I used the
> opportunity to recycle the cans from my car at the recycle bins at the
> festival. The local supermarket had taken my cardboard earlier in the
> day. It's getting harder to find recycle opportunities as I get
> further south.
> I saw Venudo's father at the library. He's still finishing up the
> section of trail he didn't do last year while accompanying his eight
> year old son on his successful thuhike.
> I stopped at Martin's Supermarket, then got gas for $3.69 (it's
> getting cheaper as I go south), grabbed a quick sandwich at Wendy's
> and finally hit the Blue Ridge Parkway after 6pm. It was too late to
> spend time at the Humpback Rocks Visitor's Center and overlooks though
> I did drive through most of them. I did stop to talk to one
> thruhiker, Ali Baba, who was already talking to the park rangers who
> had stopped just ahead of me to make sure he was OK. He was eating
> the last of five cans(!?) of Chef Boyardee's and was too stuffed to
> eat any of the donuts I offered to him. We all grinned at at the next
> comical moment when I turned to the Rangers, the police of the
> Parkway, and asked if they would like any donuts. They laughed and
> one said thanks but he just couldn't perpetuate the stereotype. LOL
> The hiker did accept a soda. My current selection is orange and birch
> beer. I never buy the typical colas or lemon-lime flavors and hikers
> are always surprised and happy for a change of flavor.
> The rangers were able to direct me to Rusty's, giving me landmarks
> that turned out to be very helpful. I had last been there in 1999.
> It was easy to find and going very slowly, I made it down the long
> drive even in my front wheel drive vehicle without high clearance. It
> wasn't quite as bad as the Steens Mountain road I drove on in eastern
> Oregon with my Mazda back in 2003
> It was good to see Rusty. I know he misses hikers and wishes more
> would stop by, whether first timers or alumni like myself stopping in
> for a short visit or to stay awhile. Having run into him yesterday,
> he was looking forward to my visit so he could get some work done
> topping an apple tree that had grown too tall. He didn't want to do
> the work when he was alone in case there was a problem so I just
> watched as he climbed the ladder into the tree and took off the top.
> Thankfully, there were no accidents and the work was done in short order.
> We then did some good porch sitting until it got too cold and then
> moved inside. By 10pm, it was bed time and I got situated in the
> alumni hostel to sleep. I had stayed in the same room as a thruhiker
> but things have changed. The Hollow now has electricity. The Hollow
> is also for sale. Whoever buys it will have the only address actually
> on the Blue Ridge parkway.
> Visit my Travels and Trails web site at:
> at-l mailing list
> at-l at backcountry.net
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