Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Trail Update, and a Last Ditch Appeal

Clouds and the setting sun from Blackrock near Big Meadows Lodge.
OK, here's the long awaited trail update. Sorry it took so long, but events that took place left me in a situation where trying to post a blog would have been a frustrating mess. Anyway, on to the update.

For a couple days, the second edition of my hike didn't go too bad. Although my first day was short, it felt good to get back on the trail. Shenandoah is a much easier hiking experience than Georgia, but it still had its ups and downs. I took a zero day on the second day after I said goodbye to my parents at the Dundo Picnic Area because of a heavy rain storm that would be happening overnight. I'm glad I did, because it rained a lot, and I doubt I would have enjoyed the rainy morning.

After heading to the Loft Mountain wayside for lunch, I hiked back to the trail and made it to Pinefield Hut. I had a good time there and at Hightop Hut the next night with several of the same hikers. Hightop was kind of a slog to hike up, but the view was worth it.

View from Hightop Mountain
The hike down went well, but here is where I ran into trouble. I didn't feel all that well, and knew that the over ten miles I had remaining were not likely to be too enjoyable. Thus, I caught a ride up to Lewis Mountain, and enjoyed the afternoon there talking with other hikers, most of which were through hikers or incredibly long section hikers. The campstore had suprisingly cheap beer, so naturally much of it was consumed. I ended up getting a tentsite at the campground with some other hikers, and we enjoyed a nice evening, at least until the torrential rain began. Fortunately it was over quick, and my tent passed another rain test with generally good grades.

The next day I didn't get off until 10:30, but the hiking went pretty well. This was largely because I alternated between the AT and Skyline drive. Hiking along the drive was much faster, even with the traffic. However, it was along the AT just past Milam Gap where I saw a bear crossing the trail. A tap of my trekking poles sent it along its way, but it was neat getting to see one while actually hiking.

Eventually I made it to the wayside and had a blackberry milkshake and a BBQ sandwich. Such is the "wilderness" experience of Shenandoah. Because I was about pooped, I rented a campsite at the Big Meadows campground and decided to take a zero day to shower, do laundry, and explore Big Meadows a bit. Little did I know that my zero day would extend into a zero week.

Yep, thanks to my lack of skill with a Swiss army knife, a stubborn belt, and the loss of weight due to all the hiking, I am without a chunk of meat on my right thumb. This setback, while not too bad, certainly was enough to keep me out of the backcountry. Because it was the cheapest option available, I just stayed put and enjoyed the Fourth of July at Big Meadows.

All in all I had a pretty good time during my convalescence.  I had some good food, saw some interesting ranger programs, and lucked into getting to take a trip down to Camp Rapidan, the "Summer White House" of Herbert Hoover. It still didn't quite make up for missing a large chunk of hiking.

My thumb is doing better, and I'm hoping to get a fresh start next week at Harper's Ferry. I'll be meeting Erin in Washington, DC, and will see her off on her continued hike as well. With luck I'll be able to make it through Maryland.

Beyond that, however, is less certain. A series of unfortunate events has left me without the resources I expected to have to get me through this hike. Having given up so much to get to this trail, I cannot let it end so suddenly and so pathetically. Therefore, I'm asking for your help to keep this hike going. Please visit my GoFundMe Page for more details. If you don't feel like contributing, no worries, but please consider other ways to help me out. For example, if any advertisements on this blog catch your eye, please click on them. I plan on having frequent, if shorter, updates as I continue along, so share this blog with as many people as you can.

Until next time.

- Nighthawk

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