tripping up the trail

August 10, 2006

email from Cowboy (thru-hiker we met)

Filed under: reading — dragons0mother @ 11:33 am
Hey Folks,
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Right now I am in Buena Vista, VA. I’m not exactly sure where that is, but I’m pretty sure it’s about halfway through Virginia. The heat seems to finally be letting up, which is nice since it also dries up the springs in addition to making everything uncomfortable. My latest plan is to arrive in Harpers Ferry (unofficial halfway point for the AT) between Aug 20th and 23rd. From there I’ll make my way to New England by way of train and rides from friends. I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to hike New England since I’ve discovered long-term plans are useless, but I’ll figure something out.
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The crazy Alaskan (Moose) is gone. He dropped out the day after leaving Damascus when his boots started to fall apart. I spent the next few days waiting for him to catch up to me, but found out that he left Damascus and went to another town to figure things out. So, sorry everyone, but no more crazy moose stories until I hit Maine. I did get to see another bear though. I was hiking up the trail when I noticed there was a large, black dog on the trail ahead of me. I simply thought it was following its owner on a hike and I never got a clear view of it since I would only see its hind legs before it walked around a corner. It was only until the trail straightened out that I could see whole thing and realize I had been following a bear and was only about 30ft behind it. Not wanting to suprise it, I banged my hiking poles together and it went scampering up the mountain. I, of course, didn’t think to get a picture until after it ran away.
One thing I forgot to mention in the last update was that Moose and I adopted a puppy for a few days. I was hiking through a down pour during a thunderstorm when a little black dog came racing past me on the trail and then started to follow me. We didn’t know what to do, so we fed him some of our food and took care of him. A few days later we were at a hostel taking a day off when the dog disapeared just as easily as she showed up. We figured she found some other hikers and just spends her time going back and forth on the trail.
The day after Moose left I got to hike to through an incredible part of Virginia (I’m posting all my pictures at the end of the hike). There was one day when I couldn’t see more than around 40ft in front of me when I came across a group of wild ponies. Some were shy and trotted off while others came right up to me and let me pet them. It was all quite surreal, but a nice touch to the morning. That same night I met up with my second hiking buddy who was a retired chemist. He did well with a patent he sold to Texas Instruments and is just enjoying his time now. He was pretty much the exact opposite of Moose. Instead of being severely under-prepared, this guy had all the high-tech equipment including an altimeter on his watch that was always off and a fancy UV light intstrument to purify his water, yet still borrowed my filter because we would just have puddles much of the time. He was having problems with his heel which was slowing him down, so I pushed ahead and have been on my own for about a week now. But, before I was able to push ahead, he managed to pierce a hole in my inflatable sleeping pad with his bear bag rock. So I had my second incident with a rock used to hang food, but at least this one wasn’t my fault.
A few days after I lost my sleeping pad, my feet started to swell up and became very painful with every step. With the heat starting to get to me as well, I decided to take a night off and sleep in a motel. While hitch-hiking to the nearest motel, an older man who was towing his lawn mower on his trailor picked me up and told me he could do better than a motel and that he’d take me back to his place where he and his wife would take care of me. I was too tired to even be worried and figured why not. They turned out to be incredibly kind. We went out to eat that night at an all you eat restaurant, which was perfect for me, and they even drove me to a shoe store where I got a new pair. I got a bed in my own room, a clean shower, and got to do laundry. It was much better than a hotel and they would not accept any gratuity. They said they just like to help out a hiker every now and then, but not to mention it on the trail since they don’t want crowds showing up at their door. Jesse, the one who picked me up, said I looked so pitiful on the side of the road that he had to take me in. I guess I was more tired than I thought.
Well, that’s all I have for now. I’m just in Buena Vista for a little re-supply before the big push to Harpers Ferry. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and best of luck to all.
-Cowboy

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