Tom, Harper and Dustin made it to mile 600 today. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of rain the past few days, but they are staying positive and still getting some great miles in.
Tom had an awesome week. He hit the 500-mile mark, and also the one-quarter of the way to Maine mark. He has been hiking with two really great dudes, Long Beard and Harper. Tom and the guys are hiking over 100 miles a week.
Progress is being made! Tom has been putting on so many miles. Today he is doing 17. The weather is beautiful and I have no regrets making the change to not hike the whole trail. I have realized that I was really slowing him down and we would not have a chance to reach the end in time.
Last weekend was Trail Days in Damascus, Va. Oh yes, we are finally out of North Carolina and Tennessee. Trail Days was a great time and we met many new and old hikers. We were able to catch up with some hikers that we haven’t seen in some time. Some are ahead of us and some are behind us on the trail. There were many vendors with hiker products, food, and music.
Tom has hit big mile markers 400 and 500 since we made the change. He is almost doing 100 miles a week now. Some days Stella and I hike with him either when I drop him off or pick him up. He has been able to sleep in the teardrop all but one night. I have been able to continue my Dental Hygiene education and see a lot more of states that we are traveling through. There are so many beautiful old cabins and barns along the way. Often times there will be a steam or river that is along the roads that I travel.
Four days ago, we camped at and hiked through Highland Grayson State Park. There they have wild ponies grazing. To say the least, it has been one of the highlights of the trip. There were two different herds that we saw. One herd had three babies. When I have WiFi service, I would like to learn more about why the ponies are there.
Since the Highland Grayson area, Tom and I have connected with two other through hikers. They have now been traveling with us and slack packing. Their trail names are Long Beard and Harper. Not sure how long they will hang with us, but they sure are enjoying breakfast and dinner each day and not carrying their full pack weight. Harper is from is from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and Long Beard is from Branson, Missouri.
I have been staying the night with the teardrop in a combination of places. We have stayed in mountain gaps, a hostel (Harvest Host), a Boondockers Welcome, and several campgrounds. The Boondockers Welcome was in Shady Valley, TN and the people were so kind, so we stayed a few more days. So far, I really like the teardrop. I would like it to be more organized though, and I am sure that could not truly happen with the limited space. There are some modifications I would like to make in the future. In the “kitchen” area there is very little storage. I would like to put in drawers, move the cookstove and eventually get a powered cooler. The sleeping area is comfortable. Before we picked up the camper, I ordered a better mattress so we would be more comfortable. Now I am in search of curtains. Unfortunately, these mountain areas don’t have an Amazon drop box so I have to be patient. It would also be nice to add solar at some point.
Tom knocked out his longest day so far, 21.5 miles. Completed another state, happy to be done with Tennessee, 3 down and 11 to go. Also, I was able to hike into Damascus Virginia as trail days are starting.
I have lost track of weeks…
On April 17, we left Hot Springs, NC with high hopes that our new shoes would make all the difference. I taped my feet and knee up with KT tapes and had high hopes that I could do it. The view of the river as we walked back up the mountain was amazing.
On our travels north we have run into wonderful trail magic. On the trail north there was a beautiful cabin with a wonderful grandma that calls herself the “Southern Cookie Lady”. There was a sign on the trail offering homemade cookies, fresh water and a trash can. In such a negative world theses day, it is so wonderful to see that there is much more kindness around us.
Shortly after and a big rock climb, we hit our 300-mile point. That night we slept in a small meadow in the forest. It must have been the tastiest in all the lands because the deer hung out with us all night. They were so close to the tent that I could hear them chewing the grass and breathing. It is amazing how large a deer sounds in the middle of the night…We also learned what a screak owl sounds like.
I have been enjoying taking pictures and identifying many of the plants along the trail.
We stopped in Erwin to try to give my feet a rest and wait for Christal, Claire and Erika to arrive. With them we hiked from Sam’s Gap back to Erwin. The hike was only three days because we all agreed that we didn’t want to hike in the cold and rain. The first night they were with us, the nighttime temperature was 22 degrees.
Since they had a car and they weren’t ready to go home, they drove us to Asheville, NC. We had excellent food. Claire got to check out a nursery that she has been following on social media. We even tried out a few wineries. Claire introduced us to rock climbing.
We had to say goodbye to them and since it was still raining, they dropped us off in Johnson City. We stayed there a few more days watching the forecast. When we saw that the rain was not going to let up and snow was now in the forecast, we decided to head back to Wisconsin and regroup.
Because my feet are not improving and Tom has some aches and pains, we decided to change up our hike. We bought a Bushwhacker teardrop camper to pull behind the jeep. Now I can drop Tom off at a spot and pick him up at another. This way he will not have to carry as many pounds in his pack and I can still day hike.
He took off hiking from Erwin, Tn and I met him for the night at Beauty Spot. The next morning, he took off for a 19 miles hike where I picked him up from Hughes Gap. Last night he camped out and today I will pick him up at Hwy 19 in North Carolina. Tonight, we will camp at The Station on 19E hostel.
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