Bird Man's AT Journal
Trail Updates and Photos from the 2002 AT "Flip-Flap" Hike
© Bruce Nichols - 2002
|Dear Family and Friends, |
I arrived yesterday in Pearisburg, VA about 620 miles north of Springer Mountain and 165 miles from Damascus. For eight and a half days I've been averaging just under 20 miles a day, traveling in the company of three much younger guys. By that I mean that we have been winding up in the same place every night and occasionally crossing paths during the day, but most of my time is spent alone on the trail with innumerable trees, more shades of green than Crayola could imagine, the songs of seen and unseen birds, heat, sweat, wind, rain, gnarly roots, occasional vistas, deer, moles, squirrels, chipmunks, and, in the last miles into Pearisburg, my first bear. Actually two bears [image]. I was walking a long ridge on the day before I arrived in town and heard a crunch and scurry to my left. My first thought was "another deer" since there have been many in this area - surprisingly unafraid of hikers to boot - but as I turned to look what I saw was an indistinct black blurr disappearing into the woods. Another louder series of crunches followed accompanied by some heavy breathing (I've heard this before in the Adirondacks) and there, about 100 feet away to my left was a LARGE black bear. I quickly put one and two together - one being the cub that had quickly scurried off and two being the Mama Bear who was checking to see that here little one was safely away. We looked at each other for a bit. I decided to get out my camera and try for a picture, knowing that there were just too many trees and it was probably too shady but try anyway. I needed to move a little to get a better angle, and when I did, she also bolted down the hill. Oh well, they tell me the bears in New Jersey are a lot friendlier. So it took just
Now about that pizza. On the day I left Damascus, I walked about 17 miles along some very lovely trails
When I finally arrived at the shelter I was heading to, I found another hiker already there. Sven "Tin Man" is from Germany. In his mid/late 30's he had been on sections of the AT about 10 years ago but had returned to the states this year with the intention of hiking the entire trail. He has this FANTASTIC german watch that not only keeps time, but also tells the temperature AND track the altitude AND at the end of the day shows a little digital profile of the ups and downs walked along the trail. I'm sure it does much, much more but I haven't found out all its secrets yet. According to Sven's guide, the trail intersected a road in just over a mile which lead back to Damascus and, since it was still relatively early in the afternoon, I decided to hike out and see if I could
I took my pack with me since it would indicate to passing motorists that I was a hiker and also since I did not know if I would get back that night. There was not much traffic and it took a while but finally a big Dodge Ram pickup pulled over and the driver told me he was going all the way to Damascus - I got and forgot his name so I'll just call him "Bob the Builder". He was a contractor building a house somewhere up in the mountains and was heading home for the evening.
He dropped me in Damascus at the hostel I'd stayed at after a drive that was quite a bit longer than I thought it would be. My things were not at the hostel, neither were they at the cafe where I'd stopped for a coffee and to send my last email before I left. That only left the outfitter where I'd refilled my fuel bottle just before leaving town and I thought it was already after their closing time. But I walked over anyway and, lo and behold, the door was still unlocked even though the place was supposed to be closed. I walked in and there were my things sitting on the counter where I had placed them when I went out to fill the bottle. I had a nice conversation with the owner which worked its way around to Peace Pilgrim and here 1952 AT hike. I gave
When the pizza was done, I threw the can of beer into the top of my pack. Grabbed the pizza box and hiked
In the gathering dusk I headed back into the woods, beer in my pack and pizza box in hand. About 30 minutes later I arrived at the shelter and Sven and I had a pizza party [image]. I even took a little sip of Sven's beer (though I don't drink) to celebrate.
In the trail register at the shelter I entered the "Pizza Challenge". To meet it a hiker must walk the 17 miles from Damascus to the shelter then hitch back to town get a pizza and beer and be back at the shelter in less than the 4 hours the round trip took me. There were photos take - with flash in the darkness of pizza going into smiling mouths.
There is so much more to tell, but the library is closing in about 15 minutes so this is all for today. I have no idea when I'll be at a computer again. I'm back on the trail in the morning and have no plans for any more days off till I get back to CT in 10 days or so. It's just over 200 miles to Waynesboro, VA which is were I thought I might get before heading north. But after 8 days of 20 milers I may just slow down a little and "smell the flowers". We'll see when the trail once again stretches out ahead and the trees fold back in around me as I continue my walk north.
Peace, Blessing, and Love to All,
page created - 11/09/2002
updated - 11/22/2002
All text and photos © Bruce Nichols