7/25 It is 12:00 noon at the Gullivers Gap Shelter. I stopped here for lunch after an easy 5-mile hike from the Thunder Hill Shelter. A Presbyterian Youth Group is here, having been here since yesterday when they stopped for lunch. They will proceed south from here and be at the same shelter with me tonite.
I enjoyed talking talking with Scott, the leader of the youth group. He is age 22 and is writing about his experiences. He sends articles to Wingfoot, The AT expert who lives in Hot Springs, NC.
I thought about an interesting 3-day trip for Melba and me: to drive to Hot Springs for the hot baths, to drive to Marion, NC, to see Jim Haney and to go to Shelby to see my old hiking friend.
Hebrews 8-9. Jesus was the eternal High Priest who established the second and perfect covenant by making the sacrifice of his own blood upon God’s Altar.
Met Hal and Ruth Washington—“Flash” and “Hot Flash”.
It is 8:20 on Friday nite and the day has been good. The hike was all downhill. Unbelievable! I’ve never hiked a portion of the AT that was so steadily downhill. Because of this I was able to hike much faster. I got here at 4:30, hiking 10 miles.
In the shelter are a Presbyterian Youth Group that has hiked since Monday. A young pastor and his wife are the leaders. They come from a Presbyterian youth camp. They are a good group and seem to have had a splendid week.
Also there came to this shelter an older couple, “Flash “and “Hot Flash” who were thru-hikers in 1987. They described to me the dehydration process. They are vegetarians and do much of this process.
The couple and I told the youth a story from our hiking. They brought me a Pepsie Cola! Just today I had said how good a Pepsie would taste. It was terrific, terrific!! I also talked to the young pastor, Jeff Hayes, who originally came from Birmingham. He graduated last year from Columbia Seminary in Decatur.
Tomorrow will be a long day, about13 miles. Much climbing and descending. This will be my longest day. Hopefully I can make it and that I can schedule the next couple of days so as to reach Daleville as early on Monday as possible.
Thank you, God, for the good things of today and each day of the hike!
7/26 It is early on Saturday (7:15) and the youth are all up and getting their breakfast. They are a verbal and very freely expressing group with a couple of good able adults.
Today is a long hike. I leave early hoping to make good but not too tiring a hike.
This Bryant Ridge Shelter is a nice good one built in memory of a young man who was killed on the AT.
12:00 noon. I am at the Cove Mountain Shelter (no water) after hiking 6 ½ miles this morning. This afternoon I’ll hike 6 miles to the Bobblets Gap Shelter. This is my longest hiking day so far. I may hike a similar distance tomorrow in order to have a longer day in Cloverdale. (I need a longer day for rest and restoration.) I must not let my schedule and/or desire to hike a long distance on this hike drive me to overstrain on my not-so-young body.
Hebrews 10. Paul speaks of the everlasting covenant sealed with Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice. He urges the believers to be faithful and not swerve from the true faith.
It is 7:15 p.m. I arrived here at Boblets Gap Shelter at 5:30. I am alone so far.
This is a spooky place—down deep in a gap. The sound of cars on the Blue Ridge Parkway can be heard. Too, I hear voices in the distance. Whether they are headed here I don’t know. I have wished for no companions tonite but be it as it may. I’m sure God is here and that’s what matters.
The water supply is very meager. It has to be “cupped” from a very shallow pool that is fed by a slow moving spring. I have to cup it about a “swallow” at a time.
Would you believe that I spilled my water pot twice—losing precious water!! The table leans and the pot slid off the stove. (I need to be alert to this recurring. My stove itself does not automatically sit level, which compounded the problem tonite.)
It is very cool and comfortable tonite. A slight breeze feels good.
My left foot has bothered me today. There feels like a blister on the bone spur area of the heel. I may apply some foam treatment that I have for blisters.
I hear voices. There are campers approaching.
I’m very tired again tonite. I’m not even sure I want to keep going for 3 weeks. It gets to be a grind, pushing oneself hour after hour with body pains to go with it.
Two young men, Tony and Jeremy, here for some fun together. After seeing me and, I think, realizing their fun opportunities would be curtailed they left to find a more solitary spot!
7/27. 8:00 a.m. I dreamed all nite! The dream focused on Redeemer Church, Atlanta, where a “mock” wedding was being held. People were all costumed. There was a band. It looked like a big bizarre. I recognized pastors and youth leaders. Pastor Sims was present joining in the festivities. All the pews were stacked at the rear. To get a seat I and others climbed on the roof of the entrance-place and a portion broke off. I had the feeling of not being in the “show” but wanting to be. All-in-all it was delightful evening—entertainment and good sound sleep. I didn’t wake till 7:00 a.m. after going to bed around 8:30.
It rained hard again last nite. All the wet clothes which I had hung on the line are now wetter! There is that dampness everywhere.
It is Sunday, the Sabbath (a day of rest). I hopefully will enjoy that “Sabbath” tomorrow in Cloverdale! The hiking today looks not too difficult.
My heel is very sensitive and sore. I’ve put a Dr. Sloan’s foam pad on it.
9:45. I sit here on the edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I just left 4 “bikers” whom I met on the trail. One of the 2 ladies was off by herself and I unexpectedly walked up on her. She yelled a loud “shit” when she surprisingly saw me. She said this was the 2nd anniversary of her father’s death. We chatted and then joined the others. The 2 men said they were Lutheran. Thank, God, for bringing us together!
Hebrews 11-12. The great chapter about faith followed by admonitions to follow the Lord’s discipline.
A lovely couple from Florida came along and stopped at the Blue Ridge scenic stop where I was having the above devotion. They took a couple pictures with the Virginia valley in the background. I took one of the mountains on the other side of the drive.
I write this at 7:45 as I sit at the table of the Fullhardt Knob Shelter. I got here at 5:45, completing a 12-mile hike—too long for regular hiking for these old legs of mine. I wanted to stretch it today (Sunday) so as to hike into Daleville/Cloverdale early in the morning and have a full day off. It will be a 5-mile hike and I hope to get there before lunch, check into a motel, and have time for getting my clothes washed, eating a couple of good meals, call Melba, and get my pack cleaned and dried out. I’m ready for a break. I might even stay 2 days. We’ll see. On Wednesday I make a pick-up at Catawba, so that could be a nite to spend off the trail in Catawba. I’ll see how I feel late tomorrow.
I have a blister on my left heel and I am very fatigued. I’ve hiked hard these first seven days, hiking 72.6 miles. (To go all the way to Ceres is 225 miles and I don’t think it will be possible for me to do that—even adding a couple days to the 3 weeks. That would be 23 days to do 225 miles.)
God has been so wonderfully good to me. He has been my constant companion all the way. He has heard me cry out angrily and spitefully when I have been climbing very long and steep uphill trails. He takes it in course and understands. He has heard my joy and happiness in drinking cold water from a mountain stream. He shares my pleasures in meeting and talking to interesting people. He helps me start the stove and get my pack ready. He hears my prayers at night when I can’t sleep. He rejoices with me for a good night’s sleep and the wonderful dreams. Whatever I do He shares.
I count my blessings
Never am I without God
And I am thankful.
Those who don’t believe?
They miss the joy of belief
And God regrets that.
I hear the birds sing
My only companions they
And I cherish it.
Do I get afraid?
I have learned to trust the night
Because God is near.
Why backpack alone?
To think and dream and go on
And find it is good.
7/28 It is 5:45 p.m. and I sit in the laundry room of the Best Western Motel waiting for my terribly soiled clothes to get washed and dried. Thank goodness for modern conveniences.
I got up at 6:00 today and was on the trail by 6:50. Feeling weak I stopped and ate a bowl of cereal on the trail about 2 miles from the shelter. (It is unusual for me not to eat breakfast but I was anxious get on my way and to eat at Shoney’s in Cloverdale, Va.!!) My better judgment told me my body needed fueling! It was a beautiful hike amidst a lovely valley, apple trees, and blackberries. I arrived, tired at 10:00 at the Best Western Motel. Before registering I washed up and walked to Shoney’s for their delicious breakfast bar. I ravished the fruit bar but ate too more than my share of grits, biscuits, sausage, and plenty of good hot coffee. (Before getting to Shoney’s I bought a 16 oz. bottle of fresh apple juice. My body seemed to crave fluids. The last 2 days of hiking have been extremely hot. In fact these are record hot temperatures for the Roanoke area.
After breakfast I did some shopping for food supplies and came back to the motel to register. Getting my room I dried out everything in the 93 degree sun and then called Melba to find her having had lots of company and all going well. She sounded great! I appreciate her strong support for my doing this hike.
After that long phone conversation, a welcomed, glorious hot shower and then to this clothes washing and writing cards to the children and grandchildren. After a Quiet Time I’ll go to the Pizza Hut for supper and then watch the Braves game.
Hebrews 13. Paul exhorts the believers to abide in the flow of grace—being generous, trusting, living responsibly and respectfully.
An idea of early morning: the five smooth stones for battle with Satan for the pastor are l)Prayer 2)Worship 3)Witness 4)Community and 5)Family.
7/29. 11:15 a.m. I had a wonderful night’s rest here in the motel. I was fully awakened at 8:00 by a phone call from Melba and then a blessed call from Ted Spitler. Such was my glorious day’s beginning! Thank you, God! Following a delicious continental breakfast I began phoning to learn about Annie Dillard and Tinker Creek. I learned that my best resource is the Hollins College Library. I then phoned Delwood (the Trail Angel of this area) who will take me to Hollins this afternoon so that, hopefully, I can spend a couple hours there. Thank you, God, for helping me pursue this research and interest!
Hebrews 1. In “various” ways God spoke through the prophets to his people. God speaks to us also in “various” ways—a Pepsi Cola, Trail Angel, a good bowel movement, a phone call early in the day, a helpful librarian, etc.
4:15 p.m. I am in the Hollins College Library having read much by and about Annie Dillard. She wrote her Master’s Degree Thesis on “Walden Pond and Thoreau.” A quote: “Thoreau’s going to Walden to live was not so much a retreat from a way of life he disliked as a positive pilgrimage to a way of life he liked. It was a “tune in” not a “drop out.” Also, Walden Pond “is the glory of heaven clothed in the muted garments of nature, dim enough that men can look upon it and bright enough that men can understand its significance. Or, turn it around to see the light shine on its other surface, and it is nature garbed in the lights of heaven, infused with meaning just as particles of light are suspended throughout its deep water. The preservation of matter guarantees the reign of heaven on earth; eternity and time, spirit and matter, meet to the enhancement of each in the water of Walden Pond.”
8:45 p.m. I “hitched” a ride back to the motel and then enjoyed a steak dinner at the Western Sizzler across the street. Very good and very cheap!
My pack is ready for return to the trail. I’ll have breakfast here and then walk the 150 yards down the highway to the trail. My blisters concern me but hopefully I can walk it out and the pain will become less.
This stay in Cloverdale highlighted by the excursion to Hollins College has been a joy. It’ll be a mental adjustment to get back to hiking. Hopefully I’ll be back in the swing and find joy on the trail.
7/30. 10:15 a.m. I sit here on a rock in the Tinker Mountain Range, looking back to the top of the mountain which I crossed about 8:30. I left at 7:30 after a good breakfast and fond goodbye to the restful Best Western.
Before leaving I put foam padding around the big toe bunion blister and it has felt O.K. Also, the left heel spur is not hurting! I am very, very grateful!
The view from up here is spectacular—looking down on a river basin on one side of the ridge and “civilization” on the other side—homes, highways, stores. The deep quiet one way and the loud noises the other way. The eternal and the now-present. The silence and the sounds. The quiet and the restless busy. Both are real. Both are here. Both are good. God created and loves both.
Meditation. Hebrews 2. Jesus became human and suffered to be with us and support us in our temptations and sufferings.
7/31. 7:10 a.m. Yesterday was a wonderful one. I hiked over 15 miles from the motel on Highway 220 to the Campbell Shelter, arriving at 6:30 after leaving at 7:30. I had a good continental breakfast and then hiked past Tinker Creek and along the Tinker Mountain range, including the Tinker Cliffs, a spectacular area of rocks from which you look across layers and layers of mountains and lower valley, filled with trees and scattered homes. You feel as if you are on top of the world. It reminded me of Charlie’s Bunion in the Smokies. Pretty easy and most interesting hiking.
I had a new experience while hiking: a sting on my right knee from a hornet or wasp or another kind of stinger-creature. I think it was a wasp. Anyway, I kept walking even though it hurt. About 45 minutes later my feet began to itch terribly! My lips became slightly numbed. I stopped, put tobacco juice on the bite with an antiseptic, took an ibuprofen, removed my shoes and socks and anointed my feet with medicative skin cream. My feet and hands were highly reddened. About 20 minutes later the itch and numbness were gone. What blessed relief!
Next time I’m bitten: stop immediately and give treatment. Stay off my feet.
The night was wonderful. It was real cool but the sleeping bag kept me cozy warm. I heard what sounded like a large animal near the shelter. I misplaced my flashlight but thankfully found it this morning. I cooked some apples for supper as well as having 2 complete pasta meals.
Thanks, God, for another great day.
Today: McAfee Knob and Catawba post office!
8:30 at McAfee Knob. Unbelievable!! It’s like looking out over the world! A sheer cliff of rocks with hundreds of feet below the precipice. Coming up here the ½ mile from my shelter was like walking through a castle garden: mountain laurel and pathways and rock walls like castle walls. Spectacular in every way! The“high point” of my hike. The height here is 3100 feet. I meditate as the bright morning sun and the cool breezes and the blue, blue sky, and God’s creation surround me.
7/31 It is 8:40 p.m. and getting dark. I am in the Catawba General Store “hikers” building” after a wonderful dinner at the “Home Place” restaurant. I got Melba’s delivery and have the food sorted appropriately.
The hike today went well. I hiked 10 miles on the trail. Tomorrow, hopefully, will be a little less than that. I need a little breather after 25 miles the last 2 days. I praise God for my feet being O.K., for not injuring myself when I stumbled and fell today, for meeting Tim and for our conversation, for the beautiful views from McAfee Point, for the delightful hike through the pastures, for the timing of arriving in Catawba in time to get the mail, in time to eat the big dinner, and in time to get things organized for tomorrow. All fitted together well. Thankfully the Post Office opens at 7:45 so I will be able to get off early tomorrow.