If you’ve followed my hike from the beginning you may recall this comment: “…my only expectation is to enjoy myself, so this particular journey will either end when I stop having fun for a sustained period or when I hit the southern terminus of the trail…”
A few days ago I got a cortisone shot that provided some relief from the plantar fasciitis in my left heel, but combined with the early onset of bitter winter cold (waking up to frozen water bottles, frozen food, numb fingers and toes, etc.) , my “enjoyment” has been fading. Since the AT rules allow for 12 months to complete a thru-hike, I’ve decided to pause at 1520 miles and resume in the spring to complete my remaining 670 miles. Of course there’s a risk that life intervenes and prevents completion before my July deadline, but hopefully that will work out well like so many other details along the trail.
My heartfelt thanks for all of your support thus far and the blog will stay put for when I resume, so stay tuned! For those in Minnesota, I’ll be home for the holidays and look forward to seeing you all soon!
At mile 1520 (so far), Max
Me on my last trail day until spring
The view from hiker thanksgiving on Sugar Mountain
We woke to this scene at the Thunder Hill shelter.
Greetings from Narrows, Virginia, where I’ve decided to stop for a couple of days to rest my sore left heel. I’m staying at the historic MacArthur Inn which was built in the 1940s and so-named on the suggestion from then President Roosevelt in recognition of the general’s efforts in the Pacific during the run-up to WWII. Past clientele have included John Wayne, Audie Murphy (who died nearby in a plane crash and is memorialized with the below monument on the AT) , Mickey Mantle and Michael Landon.
Items left in tribute at the Audie Murphy memorial. My favorite cowboy movie as a kid: “No Name on the Bullet”
Duck pond one block from the library in Narrows, VA
As of yesterday (Wednesday, November 5th) I passed my 1500th mile on the AT and now have less than 690 miles to go to reach the AT’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia. As I mentioned earlier, hiking in the great state of Virginia has been magical. With most leaves now off the trees, we are treated daily to spectacular views of the rolling mountain landscape as we gradually traverse south. Virginia is the longest state on the AT with more than 550 miles of trail to walk. I’m about halfway through the state right now. By comparison, Maine is the 2nd longest state on the AT with around 280 miles of trail.
Swish, Sawbones and I spent almost two hours hitching a ride back to the trail from Glasgow, VA
What is not to love about Virginia? A view from the ridge above.
String Bean and Swish apparently hiking without the use of feet…the leaves are calf-deep in many areas
Hydro (Johnny Reb) leading the charge!
Dirty Bird (from Atlanta) picking up the hike pace
I love the AT views from Virginia
From a ridge near Daleville, VA
Hiker silhouettes on the Virginia Hills
Sunrise on McAfee Knob
McAfee Knob features a stunning rock outcropping that juts out from the peak in dramatic fashion, making it the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail. Joined by half a dozen hiker pals, we stayed at a shelter less than a mile from the Knob a couple of days ago, woke up at 4:30 in the morning and hiked with headlamps to the summit from where we watched a breathtaking sunrise on a crisp, clear morning. My phone was our music player so I didn’t capture photos myself at sunrise, but I’ll post some later when I get them from others. In the mean time I’ve included several from an hour or so later where you can see us standing, jumping, etc. on the iconic landmark.
Well-known AT photo spot McAfee Knob
Me, freewheeling on the edge of the Knob
Swish channeling Snoopy
Another interesting spot on the AT in Virginia is “The Priest,” a formidable six mile climb that challenges the soul! In the registry/logbook at the shelter near the summit, hikers are encouraged to “confess their sins” for others to read… needless to say it makes for entertaining reading. I opted to write the below poem.
Switching to headband mode to reign in all this hair
The biggest story recently has been the cold weather. Per the above photo, we woke to snow at the Thunder Hill shelter the morning after halloween and hiked in it until the elevation dropped below 3000 feet. Daytime temps in the 40s and 50s make for pleasant hiking weather as long as there is little or no wind, but getting out of a toasty sleeping bag to face morning chills in the 20s and 30s is a different story and I’m glad I’ve got ample winter gear. The mountains in northenr Georgia (my ultimate destination) have already reported snowfalls in the range of 6-12 inches, so cold weather will be a big factor the rest of the way.
The trail passes under this boulder called “The Guillotine.” See the white blaze on the tree on the other side
Finally, I’ve chatted recently with Wendy, our kids, my mom, friends, etc. and I think especially with the holiday season drawing near and a winter chill in the air, I find myself missing home more than ever. I can’t wait to be back in good ‘ole Minnesota for Christmas, where I plan to reserve a spot by a fire somewhere and melt the ice out of my beard. I’m enjoying a couple days off the trail right now trying to get my heel to improve, and will have another day or two break next week with our upcoming hikers’ thanksgiving, so hopefully between the two I’ll summon the energy and motivation needed to complete this hike in time to be home for the holidays. Thank you all again for tuning in and my very best wishes to you and yours this holiday season. Max.