Sunday, May 13, 2012


     I headed back into the woods for a quick two day, thirty mile section.  As soon as I stepped back on the trail I was greeted with the same odd noise that I heard prior.  This time though I spotted the culprit, cicadas.  I saw live ones on trees and and leaves and little cicada corpses littering the ground.  Evidently this is the seventeen year arrival for this part of Virginia.  I was kind of hoping for a more exciting reason for the noise, maybe a secret military test gone awry, alien space craft hovering overhead, or even just Dalleville Virginia being sucked into a worm hole to another universe, ya know, exciting.

     So I hiked uphill and away from civilization, occasionally crunching a dead bug shell underfoot.  The weather was beautiful with bright blue skies, warm temperatures and a cool breeze.  I easily fell back into my rhythm of breathing with my footfalls.  I ascended for an hour and felt great, I was sweating horribly, but that is normal for me.  When the trail leveled out some I found myself surrounded by blooming rhododendrons and mountain laurel.  Some of the rhododendrons were dropping their petals so I had the purpley pink flowers on both sides and on the ground.  There was something else too, a scent.  I don't know what plant or flower it was coming from, but it was intoxicating.  It was sweet and soft smelling, kind of like honey, it is so hard to describe a smell, but it reminded me of the jasmine some of my clients back in San Diego have growing on their properties.  I was just poking along down the trail and then I would get a whiff of whatever it was and I would slow down and start sniffing.  I'm sure if someone had seen me there with my nose in the air, audibly snorting in, they would have thought I was bonkers.

     As the day rolled on I was just cruising along lost in thought.  I tend to daydream a lot about all sorts of crazy ideas.  You know when you are driving and you start to daydream and then all of a sudden you snap out of it and you don't remember actively driving.  That is what has been happening lately.  I guess I am getting used to the motions of placing my feet.  Don't get me wrong, when this happens it is not on smooth well maintained ground, it is normally rocky or covered in roots, but I don't remember picking the spots to place my feet.  If you think about it, it really is strange.  Who was driving if I wasn't paying attention?  Who chose to put my foot down next to the rock instead of smacking directly into it?  It sure wasn't me, I was off in la-la land.  Well I was in one of those modes when something screamed inside of me to stop.  So right as I was about to step over a branch I stopped and looked I what I was actually going to step over.

     Later in the day I reached the shelter I was going to stay at for the night.  There was an entry in the shelter register that mentioned an all you can eat breakfast buffet four miles down the trail and then only a few miles down a road.  Seeing as I only had a short day planned to meet up again with my dad I figured, what is a few miles down the road?

     The next morning I woke up and headed out early to make sure I got to the buffet on time.  A few other hikers mentioned that they might try to make it there as well, but when I left they were still milling about the shelter.  So I walked the easy four miles to the road crossing and then started down the road.  The morning air was cool and hazy.  I passed a few scenic overpasses that looked out over the valley to the adjacent mountains far off in the distance.  I started out confident that I would get a ride from a nice southern driver.  My confidence started waning when I had gone three miles down the road and only three cars passed.  The drivers moved so far to the other side of the road when I stuck my thumb out, you would think I looked like a serial killer.  I tried to put my best smile on, but I guess it could have looked like a growl with my shaggy beard.

     I finally arrived at the Peaks of Otter lodge where the buffet was being held sweaty and ragged.  I only walked five miles, but for some reason walking on the road really wore me out.  I tried my best to clean myself up in the restroom, but I am pretty sure I still smelled like a wet yak.  The hostess sat me in the middle of the room with a view out over a nice looking pond.  For the next hour I gorged myself on pancakes, corn beef hash, eggs, sausage, orange juice, coffee and fruit.

     When I waddled out of the lodge and back down the road I was sure I would be able to get a ride back to the trail with no problem.  Maybe I had a pancake stuck to my beard or something because no one would look twice at me.  Two hours later I arrived back to the trail drained from pounding the pavement another five miles.  Sheesh, where's the southern hospitality?

     Back on the trail my legs were much happier, even though I was walking steeply uphill on loose rocks my body still seemed to prefer it to the hard even pavement.  I guess it had just gotten used the to rigors of trail walking.  Six miles later I popped out of the woods again and then walked another mile and a half to the campground where my pops was waiting.  So much for an easy day.  I walked over twenty one miles because I let my stomach call the shots.  Oh well, c'est la vie.

     By the way, today is my dad's birthday.  Happy Birthday pops, love you and I appreciate what you are doing for me more than I can say.



  1. Thanks, I love doing it, I love you too, stay dry. Thanks to Rosamund too.

  2. Happy Birthday Mattie's Dad!! So great you're doing this with him!!

  3. You're dad is truly special Frenchy, to be your support team on this 6 month journey. My dad would laugh his ass off if I ever asked him to follow me for 6 months while I hiked on a trail from Georgia to Maine. You're are truly blessed.

  4. Hi Matt! Just a word of caution. When I used to hike in Shenandoah Nat'l Park (a long time ago) I encountered two rattlesnakes and a copperhead. All on different days and trips. A rattler and a copperhead were laying just like that black snake you saw on the trail. The other rattler was curled up on a log off the trail a few feet. On a pleasant note the deer seem to be quite tame there, but hang your pack in a tree away from bears! Happy trails! (Ros's friend Pat in Atlanta)

    1. Hey Pat, I know this is late, but I kept your advise in the back of my mind as I went through the Shenandoahs. I was a little disturbed at how unafraid the bears were. It almost seemed like they wanted me to get off the trail and out of their way :)

  5. C'est une bonne idée. Ces serpents ne sont pas amicaux.
    Bon voyage.

    Amour, Maman.

    P.S. Où sont les toilettes?