Seatbelt & Aunt Karen

Hiking With Seatbelt & Aunt Karen

May 19. As I sat having coffee and researching lightweight sleeping bags in the lobby of the hotel the news show on TV did a spotlight on a new way of getting around inside buildings. The Uni-Cub is supposed to be like the Segway, but for indoors…so you can go to a building and sit and ride around instead of walking…Hmmm…The “news” “reporter” said that as Americans are getting older, and some are getting “heavier”, this moving chair may make it easier for all of us to get around. You sit on the chair and when you lean on your rump one way or the other the chair will move and take you in that direction. Gezz…Really?  We are too overweight to walk ourselves around the shopping mall?  I think I’ll have my breakfast and get back on the Appalachian Trail and start WALKING from here to Maine.  One thing I won’t miss on the trail is the TV.

We finished our breakfast at the hotel and packed up and headed to the trail. We stopped at the grocery store and Karen and Jim picked up a deli sandwich for lunch on the trail. I picked up 2 doughnuts and a Mountain Dew for second breakfast before the trail. We also picked up a hiker on the way and drove him back to the trail.  It is fun being part of a Trail Angel team and helping other hikers!

We had a great day for hiking. Perfect temperatures and good trails. We hiked 9.25 miles and stopped for the day on a smaller mountain. We had dinner and Uncle Jim and I hiked up to the top to see the views. As I went to bed I worried that the sticks poking up under my tent footprint or the extreme downsloping angle I was laying on would keep me awake all night. Little did I know that a large four legged animal would be the cause of my sleepless night.

Uncle Jim took a few minutes before bed to use the restroom in the woods. He came back to camp and said as he sat doing his business a doe approached him and walked around him, interested and not very scared. Around the time it was getting dark I was almost asleep when I heard steps in the leaves outside my tent. They were getting closer. I pulled out my headlamp and quickly jumped out of my tent and spotted the doe as she ran away down the hill. Success!  I frightened the intruder!  A few minutes later the crunching of the leaves got louder. The deer was back and slowly making its way towards the side of my tent. When she got too close for my comfort I rattled the leaves beside my tent and I heard he run away. Of course, she came back again in a few minutes. This game continued on for a good hour or more. Karen said she had read that people in the Shenandoah Park can actually get close enough to the deer to feed them by hand. Well, for me the novalty of deer being unafraid of humans was quickly wearing off.  Finally around 10 PM she walked away for the last time and I drifted off to sleep. She came back though at midnight along with another deer. For another hour or so we played the approach and wait game…they would get close to me, I would make noise, they would run off just to come back again. They weren’t really causing a problem and I wasn’t in danger, they were just being loud and rustling through the leaves near my tent and I really wanted to sleep!  I guess though, I was probably the real intruder and I was in the spot where they typically bed down!  They both finally left and I wrestled with the downward slope and sticks poking me for the rest of a sleepless night.

May 20. First thing in the morning Karen and Jim were up making breakfast and they treated me to a nice hot coffee which I don’t have very often on the trail! We packed up camp and headed out down the trail. We had perfect weather for most of the day and had several nice breaks for snacks and lunch in the shade with a cool breeze. We hiked on to the Blackrock Hut and arrived in the afternoon.  We had not crossed any water sources since the afternoon yesterday and I was very happy to see a spring gushing out of a pipe. Shortly after Daleville I decided to phase out treating my water and I have been drinking straight from many of the mountain springs with no problems. I filled my bottle with cold mountain water, drank the whole thing, and filled it up again.  We talked with a few thru-hikers and some section hikers and found a few tent spots and set up camp. We had a relaxing evening around camp, ate dinner and drank tea, and hung the bear bags.  Karen relaxed in the tent while Jim and I caught up on notes and journals and then we called it a night.

May 21. We woke up this morning after a night of rain but at least it had stopped before morning. We packed up and had a relaxing breakfast and headed on towards Loft Mountain. We made great time hiking in the fog and mist and found a sign near the Loft Mountain Campground that said “Legendary Trail Magic”, so we had to check it out. We arrived to find a trail angel in his 45 foot 5th wheel trailer and he invited us in for hot dogs cooked in bacon grease and sodas.  He and his wife had camped there all weekend and cooked for all of the hikers that came through. Seatbelt (Jim’s trail name), Chris’ Aunt Karen (Karen’s trail name), and I were the last group he served. Jim worked on a project in the 80’s and invented the seatbelt that is used in most airlines today. Karen is my aunt, so that’s how she got her name.  The trail angel mentioned that when we were done he would be leaving and heading south to go home. Funny thing, Seatbelt and Aunt Karen were going to be attempting to hitch a ride south within the next few miles to get back to their car. It was perfect timing and the trail angel offered to give them a ride. We snapped some photos, they gave me the rest of their trail food (the stuff that doesn’t need a cook stove), and they climbed in the truck and were on their way. We had a great 3 days of hiking, covering close to 30 miles of the AT, and were able to see some wildlife, camp at a shelter, and hike in the rain, an all around great experience of the AT! Oh, and I’m sure Seatbelt and Chris’ Aunt Karen won’t forget about the several thousand feet of ups and downs that we traversed! It was fun to have Karen and Jim hike with me because if it hadn’t been for them and the trips they took me on in the Grand Canyon and Yosemite I wouldn’t have been as interested in hiking and backpacking and may not have attempted the AT. So I guess if there is anyone to blame we should start with them!  They took me on several of their trips and I enjoyed having them join me on mine!

After they left I made a stop by another hiker’s support base. Our friend Frenchy has his dad along for the trek…Frenchy hikes and Frenchy’s dad drives his RV from place to place and is Frenchy’s support team. I had heard that his dad was in the campgound and I hadn’t seen either of them since Damascus so I stopped by and sat and talked with Frenchy’s dad for a long time. He didn’t expect Frency to arrive before dinner so I was getting ready to hit the trail when Frenchy arrived early. I stayed around and we caught up and I left the RV as Frenchy was loading up on home made chili. As I stepped out of the RV it started raining…Frenchy said I could wait it out there, but no pain, no rain, no Maine. It sounded good to stay but I wanted to hit the first shelter out and needed to make some miles.  It rained on me for about a half an hour then let up and I had a good few hours of hiking. I arrived at the shelter, had dinner, and hopped in the tent. I wanted to get some rest, I hoped to hike a big day the next day!

Seatbelt and Aunt Karen

Seatbelt & Aunt Karen

Appalachian Trail Conservancy

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