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A Backpacker in Virginia

A Backpacker In Virginia


By Tommy Baggins


Shakespir Edition


Copyright 2016 Tommy Baggins



This is the third of eight trail journals that I kept while backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. This particular journal is from my hike through central Virginia during the summer of 2003. Well, that’s enough of an introduction. Here’s the journal.




May 31

I’m in Pearisburg [Virginia]. Tomorrow I’ll start my third AT hike. My original plan was to hike today. However, I arrived later than expected. Also, the weather is terrible. Who wants to spend the first night of a trip in a bivy sack on the side of a mountain during a thunderstorm?


June 1

Today’s the day. Today’s weather forecast is mostly sunny (although we have clouds now) with a high of 69°. After today the forecast is for 6 straight days of nonstop rain.

First photograph of first camera: A patch of bright orange fungus.

Second photograph of first camera: Rice Field Shelter. The AT goes through a cow pasture at this spot.

Third photograph of first camera: Cows walking on the AT! These cows chased somebody! A fellow backpacker with a pair of dogs –her trail name was Two Dog Night-- told me that one of her dogs chased a calf. This didn't sit well with the parents [of the calf].

Fourth photograph of first camera: Mountains. This –I think-- is Symms Gap. I took this picture on an impulse.

Four Pines is a place just before Catawba. I’ve heard it has everything a backpacker could want.

Fifth photograph of first camera: A deer visited my campsite on the first night of this trip.

My first evening on the trail was frustrating. First, I spilled a pot of tea thereby wasting a good portion of my limited supply of water. There is no spring or stream here. Then I tried to cook a pot of macaroni & cheese. I failed at this also. The wind is blowing hard enough and steady enough that I couldn’t keep an Esbit tablet lit.

First night on the trail is always stressful. I’ll sleep well tonight, I hope. I’ll feel better tomorrow.

I ran low on water today but found a stream with a a semi-stagnate pool populated by tadpoles and salamanders. This is not on the map.

Sixth picture on first camera: The deer in the previous picture came amazingly close as it foraged. It knew I was there. Even when I took its picture it didn’t run away. I didn’t bother it a bit. About 8:40PM, as I was trying to fall asleep, I found the deer nearby. It was about 10 feet from me.

A tree limb above me is creaking as though it wants to crack and fall on me. I’m not worried.


June 2

It’s just after midnight. I suddenly remembered something that I thought of as I set up camp yesterday: when I get home I want to research the history of the land the AT is built on. Yesterday I found what looks like a broken chunk of brick and wondered if maybe I had set up camp in an old dump.

Seventh picture of first camera: sunrise at my campsite.

Eighth, ninth & tenth pictures on first camera: Here is the view from Wind Rock, the highest point on this section of the trail.

Eleventh & twelfth picture of first camera: The AT walled by flowers. These are near War Spur Shelter where I’m spending the night with 7 other hikers.

Thirteenth picture of first camera: War Spur Shelter. I’m camped on the far side behind the sign. War Spur is a fine example of what I call a rat hole shelter.

Just for the record, I spent last night camped in a nameless and entirely inconspicuous spot identified on the map as mile 44.

Discovery! When sleeping in a shelter I can use my bivy sack as a pillow.

The other hikers had a campfire going when I arrived. They kept it burning through the evening. It was nice.

Cicadas are all over the place. ‘Tis the season for them.


June 3

War Spur Shelter has a lone pine tree near it. This is the only pine tree I’ve seen this year.

I met somebody who carries medicine for giardia. He said he’s heard of people who filtered and iodined their water and got sick anyway.

Fourteenth picture of first camera: Two big oak trees fell across the trail and blocked it off completely. It’s not visible in the picture; from the other side I saw that one tree fell and, on the way down, hooked the other tree and brought it down too.

Fifteenth & sixteenth pictures of first camera: Donkeys.

Seventeenth picture of first camera: orchid?

Eighteenth picture of first camera: These piles of rock mark the boundary between Virginia and West Virginia.

I’m at Sarver Shelter for the night with 17 other hikers, 1 golden retriever and a couple of bumble bees. Tater (the guy from Idaho) is here. Can you believe it? The guy we met in Pearisburg. I caught up with him.

A cold, rainy day comes to an end. Everything got soaked today. Even with my rain gear on I still got wet. Even my sleeping bag is wet. It was inside two stuff sacks at the bottom of my pack and today’s downpour soaked through to it.

There are few pine trees out here. Maybe it’s the soil. Remind me to find out when I get home. This area does, however. have orchids. I should have gotten a few pictures of the orange ones that looked a bit like pitcher plants but it was raining and I really didn’t want to stop.


This is a nice shelter. It can fit 8 people comfortably. Right now we have 11 people in here. 4 people are on the porch. Yes, this shelter has a porch with a roof over it. This place is a complete mess. Packs and wet clothes are hung all over. Amazingly, by noon tomorrow, this entire mess will be gone and this place will be clean as though we had never been here.

A hiker is here who knows lots of stuff about poisons and biological weapons. Several hikers spent some time talking about such things.

One hiker has AT Barbie. It’s a broken off head of a Barbie doll. The hair is done in dreadlocks. It’s wearing a miniature bandanna.

“You’ve got a big Georgia kind of hill coming up,” said a hiker to another hiker who is staying here in reference to the hill leading up to Pine Swamp Shelter.

I arrived at the shelter at about 4:15PM. Resting at the shelter for a few hours is nice.

A plaque on this shelter says that it is a memorial to Marshall Riddick.

“While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by darkness and find true light.”

– Written on plaque mentioned above.

Since I arrived, some people moved on, others set up tents and other people have arrived. We have 19 people in this shelter. We moved the picnic table to make more room on the porch for people to sleep on.

Tomorrow, God willing, I’ll walk 16 miles to Pickle Branch Shelter. Thursday I’ll walk 6 miles into Catawba. Find Four Pines Hostel. Get good eats.

Somebody has a trail book that says that Sawer Shelter will comfortably sleep 6 people. We have triple that number. Can we pack?!

8:14PM Some folks are cooking dinner. Some hikers are playing cards. Some are reading. One fellow is listening to a radio. We now have two golden retrievers.

Somebody just said that the Dragon’s Tooth is a nasty and dangerous piece of trail. We’ll see. I’ll be there soon.

I heard coyotes yesterday afternoon.

Nineteenth picture of first camera: UFO Unidentified Flowering Object.

Twentieth picture of first camera: Niday Shelter (rat hole) and a few hikers.

I’m in Pickle Branch Shelter with 5 other hikers. One of them said that he knows a police officer who said that everyone is crazy for 5 minutes each day.

McAfee Knob is coming up. Take note. I’ve seen pictures of it.

We’re sharing the shelter with a family of wasps who built a nest on the ceiling.

A side trail that leads to this shelter goes through a pretty meadow. Sadly, the shelter isn’t in the meadow; it’s in the woods on the far side.

This area has lots of pine trees. A couple days ago I passed nothing but [… I left this sentence unfinished.]

“Plan 9 From Outer Space” is advertised as the most pathetic movie ever made.

There is actually a Forest Toilet Seat Company. This company does nothing but make toilet seats for privies.


June 5

Twenty-first picture of first camera: a cyan moth resting on the trail.

Twenty-second picture of first camera: a lizard! I don’t see many of them.

Last picture of first camera: view from Dragon’s Tooth Overlook.

First picture of second camera: Ditto.

Second picture of second camera: A peculiar rock near Dragon’s Tooth Overlook that reminded me of a tooth.

Okay. That wasn’t Dragon’s Tooth in those last pictures but they’re still excellent.

Third & fourth pictures of second camera: Okay, this is the Dragon’s Tooth. Two huge slabs of rock are turned on edge.

Fifth picture of second camera: People complain about the rocks in Pennsylvania. Ha!

I’ve seen more cicadas in the last few days than in the whole rest of my life combined. Their sound is unlike anything I’ve heard.

Sixth picture of second camera: first sight (literally) of civilization. Four Pines Hostel is well-named; 4 pine trees stand in front of it.

I’m staying in 4 Pines after hiking only 6 miles today! There’s a dog here that looks a bit like Sneakers [the neighbor’s dog back home]: same colors, maybe same breed but a little bigger.

Find out what a cable-stayed bridge is.

Seventh picture of second camera: dog that looks like Sneakers.

4 Pines Hostel is in somebody’s garage.

Eighth picture of second camera: golden retriever.

Remember to buy postcards & film.

Another hiker recommended this piece of culinary insanity: mix crumbled Oreo cookies with milk. Eat with spoon.

A golden retriever fell asleep on my mattress. Lovely.

About 20 people are spending the night here. A bunch of these were up until 10:30 singing and playing a guitar that someone brought.


Walk free.


Go to www.roanoke.com to learn more about cicadas.


D-Day [June 6]

Ninth picture of second camera: a stream bordered by grass.

Tenth picture of second camera: This is Dragon’s Tooth seen from a distance. From here I can clearly see how it got its name. This picture goes to show that turning around to look back every so often pays.

I hear a turkey.

Eleventh picture of second camera: the view from McAfee Knob.

Twelfth & thirteenth picture of second camera: McAfee Knob itself with me.

Go to Route 220, turn right and eat at the truck stop.

Fourteenth picture of second camera: fun shot on McAfee Knob. Don’t worry. There was another ledge below the visible one.

Fifteenth picture of second camera: Roanoke airport.

Sixteenth picture of second camera: another picture down from McAfee Knob.

Seventeenth picture of second camera: Coming down from McAfee Knob, the AT goes between two big boulders.

Eighteenth picture of second camera: Campbell shelter. It has a porch.

Nineteenth picture of second camera: Carver Cover Reservoir. Off to the right is Cloverdale/Troutdale. I’ll be there tomorrow.

Twentieth picture of second camera: a rock tunnel.

Twenty-first picture of second camera: Here’s the view from Tinker Cliff.

Moe, “Isn’t it beautiful down there?”

Larry, “If it’s so beautiful down there, what are we doing way up here?”

[Dialogue quoted from Kook’s Tour staring The Three Stooges.]

Twenty-second picture of second camera: Lamberts Meadow Shelter has a hole in the floor that somebody patched with a license plate.

Twenty-third picture of second camera: bird in nest in Lambert Meadow Shelter.

I’ve landed in Cloverdale/Troutdale and am staying in an Econolodge. Get this: the store across the street has Tastycakes! [Tastycakes are made in Philadelphia and not sold everywhere. I hadn’t been able to find them further south.]

A note on the nineteenth picture of second camera: The ridge (hopefully) visible on the left side is the AT. I love views like this. After spending a day or two in the deep, dark forest, seeing 9.5 miles of trail staring me in the face all at once is euphoric. Too often the only way to get an overview of my place on the trail is to look at a map. On rare occasions the flat, abstract lines on that map become real-time, 3-dimensional, full color reality gazing back at me.

I think I picked up a bit of a cold a couple of days ago. My sinuses are unhappy. My throat is sore and my head hurts. I’ve been coughing terribly. Maybe I’ll buy some cough drops.


June 8 [No idea what became of June 7.]

Twenty-fourth & and twenty-fifth picture of second camera: the historical cistern of Fullhart Knob Shelter, the last of its kind on the AT.

Today I was flat out sick. I only went 11 miles today. I’m exhausted. I’m at Wilson Creek Shelter for the night. I didn’t sleep well last night. As I left Cloverdale this morning I almost went back and took a zero [as in walking zero miles that day].

I’ve found at least 5 four leaf clovers and a five leaf clover and a six leaf clover.

Somebody said that colds have been going around out here. Shelters are excellent breeding grounds for germs: lots of people sleeping side-by-side, breathing the same air.


June 9

First photograph of third camera: view of a valley from Blue Ridge Parkway.

Second picture of third camera: view of a mountain from Blue Ridge Parkway.

I’m in Bobblets Gap Shelter. Seriously, there’s a plaque in here that reads:

“Shelter Rules:

1 No television after 10PM.

2 Charge for hot showers – 50₵ (no Canadian quarters)

3 Lawn chair reserved for the “Beach Chair Bum”

4 Pet mice and woodchucks must be on a leash.”

Third picture of third camera: Bobblets Gap Shelter. It has a picnic table and an excellent water source. Otherwise it’s a bit of a rat hole. That’s what makes the rules funny.

Fourth picture of third camera: The smiley face on this rock may have been painted by the same people who paint the blazes.

Fifth picture of third camera: This is very possibly the most unusual campsite I have ever had.

Sixth picture of third camera: Another view of my most unusual, uncomfortable and illogical campsite. I’m likely to wake up underwater. This is on Jennings River near “It’s a Wonderful Life Campground”.

This area has a mixture of pine & deciduous trees. Some of the pines are mysteriously dead.

A hiker out here has a Super Soaker strapped onto his pack. Another hiker has a wiffleball and wifflebat. One hiker, whose pack weighed between 50 & 80 pounds, left a town carrying 1.5 gallons of soda.

A few minutes ago, a hiker chose not to use the bridge and wade through the river instead. He didn’t realize that the river was 4 feet deep with a swift current. He came out drenched.

The AT follows part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The scenery was magnificent. Rural valleys and mountains covered in trees filled the eyes of everyone who bothered to look.

The sun has gone down and darkness is setting in. A bat fluttered overhead.

Now to take on Floyd Mountain!


June 10

Two animals came to visit this morning. The first was a sphinx moth. It looked like a humming bird with antennas. The second animal was a crayfish.

Seventh picture of third camera: the crayfish that visited my island.

Eighth picture of third camera: camping along the Jennings River.

Ninth picture of third camera: There are rat hole shelters. Then there is Bryant Ridge Shelter.

I’m averaging about 13.4 miles on this trip so far.

Tenth picture of third camera: FAA radar dome. I saw this thing several days ago from a long way off.

Eleventh picture of third camera: This suspended rock is called The Guillotine.

Trail magic! A group of long range hikers left the trail. They brought soda, oranges and cookies as a parting gift.

“Hang on to those sunny days and go for your dreams,” said somebody to one of the leaving hikers.

Twelfth picture of third camera: dog sleeping on a table.


June 11

Thirteenth picture of third camera: The Blue Ridge Parkway near Thunder Hill Shelter.

Fourteenth picture of third camera: This sign, near the Blue Ridge Parkway, describes how air pollution affects views from mountain tops.

Fifteenth picture of third camera: Here is the view behind the sign in the last picture. I’m hoping that the town down there is Glasgow. It’s probably not, though. It might be Natural Bridge Station.

A few minutes ago I saw a sign saying that through May people had sprayed for gypsy moths. That explains the mysteriously dead pine trees that I’ve seen this year and last year. Gypsy moths have been killing them.

Sixteenth picture of third camera: This colorful beetle crawled onto the trail! I stopped. It mistook my foot for a rock and crawled under it. This gave me plenty of time to get out my camera and photograph it. The beetle crawled away.

Seventeenth picture of third camera: Here is a completely wooded valley and a dead pine. Apple Orchard Mountain is on the left.

Eighteenth picture of third camera: Apple Orchard Mountain, highest point on AT south of New Hampshire. [I’m pretty sure that I made a mistake here. Apple Orchard Mountain might bee the tallest AT mountain in the immediate vicinity but it’s NOT the tallest mountain south of New Hampshire.]

Nineteenth picture of third camera: The Peaks of Otter. I think.

In the eighteenth picture, the summit of Apple Orchard Mountain was 5.46 miles away. I would never have seen views like these had I not gone backpacking.

Twentieth picture of third camera: The AT is lined with flowers in some places.

Twenty-first picture of third camera: This is the Devil’s Marble Yard. It was a waste of time.

Twenty-second picture of third camera: As I sat at the top of Belfast Trail, recovering from my fruitless trip to the Devil’s Marble Yard, I heard something walking behind me. I turned around expecting a squirrel or bird. Instead I saw this deer.

I hiked 23 miles today, a personal best. The pity is that only 14 of those miles were on the AT. First was the Devil’s Marble Yard which is a 3 mile round trip.

Tonight I had a lovely adventure. I went to the town of Big Island. Unable to hitchhike – would you pick up a dirty, stinky, wet hiker during a thunderstorm? I wouldn’t. – I hoofed the 6 miles.

After 8PM I arrived in Big Island only to discover that there was no place to stay there. I had to go to Glasgow. With neither the time nor the feet to walk, I stuck out my thumb. I was standing in front of a gas station/restaurant so I asked a few questions of local people. Eventually a truck driver who had stopped there gave me a lift. Hiking the AT is a series of experiences. Making a mistake and getting myself into a pickle was an experience. Riding in a big truck was an experience. Finding a motel for $30 is an experience.


June 12

Twenty-fourth picture of third camera: Cowboy and dinosaur in Glasgow.

Twenty-fifth picture of third camera: A dinosaur of Glasgow.

First picture of fourth camera: stegosaurus wearing a yellow ribbon in front of a motel.

Second picture of fourth camera: dromaeosaur on top of a garage.

A hiker out here is named Pushing up Daisies. There has to be a story behind that name.

I just found a pseudo scorpion. [Yes, there really is such a thing as a pseudo scorpion.] It has a red head and thorax, yellow and black legs and claws.

Third picture of fourth camera: James River seen from the north on a hot, humid, hazy day. Three bridges cross the river at this point: one for cars (the Snowden bridge), one for pedestrians (the AT) and one for trains.

Find out about the American Discovery Trail.

Fourth picture of fourth camera: a little green snake rested near the trail.

Fifth picture of fourth camera: Ottie Cline Powell; Tower Hill School House; A monument to a 5 year old child who had gotten lost in in the woods and died on that exact spot 112 years ago. It must have been horrible. No matter how bad a day I’m having, things could be worse. When I get home I want to learn more about his story. [This photograph didn’t turn out.]

I’m in Punch bowl Shelter for the night. It’s in a pretty spot with lawn and a pond. The frogs are making an astonishing amount of noise.

Sixth picture of fourth camera: This weather-beaten sign described 4.5 acres of land set aside for studying forests in natural conditions so that, ironically, loggers can do their jobs better. [This photograph didn’t turn out.]

I realized something today. In The Wizard of Oz, at one point Dorothy asks, “Can you even dye my eyes to match my gown?” For years I thought this had to be an error. Today I noticed that this is intentional. The preceding line [of dialogue] is, “We can make a dimpled smile out of a frown.” The film’s makers wanted a rhyme and did the best they could by screwing up the second line.

Seventh picture of fourth camera: Water pours over the dam at Lynchburg Reservoir.

Eighth picture of fourth camera: The Brown Mountain Creek flows between some boulders.

Ninth picture of fourth camera: Little white butterflies congregated on my socks that I had laid out to dry.

A section of trail has been reworked. The ground, made mostly of clay, was wet, muddy and slippery.

8:05PM. I’m in Cow Camp Shelter for the night. I have the shelter entirely to myself. This is a unique experience.

Today’s hike was delightful except for the climb up Bald Knob. This 3,000 foot high, 5 mile long piece of trail took over 4 hours to hike.

Find out about Taft Huges’ interview by the ATC regarding life along the Brown Mountain Creek. Until the 1920’s when the land was bought for the AT that area was home to a community of freed slaves. Some ruins are visible from the AT. Signs identify the edges of where this community was.


June 14

I saw a shelter mouse last night. This morning I discovered that it had chewed my toilet paper. The mouse probably built a nest somewhere.

I have to do laundry in Waynesboro. When I’m offended by the stench of my own clothing (which I usually don’t ever notice), then I know I stink beyond all stench.

Tenth picture of fourth camera: This is a nest that a shelter mouse had built in my sneaker using bits of my toilet paper and other things. This is the only time I’ve ever been bothered by a shelter mouse. It was cute, though. [This photograph didn’t turn out.]

Eleventh picture of fourth camera: Caw Camp Gap Shelter is a tiny bit different than others.

Twelfth picture of fourth camera: This swing [hanging from a tree] is the first of its kind that I’ve seen on the AT.

Thirteenth picture of fourth camera: This is one of several warm, sunny meadows along this section of trail.

Fourteenth picture of fourth camera: Someone, using sticks and rocks, made a sign on the trail. I think it says “H2O”, referring to the spring a little way off the trail here.

Fifteenth picture of fourth camera: This narrow section of trail passes through a dark and spooky bit of woods. [This photograph didn’t turn out.]

I’m in Priest Shelter for the night. 17 miles today. Today was basically a good day. The terrain was good. The weather was excellent: warm and sunny. I walked through lots of grassy meadows. I love meadows.

I climbed Spy Rock this afternoon. The view is 360°. Parts of the view go on forever. The horizons disappear in haze. I took no pictures from Spy Rock but that’s okay. No photographs can do justice to Spy Rock.

My feet are taking a beating on this trip. They hurt for the last 4 miles of today’s hike.


June 15

Sixteenth picture of fourth camera: Is this the monolith or is it a rock balanced precariously on another?

Seventeenth picture of fourth camera: This rabbit posed for a picture. [It is well camouflaged and barely visible in the photograph.]

Eighteenth picture of fourth camera: A suspension bridge over the Tye River. This is the last major landmark before Waynesboro.

Nineteenth picture of fourth camera: Hikers cross the Tye River Bridge as they go South.

Twentieth picture of fourth camera: This view is from near the top of the north ridge of the Three Ridges. I thought this was a strange sight with the clouds, fog and mountains.


June 16

I am sick of getting rained on. The one year I bring sunblock is the one year the rain won’t quit. I pity the thru-hikers who’ve been out here a lot longer than I have.

Yesterday the AT ascended 3,000 feet. I couldn’t do it; I had to take it in stages. Every step was in the rain. The trail did the same thing two days earlier. Rained on that day, too.

Today the AT ascended a heap of rubble. It was a pile of boulders 40 or 50 feet high with white paint blazes on it. I’ve never seen anything like it and I hope I never see another. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. Hikers say that Pennsylvania is rocky. I keep thinking it can’t be worse than Virginia; nothing can be worse than Virginia.

Waynesboro looks like the Emerald City right now.

I’m sharing Paul C. Wolfe Shelter with 4 other hikers one of whom is smoking marijuana. Otherwise this is definitely not a rat hole. It’s rather nice: covered porch, shelf to prepare food on and a loft of sorts. Needless to say I took a spot in the loft.

Sitting here in a shelter and listening to rain hit the metal roof is relaxing especially, after a bad day like today. A few hours ago I wanted nothing more than to get out of this woods and go home. Now everything is okay.


June 17

I’ve decided that rain is okay as long as I’m not in it.

I’m spending the night in Waynesboro. I’ll spend tomorrow in Waynesboro, too. I’m exhausted. The last two days have been brutal. The rain has gotten to me. The rocks have gotten to me. The hugeness of the AT has gotten to me. My sinuses and literally breathtaking cough have gotten to me. My feet have taken a beating. I wouldn’t be surprised if they fell off.

I saw my reflection for the first time in days. My first impression was that I looked like a dirtbag and smelled like one too.

Last night, at Paul C. Wolfe shelter, I had quite an adventure. Last night was the darkest I’ve experienced in a long time. It was perfectly dark. The shelter and the woods around it had no light whatsoever. I could have gone blind for all I knew. I had lost my flashlight in Catawba. At 11PM, I needed to use the privy. My only light was my lighter. I climbed down from my loft and hit the trail.

Then I dropped my lighter. That’s grace for you.

After a fruitless search for my lighter, I knew I had to feel my way back to the shelter. Even from nearby, I could get lost and be in for a very long and miserable night. Step by step, I felt my way back down the trail to the shelter. If I stepped on a soft spot or a plant I was off the trail and adjusted. I’m glad that I did this barefoot so that I could feel the ground better.

I slipped on a rock at one point and found myself laying in the mud. Finally I hit something solid, smooth and vertical. I could relax; I found the shelter. I relieved myself right there. It didn’t matter. Nobody could see me in that darkness. Then I slowly felt my way along the shelter (bumping into some trekking poles along the way and crawled inside. Navigating partly by memory and partly by feel I made my way back to my sleeping bag and stayed there.

I never did find my lighter. I bought a new one today.

I also bought a new flashlight today.

The Weather Channel forecast that Friday though next Thursday will be sunny or partly cloudy with temperatures in the high seventies or eighties. Hooray!


June 18

Today is a 0 mile day; a day to rest; a day to heal; a day to wash; a day to think; a day to plan.

I found my flashlight. It was in one of my pack’s side pockets. It’s broken, though.

During my 2001 hike I remember thinking that I would know it was time to go home when I left a town, hiked for a while then turned around and went back. On this trip I met someone who almost did exactly that. In the photograph that I took of Niday Shelter, he’s the hiker sitting on the left side of the shelter (in the shelter). This was on maybe the fourth or fifth of June. I had just crossed a road when this other hiker passed me. Several minutes later I saw him on the trail ahead. He had stopped and was waiting for me. He asked to use my map. He said that he was seriously thinking of going back to that road and hitching a ride off the trail. Unfortunately the map didn’t show that road going anywhere convenient. The road went mile after mile in both directions and vanished at the edges of the map. There was no way to know where he would end up. He went back toward the road but I saw him again at least once further along the trail. After that I don’t know what became of him.

Yesterday, at Rockfish Gap, I hid from the rain in a tourist information center. It had a life sized statue of General Lee. Welcome to Virginia. The folks working there have a list of people in Waynesboro who give hikers rides. One of them gave me a lift.

On the way into town yesterday we passed a restaurant called “Burgers, Shakes & Cream” The place looked interesting and I wanted a hamburger so tonight I went there. It’s a bit of a hike from the motel and it was barely worth the trip but it was a good experience. I ate a hamburger, freedom fries (seriously, not french fries, but freedom fries) and a chocolate milkshake. It was nice. I wish there was more of it. That’s a backpacker for you.


June 19

Twenty-first picture of fourth camera: This painting of a fox hunt hung in my motel room. [This photograph didn’t turn out.]

I’m sitting beside the registration station at the south end of Shenandoah. This is supposed to be a lovely section of trail. We’ll see. I’ve heard that sort of thing before. I’m not optimistic. We’ll see.

Twenty-second picture of fourth camera: The self registration station guards the south end of Shenandoah.

Twenty-third picture of fourth camera: This sign says goodbye to south bound hikers leaving Shenandoah.

Twenty-fourth picture of fourth camera: Turkeys! I took this picture just as this truck loaded with turkeys was pulling out of a gas station.


I’m done.


I hitched a ride out of Waynesboro then hiked a couple of miles. I did this with a bit of reluctance. A little way into Shenandoah, I finally realized that I had no desire to go any further. I turned around and came back to Waynesboro.

Twenty-fifth picture of fourth camera: This tent city is built on the free campground that I had heard of but never found until today. Just think; I could have saved $100. Oh, well. I was in a clean, dry, comfortable room with a telephone and a television and they fed me breakfast.

Twenty-sixth picture of fourth camera: Same as last picture except seen from other direction. Both this and the last picture are seen from my campsite.

I’ve been at least a little bit sick for about the last two weeks. I’m very low on energy and strength lately. I thought I would get stronger as this trip went on but sometimes I think I might be getting weaker.

Part of me doesn’t want to go home just yet. I want to go on to Front Royal. Maybe I’ll rest in Waynesboro for a couple of days. I can do that now that I have a really cheap (free) place to sleep and stash my gear.

I’m not ready for this adventure to suddenly be over. Bonsai! Either way, it’s time for a trip to Pizza Hut and their all-you-can-eat buffet. That should lift my spirits a bit.

I’m sick. My sinuses have a vicious infection and are draining down my throat in volumes comparable to Niagara Falls. I’m choking on my own snot. My coughing is violent enough to stop me in my tracks. The worrisome part, though, is the fatigue. I’m tired and have little strength. My backpack feels heavier than it is and the slightest incline slows me to a crawl.

I want to get checked for Lyme disease. Fatigue is one of the symptoms. At least I could stop worrying about whether I have it. I probably ought to get a checking anyway.

I broke my retainer on this trip. I probably don’t need it any longer but it’s still a bummer. Maybe it can be fixed.

I called my parents this afternoon. They’re here in Virginia anyway on a camping trip of their own. I told them that I finished with the AT for the year. They’ll pick me up tomorrow afternoon. I’m going home.

Ironically, for how tired I am, I can’t sleep. The heat and humidity might have something to do with it. Sleeping in a bivy sack on a rainy night might have something to do with it.

Foolish as this might sound, I’m a bit upset about breaking my retainer. I want to fix it.


June 20

A hiker out here is carrying a machete.

Another hiker had a birthday today. Other hikers bought a cake for her.

Waynesboro has lots of 2 things: police and bicycles.

I went to a laundromat today and washed my clothing. That was an amazing experience. I’m actually wearing clean clothing on the AT. My shirt is white again.

I just got kicked out of the Waynesboro Public Library. Well, okay, not completely out but they booted me off one of their computers. As it turns out, I’m supposed to sign in to use their computers. I had used those computers half a dozen times in the last two days and nobody has complained until now. It’s ridiculous and, sadly, it’s normal.

Last picture of fourth camera: A huge, towering, puffy, white, cottonball cloud hangs over a hill behind a meadow upon which Waynesboro’s tent city is built.

Have you ever noticed that clouds, no matter how billowing and irregular they might be on top, are almost invariably flat on the bottom? Remind me to find out why.

Waynesboro also has lots of people honking car horns.

A bit of hail fell today. I want to know more about hail. Twice I’ve been hailed on in summer in Virginia. I’ve never seen hail in winter or in Pennsylvania. Why is that?

I’ve heard that in northern Maine, off the paved roads, land is for sale at about $500 per acre.

At this point I may as well tell a sad story. One evening as I sat in Wilson Creek Shelter I saw an amazing sight. A hiker named Lone Wolf strolled up the trail carrying a fawn. My first thought was that he really shouldn't be doing that. My second thought was to take a photograph of this. As I searched for my camera, the fawn jumped and ran away. Lone Wolf had found this fawn and thought it was sick or injured. In a –perhaps misguided-- attempt to help, he brought the fawn to the shelter and waited to see if the mother returned. As close as that fawn was to a shelter and with the scent of a human on it, I probably don't have to tell you that the mother never came back. The fawn cried all night. The sound reminded me of a goat. That was an awful sound to have to listen to but the best thing I could do for that fawn was to leave it very well alone. The next morning I made a half-hearted attempt to find the fawn but couldn't and moved on. Later I heard that another hiker, realizing that the fawn was abandoned, made a futile attempt to help the fawn. From what I heard, the fawn died in her arms. Supposedly, she did CPR on the fawn –that's a rarity-- but this was a waste of effort. She and some other hikers seriously considered burying the dead fawn but decided that it would be dug up by a bear so they left it on the surface.

That’s the tale of the Wilson Creek Shelter fawn and how it met a tragic end. I heard most of this second-hand. Whether that fawn was already terminal when we found it or whether we contributed to its death, I’ll never know.

I’m on my way home. I knew it was time to leave the trail when I walked a couple of miles out of Waynesboro, realized that I had no desire whatsoever to continue and went back.

With that, dear reader, I’ll leave you. Until next June, adios.





A Backpacker in Virginia

  • Author: Tommy Baggins
  • Published: 2016-02-08 02:05:32
  • Words: 6430
A Backpacker in Virginia A Backpacker in Virginia