4/17 – Day 53
While crashed on the couch I meet Shelly, who is in first grade. She does not seem too disturbed to see a somewhat smelly, unshaven and bearded stranger sleeping on her couch. We start talking about things that are important to a first grader and end up on the topic of the deliciousness of blue berries.
Later Jason or Bird comes in and is not surprised at all by another person sleeping in the house. He tells me that is what his mom does, she takes in strays. He is a very smart and witty kid and funny as well. The term stray seems to fit well with thru hikers although I think Chevy (the dog) was a little put out by it… 🙂
Today Camaro is doing another slack pack of 10 miles and I decide to go with her. Holy Begeebers will drop us off at one trail head and we will leave the van at another. I continue to be concerned about Camaro’s injury, achilles tendinitis in both of her feet, which seems to be pretty common on the trail. I know it is painful for her to hike even without a pack and she has full intentions of hiking out of here in the next day or so.
I cannot help but think of her as another one of my kids, not trying to patronize, but she is capable of making her own decisions and I am here to support and help…and of course pray for her as well.
It is nice to get on the trail again, as usual, and we get to share more of our stories with each other to pass the time. We are hiking this section as southbounders so we run into several Nobos. I get to meet Blue Moon and he mentions that he lost his sleeping pad (we see a section hiker at the next shelter who found it and I am going to catch him in Pearisburg and get it back to him on Friday.
We finish the hike just as it is getting dark and walk back to the van and drive back to Holy Begeebers (Shannon’s) house. I’m able to get in touch with our group of hikers and they are in Pearisburg, which is about 30 miles away and they will head back out in the morning.
Holy Begeebers is excited about everything AT now and is going to hike a 5 mile day with us tomorrow.
4/18 – Day 54
Everyone wanted to sleep in so I lounge on the couch until about 9:00. Zack hit the trail early and I go pick up Smuggles at his motel. While we are gone Holy Beegeebers makes a big breakfast for all of us, she is excited about hitting the trail. 
We drop VANIMAL off at our stopping point and get ready to drive around to the trail head, where we will start our hike. I leave a note on the van window…when hikers see VANIMAL they are expecting some trail magic and I don’t like to disappoint…so we place some sodas in the stream to stay cold. While driving to where we will start our hike, Smuggles and Holy Beegeebers are having a rap singing contest, and they are both really good rappers and funny to boot!
We get to the next gap and find Zhivago sitting at the gap, he is getting off the trail and headed home. I first met Zhivago in Georgia and I have seen him off and on. We hit the trail and Chevy takes off at a full run, she is obviously excited to be back in the mountains. We start off at a leisurely pace and get a mile in when HBG (Holy Beegeebers) needs a rest. Right now is not the right time for her introduction to the AT so while Smuggles, Camaro and Chevy keep going we head back to her car.

Hiking with Trail Angel Holy Beegeebers

As we are walking back we meet Snow Frog, Boo Boo, and Can’t Wait. They are headed to the gap where the van is parked and we tell them we will be set up for trail magic. We get back to the van and get set up just in time for our three Canadians to come rolling in. This was the 600 mile mark for Camaro and Chevy.
Hikers start to roll in and we start to feed them. HBG is enjoying the trail magic and thinking of ways she can do some magic in the future…I think she is hooked on hikers and the trail!
We see Zack coming down the road and happy to see him! Later Smooth Sailing and Roswell come strolling in. Zack and Smuggles have decided that they will adjust their pace to hike with Camaro and I’m relieved that she will have some friendly faces with her tomorrow.
We wrap up our trail magic and Zack joins us to head back to HBG’s casa, I have invited her family and our crew to dinner my treat for all the love and hospitality we have received! We decide on Outback (even though we have two vegetarians) and actually have to drive into West Virginia to get there.
After a big dinner we head home, Smuggles is a very funny guy and he entertains the kids on the drive up as well as the drive down.
Camaro, Zack and Smuggles work out a plan to get into Pearisburg by Monday, leaving tomorrow which is Friday. I am headed up to Pearisburg in the early afternoon to check on a few other hikers that I have heard have injuries.
The trio will do a 5 mile hike, with Camaro carrying her gear, and then stay with HBG tonight then head out for 25 miles over the next couple of days into Pearisburg. Unfortunately, the weather is not the best and they will see some rain. I plan to meet them in Pearisburg on Monday and assess the situation. Smuggles will get off the trail and ride with me, he was not thru hiking, just out for a few months and then headed home in a week. 
4/19 – Day 55
I get into Pearisburg and head over to pick up Pack Rat, Nickelodeon, and Car Jacker. All three are having some type of below the knee injury and need a lift to the hospital.
More tendinitis, some shin splints that are now minor fractures, and one case of plantar fasciitis. 
I see some new faces at the motel but mostly familiar faces: Tarzan, Coffee Pot, Hoosier, Sparks, Caribou, Dove Tail, Mot, Pumpkin Pie, Dirty Mike, Rash and Gummy Bear. Hugs are passed all around and I bounce around the rooms visiting with everyone.
We all go to dinner at the Mexican restaurant across the street, it is ok and I have not really had good Mexican food in awhile…of course the company is great!
I have plans to do some trail magic in the morning and meet up with my old hiking crew (affectionately known as the Donner Party)…I have estimated where they will be and I’m hoping I’m right. I invite Nickelodeon and Pack Rat to ride along, injured hikers do not like to spend time in town for two reasons: first, it costs money and second it’s pretty boring! I crash in the van to avoid the cost of room and sleep soundly.
4/20 – Day 56
We get on the road around 9:00 after saying good bye to hikers hitting the trail. The weather has turned cold again but it’s sunny and no longer raining. We have picked a spot to do some magic and I’m pretty certain I will catch my group. We set up on a little gravel side road right off the main road, the trail passes between two pieces of private propriety and seems like one of the sections where they had to buy land to continue the trail.
We get our first hiker about 30 minutes later, his name is The Dude and he actually started on January 5th but had to get off the trail for 3 weeks. We feed him then he hikes on, we are the first trail magic he has experienced.
I take a hike up to the shelter to post a sign in case any hikers are stopping for lunch and it is a pleasant walk through open pastures of rolling green hills which turn into the woods and criss crosses several streams (or maybe the same one). The shelter is really nice and I sign the registry, post my sign and then head back to the van. I had passed section hiker named Camel on the way up and told him about the trail magic at the van…I catch him just as he reaches the van.
Pack Rat and Nickelodeon are really getting into the whole trail magic thing and serve their fellow hikers graciously. We don’t discriminate at the van…if you are hiking we will share the magic!

Nickelodeon makes a special sandwich

We have a Boy Scott leader come in before his troop and offer him a Mountain Dew and a seat. He joins us for. Few minutes then signs the van and makes a $20 contribution…that is an expensive Dew! 🙂
Around 4:00 or so Witch Doctor actually manages to sneak in and surprises us, we really were not paying attention since we could see hikers from about 50 yards away.
My bubble is here and I’m excited, everyone starts rolling in and it is a fun reunion! It’s actually been a week since I had seen them last! We break out the rest of the food and everyone digs in! It is like a swarm of locust descending upon a corn field! I fill them in on what is happening down the trail and with other hikers and they share stories from the trail. It’s funny how much hikers will eat Nd what they will eat (which is just about anything! We have sandwiches, pudding cups, yogurt, cereal, juice, chips, salads, dips, cookies, fruit and candy…they eat any and all! As I am getting things ready to pack up I’ll say, “I have two slices of turkey and a piece of cheese…someone needs to eat it!” And of course it gets consumed, but not before dipping it in the guacamole dip!

Witch Doctor relaxes during trail magic

We make plans to meet next weekend, Wide Load and Moose has family meeting them and I have been invited to join in. 
We clean up and load up and head back to town, the boys really enjoyed their day of trail magic and we are going to celebrate another hiker’s birthday tonight, Z is in town and turning 28. We hit the little Mexican place and I buy dinner for the bubble I affectionately call “The Kids”.

Celebrating Z’s 28th Birthday

I stay the night with Hoosier and let Pack Rat have the van so he can save some money. Tomorrow we will hit up a little more trail magic and I believe Coffee Pot will join us for the day. 
4/21 – Day 57
Hoosier and I visit in the morning, he prays for us then hits the trail. I grab a shower and start to gather my current crew. I had a text message from Shutter Bug and she believes she will be in Damascus on Tuesday, she is taking it easy and her ankle is holding up. I’m really thinking about going back to see her (even though it gets me precariously close to Tennessee!) I will discuss it with whatever crew I have at the time!
Coffee Pot, Pack Rat and Nickelodeon load up and we are going to head a little south this time…I have left my boots at HBG’s and they are going to bring them out, this will also give me the opportunity to check on Camaro.
We set up just past Woods Hole Hostel and wait for our hikers, I walk down to the hostel and introduce myself to the owners, they are very cool and it is one of the nicest hostels I have seen. They raise chickens, bees and goats and she is a massage therapist and does yoga with the hikers.
Our first hiker in is Old English and he enjoys a little repast before heading to the hostel. Later we see Dirty Bird, who is on her 10 year anniversary thru hike, and looking good for her second one. Camaro and Chevy come rolling in and they are looking pretty good. We start getting them fed just as Joe the Hiker strolls in!
Smuggles and Zach come rolling in and we get a visit from the Berry family, Holy Beegeebers gets to say one final good bye! Chevy is limping again so Smuggles comes to the rescue!

Smuggles to the rescue

We all decide to stay at Woods Hole Hostel, it is really nice and the owners organically farm and raise chickens etc. While we are there Camaro gets sick with a fever and we decide to stay another day.
I shuttle around some hikers and run some errands into Pearisburg. Coffee Pot cooks us some dinner and I crash in my van.
4/22 – Day 58
Camaro is feeling better and we spend a lazy day at Woods Hole. I shuttle more hikers around and we plan are next day. Camaro, Smuggles and Zach are going to hike into Pearisburg the next day, doing a light 10 mile day. Chevy will be in the van with me.
There is a weird vibe at the hostel and everyone is ready to leave…
4/23 – Day 59
We head into Pearisburg, some hiking and some in the van. I got to meet Witch Doctor’s parents and they signed the van.
Smuggles and I make plans to head to Damascus to surprise Shutter Bug who we hear will be arriving and taking a zero. 
All of the kids head out onto the trail in different groups of injured hikers, all planning low mileage days, after Damascus I will head back north to catch up with the northern bubble. Coffee Pot and I make pancakes for breakfast and I say good bye to the Walking Dead (a common name for a bubble of hikers getting back on the trail after injuries or illness).
4/24 – Day 60
We get to Damascus and park in front of the Blue Blaze Cafe and first person we see is G, we exchange hugs and ask about Shutter Bug who we find out is in the library. Smuggles walks over to surprise her and I hang with G.
We have a great reunion with Shutter Bug who is very surprised to see us! We grab a late lunch at the Blue Blaze and then head over to visit Fidget and Dotcom, my Texas friends. They invite us for a nice light dinner of cornbread and beans and insist that we stay the night.
We stay up and visit for awhile, as always we share stories of the trail. It is time to call it a night and I sleep well in a comfortable bed.
4/25 – Day 61
In morning Dotcom fixes us pancakes with real Vermont maple syrup, I get teased for asking for “real” store bought syrup…the maple is just too strong for me!
Smuggles and I say our good byes and we head north. We are going to stop north of Roanoke and hike up to McAfee Knob, which is one of the most photographed parts of the trail. We arrive in the early afternoon and Smuggles loads his pack with sodas and a few beers to share some magic at the knob. We head up for what should be an easy 8 mile day and it is a pretty, sunny day.

Smuggles and I on McAfee Knob

Smuggles enjoys a cold beverage on McAfee Knob

We see a few tourist hikers but no thru hikers until we get up to the knob. We share the drinks and take some photos and enjoy the view and the day. Smuggles is getting off the trail today and will met a friend in Lexington so we hike back to the van so we can drive into town. We meet his friend Scott in town and have a nice dinner. I say my good byes to Smuggles and then go in search for a dog friendly place to stay.
4/26 – Day 62
I actually sleep in and take my time getting ready, I am meeting up with the northern bubble and will also meet Chris and Cassandra’s parents. I pack up and head out to Thunder Overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway, a very scenic drive.
The first hiker in is Witch Doctor followed closely by Ayce and Passover…I crank up my new generator and make a few grill cheese sandwiches as the rest of the hikers roll in. We are joined by Moose and Wideload’s parents and they have brought a feast!
We spend most of the afternoon hanging out, eating, enjoying the sun and each others company. This northern bubble is breaking up a little, Lazer Death Kill is a day behind and Moose and Wideload are getting off the trail for a zero day (I will be hanging with them and then heading south to check on my other hikers…The Walking Dead bubble).
Those hiking on pack up and head out, we load the vehicles and head into Lexington VA for a night and day of zero miles.

The Whole Gang: Dave, Deb, Ellen, Wideload, Moose, Long Spoon, Tail Lights, Passover, Ember, Nomad, Manchild, Witch Doctor and Ayce