Tuesday, 7 August 2012


Unfortunately, I can't really see myself updating the blog much anymore. I lapsed on it when Suzanne was here and am so far behind that it seems a bit irrecoverable. The main reason however is the lack of computer availability.
A lot of the computers I've come across have limited timeslots with a waiting list of hikers wanting to check email or upload photos.
Sometimes (like right now), I can find a library where I can actually sit down and type a few e-mails but library hours are usually the best walking hours and not every town (there's a lot of small ones on the trail) have a library or their hours are irregular and sometimes the library is a 2-3 mile walk from the center (American towns are built for cars)
That and early on a found a lot of computers in hostels and motels. That was in the southern states where accommodation prices were cheap so I was quite happy to stay at a motel and use the computer there after hours. Now I'm in the northern states the prices have skyrocketed and on average the prices have doubled and in some places tripled which means that my cheapskate personality rules that I don't spend nights in towns and my access to computers has drastically reduced.

I don't really want to do blanket updates because for me most of the fun/good stories are in the small details and when you do big updates you miss those ones out .

Friday, 6 July 2012

DC Collective

Well... It's been a month since my last confession..
I know I was going to try and keep the blog updated as possible but circumstances dictate..
One of the main reasons for my lack of correspondence has been that I've been traveling with someone else. This means that the limited time I do get to spend in towns I haven't had much of a chance to get onto the computer, and the limited time I've got onto one has been taken up either checking mail or organising logistics.
Be that as it may, unfortunately I won't be able to do much of an update now. I am currently in Washington DC, capital of the great US of A, epitome of 1st world opulence, the epicentre of humanities scientific progress and can I find a computer for more than 15 minutes?


Well that's a bit of a lie, the George hotel doesn't have a time limit, but it charges $6.95 per 1/4 hr.

That unfortunately is the way of America.. if you don't have your own laptop, tablet, bookreader, smartphone or other miscellaneous device that uses wifi, you are off the interweb grid.
Still I can use this computer in 15 min doses until I get chucked off so I'll try and do some update now

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Trail Days!!

Trail days.. where thousands of sore, dirty, tired some current, most past hikers converge on a small town at the bottom of Virginia and the town goes into party mode.
Tents spawn wherever the grass will accommodate them, especially in a lawless (apart from the sniffer dogs and cops in hummers) region called ‘tent city’. Infrastructure becomes stretched to the limit with the churches and portable facilities filling the void, whilst emergancy services such as the fire brigade become large mess halls to fill the hungry masses.
Sheila (Suzanne) and I rode into town on the Friday a bit apprehensive about camping in tent city as we were looking for something a little quieter. Luckily as we drove through I spotted LadySlipper (now renamed Thirsty) and he and BushGoggles had found a nice camp spot by the river behind the Lazy Fox which turned out to be a perfect spot as it was close to town, fairly secluded and the running water provided a nice background accompaniment which drowned (hoho) out the snorers.

Me and the Redneck (at the jukebox)
The rest of the day for us was spent walking around checking out the retailers of which there were plenty. A theory that one of the hikers had was that the retailers see the thru-hikers as an opportunity market as they put the equipment through extended wear and tear and then act as good advertising, both on the trail and when they get back home. In that regard they tend to treat AT hikers as VIP customers and are more than happy to fix or replace gear for them. I’ve heard stories of people getting worn shoes and hiking poles replaced multiple times from some people which makes me a bit sad that most of my gear is Katmandu and I doubt they would be so forthcoming about shipping replacements to the US.
We also went to a medical station where I found out that my heart rate and blood pressure had risen to much higher levels (probably due to being stuck in town with thousands of other hikers) and that I’m down to 85 kgs which means I’ve lost 10 kilos so far. That was pretty much it for the day apart from catching up with people and going for a few drinks later that night.
AWOL (author of the main guide book) and I
Saturday was the big day however. It began with ‘Mountain Mocha Bourbon’ which was a hair of the dog starter created by ‘Pops’ with fairly obvious ingredients.
  Sheila and I then went to a talk by Jennifer Pharr Davis who is the current holder of the speed record of the At (46.5 days) http://blueridgehikingco.com/ who spoke very eloquently for about an hour and didn’t seem that crazy despite walking 47 miles a day on her last hike.
After that I went and saw the ‘Lion Kings’ 2003 movie – Walking with Freedom which was great as it was a bit of a snapshot of the trail so I could reminisce over the ground that I recognized and quake in terror when I saw what was up ahead. At 2pm the ‘Hiker parade’began an it is the main event for the weekend where all the hikers walk down the main street and get bombarded with water balloons, pistols and cannons by the waiting public. I managed to catch a couple of balloons coming my way but sadly I didn’t get to nail the kids who threw them at me instead my aim was off and I watered some concrete in try greek fashion.
We had some food and then watched the Hiker talent show where it seemed most of the contestants where hikers from previous years as I didn’t recognize too many current hikers out there. This probably was a good thing as in all the talent wasn’t too bad all things considered.
Finally to cap off a big day we went and saw the premiere of the ‘Lion Kings’ new movie ‘An Ocean to Ocean’ which was his hike along the American Discovery Trail. We timed our arrival well as the filmmaker turned up in a limo to a makeshift red carpet entrance which I caught on camera. The movie itself I didn’t rate as good as his first because even though it was a little more polished it was much more of a solo endurance hike so it didn’t really capture the essence of a trail like his AT movie did - http://walkingwithfreedom.com/ if you want to find out more on the movies.

The 'Lion King' red carpet entrance
In all Sheila and I enjoyed ourselves, taking it easy, catching up with people and seeing the trail from other viewpoints.  

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Sectioning Suzanne

Writing this update from the plush surroundings of a 1950s style hotel in the ‘metropolis’ of Marion, Virginia. I’m not even being sarcastic in labeling Marion a metropolis as it is the biggest town I’ve come across (Atlanta excepted) whilst on the trail with big towny things such as street lights and a Wallmart.
We arrived here after hiking a couple of days out of ‘Trail days’ which may seem a bit early to have a town break after just leaving a town but as the laundry in Damascus was still out of commission and Suzanne was hell bent on getting her clothes properly laundered.
So I guess this is as good a time to introduce Suzanne to the blog readers. She’s here to walk the Virginia section which is the longest section on the trail at around 550 miles to which she’s set aside 6 weeks to complete. She booked to arrive at Damascus on the 12th and unfortunately my predictive powers on when I was going to arrive there was out by about a week and I got there on the 6th. This, coupled with the fact that the weather was pretty bad meant I got to spend a whole zero week in Damascus.

Poor Suzanne then had to weather my minimalistic inspection of her gear and food.. “FIVE shirts??!!? TWO fleeces??! Oh nothing..” and then listen to all the horror stories that I’d stockpiled over the previous month.

Leaving Damascus involved a rather steep ascent heading into Mt Rodgers and some highland country so I was a bit worried that the first couple of days would be a bit of a baptism of fire. Luckily however there was a bike trail (the Creeper trail) which ran parallel to the AT with a couple of intersection points. This meant that for the first day we had a nice easy walk along a pretty river section with a slight gradient which was fortuitous as the first few days are always really tough for a new hiker. The 2nd day however was back onto the trail and Suzanne got to experience some climbing and realize that my warnings weren’t all fictional.
Mileage wise we were doing around 10 miles a day which is quite a bit slower (around half) of what I’d been doing previously and by the third day Suzanne was getting annoyed with my restless character. This led to a bit of a confrontation where we discussed the best way for us to walk together which in a sense involves us not walking together but rather meeting up at rest and camp spots. Unfortunately this fairly involved discussion began when we were at a junction with another trail and so intense were our deliberations that we meandered straight off the trail.

The AT has 30,900 white blazes, someone actually counted them all
The AT is an extremely well trodden path
The AT is the best marked trail in the world with a blaze every 50-100m

Despite this we managed to walk 2 miles before working out that we were off the trail which is something I probably shouldn’t own up to. Luckily the horse trail that we had followed re-intersected with the AT and it turned out to be a big shortcut as we had somehow jumped 9 miles further along the trail. Unluckily, that 9 miles included a section through Grayson Highland park which Suzanne really wanted to see so we decided to walk that section in reverse so in the end all we managed to do was walk the horse trail twice which was fine by me because the trail followed a bald saddle and had some really nice views.

We found a really nice campsite so we camped early as Suzzies feet were sore and it would give us a chance to do some washing. I had got some drinking water from a stream which I had a few reservations about and should have trusted my gut instincts because that night my gut paid me back and I ended up fully emptying my stomach.
Luckily it wasn’t gardia or anything long term and despite the uncomfortable night I was fine if a little weak the next day. The water however did steal my appetite and all of the previous nights food (and calories L) and by the time I reached the designated shelter that we were aiming for the next day I was as shattered as I’ve felt on this trail despite only walking a pretty easy 10 miles. I was in bed by around 6 pm and slept for something like 14 hrs as recovery.. the body is an amazing thing though as by the next day I felt pretty good and seeing as we were heading back to Damascus for Trail days I was excitable as well!!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Crazies #3 & 4

Time for another update..
As always, a lot has been happening but I've had trouble finding the time or the facilities to write about it. Now we (Sheila and I).. (Suzanne and I) are back in Damascus for trail days and I'm in the basement of the First Baptist Church which has been converted into a mini internet cafe to deal with the mass overflow of hikers in this town hungry for their www fix.

Before I talk about the days on the trail with Sheila or the beginning of 'Trail days' I need to tell you about Crazies #3 & 4 because it's a story worth telling..

I'm not sure exactly what night it was but Gandalf was camping up in our little spot along with the couple that had been there since I arrived in Damascus. I think the mans name was Richard and I can't remember her name but from now on I'll refer to them as #3 & 4. They had spent the past couple of nights in town because it had been raining and I hadn't really seen them at all.

Gandalf decided that we should get some beers so he headed into town to pick up them and some ice whilst I kept busy collecting firewood and starting a fire up. I'd got the fire going and was stoking it up into a blaze when a local came past called 'Timber' and offered me a beer. We got talking and he asked if he could pitch his hammock a little up the trail which was fine by me. Gandalf got back with the beers and we sat around the fire having a chat and some pretty quiet beers.
The couple (#3&4) then arrived and said they were pretty tired and were going to bed (it was still light) to which we all wished them a good night and stayed around the fire.
Night came and we still weren't loud as we could hear the couple having a bit of a domestic. All of a sudden the #4 (the lady) came out and asked if she could sit around the fire which we of course agreed with. At that point #3 (the bloke) started abusing us with really foul language which I don't want to repeat here but the general gist was that we were all welcome to sleep with his wife.

We were all quite taken aback by his outburst as there had been no precursor to it then Timber told him to come out and have a beer with us and sit around the fire as we were all friendly here and there wasn't any reason to be mad.
#3 came out and once he had a beer in his hand the change was instantaneous as he went from borderline psychotic to ambivalently friendly. Kind of disturbing to witness I have to say.
A brief description on the couple.. #3 was an older bloke fairly mundane looking, 6 ft, 60ish whilst his 'wife' (who we found out later was by 'common law' so not marital) #4 was at least 10 years younger maybe 15, kind of hippyish who liked to talk about fairies.
After they had spent a tiny amount of time around the fire, it was obvious that they were on something, which after some gentle questioning they said was wine but these guys were off their rockers so I sincerely doubt it was just that (my guess was cocaine or mushrooms). #3 liked to think of himself as a pseudo intellectual and kept naming Russian authors and asking if we knew them whilst #4 talked about chasing butterflies in Costa Rico and would begin singing whenever #3 annoyed her. As you can imagine it was kind of awkward having mentally fragile people big noting themselves especially as Timber was delighting in playing with them as they were so scattered you could say anything to them.
I was quite over their company especially as #4 kept trying to get cosy with all of us so I excused myself and went to bed which led to a mass exodus as Gandalf couldn't wait to get away as he had been trapped by #3 for a while and is too nice a guy to get himself out of it.
#4 stayed by the fire as she didn't want to go into the tent with #3 and they began to have their domestic again. It started out fairly tame but then it escalated and there is no way I'll repeat what they said to each other but I was disgusted with the words that they called each other and still can't believe that an older couple could even use that sort of language, especially in public.
As this was happening #4 began shaking my tent and asking if she could come in to which I gave a disbelieving and definite “No”. She then tried to come in but luckily she tried to come in from the side of the tent by burrowing under the fly. For you non-tent users thats like trying to enter a room through a wall when the door is a few feet away.
After her failed attempt and my more forceful rejection she went into the tent with #3 which was around the time that #3 couldn't find his wallet.
Now this is verbatim.. give or take a few words of the conversation that they had for the next three hours.
#4 asks “Where is your wallet”
#3 responds “I gave it to you”
#4 says “No you didn't you put it in the front of the pack”
#3 spits out “Now its gone, your boyfriends took it, don't you understand they've taken everything, we have nothing now”
#3 “the guy up top, he's a cop, he's recording everything”
#4 asks “Where is your wallet”
… You get the gist.

Sometimes #3 wouldn't even need provoking he'd just skip into the middle of the conversation and it only got worse when she couldn't find her phone.

The other dispute they would have was over zipping up the tent which could last up to 15 minutes and at least we weren't to blame for that one and that would have some finality to it when one of them would finally cave in and zip the tent.

Timber yelled at them to shut up, I yelled at them to shut up, hell even Gandalf yelled at them to shut up but our efforts would only give us 5-10 minutes of silence before their cyclonic conversation began again. By about 2 am, I'd given up trying to sleep and was reading my kindle and then Gandalf and I began joking about them, I mean in hindsight it was pretty funny as it isn't anything I've ever come across before and as frustrating as it was at the time I knew it would make a good blog entry.
I fell asleep soon after that but was woken up at 5 am by them having a huge domestic which more ridiculously foul language that can't be repeated here. Then she left to go to town and I went back to sleep. Finally rising at around 10, I headed into town and saw #3 coming up the path. He was all apologetic but I wasn't having a bar of it and forcibly inferred that he was leaving the campsite as we weren't going to put up with that charade again.

Postscript.. She found her phone, he found his wallet and they left our campsite and us some memories.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Crazy #2

OK, now for the Damascus stories;
I like Damascus, it's a hiker focused small town (900 people) which hosts the biggest trail event of the trail which is starting next week. Apparently they are expecting 30-35,000 for 'Trail Days' as it's the 75th anniversary of the trail and the mind boggles at how their infrastructure is going to cope with such an overload of people.
I got into Damascus on the 6th and am waiting here til the 12th for Suzanne to arrive and in those days (and especially last night) I have met #2,3 & 4 crazy people that have got me thinking that I should make a list of the 10 craziest people I meet on the trail. I mean, I'm around a fifth of the trail through and up to 4 already.

So onto these weirdos and why I call them such..

A few nights ago I was at Quinceys which is a pizza shop cross bar. I was there with Smores/Gandolf who had arrived that day and we had finished our dinner and had decided to have a beer before heading back to our campground. At the bar we saw 'Gator' who was a hiker we had met in the Smokey mountains and to be honest I was a little surprised to see him there as I didn't have him pegged as much of a hiker. He is a pretty rough looking guy with a star of david tattooed next to his right eye (he has a jewish son he told me) and another tat next to his left eye which kind of looked like a jail tat.
He had chewed my ear off the night in the Smokies telling me all about the dangerous creatures in Florida once he'd found out I was an Aussie.
The night in Damascus however he was pretty sloshed and didn't recognise me which was fine by me. The bar tender had called last drinks and Gator kept avoiding his bill until he started wandering off and then made a run for it. The kitchen was right next to the bar and the bar tender yelled out 'We go a runner' so both the chefs ran through the kitchen to the back door and 4 patrons took off after him through the front.
I was pretty full from the 2 serves of bean soup, 10 inch pizza, apple strudel and a couple of beers so I quickly judged that there was enough people chasing him. Instead I stayed at the bar (guarding it) and checked out his tab - they print it out for you.
Gator had done a runner on a $9.65c tab. Slowly the guys that had chased him came back and he had got away so I just paid his tab with a $10 bill.
I mean seriously, you're in a small town in which the word spreads like a bushfire, on a trail where the word spreads just as quick why on earth would you do a runner for the cost of half an hours work?

Later on as I listened to the people bad mouthing him I heard that he was supposed to be part of the 'Circle of Light - Rainbow family' which the locals had little respect for as they explained to me they were a group that masqueraded as hippies but were more like anarchistic gypsies, stealing and taking advantage of everyone they came across.

So Gator comes in as crazy #2 -risking life, limb and incarceration on a $10 bill
For the record crazy #1 was Dexter/Lazy Susan - trust fund kiddie with scary eyes

Crazies # 3 & 4 will have to wait until tomorrow as I've used up my hour and a half library allotment

Stay safe... Trev

How many miles is it worth?

Ok, I didn't manage to update as quickly as I intended to whilst waiting in Damascus, but have I got some stories from this little town...
However, before I share them I wanted to talk about a new understanding I had come across with the valuing the worth of an item, I call it a 'Mileage Cost' (MC).
'Why MC?' You may ask, and 'Why would that be a more accurate valuation technique for a hiker compared with traditional techniques such as money?'
Myself as an example, money is important up until the point of acquiring everything you really need. Past that point money is only good at buying things that you want, luxuries or upgrades. Sure these things are nice but their worth to you aren't nearly as important as the things you need and so your financial estimation of their worth may be iffy at best. That and compiled with the fact that if you have more money than you need then you are prepared to pay inflated prices for things as money loses its worth to you.
The concept of Mileage Cost however came to me when I was 3.5 miles out from the hostel I had stayed at and realised I'd left my watch behind. Then the stark realisation came to me that I would have to walk 7 miles (3.5 miles both ways) to get it back. Now my Mum may not believe this seeing as I never wear a watch back home but I went through some serious deliberation over whether I should go back for the watch or just pick up another later on the trail.
Seven miles = around 2.5 - 3 hrs walking.
Seven extra miles would mean I wouldn't get to camp on a river just outside of a town and eat pizza, shop and have a wash.
Seven miles meant I would lose almost half a day on the boys up ahead of me because I would be doing my town shopping during the day (the next day), instead of that night and setting off on the trail straight away the next morning.
The watch I had left behind was worth around $20
Now I don't know if this an old wives tale or a fallacy but I remember reading once that if Bill Gates dropped a $1000 it wasn't worth his time picking it up because in the 4 seconds it would have taken him to do it he would have earnt the same amount.
I'm no Bill Gates, I walked back and got my watch. The main reason I decided to walk back to get the watch is because I got it when I went to the World Cup with my old man and it continually reminds me of that trip so I now know that watch is worth more than 7 miles to me.
This got me thinking about the other gear I was carrying and how far I'd walk for them and surprisingly the MC didn't really relate to their financial cost. Things with sentimental value accrued a much higher MC than expensive but replaceable items.
So I ask you, is it really worth the miles?