“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” – Thomas Paine
With more rain in the forecast, I decided to start the day wearing my new Salomon XA Pro 3D trail shoes without any socks. They worked like a champ right out of the gate, easily handling the climbs, mud puddles, and rocks. As I climbed the first hill out of Pearisburg, I passed a hiker who asked for my trail name. I told him the whole 3-minute story of how Sir Fob W. Pot came to be. I asked him about his trail name, Stan. He said his parents gave him that name when he was born and it stuck. I wasn’t sure if that was a joke or not so I half-laughed to cover my bases.
As I approached the Rice Field Shelter at noon, the Virginia skies opened up and the rain began to fall. I ducked into the shelter along with Cambria, Two Souls, Blade, a German Shepherd, and several others. I started eating a Slim Jim which caused the dog to jump up into the shelter, get all in my face, and start drooling. I gave her half a Slim Jim, overly generous by hiker standards, and she licked me on the mouth. That seemed like a fair exchange. Once the rain lightened up, I headed back out and continued along fairly level terrain. While climbing Dickinson Gap, I saw and spoke briefly with Princess Grit and she asked me to tell the story of my trail name to a hiker she was with. I’ve told the story so many times that I think it’s time to start changing it up. I may have B.W. Pot be on different trails and amusement parks around the world, defiling them at various times of day, even with people watching. Sorry in advance, Kyle.
A short time later, after a 15.9 mile day, I stopped for the night and stealth camped among some tall trees at mile 650.1. My new trail shoes had passed their first test, even without socks. Still, I plan to wear socks on most non-super rainy, non-stream fording days as that makes the shoes a tad more comfortable. Despite the mud splashes from my knees to ankles, it had been a good, mostly rainy day on the AT.
Today was dark and cloudy the first half of the day. I spoke briefly with Sasquatch, a southbounder, at Stony Creek Valley. I thought he’d be taller and hairier. In the early afternoon, the rain started falling again, and would continue off and on the rest of the day. About a mile after Bailey Gap Shelter, I hit a several mile long section of really rocky terrain. I had to concentrate on each step to keep from rolling an ankle. The rocks and mud slowed my pace considerably.
After a 16.7 mile day, I camped with Two Souls, Grit, and others near the War Spur Shelter. The talk around camp centered on the tremendous amount of rain we’d experienced in Virginia so far. Someone said they talked to an elderly local man who said it was the rainiest month of May he could remember in the past 80 years. I was once again asked about my trail name and told a story about the time Kyle, a third grader at the time, pooped himself on the Runaway Mine Train at Six Flags over Georgia. I felt a bit regretful later over this fabrication, but that should subside with each false re-telling of the story.
The climb up to Kelly Knob was brutal this morning. I climbed nearly 2000 feet over a little more than 2 miles. It wasn’t raining, but the terrain was muddy from all the previous rain, and the vegetation I frequently brush up against was wet. All that plus the humidity and my profuse sweating led to one soaked, muddy hiker by 9 a.m. As I guzzled a full liter of water and caught my breath at the summit, two deer darted by off to my right, a small reward for a tough start to the day.
At mile 676.3 I passed Keffer Oak, an 18′ around, 300-year-old oak tree. It’s the largest AT oak tree in the South, with Dover Oak along the AT in New York being slightly larger. I thought to myself, if that 300-year-old tree could talk…well, that’d be really weird.
A little while later, on a rock scramble near Sarver Hollow Shelter, I met a hiker named Crisco. Before starting the AT, most hikers are aware that it’s not possible to replenish the 5000-6000 calories you burn on a typical day. It’s simply tough to carry that much food because food is heavy. Well, Crisco took that as a challenge and began the trail carrying and consuming pure Crisco vegetable shortening which provides 110 calories of pure fat per tablespoon eaten. Thus, the trail name. So if he carries and consumes three cups of Crisco, he’s getting…well, I really don’t want to do that math.
At mile 682.3, the north end of the ridge crest on Sinking Creek Mountain, I arrived at a sign marking the Eastern Continental Divide. Curious, I decided to conduct an experiment by relieving myself on a large boulder near the sign. Sure enough, the flow went evenly in each direction down the sides of the boulder. I plan to contact a scientific journal in order to publish my findings. If they like my work, I may replicate the experiment on the Runaway Mine Train at Six Flags.
I finished this 18.2 mile day sleeping in the Niday Shelter at mile 685. Joining me in and around the shelter were several hikers, including Tennessee Troy, Little Bear, Patrice, Crisco, Sprinkle Toes, ETA, Future Dad, and White Owl. We covered a lot of ground in the camp conversation that evening. First, Little Bear, who you may recall is helping Lindsay and Patrice film a movie/documentary about women thru-hikers, informed me that Lindsay had to get off the trail to have surgery. She hopes to return and will continue with film editing and such while she recovers.
As for Sprinkle Toes, she earned that name during a cold, very windy afternoon in the Smokies. As she relieved herself behind a tree, she didn’t realize the wind was blowing her pee all over her left shoe and sock. She ended up with a pee-soaked sock and a trail name.
And that brings us to the fascinating, 70-year-old White Owl from Maine. We immediately hit it off and began trading stories. He has a great sense of humor and looks like my Uncle Phil’s twin brother. He recently saw two crawdads trying to eat a fish that was being digested by a snake. That’s awesome! He shared a picture he snapped after the crawdads scurried away. We also traded vasectomy and colonoscopy stories, much to the delight of the younger hikers around us who are just a few years removed from puberty. I don’t remember all the details from his colonoscopy story (a good thing) but his last sentence was, “And then, after raising my bare butt up in the air, the nurse looked at me and said, ‘That’s where I remember you from!'”
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