Almost As If On Cue…

…the young couple whose exploits I was following, they who vanished from their online AT thru-hike journal for over five weeks, materialized from the internet mist three days after my post here last week, delivering multi-day chunks of news in an effort to catch up those of us following them. It was a relief to see that they were still in good health and spirits! The pair had, since their last writing, hammered through New Hampshire (those Whites!) and had made their way up and down the bulk of Maine and into the Hundred Mile Wilderness before their journaling ended. Their last entry was dated September 21st, so I’m assuming they finished their quest and took their photos atop the “Northern Terminus” sign on Katahdin.

I’ll be checking back to make sure, of course. Just like I did during their five weeks of silence. In the meantime, fall hiking season, my absolute favorite, is upon me. I need to start planning some disappearing acts of my own…

(Update, September 29: They did indeed finish, and posted a photo of themselves smiling on top of the sign yesterday. Well done!)

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The Return of Squiggly Sticks

When I announced to friends and family that I was moving to Virginia and looking forward to hiking the hundreds of miles of trails in this state, many of them had the same initial reaction: venomous snakes! Having lived eleven years in Missouri and run on various trails, I’m no stranger to the occasional copperhead. I may even have encountered a timber rattler or two; I blasted past several diamond-patterned slithery serpents without stopping to identify their type.

But during the decades I lived in Maine, I only recall seeing three snakes. And there are no venomous ones native to the frozen tundra there. So I’ve grown complacent over the last six years, knowing that any “squiggly stick” I encounter is overwhelmingly likely to be just that.

The other morning I was out for a run in my new home state and, in the early morning light, approached a squiggly stick in the middle of a quiet street. At first I wasn’t concerned, then I remembered where I was and slowed. As I grew nearer, I was able to identify the critter stretched out on the asphalt in front of me: It was a squiggly stick. Relieved, I booted it to the grass and kept on running.

It was an important reminder that I’m back in the land of venom-totin’ pit vipers. And not every squiggly stick I encounter will be one, especially when I strap on a pack and head to the lush greenery of the Virginia woods…

 

My First Hundred Mile Hike…

…on the Appalachian Trail was supposed to be, well, what else? The Hundred Mile Wilderness. I mean, I live 75 minutes from Monson, I’ve day-hiked the short section from the trailhead to Leeman Brook, so it seemed only natural to launch my first serious section hike from there.

Here comes the wrench in the works: I’m moving to Virginia at the end of next month.

So it looks like my first hundred miler might end up being Shenandoah National Park. To that end, I’m already reading up on the area and checking out the permit points, with thanks to the National Park Service for the map:

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To be honest, given my lack of significant AT hiking experience, that might be an easier go out of the gate than tackling the HMW for my first weeklong section hike. But it does seem strange to think that I’ll have to search for flights and beg a ride from the airport to Monson when I’m ready to tread the Wilderness.

At least I’ll have friends with whom I can stay when I do come here. And, more importantly, who can pick me up at Abol Bridge when I come staggering out of the woods…