Editor’s note: This is a reprint (with Jim’s permission) of an email from Jim Heaney sent during his “through-hike” of the Appalachian Trail.
So I realized as I was sending my last email from Charlottesville after the reunion that maybe I didn’t sound as joyful as previous mails. I attribute this to a few factors:
- The mostly grueling 20-mile days I had walked trying to get as far north as I did. The accompanying loss of my original Trail Posse, who fell days behind.
- The fact that I was sitting in a chair with a backrest, and I wasn’t sure when the next backrest would be in my future.
Well, all was made right when I returned. Uncle Jim and Aunt Pat returned me to the road crossing I had departed from (US-501/VA-130, the road actually into Natural Bridge, VA), where I saw Loa, Constant Motion, Phobia, Uncle Mark and Ranger all waiting to go into Glasgow for the night. Very fun to run back into them. I hiked an easy 1.7 miles to the next shelter (made less easy by the 12-pack of beer and two bags of Doritos I was carrying in—a little Trail Magic of my own) and found Loser, Gazelle, Cornpatch and Jane, as well as some section hikers. Good times. It of course stormed that night, but we were greeted by deep blue skies and sun the following morning.
I do say, the hiking goes better when you’re not meeting brand new people every two days, although it was certainly fun to meet these waves of people over the two-and-a-half week push north from Damascus. The Mothman name has spread far as a result. Furthermore, I now know all of the people I’m with now because of that push, although my original buddies Hoops, Stonehenge the others are still behind. We hear there is a wave of about 40 hikers two days behind, where they could be. We’re also thinking we may want to stay ahead of this wave, in case we want to stay in the shelters, for instance, or ever go to sleep at night.
This morning I hiked 5 miles to the road crossing where the Blue Ridge Parkway turns into Skyline Drive, then walked down to the Visitor’s Center, where the nice man called an even nicer Trail Angel who came to drive us the 5 miles into town. Gazelle, Iron Chef and I are not sure where we’re staying tonight, but we’re headed over to Chicken Leg’s and Triple T’s home (they are from W’boro) for a barbecue, and hopeful we can grab some floor space before Chef and I head out in the morning. Dutch has caught back up, and I’ve finally met Otto, Monster Button and Rambler. It promises to be a cast of thousands tonight, but heck, a sleeping bag on the floor is more comfortable than a sleeping bag in a shelter, and a heck of a lot cheaper than a bed in a hotel.
Welcome to new journal recipients. I’m going to come up with some systematic way of posting all of the entries once I’m done, or take a good zero or two in some town, so you have an idea why this “Mothman” is sending you a message. Editor’s note: I have since emailed Jim about this archive.
I promised you a little writeup on water safety in this email, but Chef and Gazelle are waiting for me back where our packs are, so I’m going to sign off. A few quick notes:
- The better day for a day hike is Saturday, June 21; I’m looking at two road crossings in NW VA that are 6.8 miles apart. I’ll be in touch with Deb Spears with the details; please contact her if you’re interested.
- When I leave camp this Sunday morning, I’ll shortly pass the 40% mark of my hike. As a numbers guy, I surprisingly passed 1/3 without noticing.
- Virginia is the state of Trail Magic. In the past five days, I’ve had one free warm breakfast, lunch and dinner on different days, as well as a cold soda, all at different road crossings.
Shoutouts to Yolanda and Evangeline for your Trail Treats. Thanks so much to both of you.
Yours in Mothdom,