Our Lone Appalachian Trail Hiker Hits the 1,554-Mile Mark on the AT – Update 12

Going off road for us usually means an engine burns gasoline and turns tires, propelling us through the world. But truly one of the most rewarding ways to go off-road is under your own power, whether it be paddling a canoe, riding a mountain bike or hiking on your own two feet. 

Going by the trail name Colorado, a friend of our esteemed publisher is tackling the length of the Appalachian trail, from north to south. The trail begins in Maine and terminates in the Great Smoky Mountains of Georgia, a distance of about 2,200 miles. It usually takes hikers five to seven months to complete the journey.

ALSO SEE: Colorado’s 11th Update

So follow along with our friend Colorado, as he takes on the trail.

Update 12:

And hello once again from Virginia! My, this is a big state, at least as far as the AT goes. I crossed into Virginia nearly a month ago, and still have maybe another 10 days before reaching Tennessee. For the statisticians out there, I’m 1,554 total miles down the trail with 637 miles yet to go. My trail average since Waynesboro has been just under 19 miles per day. I’m usually hiking by 7am, and try to hang in until around 5:30pm or so. The days are noticeably shorter now, so it’s still pretty dark when I start hiking in the morning and gets dark quickly after I set up camp and make dinner.

The terrain is unrelentingly hilly here but the trail has generally been very good, while the scenery (when the fog has given me the rare break) is wonderful. The woods are still more green than fall-colored, but lots of leaves are coming down and doing a great job of covering up the trail. This makes me more conscious now of always watching for white blazes, as the trail is sometimes becoming a bit hard to discern.

Florence out the back door, Michael in the front…
The two tough hurricanes that battered the coasts both had significant impacts on the trail. As you know, Florence caused many sections of the AT to be closed or become downright dangerous, which forced me to get off the trail for five days last month. Michael’s impact has been rain, fog, high winds and noticeably cooler temperatures. The chillier temps are actually nice for hiking, but if you add rain and wet gear to the equation, things become a little tougher. I’m hoping things will dry out and warm up a bit in the coming days. But with night temps now dropping into the low 40’s and high 30’s, I had Rocky ship out my warmer sleeping bag and some additional clothing. It’s not summer anymore!

Loving the Landmarks –
The Virginia trail has often passed interesting, historical or just neat sites, like these:

An isolated family cemetery in the woods –

The longest suspension bridge on the AT (over the James River) –

The largest oak tree on the AT (the Keffer Oak) –

The Eastern Continental Divide, separating the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico watersheds –

A monument to Audie Murphy near the site where he died in a plane crash in 1971. Audie Murphy was the most decorated veteran of World War II – 

The iconic McAfee Knob rock outcrop with its unparalleled view. I was told to avoid it on a weekend. Fortunately, the Saturday crowd I encountered there was diminished by the damp fog.

The Guillotine, which the trail passes beneath. I stepped a little livelier through this passage, “just in case” – 

And perhaps my favorite photo so far on the entire AT, crossing the James River in the early morning fog (you weren’t expecting sunshine, were you?) –

Trail Movements
My progress on the trail has typically been enhanced or hindered by external factors, like trail conditions, terrain and weather. That changed three days ago when internal factors came into play for the first time. I had no sooner arrived in Pearisburg than intestinal woes raised their ugly head. With a vengeance.

After staying healthy for nearly 4-1/2 months, I’m guessing I picked up some Giardia somehow. This was surprising, as I’m very careful about where and how I filter my water. But long story short, 48 hours of nearly nonstop trips to the bathroom has kept me in Pearisburg two days longer (so far) than planned and prompted my visit to a health clinic this morning. They prescribed a drug “guaranteed” to knock out whatever my intestinal ailment was. Hopefully I can get back on the trail soon, but not until things are fixed in the end. TMI?

And speaking of ends, this brings me to the end of this update. Thanks to all of you who follow my journey and provide ongoing encouragement. You don’t know how much that means to me!