View RSS Feed


It's gotta be the shoes!

Rate this Entry
My last blog made note of the fact that I made exceptionally good time (well, at least for ME) during the hike. Since this was my first hike of the year indeed, my first back-pack in almost 22 months I doubted it could have been my building up strength over the summer. So I had to wonder is there something causing me to gain speed in my hikes?
An epiphany soon hit me, and my reaction was like the 1989 ad campaign
For almost all of my backpack career, Ive used heavy hiking boots like the ones in my photo from three years ago:
This year, tired of being tired at the end of the day, I tried out much-lighter hiking shoes, similar to these:
Note that these are not exactly the shoes I now wear, but you get the idea.
I cant say with absolute certainty that these new shoes are the reason for my increased speed, but it certainly makes a lot of sense.
Anyway, after arriving at Mount Rogers Outfitters in Damascus in late morning, I rode my shuttle to Lake Wautaga (Highway 321, to be exact) and began my (typically) wimpy hike. Despite the Wautaga Shelter being closed for over a year due to bear activity, I saw no bears just a few dumpings of bear scat. I also saw about fifteen hikers in the first few hours, making me wonder if my hike would be as solitary as the one two weeks ago. And, although I wondered if could do the nine miles from Highway 321 to the Vandeventor Shelter in half a day, I got there in plenty of time and headed for sleep just as darkness began to fall.
I awoke at about 3am to a sound outside the shelter, which I quickly determined were a few raccoons coming around. No worry, I thought which is a mistake I wont make again!
I awoke the next morning, fairly refreshed, to discover that my Optimus Prime cooking set was gone probably from those raccoons! I had placed it near the cooking area, as I normally do, keeping my cat stove & my matches inside it. There was no food in it; indeed, I never use it for anything but boiling water in the morning. Yet, for some reason, it just wasnt there. Fortunately, years ago I chose to get by on backpacking trips almost entirely with cold food. On a hot, humid summer like this, I didnt miss my morning coffee all that much.

The next two days of hiking to the Double Springs Shelter, and then to the Abingdon Gap Shelter were quite uneventful. This was partly because I saw only one person in the next 48 hours. The heat, humidity, and lack of places to refill water did make for a rather sweat-filled under shirt, but thats why I use merino wool instead of synthetics. Ive found that I make the latter stink to high heaven in just a few hours, but that merino stays bearable for almost a week.

As an aside, there were several bear sightings in the Abingdon log book -- this is a place to practice "Bear Aware" procedures!

One thing that did take me off-guard was the insect presence. For the last several hikes, more often than not Id go several days without a single bite permethrin on clothes & deet on skin work wonders, I must say. But this trip had me scratching in about a dozen places. I cant know if I got these bites on The Trail or before I left (I was outdoors at dusk for a couple hours on the day before I started), or if I had un-knowingly touched some poisonous plants, but it was more annoyance than Ive had in quite a while.

I resolved to get as early a start as possible on the morning after staying at the Abingdon Shelter, simply to arrive at Damascus with half a day to head back north. Thus, I got in my bag fairly early and not ten minutes before a family of five arrived. Fortunately, only one of them wanted to use the shelter, so I only had to give up half of it.
Having given fair warning that I like to begin my day even before dawn, I felt no reason not to do so again, even with another person in the shelter. Not needing to make my coffee, I was on my way by 6:30, and (again!) made good time going downhill. I actually kind of amazed myself when I was walking the streets of Damascus by 11:30, meaning I had done about ten miles in about five hours WAY faster than I am used to doing! I was even able to view a beautiful sunset in Shenandoah NP that evening, and got home the next day with no trouble.

I do hope to get to New Hampshire this summer, but Ill settle for more miles Tennessee as the weeks progress. Planning will become much easier when I know I can travel over fifteen miles in a day without major concerns about late arrivals at a shelter.

And its all thanks to new shoes!

Updated 07-27-2017 at 19:31 by GoldenBear

Tags: None Add / Edit Tags