Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Observations of a Summer Appalachian Trail Section Hike – Bland to Catawba, Virginia

This summer my ridgerunning job ended early, allowing me to continue my section hike of the AT in a quest to compete it for my third time. This trip I began just north of Bland and ended at Rt 311 at
Atop Peter's Mtn
Catawba. The week-long journey found me with the usually aches and pains of sectioning, plus some interesting weather and other observations (some of which were NOT that great).

Weather. As with any section hike, once must be ready for weather changes. I began the hike in humid, warm, dry weather that found water a challenge. I packed clothing for that as the weather dictated such conditions throughout the week. But leave it to nature to change midway through, and me wishing I had thrown in that fleece over shirt or maybe a pair of leggings to use at night (I improvised by using the leggings off my convertible pants and used my windshirt inside my sleeping bag). Later in the week the rains came, the winds blew at elevation, and it turned downright chilly! Esp. as I hiked without rain gear (too hot otherwise) and got soaked. And soaked clothing in a wind came make you feel cold fast. So even in summer one must prepare for hypothermic issues and not always take a forecast verbatim.

A welcome pipe at a spring north of Pearisburg
Water. Water was scarce in the beginning. This water source with the friendly pipe made gathering great, but some sources that were even spelled out in the guidebook were dry at times. But once the rains came fast and furious midweek on, water was in abundance. Still, make sure you have a good guidebook and maps to help you plan for the water issue, esp. if you need water and are unsure where the source originates. One source I collected from I discovered, via my map, ran from pastures and along a road – i.e. Sinking Creek. Not quite pristine. I dumped it and waited for the Sarver spring.

At Niday, a full garbage bag left there
Shelters. Every shelter I stopped in had some kind of trash issue, either inside or in the fire pits. One fire pit at Niday even had a full bag of someone’s garbage. NOT cool. I spent one night in a shelter during one stormy night, and after that experience, feel I MUST add and addendum to this
blog with a blog on shelter etiquette.

Physical issues. When the weather came, esp the rains, I had to wear wet socks two days in a row. I had never done that and rapidly developed issues, such as blisters ON TOP of my toes no less and even some fungal issues. I carried three pairs of socks but honestly could have used a fourth. Esp in this long section with wet weather, with no chance to dry out, and no chance to do laundry btw Pearisburg and Catawba. I also had some back issues as I found I needed to carry water a fair 
distance to make certain campsites. A good anti-inflammatory helps (if you can get a 
prescription for meloxicam, it works well) as
does drinking lots of water.

Reroutes. It pays to make sure of any trail changes in your route before you leave. Pearisburg has a major reroute that added on over two more miles to the hike, necessitating a change of camping locale. Be sure to plan for things like this and adapt as needed on your hike.

Enjoy your wander wherever it leads you!

Dragon's Tooth rock formation, AT Virginia

1 comment:

Ben McCollum said...

Thanks for writing! I love the Appalachian Trail, and hope to thru-hike one day. This blog inspires me, so keep it up. Thanks!