Dear Herm’s Hikers,
The euphoria of Trail Days has somewhat diminished, but one thing about the AT, there is always a new adventure around the next corner or town. What can you do for an encore after Trail Days? Why you go to the Highlands and then Pearisburg! I can hear Frank Sinatra singing now “I love Pearisburg in the springtime. I love Pearisburg in the fall.” Okay, enough of Old Blue Eyes nostalgia. But before we reach Pearisburg, let’s cover some more trail.
From Damascus it was north to the Grayson Highlands, the land of the wild ponies. What a scenic part of the trail! It reminded me of the the mountains in the west. Hiked for miles above the treeline over, under and around the rocks. Between the peaks, there were a number of mountain meadows covered in a thick carpet of lush green grass with rock outcroppings and a few stands of pine trees. It wouldn’t be too hard to mistake the Grayson Highland for the highlands of Ireland. That’s how green and damp it was. In the meadows, I could hear ponies whinny, but didn’t see any until I reached the Thomas Knob Shelter. Gathered around the shelter were 16 wild ponies to include 3 mares with foals. It was quite a sight to see for any horse lover. I had to walk through the herd to enter the shelter as they were blocking the entrance. When the alpha mare started to walk down the trail, the others followed in single file without so much a grunt, snort or whinny. It was an amazing sight to see.
After the highlands. it was some pleasant hiking, but some miserable weather at night. Not really a lot or rain, but 3 days of hard cold. Of coures, at Damascus I switched from my winter sleeping to my summer one. HUGE MISTAKE! For 2 days, I didn’t sleep a wink. I just laid in my sleeping shivering, dressed in every piece of clothing that I had in my backpack. So finally on the thrid day, I made the bold move and hitched a ride into the town of Bland to buy a pair of sweatpants. Thank you to all of good samaritans who gave me a ride to include Gummybear, the 2 guys in the red jeep, and NOAA meterologist with his wife who just had a book published about ghosts on the AT. I first meet the meterologist who told me the next night would also be extremely cold. Well, that sealed the deal. It was off to some town, any town in America. to buy sweatpants or long underwear. No shot at all with the long underweare in May, but I did find a pair of sweatpants and returned to the trail.
The town of Bland is not really appropriately named if you’re an AT hiker. The people were friendly and there is a Subway, a Dollar Store, and a motel. And that’s all there is in Bland. But before I aririved in Bland, I witnessed a tractor trailer overtun on one of the mountains roads leading to the town. While riding with the guys in the red jeep, I stated that I smelled burning brakes and hoped that it wasn’t the jeep. Around the next corner, there was a tractor trailer with the cab onr it’s side and the flatbed complety overturned. Underneath the flatbed was a load of brand new motorcycles. Bits and pieces of new motorcycles littered the road, All three people in the cab escaped w/o injury. It was a miracle that no one was killed or the truck did not flip over the guardrail and down the mountain. Guardrails do save lives, at least in this case.
What’s in Pearisburg? Other than some more friendly people, the hostel with greatest view in the Appalachian mountains. That hostel belongs to the Holy Family Catholic Church. Check out the hostel and the view on the internet. The hostel is an old barn that was moved next to the church and renovated with a loft for bunks, a reading room, a day room, kitchen, and bathroom with shower. Thre is even a wood burning stove in the reading room. And if the hostel wasn’t enough to go to Ppearisburg, there was Father John P., pastor of the church. I spent a delightful evening listening to stoires about his ministry and the church’s battle to keep the under-construction hosptial from putting a main road through chruch property and right next to the church’s front doors.
Thank you Father John for a wonderful satay. When I first arrived, the church was open and I went inside to sit in one of the pews. It was nice to detach myself from being a thru-hiker and taking some time to meditate about everything and nothing. The altar was still adorned in Easter and Mother’s Day flowers. It was an island of tranquility in the madness of the AT. Before I knew it, a delightful hour had passed. It was quite a time to reflect about my old altar boy days at St Stanislaus Catholic Church, Fells Point in Baltimore, where I went to parochial school. A flood of memoriies about Easter, Christmas, and First Communion overwhelmed me. What a warm and wonderful feeling it was, especailly with me being so far away from my family and loved ones. What cherished memories! Thank you to the Holy Family Church! While in town I also made the rounds of churches, the local newpsaper (Virginia Leader), the library, and senior centers to publicize Herm’s Hike. Thanks to everyone for thier warm recpetion.
Got to run, fellow hikers. Thers’ only one computer and the line is forming behind me with some very impatient faces. Keep me in your prayers and keep up the publicity!