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Allegheny Trail, W. Virginia Oct. 12-20, 1999

A Page of Photos from this trip

Another in a continuing series of trip logs written from the perspective of Jef Johnson.


            THE BET was made almost 3 years ago.  It was made on the happiest day of Trey's life up to that time - his wedding day.  The bet was made as a result of THE PROMISE.  A promise made that same night, even put into writing - "we will go on a major back-packing trip at least once before my third anniversary."

            THE PROMISE was made in reaction to my complaint / observation that "When my hiking partners get married, I lose them."  That had been the case in my hiking life - with the binding of each of my partners to the love of their lives, they no longer seemed to find the time or means to go on these trips into the back-woods.  Quite often their wives were no longer willing to give up vacation time with their espoused in order to let him spend vacation time with me.  The wives tended to insist that such time be spent with them - I have never fully understood that attitude, but then again, I'm not married.

            I met THE PROMISE, even though it was in writing, with some verbalized skepticism.... "yeah, yeah, yeah... that's what you say now... but wait and see!"  But, if he's nothing else, Trey is persistent and bull-headed (and probably had had a few drinks too many by this point) and so to assure me that he was serious he offered THE BET.  "If we don't go on that trip before my third anniversary, I will pay your way to and cover your expenses for back-packing in Tibet."  Well, being a bit more sober than he was, I accepted the bet - agreeing that I would pay for his trip to our back-packing trip if indeed we were to have one.

            The first two years passed fairly uneventfully as far as adventures went - we talked occasionally about getting together, about doing some hiking, and during those times I would remind him of  THE BET - but nothing ever came of it.  He was starting a new life with his wife, Marcia, he was in the early phases of his work with the Justice Dept., and all sorts of other things that  prevented our getting together.  The time passed, and I began looking into the logistics of Tibet, making some preliminary web-searches into what it would take, where to go, etc. and dreaming the dreams,

            The third year - the critical year - looked as though we were actually going to go back-packing.  Trey set some tentative dates for a trip, all of them dependent upon his court schedule.  The dates moved or were canceled due to his cases, and the days continued to pass - I was starting to get more hopeful about Tibet

            As much as I enjoy spending time with Trey, as pleasurable as I find out trips together, I was really getting hopeful about Tibet.  I was really starting to believe that I was going to get there on someone else's nickel, and I intended to do my best to hold him to THE BET.

            Finally, after several cancellations, through the use of e-mail, in late August, we set another date - the 12th - 20th of October.  Considering that his third Anniversary was November 2, it seemed as though he was cutting it rather close.   Of course, I think Marcia had a little say in the matter - I'm sure that she could think of better ways of spending money than sending me to Tibet.  I set the newest set of dates aside on my calendar and then prayed... prayed very hard that some court case would rear its ugly, judicious head.  As I said, I really enjoy our trips together - but Tibet is Tibet.

            Well, the days passed, and it began to look as though this time Trey would make it.  He began to inquire about where we were going.  I had no real idea, I had really not planned on his actually making it.  Finally, in the last week of September, I consulted the list of states that I had yet to visit and settled on West Virginia - it was close, unvisited (by me), and a state with lots of hiking possibilities.  I read guide books, surfed the internet, and finally found a loop trail that I thought would keep us busy for the required number of days and would be fairly easy to get to.

            We would start on the Allegheny Trail going one way and then hook up with the West Fork Trail for the return.  Both trails are located in the Monongahela National Forest.  The MNF is located in the eastern part of West Virginia.  It is basically an eastern hardwoods forest and it occupies some of the highest elevations in the state. 

            The portion of the Allegheny Trail we would be on included an ascent on Shavers Mountain and follows up and down, or around the sides of 16 knobs (including Gaudineer Knob).  It is one of the oldest, highest and most remote trails in the MNF, moving through elevations ranging from 2700 feet to 4193 feet (atop Shavers Mountain).  Our route would take us through red spruce, maple, cherry and birch trees.

            We would leave the Allegheny Trail in the town of Glady and hook up with the West Fork Trail.  This trail is part of a national "Rails to Trails" effort.  The program is to convert abandoned and unused railroad right-of-ways to recreational trails.  The rails and ties are removed, trestles restores, a gravel base is laid down and the trail is opened to hikers, bikers, skiers and other non-motorized uses. 

            It looked to be about a 50 mile loop that should keep us busy for a few days, and although not the most rugged of routes, from the trail descriptions we could expect some exertion and some sense of "being away from it all."  Trey had asked that I be mindful of the fact that he had not been hiking in a while and so we might not want to take on too challenging a route until he got back into it all.  I guess I'm mellowing in my old age since I acquiesced to his request.

            Trey arrived Tuesday night (Nov. 12th) at about 10:00 PM.  I was thankful that he had such a late flight since the day had been filled with all sorts of work.  I am putting together a Pilgrimage for July of 2000 in Belleville, IL.  It is an event geared for about 1,000 youth.  I had set that date as the final date for getting speakers for the event.  It took a lot of time on the phone, but I did manage to book my last speaker.  I also had to make a couple of trips to the printer's.  I had taken the newsletter to them (on computer disk) and apparently the programming was not copying properly, because the printer called twice to tell me that there were things missing.  The printer is about 30 minutes away in crazy traffic - and one trip is bad enough.

            It was a real joy to see Trey step off that plane.  It seemed like such a long time since we had last seen one another.  He looked good.  We shared the recent events of our lives and he had some really big news... he and Marcia were pregnant... a little Martinez is on the way.  Wow!  Actually he's probably competing with his best friend Rolando - who just recently had his first child.  Trey just can't stand it when his friends get too much ahead of him.

            We got to the house and grabbed a bottle of scotch for him and a bottle of bourbon for me and sat on the back porch, looked at the stars, smoked our cigarettes and proceeded to discuss the glories and trials of both married life and ordained life.  After a few hours and way too many drinks, we left for our bedrooms with plans for a very early departure.... right!


            I was up a bit before 8 the next morning ( I had really hoped to be on the road by that hour), took a fast shower, woke Trey up and began throwing our gear into the truck.  We were on the road by about 8:30 AM - not too bad.  There were a few things we would have to pick up on the way - especially a couple of bottles of booze.  It has been a long-standing tradition that I always have a bottle of blackberry brandy with me for these back packing trips.  There is nothing like it late at night, especially a cool night,  sitting in front of a fire, the warm, syrupy concoction making its way down the throat and into the gut - warming up everything along the way and loosening the tongue for those all important campfire talks.  I had not gotten any beforehand, and so we planned to make a stop along the way.  We also wanted to pick up some camp food as well... but the booze was the important thing.

            The drive was nice.  The day was bright and beautiful but not over-bearing.  The traffic was not too bad once we got out of metropolitan DC, the truck was humming and Trey... well, Trey was on his cell phone.  A cell phone - in my truck!  I never thought I would see the day.  Trey referred to it as his "electronic leash".  He made a number of calls to his office, his wife and other people that had to take care of some work for his impending cases.  I guess it is getting harder and harder to get away from the office... especially when we can now haul it with us. 

            We made a stop for gas and some groceries and asked the cashier where we might find a liquor store - she gave us some directions, we couldn't find it, so we just continued on our merry way, certain that there were bound to be lots of liquor stores along the way.  As we got further and further into West Virginia, the road turned more mountainous and winding, the fall colors became more intense and diverse, and the towns got smaller and smaller.  We slowly made our way through each little town and village looking for a liquor store, not finding one, but assuring ourselves that the next town would have what we needed.  We made one other crucial stop along the way - at a Forest Ranger station to get some maps of our trails and gather information about our loop.

            One sort of interesting sight along the way was a hawk being attacked by a multitude of smaller birds.  I had never seen anything like it before - not in those numbers.  Those smaller birds must have really been upset with the much larger hawk - they dive-bombed him and were merciless in their attack.  I don't know what became of it all, but if the hawk had any sense, he got out of their as soon as he was able.

            We stopped in one small town, one of the larger small towns thus far, and entered the grocery store.  They sold beer and wine in the store, but we saw no liquor.  There were two men in the store - one the cashier and the other a customer.  They were discussing the bow season - set to open that weekend.  We asked if there was a liquor store in town.  It was when they spoke to us that I was reminded that we were both in a very rural area and that West Virginia is known to have hillbillies.  In fact, there is a slur that people use in DC about people who act like bumpkins - they remark that they "must be West Virginians."   The cashier assured us that there was a liquor store and began to give us directions.  The customer stopped the cashier in mid-sentence and reminded him that "No, it's not open today - it's Wednesday."  The cashier corrected himself and affirmed the other man's statement - on Wednesday the liquor store was closed.  It made no sense to Trey and I, but we didn't pursue it with them.  The map indicated that we were getting very close to where we were going, and we were running out of towns.

            Finally, we got to Durbin, the last town before our trail head.  This was going to be our last chance.  We drove down the main street of the town - and there it was - a small store specializing in junk, trinkets and booze.  I was a little surprised by the rather wide selection of liquor in such a small store - including our blackberry brandy and bourbon.  We bought 3 fifths - two bourbons and a blackberry brandy.  We asked the cashier if she could recommend a place to eat.  She indicated the only restaurant in town, which narrowed our choices.  It was a small, homey, caf‚.  A few formica covered tables, a few dark wood booths and a combination waitress/cook/cashier/janitor.  She took our orders - double bacon cheeseburgers and diet sodas.  This is another of our camping traditions - a good, hearty meal before heading into the woods and our freeze-dried meals.  A sign above the cash register seemed to indicate the kind of small town we were in, it read ALL ACCOUNTS ARE DUE ON PAY DAY.

            After eating, we found our way to the park area where we would hook up with the trail head.  We found markers for the trail, but we were not able to clearly identify the actual trail head.  We drove around a bit in the park area and finally decided on a spot near a sign that indicated some sort of trail.  We spent a little time getting our packs loaded up, deciding what to leave behind, talking about what we should have brought instead, and then finally hoisted the packs onto our shoulders and began our trek.

            We had parked at a picnic area with a sign indicating a foot path that we thought for sure would lead us to our trail.  It turned out to be nothing more than a « mile loop that brought us right back to our truck, with no spurs leading to any other trail. As we made this loop, we passed a small family that seemed to be out for a little nature walk. I'm sure that they must have questioned what we were doing on this very small loop with so much gear on our backs, when we could have easily left the gear in the truck.

            By all indications we were in the right area, we simply had to find the trail.  We began to walk back down the road that had brought us to the picnic area, checking each possible trail along the way.  We found quite a few false trails, but nothing that seemed to be what the guidebook or the maps indicated was the actual trail. .  We passed the family once again and they inquired about why we would be spending our time in W. VA when Alaska must surely have some beautiful hiking areas (I still have Alaska tags on my truck).

            Finally, about 3/4 mile down the road, we found our trail head.  It was now about 4:30 in the afternoon.  We were only an hour behind the schedule I had set in my head, but that was not too bad.  The sun was still out, there was a light cool breeze, we were out in the woods and we were with each other - it was already a glorious trip.

            The colors were magnificent - pinks and rusts, yellows and oranges, flaming reds and dazzling violets.  The sun caused them to literally sparkle and shine, the leaf colored path was equally beautiful.  It was almost surreal with both the intensity and variety of colors.  Incredible.   We walked through this veritable wonderland of color for about another hour or so.  Nothing too heavy this first day, and since the Fall sun sets so early in the mountains, we did not want to be setting up camp in the dark.  We walked just enough to work off the better part of the burgers we had eaten.  We set up our tents, gathered wood, made our fire and proceeded to stare off into the deep, dark sky filled with stars but not much of a moon.  We set about curing the world's problems, curing one another's problems and drinking blackberry brandy.  Normally, a fifth of brandy would last us at least 3 days.  This particular bottle must have been smaller than usual because before we knew it - the bottle was empty.  The nice thing about emptying the bottle is that it lightened the load I was carrying.  The bad thing about emptying the bottle is that I broke it in the campfire and proceeded to put a rather deep gash in one of my knuckles.  There was a lot of blood, but not much pain (I was pretty well anesthetized) and a band-aid took care of the blood. 

            The breaking of the bottle and bandaging of the wound seemed to indicate that it was time for bed.  As we settled into our tents, the wind started to pick up and with the wind came rain. It was a heavy rain.  I had the wrong rain-fly for the tent I was using,  and so it was not as protected as it should have been.  In order to keep my gear dry I hauled my pack into the tent with me.  I have a rather small tent - easier to haul - and so the pack became a constant obstacle to my comfort.  Finally, I curled up around it and fell asleep to the sound of rain splattering on the tent, some moisture making it inside due to the lack of coverage, and thankful for being out in the woods again.


            I woke up the next morning at about 7 feeling pretty good - a little wet, a little cramped, a little cold, but generally in a good and excited mood.  My only real complaint was the ache in my finger where I sliced it up the night before.  The skies were gray, there was no sun and everything was wet. Trey crawled out of his tent and informed me that he had several leaks in his tent that he attended to with the ultimate "man's tool" - duct tape.  Thankfully we both had plenty of it wrapped around the frames of our packs, as he had to repair one of his tent poles with it as well.  While Trey attended to his twice daily ritual of covering the various "hot spots" on his feet with moleskin, I boiled water for tea.  Once his feet were adequately taped up and the water was boiling, Trey then pulled out his dreaded protein bars.

            I should mention that we were both on carbohydrate-free diets.  In order to accommodate our eating plans, Trey brought some protein bars with him.  This was to replace our traditional pop-tart breakfasts.  This was the first time I had tried one of these things.  They are packed with all the vitamins and minerals that a body could use.  They come in a variety of flavors that include fudge, chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter and others.  They are rather expensive.  They taste like clay wrapped in frosting.  They are cloying, heavy, take forever to chew and required multiple swallows of the hot water in order to get them down the throat.  They sucked!... but they were good for us, so we ate them.  I would have preferred a pop-tart, or even tree-bark... but, as I said, they were good for us.  They also staved off hunger for most of the day because they sat like a lump in the stomach.

            We ate, we packed up, we were on the trail by about 9:15 in the morning.  (We were really being leisurely about this trip - 9:00 is about 2 hours later than our typical start time.)  The trail immediately took us up-hill.  In fact, there were lots of up-hills this morning.  Given too many cigarettes, too much brandy and our heavy packs, we were both huffing and puffing the first few hours until we got into the swing of the effort.  We progressed rather slowly - lots of breaks, lots of stops.  Knocked to the ground and soaked by the rain of the night before, our fantastic carpet of colored leaves had become a treacherous, slippery, water slide - hiding ruts and rocks and so further slowing us down... but they were still pretty to look at.

            Water was scarce on this section of the trail.  We looked for likely water sources as we trudged along, but there wasn't too much available.  We did finally find a trough in the ground that had collected a good amount of rain water and with the help of my trusty water filter we were able to fill our canteens.

            About noon the sun finally broke through and turned our gray skies bright blue and beautiful.  Unfortunately, we had both dressed for the cold and were soon sweating buckets.   I had learned on a couple of previous hiking trips that if Trey takes the lead and sets the pace, he is not worn out as quickly as when I take the lead.  By mid-afternoon he gave up the lead and I began to set the pace - which meant that we didn't go on too much longer.  I tend to have a faster pace than he does and I wore him out.  Along the way we spotted several rather large deer, and all I can think about is that the men back at the grocery store were talking about bow-hunting season opening this weekend.

            It's funny how, when walking through the forest, seeing nothing but trees and mountain tops, and the occasional deer, a person can forget just how much civilization has encroached on these areas.  That is, until the sights and sounds of a log-hauling tractor zooms by further down the mountain, and you are instantly reminded of how few truly wild places are left in the U.S.  

            At about 3:30 we came to one of the two shelters on this section of trail.  We had passed the first one about half an hour after starting out in the morning.  The sun was still out when we arrived at the shelter, and so we quickly took out our tents and sleeping bags to let them dry before the sun set.  One nice thing about finding the shelter was that it pinpointed us on the map.  The map was a poor one and we were never able to really locate ourselves on it.  That would remain true throughout the trip.  Trey theorized that it was because "God doesn't want us to know - just enjoy the journey, wherever it leads us."  I theorized that it was just a very poor map.

            The shelter was a typical one.  3 sides and roof with a floor set above ground level. Simple and adequate.  After setting out our equipment to dry, I immediately began a search for water while Trey gathered fire wood and attended to his blisters.  I walked further up the trail and found no water.  I walked to the east and west and found no water.  I back-tracked a ways, hoping that we had passed some water without really noticing it... but no luck.  After about 2 hours of searching - I gave up. 

            There was a rather large shallow fire pit near the shelter.  It had become filled with water that was dark, smelled of burnt wood and had lots of leaves and other garbage floating in it, but it seemed the only source of water available.  And we needed water.  Supper that night was going to be freeze-dried - but the only way to eat it was to add water... water that we did not have.  My water filter is a good one... it can filter out just about anything, and so, being desperate, not finding any other source, we decided to filter it, boil it and then only use it for the food... we had a little bit left for drinking purposes - not much, but it would have to do until we could find a fresher water source.

            I began pumping, and despite the multiple filters that the pump forced the water through, it still came out a rather dirty copper color - with a slight smell.  The pump was soon backing up due to clogging.  The water wasn't going to be the best, but it would be safe.  After getting the first pot boiling, and being totally disgusted, I decided to try one more time to find some fresh water.  I took the filter, the canteens and a flashlight (the sun was quickly disappearing) and went back down the path that we had come up on.  Something told me that there was water there someplace.  There was a section of the path where what looked like an over-grown logging road crossed it.  I decided to hike to that road and hope it led somewhere wet.  It was about a 10 minute hike down-hill.  I got to the road and picked a direction.  After about 10 minutes down the path, I came to what looked like a landslide.  I had a suspicion that there was not going to be any water in that direction and so I started back.  I got back to the path and was going to return to camp when I figured "what the hey," Id come this far and would only kick myself in the head later if I didn't try all possibilities.  Besides, the very thought of the water waiting back for me at camp was enough to turn my stomach, so I headed down the path.  About 10 minutes in that direction the road took a dip and at the bottom of that dip a stream crossed the road... I had found running water!  Clear, gurgling water.  Well, after back-washing the filter and filling the canteens, and pumping lots of water into my gut, I headed back to camp - happy and victorious. I immediately threw out our pot of boiled brack-water and proceeded to boil up a pot of clean water instead.  I told Trey to indulge himself and splurge - that I'd happily get some more in the morning

            We ate our meal, lit a glorious fire and hung our ground-cloths/ponchos across the shelters' front in order to try to block whatever breeze we would have that night and settled in with a bottle of bourbon to continue our exploration of the fine art of conversation.  It was a clear, bright night, speckled with bright twinkling stars - it was going to be a cold one.  By 9:00 it was indeed plenty cold and we decided to call it a night.  We hadn't drank as much as we did the night before - thank God - and we discovered that bourbon mixed with Crystal Light lemonade is not a bad drink at all!


Friday we were up early - about 7 AM or so.  But it was cold enough and quiet enough that neither one of us bothered to actually get out of our sleeping bags for another hour or so.  Eventually, the lack of activity got to me, and so I picked up the water supplies and headed for the stream to replenish our supply.  Trey stayed behind and got his gear put together and boiled water for our morning tea.  The downhill trek to the stream was complicated by the fresh covering of leaves that had fallen over night - make the trail sometimes difficult to find.

            I got back to hot tea and another one of those clay bars that were so good for us.  I don't think either of us ate the whole bar this morning.  I had mentioned that based on my scouting trip the day before, the trail looked like it was going to go uphill for quite a while.  So, while I got my gear put together, Trey strapped on his pack and took off ahead of me, figuring that this way he wouldn't slow me down (and I wouldn't make any snide comments about his speed.)  I think his desk job and his lack of hiking over the past three years, had combined to make the going a little rougher on him than he thought it would.  But, like a real trooper - he was going to keep going.  He left about 20 minutes before I did, and I caught up with him in about 15.  After a while I started counting his steps between stops - it was literally about 50 steps between breaks.  I thought it was funny - he didn't, I guess that's what friends are for.  He said that that is why these trips were so good for him - they help put his life back in perspective.  Just when he feels like he is on top of the world and the cats' meow in his daily life - a few days on the trail (combined with my commentary) helps him to put his ego back in check.  Hey, whatever I can do to help.

            We see lots of deer this day, and we are slowed down a bit by the lack of trail markings along the way.  Several times we had to stop, back-track and search out the blazes (the paint marks on the trees)  that indicated where the trail was.  We never got too far off course, but a few times it took some serious hunting to find our proper way.  There were a lot of knobs to ascend and descend this day, lots of up and down.  The morning was windy, but as the day progressed the sun kicked in and it began to warm up.  The wind mellowed a bit with the appearance of the sun, and it actually became hot.  We made several stops just to take pictures and adjust our packs.  I was having some trouble adjusting my pack so that it was comfortable.

            We had started after 9 that morning and at about 2:00 in the afternoon we found ourselves down the mountain, out of the woods and in the town (village?) of Glady.  The town is situated at a crossroads and is made up of a few houses and a combination grocery store and post office.  I could hardly believe that we were there.  I had been rather skeptical about the time we had been making on the trail.  I figured we were doing 2 miles an hour at best - but the portion of trail up to this point was supposed to have been about 25 miles, and we were already done with it.  We must have been making great time on the down-hill portions of the trail.

            We headed to the post office and "made camp" on a concrete slab to the side of the building.  Removing our shoes and our packs, taking in the sun, and giving the post-master more business than he probably usually got in any single day.  Diet cokes, water and chips.  The post- master was an older man, sort of brusque in his ways and not very talkative.  The building was quite small, 1/3 of it segregated from the rest by rows of wooden mail boxes into which he was sorting letters.  I asked him how many people live in the town - "27 people - full time."  In my mind, I wondered about those who live there part time, but he didn't seem too interested in conversation, so I let the question pass unasked.

            We did get some conversation out of a gentleman who had stopped by in his truck and asking about where we had been and where we were heading.  When we mentioned that we were heading to Durbin, the town supposedly at the end of the trail that ran through the village, he didn't seem to have heard of it.  That was a real note of confidence.  He did tell us that the temperature the night before had been about  25 degrees (and so at best, 20 degrees up in the mountain where we had spent the night).  He also gave Trey some hope by pointing out that the West Fork Trail (the rail-to-trail portion) had no real hills to it since it was a railroad track at one time.

            After changing into shorts and getting our shoes back on, we headed out.  We planned to walk out of town and down the trail far enough to find a camping area for the night.  This new trail was definitely flatter, but it was also covered with stones.  These stones do several things - they give a great, clear base to the trail, but they also reflect the heat, which in turn soaks through the boots.  I think we were both feeling that fact.

            With the amazing speed that we had made up to this point, I was starting to become a little concerned about ending this trek too soon.  We were definitely going to make better time on this part of the trail, but it was only going to be about 23 miles long - and I had hoped that we would not finish the hike before Sunday or Monday - I was in no hurry to get back.

            The trail led us past some farm houses, following a river on one side and the foot of the mountain on the other. It was also along private, fenced off land, and there were no apparent camping spots that we could find - that were on public land anyway.  Finally, we picked a spot that lay beside the river.  The flattest spot we could find would only accommodate one of our tents.  So, Trey camped on a flat spot on one side of the barbed wire fence and I pitched my tent on the other.  In scouting the area, I had walked through a well hidden bunch of thorn bushes, and my legs were all scratched up in an interesting pattern.  Oh well, a trip-trophy to go along with the scar on my knuckle.

            I was a little concerned about trespassing and so we agreed to keep the fire small.  After getting the tents set up, the clothes laid out on the fence and in the trees - we decided it was high time to wash off.  The river water was extremely cold, but it was worth the effort to take the sponge bath in order to feel clean.  It was going to be another cold, clear night - a good night for sitting around the fire, sipping on the bourbon, and continue our curing of all the worlds' problems.  We finally called it a night about 10:00.  Gad! the stars are bright and beautiful!


We both seemed to have slept well that night, though I woke up to a rather wet tent.  I think it was because of the heat I was generating, the cold of the night, and the fact that the rain fly, although poor at keeping the rain out, did keep the moisture in rather well; but at least I was warm.

            I woke up once at 5:30, walked around a bit, and then went back to sleep, re-awakening at about 7:30.  Unable to lay still for very long - I proceeded to make as much noise as I could without it seeming to be on purpose, in order to wake Trey.  It was comparatively much warmer this morning than the previous day.  We lingered a bit, not getting back on the trail until after 9:30 in the morning.  Of course, we started the day with the requisite tea and clay bar.  I don't know why, we were not real enthused about these protein bricks, neither of us felt that they were worth the effort it took to choke them down - and the flavor was horrible - but they were good for us.

            Anticipating a warm day, we were dressed in shorts and t-shirts, but the sun certainly took its time coming over the mountain and really heating us up.  But, as long as we were moving, it was all right.  The trail was bumpy due to the stones we were walking on, and it was actually pretty hard on the feet.  Trey was having a bit of trouble with his feet - the blisters were showing up despite the mole-skin, and the day before he had stubbed his toe in making the descents - and one toe was bleeding a bit.  Each time we stopped he would put on more mole-skin, I suggested that he just get the entire foot carpeted with the stuff.

              We established a routine of stopping every hour or so for about 10-15 minutes.  It made it easier on both of us.  I was constantly shifting my pack - still never finding a truly comfortable setting for the straps.  I am not sure what the problem was.  I had used that pack on several occasions and never had this sort of problem with it.  I began to suspect that someone back at the house had been fooling around with it, as they are wont to do with my outdoor gear.

            The trail was actually pretty busy this day.  We started the morning with a group of bow-hunters walking by - loaded for buck.  And there was a truck - a forest service truck with about 4 men riding in it.  They were making stops along the way, at times we passed them up, and then a bit later we would have to get off the trail to let them pass us by.  It took us a while to figure out what they were doing.  At first we thought that they were putting food in the river for the fish... but it turns out that they were actually stocking the river with brown trout.  The men were friendly enough, but when we were passing one another, they kind of crowded us off the trail.

            There was a road on the far side of the river that seems to be paralleling our route.  We had definitely lost the feel of being out in the wilderness.  People were parked all along the river bank - not sure if they were hunters or picnickers, but they were not too noisy or bothersome and stayed on the far bank of the river. 

            We continue to constantly consult the map, but it offered us no real help - we just could not seem to locate ourselves on it.  I was saying that we were doing about 2 miles an hour.  Trey supposed that we were doing 2.5-3 miles per hour.  I thought he might be closer to the truth, but I didn't want to set up any false hopes - also I was still concerned about finishing too soon.  So, I guess I was figuring that if I believed  we were doing less miles then we would  have more time on the trail.  As of yet, I have not been able to manipulate time and space with my wishful thinking, and I really did not suppose that I was going to succeed that time either.

            We did 5 "legs" this day (1 hour periods of hiking) and so we figured we'd put in between 10 to 13 miles in.  Which gave us only another 9-12 miles to go.  Trey figured we would hit town on the next day - I wanted it to be otherwise.  We did not make much of an attempt to stay together as we walked this day.  I went at my pace and then would wait a while.  We were both all right with this - it just seemed the right way to walk that day.  Every time we stopped though, I was bothered by a bee.  I don't know if it followed us all day, but it sure seemed like the same one at each of our hourly breaks - and I couldn't convince it to bother Trey instead of me.

            The sun was bright and the skies blue all day long.  At times we would be extremely hot, and then we would walk through the shadow of the mountains and were instantly cooled down - it was rather nice after the heat, but could be rather chilly if we were too long in the shadows..

            It struck me on one of our breaks how unsanitary we were.  I had just finished cutting my toe-nails, Trey had attended the wounds on his feet, and as soon as we were done with our bodies we were both reaching into the bag of nuts for a snack.  Oh well, this is called camping.  Sharing our water bottles, plates and eating utensils, cleaning them off against our pants, washing them in the river, etc.  Of course, once we return to civilization we'd both be grossed out by it all, but on the trail it seems the thing to do.

            On our final leg of the day, we ran into a couple of guys who were looking for their dog.  It seems that they were walking him on the trail and that he spied a deer and took off after it - not heeding the call of its' master.  We hadn't seen the dog, and the boys continued along their way - in the opposite direction of our way.  About 20 minutes later, we found their boxer.  He was standing in the middle of the trail, ears folded back, teeth bared, barking incessantly, and foaming at the mouth.  It looked scared, tired and angry.  And it was not going to let us pass.  We were at an impasse - on one side of us was the river, on the other side was a rather steep hill, in front of us was the dog.  We were definitely not going to walk back.  We tried calling the dog, threatening the dog, attempted to get it to fetch, tried to scare it off with stones - but nothing was making the dog leave the trail.  If we attempted to continue on, he would come forward toward us - he was not going to be scared away.

            After about 15-20 minutes of this stand-off, we decided the only thing to do was to scramble up the hill and go around the dog.  The hill was rather steep, covered with slippery leaves, and not much to hold on to.  Trey went up first while I protected the rear, and then he watched for the dog as I scampered up.  We scrambled along the side of the hill until we got beyond the dog, who never stopped barking, but neither did it come after us after we got back on the trail.  Well, that was a bit of an adventure.

            By this point on the trail, the river had become quite beautiful and there were some rather interesting rock areas along the side.  We were both looking for a likely place to camp.  We finally settled on an area where there were huge rock ledges hanging over the water as well as forming the bank of the river.  We pitched our tents just off the trail in the most grassy area we could find and laid out a lot of our gear on the rocky ledges in order to dry it out from the sweat and moisture.

            There was not a lot of fire-wood to be had, but we hunted around enough to find a supply that would get us through the night.  After collecting the wood and setting up camp, we both spent some time soaking our feet in the freezing cold water.  I then went down river a ways to pump some water, and as I was doing that, I looked back just in time to see Trey apparently falling into the river.  He was dressed only in his t-shirt.  I didn't think he would have jumped in with a t-shirt on (holding the cold water next to his skin) ... and I was right.  He had intended to jump in, but without his shirt.  As he was taking it off, he lost his footing and turned his spill into a semi-dive.

            Soon, he was on the bank of the river, lathering himself with the camp soap and then took another jump in to rinse himself off.  I got back with the water, and decided a bath was a good idea.  I jumped in and immediately lost all my breath and ability to breathe.  I flailed my way to the shore, climbed on the bank, soaped down and then threw myself back in again.  The water was very COLD, but it was also refreshing.  It was so good to have my matted hair clean again, to wash the smell of sweat and campfires from my skin, to get rid of the sticky sweat on the back of my legs.  Of course, after such a cold bath, the sun immediately disappeared behind the mountain and so cooled down the area rather quickly giving us a chill.

            Dinner that night was really bad.  The previous meals had not been too bad at all.  But this night they were tasteless, the pasta remained hard and the spices were too strong and not very tasty.  We tried another one, of a different flavor, but it was not any better.  I think I was using the oldest meal pouches I had with me... and that meant they were both at least 4 years old.  Oh well, we had to get rid of it at some point.  Anyway, we got enough in us to stave off any real hunger pains and called it supper.

            We had a nice fire going, the gurgling of the river in the background,  plenty of stars to keep us company - it was an ideal night.  Trey had been trying all week to devise someway of supporting his pack in such a way as to be able to sit against it with back support, and this night he had finally succeeded.  We took turns sitting against his invention and looking up at the stars.  It really was an ideal night- and the bourbon only added to it.   Trey decided that we had had enough of the protein bars for one trip and so we threw them in the fire.  We were both fascinated and distressed at the fact that the damn things would not burn.  They just sat in the fire - their frosting bubbling up a bit, but they were not melting, burning or in any way losing their shape.  Even after sitting in the fire a while we were able to poke them with sticks, but the stick would not penetrate - it was as if the centers were not getting any heat at all.  I suspect that we were simply "firing" them in the heat, and like pottery they would cook into hard bricks.  The thought of our having been eating these things was really amazing.  No more protein bars for either one of us!

            We were both becoming concerned about finishing too soon now.  I guess the beauty and splendor of the spot really made us hesitant about getting out of it  too soon.  We made tentative plans for doing some other, smaller, one day loop if we did finish too soon.  I finally called it a night about 9:30, Trey spent a little more time at the fire before he too retired.  It had been a good day, a glorious night, and we anticipated more of the same for the next day.           


            I got up about 7 Sunday morning.  There was fog in our valley, and it had soaked our tents.  Because of the mountain ridge, the sun would not truly rise for us for several more hours.  Trey seemed to be sound asleep and so I decided that instead of waking him up right away, I could go and get our water for the day.  The pump quit working very well at all - it really must have gotten clogged up pretty heavily in the brackish water, and so it took a good 25-20 minutes of pumping to fill each canteen.  This made for sore arms from the pumping action and numb hands from the cold water, but finally they got filled.  By the time I got the water, Trey had awakened.

            Since we were in a low area, and the fog was pretty thick, there was no real sense in waiting for the sun to rise and warm us up or dry off our tents, so we packed them up and were on the move by about 9:30 in the morning.  By about 10:30 the sun is high in the sky and heating us up pretty well.  We stopped at one of the several train trestles along the route and took our break.  Sitting there, I spied an apple tree beside the trail.  It had been too long since I had  had fresh apples off the tree.  I pointed them out to Trey and then went and knocked a few of them off for our dining pleasure.  We had some string cheese with us as well as some mixed nuts - so we had a veritable feast right there on the trail - it sure made up for the lousy supper the night before.

            We both decided it was inevitable that we would get into Durbin (the town at the end of our trail) sometime that day..  Both of us were thinking it would be sometime in the mid-afternoon.  Both of us were sorely mistaken.

            Our apple break had been at about 10:30 and we started up again about 11:00.  We were standing in the streets of Durbin by 11:30.  I found it all quite unbelievable.  I checked the map - surely this was some other town along the way, but according to the map, it couldn't have been any place other than Durbin.  How we made such good time with all our frequent stops and what I thought was a rather slow pace!?  I was literally astounded and couldn't quite believe it. 

            After convincing ourselves that yes, this was Durbin, we then inquired as to the direction of the park where we had left our truck.  We asked a guy who was sitting on the font porch of his house.  He indicated the highway running in front of his house and said it was about 10 miles up the road - most all of it uphill.  Well, at least the hiking part was not all over yet.

            After Trey applied more mole-skin - we were off.  If walking on the crushed stone was a hot experience... walking on the heated pavement was more so.  And there was not much of a shoulder to this hi-way either.  About a mile later we stopped at a gas station on the side of the hiway and indulge in some cold sodas.  The cashier confirmed for us that the park we were looking for was several miles up the road and right over the top of the mountain. 

            It was all uphill, and not a gentle, rolling uphill, but a rather wicked grade that kept us leaning forward.  This was definitely going to be the worst part of the entire trip, made worse by the fact that it was also the end of the trek.  We eventually separated, given our different paces, but we were both bound and determined to keep going.... I got about 20 minutes ahead of Trey and eventually stopped at a farm alongside the road.  It was a beautiful piece of property that sloped down into a very green field bordered by trees.  When Trey catches up to me, we took a water break, switched into shorts and dry socks, and with steely determination continued our up-hill trek. 

            There were several points along the way when it felt certain that the road was going to level off, or that we had crested the mountain, but as we went around a bend we would be met with the next hill, with more road, with more climbing to be done.  The heat was not helping to  make it any easier.

            By the time I  actually get over the last mountain top and onto the straightway leading to the park, I am about half an hour ahead of Trey.  As I entered the park road, there were a couple of men in one of the picnic areas, it looked as though they were trying to pull a stump out of the ground.  We conversed a bit. One of the men was really curious if I had seen any bear while in the mountains.  I told him that we had not.  He thought that was rather odd, indicating that there had been a lot of bear sightings lately.  Too bad that we hadn't seen any. 

            The road from the entrance to the park to where the truck was parked was about 2 miles long and it was, of course, all uphill.  After my conversation with the two campers I trudged forward.  It had become an endurance test by now.  No breaks, no stopping, no pausing... just a steady uphill trudge.  I finally got to the truck about 2:30.  I threw off the pack, yanked off my boots and guzzled down some water and simply laid on the tail of the truck letting the sun dry me off and swatted  at that bee that had been following and circling me all week long.  I lay there for about an hour.  I gave some thought to taking the truck and picking Trey up off the route, but I felt that that would not be what he would have wanted... we both wanted to walk this to the end.  He later confirmed that intuition, and so I was glad that I didn't.

            Trey finally showed up about 45 minutes after I did.  He looked about as worn as I felt, and I was sure that his feet must have been hurting him big-time.  We rested, talked about this last segment of the hike and toasted our success with lemonade and water.

            We decided that we needed to continue the celebration that evening.  Instead of heading back, we would grab some steaks, find a campsite and pig out that night over an open fire.  We snapped a few pictures, changed clothes, loaded up the gear and headed out.  We drove into town looking for an open grocery store - but there were none.  We ended up back at the gas station and  paying convenience store prices for our food.  The steaks were about $10.00 each, but we figured we were worth it and had earned it.

            We drove around the area looking for a camping site.  We tried one park area, but it turned out not to be an actual camping spot, but a civil war battle ground.  There was a couple there and we asked them about potential campsites.  They were real excited about a particular site that they sang praises about.  We got directions from them and headed out.  It soon becomes clear that the place they sent us to was several hours away and in the opposite direction from the one we wanted to go in.  We consulted the forest map again and decided to try something closer.

            We found a camp park just as the sun was beginning to set.  We quickly grabbed an area with a picnic table and grill.  We set out our tents and gear to let them dry and then began the hunt for firewood.  It seemed to be a pretty well visited park, and so the search for wood took a little while.  Our feet were sore, our backs stiff, and there was a real joy in having completed the hike.  We toasted ourselves with bourbon and Diet 7 Up.  We continued to express a lot of amazement at the speed with which we accomplished the journey, but we both agreed it was a great trip.  We laughed about our previous trips and the near disasters that always seemed to be a part of them; we reveled in the exertions of the day and how the idea of the truck parked at the end of the road - loaded with water and dry clothes and a place to put our packs kept us going uphill along the hiway.

            The steaks were wonderful, the fire warm and bright, the camper next to us played some pretty good music pretty loudly.  We sat around the fire until about 9 or 10.  There was a lot of activity in the camp sites around us.  Some were preparing for an early morning hunt, a couple came in about 10 or 11 to set up camp by flashlight, and all the other noises of a busy, public campground surrounded us.  It was a cold night and as we set off for our tents the wind really began to blow.  This caused the really large acorns to be flung from the trees.  At first it sounded as though they were very large raindrops, but raindrops don't make that kind of sound when slamming against the truck.

            This was probably the worst night for sleeping of the week.  I had pretty well drifted off despite the cold and the noise and was doing pretty well until about 2 in the morning.  At that time I heard someone messing around the truck.  I tried to see what was going on, not sure if it was Trey or someone from a neighboring camp.  I tried to assure myself that it was Trey, but there was a nagging doubt that caused me to finally get up and see what was going on.  It was Trey - he had gotten rather cold in his tent and so got into the truck to warm up.  The cab of my truck is not the most comfortable sleeping spot, and it was not really much warmer.  I walked over, saw that it was him, asked if he was all right, he assured me that he was, and so I headed back to my tent.

            For the rest of the night I slept in fits and starts.  I could see a light being used in what I thought was my truck.  I assumed it was Trey looking for something or doing something in the truck.  But it kept going on, and there was the constant shutting of a car door.  I was curious about what was going on, I could not imagine what Trey was doing, but it was cold enough that I did not want to again leave the warmth of my sleeping bag and tent.  I kept looking through the tent window and seeing the light, I would drift off to semi-sleep again and then a shutting door or other noise would alert me again.  The curiosity kept nagging at me.  Finally, I could not stand it any longer (and I had to go to the bathroom) so I got back out of the tent about 4 in the morning and discovered that the noise and light was not actually coming from my truck.  I had been looking through the truck to the truck across the road and the people gathered there.  They were preparing for an early hunt and were putting together their gear, and preparing their equipment.  Well, that was a load off my mind.  I did my business and returned to my tent to try again to fall asleep.

            Finally the night came to an end.  The dawn of a new day giving that early morning glow to our surroundings, the noise of cars and trucks being loaded up and taking off, of hunters heading into the woods, birds calling in the trees, all combined to tell us it was time to get up and get going.  We had no more power bars, and we were not real interested in boiling any water - luckily we had bought enough Diet Coke the evening before to provide for our breakfast.  We got up, got packed up and got going.           


            The drive back was pretty uneventful.  Trey made a call to Marcia to let her know we were out of the woods and had both survived and affirmed his great love for her.  We made plans for my up-coming trip to Texas to baptize Rolando's daughter and fell into the quiet that comes with a long hi-way drive.  Thoughts of the work loads that were awaiting both of us kept coming up, but we did our best to continue to be "off duty." 

            We got back to the house and unloaded our gear, spreading it out in the boiler room in order to let it dry out.  It was at this point that I discovered that I had no boots.  I guess they got left behind at our last camp-site.  This really bothered me.  Good hiking boots are expensive and take a while to break in - I had had that particular pair for about 5 years, and they had been in great shape and quite comfortable.  Bummer! 

            Trey and I had both agreed that we deserved another great dinner.  We decided that Ruth's Chris Steak House would be just the place to take ourselves - big servings, heavy on the proteins and real meat.  It was a great evening.  We were both a bit tired and so it was also a short night.  We ate, we got home, went to bed.  We planned on going to the FBI center the next morning and wander around town a bit.

            Trey called a friend of his at the FBI and got us in on the tour for that morning.  It was quite an interesting tour - highlighting the work of the FBI crime labs, the famous cases through their history, a massive display of guns and rifles and all sorts of trivia that I hadn't heard before.  It was an interesting tour.

            After the FBI tour we decided to walk around downtown a bit.  We headed over to the capital building, Trey recounting some of the tales of his time in DC as an intern, and simply enjoying the sights and the other people wandering around.  We got to the capital and took a few pictures.  We walked around to the other side of the building and noticed that there was some sort of press conference going on in front of the steps.  We wandered over to see what was happening and were both surprised to see Hank Aaron, the legendary baseball player standing in the middle of a bunch of TV cameras and microphones.  Apparently it was the anniversary of his record and Congress was honoring him in some way.  It was quite exciting to see this living legend standing before us.  We took our own pictures of the man and as the conference broke up we headed to the other end of the building where there was another gathering of reporters and on-lookers.  To our delight and surprise, we found out that the people were waiting for Senator Ted Kennedy to come out and pay off a bet he had made with the New York Senator regarding the baseball game of the previous night.  New York had beaten Boston in the play-offs and so Senator Kennedy was to read "Casey at the Bat" from the Capital steps.  He did a wonderful job - the man really knows how to speak and read with expression.  It was a lot of fun, the poem ending with the fact that there would be "... no joy in Bean-town that night..."

            We wandered around a bit more, stopped at a shopping area to pick up some souvenirs and then headed back to the house.  Trey did some laundry and packing, I got some office work done, we went to dinner again that night and then a few more drinks on the back porch.  The next morning I drive him to the airport, drop him off, and we bring another excellent journey to an end with anticipatory promises of a great time in December.  What a great trip! 

            I am finishing this little trip log in the evening of Thanksgiving Day, and as I bring it to an end, I am truly thankful for the opportunities I have for taking these little trips, and especially for the friends I have to share them with.