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June 18, 1983 Saturday (1552.2 mtg) From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

The rain seemed to have subsided (at least for the morning). Jim began to boil water for himself while I went to relieve myself in the woods. This morning the trail entered into an area where a couple of hikers had been murdered two years ago. I had heard about this when I was on the trail in "81." At that time we all heard that the killer was still on the loose and heading south. That meant we could run into him at any time! We were all scared and some hikers even decided to buy knives or pistols. This section of trail was kind of "quarantined" when I came through the last time, so I had not been on this particular section before. The pine boards of the shelter where the murders had been committed had been replaced, and there is no longer any sign of blood, or the fact that something as gruesome as that had even occurred in the area. There still seemed to be a chill in the air since I was aware of the events that had taken place there, so we passed by the Wapitti Shelters while the weather was nice, continuing to our lunch stop at Docs Knob Shelter. This put us eight miles away from our goal.

The rhododendron were spectacular at this time of year in this area, particularly on the descent towards the New River Valley and the city of Pearisburg. We encountered a pretty good rainstorm during the descent, and Jim took a class 10 wipeout - face first as he lost footing on the steep descent. That brought the full load of his pack right down on his head when he hit the ground. Not a fun thing. Luckily, he was not injured, and we continued down to the civilization below. Pearisburg is one of the largest of the trail towns, and even though it is technically right on the trail, the blue-blazed side trail to the Holy Family Hospice is about two miles long and up a steep road at the very end. The post office happens to be before the hospice, but we had not made it there in time, mail would have to wait until Monday.

Upon arrival, we found the place packed to the gills. I was not expecting that. Judging by the registers, there were not many people directly ahead of us. That means one or two days ahead. Apparently many were hanging around waiting for the rain to stop. There is also that unseen magnetic pull that sucks hikers into hostiles and just never lets go. It provides such pleasures and vices that the tempted never want to leave. Some hang around for weeks on end drinking beer, gouging themselves with food and having the time of their lives. I talked with several of them before showering and then running down to the store for supplies. There is a small store not too far away from the hospice where I picked up a gallon of milk, a box of raisin bran, and five bananas - most of which I ate for supper. I felt uneasy in the crowded upper bunk area of the barn-shaped structure, so Jim and I decided to spend the night out in the fresh air underneath the cone shaped roof of the gazebo pavilion just out back. The bunkhouse provided a stuffy, noisy atmosphere that I did not want to deal with, the pavilion offered a nice cool breeze, and for some reason there were no mosquitoes. It rained occasionally, but we managed to keep dry. Tomorrow would be a free day since we did not get to the post office.

I hope some of the residents leave tomorrow morning.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983

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