Pickles Branch Shelter

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June 22, 1983 Wednesday (1495.2 mtg) From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

Today we found that the trail had been relocated around Newport, Virginia. I was scheduled to pick up a package at the post office there, so now the next post office that I come across I will have to send a letter to the post master at Newport and have them forward the package to a destination farther on. The relocation took about 10 miles off of the original trail so we arrived at Niday Shelter at the middle of the day rather than ending our day there. For several miles before we reached Niday Shelter, the path followed a treacherous ridgeline over Sinking Creek Mountain. At the peak of the miles-long ridge were huge flat slabs of rock tilted at about a 45 degree angle that the trail passed over forcing us to be careful as we traversed or we would end up at the bottom of the slabs - undoubtedly covered with scratches. To top it off, there were rumblings in the not to distant skies as the afternoon heat began to produce the possibility of rain. The slabs would be murder in the rain. Although it did rain during part of the traverse, we successfully navigated the remaining sloping rocks and headed down on a trail that was overgrown with poison ivy up to my knees. There was no avoiding it, so I plowed right on through. I don't know if it was because the leaves were wet from rain, or the fact that I washed as soon afterwards as I could, but I managed to not have a reaction to it. Usually I am highly allergic to it.

At Niday, we met a couple of thru hikers, who were actually a couple, known as Ma & Pa Cretin, one of the best trail names I had heard so far. I liked the sound of it. We took a break there while I washed in the stream nearby.

Not long after leaving Niday Shelter we encountered one of the areas that is forever etched into my memory as one of the most "boring" sections. The area in itself is rather interesting, but the amount of it is a little too much. The description in the guide says "for the next six miles, with little change in elevation, the trail traces a snaking course along the western slope of Brushy Mountain, crossing successive ridges and gullies with intermittent streams." There is little change in elevation, and each turn is so much like the last that it becomes annoying after a while. The weather was somewhat rainy and foggy. After this section, we stopped for a long break at Trout Creek before putting in the last mile to the blue-blazed side trail to Pickle Branch Shelter. I was leary of going the half mile down to Pickle Branch shelter since the last time I was here there were reports of having to walk through tall grass that contained hoards of ticks ready to be brushed off onto your passing legs. This I did not want to experience. This year was different, and there were no problems with voracious ticks. We checked ourselves none-the-less. We met George at the shelter. George Steffanos was one of the hikers we had caught up to at Pearisburg, but left the morning after our first night there. I had been following George through the registers at the shelters for some time because I was entertained by his humorous writings. He had written hilarious songs, and little stories about the backpacker with no name modeled after the character in some of the spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood. It was a thrill finally getting to meet him and talk with him. We had briefly met in Pearisburg, but not enough to get to know him. I read about his death defying rush to Pearisburg to escape the lightening and hail on the mountains that dropped down to the New River, and actually was only a day or two behind him at the time. We had not encountered the hail like he had. I also had read about the shin splints that he developed as a result. Now with shin splints, and shoes that were falling apart, we were able to catch up with him.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983

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