Catawba Grocery

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June 23, 1983 Thursday (1463.4 mtg) From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

Jim informed me this morning that he was thinking about quitting.

That was something I really did not want to have him do, yet I felt it might be a good thing. I wanted someone to be able to reminisce with when it was all over and done. It's great to tell your stories to someone who was not with you and is interested, but only those who have actually gone through it all will ever really feel what it was like. We had a good friendship up to this point, and if having him continue would erode this, then I wanted him to go.

For a while we traveled around the ridge similar to the six mile section of yesterday and then seemed to come to some areas where views could be had. There were low hanging clouds obscuring most of the terrain. The area seemed to be a very dry ecosystem, an area with pine trees and soil that was quite sandy and dry. There were many rock outcroppings in the area. Three miles past the shelter trail, we encountered one of the more interesting outcrops known as the "Dragon's Tooth." I had a yearning to attempt to climb to the top and see what the view was like, but I did not want to end my hike here as a result of a climbing accident. The stone monolith leaned impressively at a slight angle, and access to the top was via a crack in the side. From the dragons tooth the trail descended toward the Catawba Valley with a couple of sections involving navigation over other rocky outcrops with names like Devils Seat, Viewpoint Rock, and Rawies Rest before coming to the road crossing at VA 311 next to the Catawba Grocery. I had been at the Catawba Grocery before. It was here in 1981, that I had decided to end my first thru-hike attempt. I had come to this spot, phoned my parents and set up a rendezvous in Cloverdale, twenty-five miles down the trail as a pickup spot.

Summer was beginning to heat up, and so Jim and I split a quart of ice cream as we rested. During the ice cream break, Jim informed me that he really wanted to go home. I had talked with my mother on the phone back in Pearisburg about the possibility of meeting us somewhere along the trail around the 4th of July, so I called her and asked if they wanted to meet us in Afton. She said they could. I asked Jim if he would continue until then, and afterwards if he still wanted to quit, they could take him home. Jim said "This" was where he was going to quit. He would arrange for his parents to pick him up at this spot. He wanted to go no further. He said that he had some things at home that he wanted to do. As a result, my call was a short one, only six minutes (cost $4.32). Jim had made his decision, so I told mom it would only be me that they would be meeting soon. Jim's decision would leave me "tentless" since he was the owner of the tent we had been using, but we did not use it too often. I could get by until I secured another one.

While we were at the grocery store, George and his failing boots stopped in for a break. The whole front half of the boot sole had begun to flap in the breeze with every step. I gave him a roll of fiber-reinforced packaging tape to wrap around the boot to hold it together and prevent rocks from entering.

After the quart of ice cream, and saying goodbye to my partner and co-member of the Biumvirate Pedestrian League, I continued up the switchbacks that lead to the crest of North Mountain, which the trail followed for the next nine miles or so until it dropped down into Scorched Earth Gap.

I caught up with George and hiked with him for a while until just before the gap. Although the place got it's name as a result of some trail maintainer traveling at a very rapid pace through the area, I had a different experience of the place in '81, when I experienced such hot weather there and nearly passed out. This year, the heat was not as intense as two years ago, but still warm enough to live up to my recollections. Near the gap, I took a blue-blazed side trail off to the right to see the view from Big Tinker Cliffs. It was a tough little climb that did not reward me as much as I had expected based on the guide description, but perhaps I had not gone far enough to find the overhanging cliffs. I should have gone farther. The shelter was less than a mile from the gap, so I could easily have continued along the side trail a little farther without my pack, which I had stashed in the woods near the trail junction.

I arrived at the Lamberts Meadow shelter and looked for the large wild black cherries on the tree overhanging the back of the shelter that I had discovered two years ago. I ate a few that I found. Later, George arrived at the shelter and I was glad that I would not have to spend the night alone now that Jim was officially a hiker that was "through." Later on near dark, a strange, little short guy named John (Beckstrand?) came into the shelter. He asked if either of us was Alan, and I said "I was." He then informed me that Jim had gotten in touch with his Father and arranged for him to come out to pick him up in a few days. I was happy to hear the news, yet sad that Jim was no longer on the trail. John was very strange, sort of hyper active, and had been off the trail for some time and lost contact with his friends that he had been hiking with. He was all revved up and intended to hike twenty-five mile days for as long as it took to catch up with them. When he was not in earshot, George and I just cracked up and thought this guy must be nuts, there is no way he can keep up a pace like that! He spent the night with us and amused us with his exploits and attempts to show his machismo.

Ate Fettuccini for supper.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983

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