Thursday, June 28, 2007

Waynesboro, VA

Greetings from Waynesboro, VA. Today we were met by Spencer (Warpzilla)'s mom and his step dad. We utilized the local laundry, the grocery store, and doctor's office. Spencer has come down with a bad case of "chiggers"; we initially thought that it was itchy acne or some sort of rash, but it appears that it is a bad case of this pesky insect. He got a prescription ointment to combat the bugs and they should be under control or gone shortly.

Also this week we decided during our night in the greater Lynchburg area with the Haeseker's that we wanted to lighten our loads a little bit with our upcoming high mileage in the Shenandoah national park. We decided "to go cold" or to basically not heat up any water for our meals in the foreseeable future. We are losing our stove fuel, stoves, and cook sets. This shaves weight, yet also helps with time in that we need to gather less water and we have less to do when we get to camp at night.

Other changes involve dropping various items of gear. I am probably dropping my sleeping bag and shifting to a liner until northeastern Pennsylvania at the earliest. We have decided to move away from Nalgene bottles and are using plastic drink bottles from the store that are recyclable, easily replaceable, and weigh less than Nalgene bottle's. We are constantly trying to shave as much weight as we can, because we are faced with doing the stretch of Waynesboro to Harper's Ferry by the Fourth of July. This is a stretch of about 160 miles that will get us to the symbolic midpoint of the trail in Harper's Ferry at the ATC headquarters and we will cover it in about 5 days. We are going to then take off the Fourth of July in Harper's Ferry and get geared up for Pennsylvania.

This next 160 miles will probably require some long days and night hiking as well, yet we are ready for the challenge and our loads are lighter than ever.

Tonight we are posting some new photos so please enjoy those. Also we are going to try to update the accomplished mileage log as well.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Lynchburg, VA

Hello, today I am spending some time with some old friends here in Lynchburg, VA. Lynchburg is a short trip from Glasgow, VA and it has been amazing to catch back up with some old Raleigh connections. The Hutt's are connected to myself as well as Stephen. Their son Ren was in pre-school with Stephen and I back in 1989. They picked me up at the parking lot by the James River last night, and have fed me well and made me feel like a member of the family. A huge thank you to them for their amazing Virginia hospitality.

I finished the section from Pearisburg, VA to Glasgow, VA on schedule and was able to take it at a little slower pace and I think I may have found not only a shoe that works for me but also my trail legs. I am now on the 7th pair of shoes that I have hiked in this summer, this number is the current record on the trail, I guess that should make me proud I'm just not sure yet. My trail name is "Foot Locker," because of the difficulty I have had with finding footwear that works for me. The shoes that I am using now are popular among many thru-hikers, are stable, low-cut, and I have met people that have done 700+ miles in them so I think durability will not be a huge concern. I am now using the Montrail Hardrock. They did well the last two days from Daleville/Troutville to Glasgow, a stretch that I did in two days at an average of about 28 miles a day. I think I am now ready to jump back in with the crew. The local terrain is easier than earlier stretches, and the upcoming Shenandoah park is supposed to be well-graded and easy to hike through as well. Can't wait to see the other guys, but for now I am enjoying my day off.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mile Marker 620

Just got off the phone with Spencer tonight, he and Bandana Ben arrived into Pearisburg, VA this afternoon late after completing two 30mile plus days in a row. He sounded good just very pooped. I can't even imagine. The past two days have been the hottest so far, and Troop 215 you have been a life saver with the beverages you left behind. By Friday they should be in Catawba,VA and onto Glasgow by Monday June 25th. Glasgow will mark 1/3 of the way to Maine. Tonight they were spending the night in a real bed in a small local motel. After showers and dinner @ Hardee's, a visit to Dairy Queen, and laundry underway it sounded like they were looking forward to a good nights rest.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day

This is Garrett's Dad. Had a great father's day. My father and I drove up Saturday to meet up with the boys. We got to Mount Roger's Headquarters (adjacent to the Partnership Shelter) about 5 minutes after the boys arrived. They were resting and thinking about ordering a pizza.

Garrett had been having more foot problems (blisters on both feet). We picked up Garrett and took him into Marion for lunch and to pick up a few things at Wal-Mart.

We drove up to the trail crossing on Hwy 11 near Atkins, VA, to meet up with Spencer and Ben. We hiked in about 45 minutes to try and meet them on the trail. We met up with them as we hiked back to the road.

After Ben and Spencer checked into their motel and showered, my father took us all to dinner at the Barn. The boys each ordered two meals each, and ate every bite. They mentioned that they might order pizza when they returned to their room.

We dropped Ben and Spencer off at their motel then drove Garrett to Pearisburg, VA. Garrett wanted to move ahead so that he could gradually build up his hiking so that he would not delay the other boys any more than he already has. We checked him into a motel about a mile from the trail so that he could get a fresh start Sunday morning, then drove the 3-1/2 hours back to Hickory (arriving around 12:30 pm). I enjoyed the day, seeing the boys and spending the day with my dad.

Ben and Spencer appeared in good spirits and traveling well. They appear to be having no problems staying on their schedule. I am glad to report that Garrett called today and said that his blisters have nearly recovered and he was staying at Niday Shelter this evening (Monday). He plans to be at the Johns Spring or Catawba Mountain Shelter Tuesday. He plans to wait for Ben and Spencer at Glasgow, VA.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Back to the Trail

We are finishing up another delicious meal at Jerry's Trading Post in Troutdale, VA on this foggy morning. After just beating out the thunderstorm yesterday, it is likely that we will catch part of an afternoon storm today. We have decided that Garrett is going to get shuttled up the trail ahead of both Ben and I so that he can taper his mileage back up. Mr. Dixon is meeting us today for a resupply and will pick Garrett up at Partnership Shelter while Bandanna Ben and I continue. They will then meet us at US 11 where we will go in to Atkins, VA. The shuttle is waiting, so we must be going. That's all for now, stay posted for any updates.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Troutdale, VA

After leaving Damascus around 7:00 yesterday morning we've found ourselves back in town sooner than expected. We made the 28 mile trip up to Thomas Knob Shelter yesterday and had a fairly easy day up until the last 6 or so miles. The weather turned for the worse and we found ourselves drenched in rain and dodging a thunderstorm. We got to the shelter around 5:30 and changed into dry clothes and were able to call it an early night.

This morning we got going around the same time and set out to go a longer day than we've done before, 35.7 miles to the Partnership Shelter. Partnership is only .1 miles up the trail from the Mt. Rogers Ranger Station where you can use a pay phone to call for pizza. So with pizza on our minds we set out for the day. It was a very gray morning in the Grayson Highlands as the weather hadn't fully burned off and we were in foggy/cloudy weather all morning. We made it to VA16 where the trail branches off to the Hurricane Campground at around 3:30 and could hear the thunder really rolling in strong. We made the decision to not ascend 700 feet to the highest point around called High Point at an elevation of 4040. So we walked over to the side of the road, stuck our thumbs out, and were picked up within minutes by a guy headed home from work. He said he just couldn't leave us out in a storm like that because he saw it really coming down just over the mountain we decided to not climb. Good choice for us!

We are now at Jerry's Trading Post eating dinner and e-mailing. Hopefully the weather will be better in the coming days!

More later,
Bandanna Ben

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


We are just finishing up a pizza dinner at Sicily's in Damascus and they happen to have a public access computer here. It has a very fast connection and moreover, Active X capability so we can upload more than 5 pictures at a time (what we were doing at the library). So feel free to look through our "Trip Photos" gallery for pictures of our adventures from the last few weeks. We're off again in the morning. We'll most likely finish our stay in Damascus with another Dairy King milkshake. Happy trails!

Bandanna Ben

Zero Day #2

Writing to you all from the Damascus Public Library the "Friendliest Little Library On the Trail" we are currently taking zero day #2 and now stand at 459.5 miles into the 2,175 mile journey. The trip is currently into Virginia and we have 3 states under our belt.

Last night we were treated by Mr. McKay to a wonderful dinner at a restaurant in Abingdon, VA called the Peppermill. I endorse this restaurant if you find yourself up around these border towns. After dinner, we went and saw the Pirates of the Carribbean 3. It is always nice mentally to do something "normal" when out in the wilderness for long periods of time. We miss music and movies a whole lot, and we really enjoyed the movie last night.

Tomorrow we leave from the friendliest town on the trail and head on up White Top Mountain down into Elk Garden and then up the tallest point in Virginia, Mt. Rogers. We will be staying at Thomas Knob Shelter up on the ridge between Mt. Rogers and Grayson Highlands. This is a very beautiful stretch of Virginia, and was the same stretch that my dad chose to do during his 50th birthday celebration last October. The weather is great up here the temperatures are around 75-80 as the high and at night it gets to 50 at the lowest right now with some afternoon storms starting to develop almost daily.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Finally Back to the Trail

I will be driving up to Damascus today with Spencer's Dad to reunite with the boys. It has been way too long since I left the trail. I cannot wait to meet up with the team today. We are going to go see Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and they are going to take a zero day on Wednesday. We will blog more tonight about stories from the trail, and we will add more photos to our collection.

In health news, I have new shoes that have more ankle support and are a hybrid between a boot and a running shoe. I did 13+ miles on Monday in about 3 and a third hours to try and get back into the swing of things. I was still rolling my ankles too much at the sort of speed that we hike. I bought these new shoes with the hope that I can do high mileage without ankle problems and without much more weight as well. Thanks for all of the concern that people have shown for my health this past 10 days or so; we really could not accomplish a trip like this without the help of others and everyone has been great in that respect. More to come tonight...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mile Marker 400

Spencer and Ben have passed the 400 mile of the trail today. At 3:00PM they still had a six mile descent into camp left, ending at the Laurel Fork Shelter. They believe they will arrive into Damascus VA on Tuesday afternoon around 6:00PM. Garrett plans to ride with me to rejoin the team. It sounds like the cramping is under control, spirits are good, just exhausted and looking forward to a zero day.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Enlyten SportStrips

We have stumbled upon, with the help of our nutritional consultant, a relatively new style of electrolyte replacement that just recently came to the market. The product is similar to the notorious Listerine Pocket Packs in that it is a cassette filled with little strips. The benefit of this style of dispenser is that it is compact and not messy like mixes can be. Also this is another version of electrolyte replacement that not only helps replace the salts that we lose during exercise, yet also helps provide a balanced electrolyte solution and not another sugary simple drink like a Gatorade or Powerade. The two king sport drinks, Gatorade and Powerade, while remaining very popular, contain way too much simple sugar (which can actually cause cramping or crashing) and do not contain a spectrum of electrolytes that we desperately need. The ultimate benefit of Enlyten strips is that they claim a greater efficiency than what we have found in Nuun or in Camelback's Elixir in that they actually bypass the GI tract. The GI tract can actually not absorb every bit of the electrolytes that are contained in our drinks causing us to waste some of the needed compounds. The idea of Enlyten is that the product goes directly into the bloodstream through the membranes of the cheek causing a much greater efficiency and more sudden intake of the electrolytes, therefore when we may have gotten behind on our electrolyte intake and we are bonking out or cramping one of these strips could theoretically help us faster than drinking a Nuun solution and waiting for the effect. While we have not tried these strips out yet, idea is fantastic, and we will blog more about how much they help us. They are being adopted by many professional athletes, and they have been tested at Duke in their sport's medicine department so I think they definitely will give us an edge. Although we are not scrapping the Nuun or Elixir products, because these products provide a greater spectrum than Enlyten, yet i think that these products combined with the Enlyten strips will give us multiple ways to insure a proper electrolyte balance.

Actual Mileage Blog Feature

I just want to point out a new blog feature that I have added to the upper right hand of the blog under our personal trip info. I have added a spreadsheet that Spencer and Ben made yesterday in Erwin. This spreadsheet contains the actual stops on the trail that we have made. Not only can you compare this to our initial itinerary that we had made on or before May 20th to see how much we have deviated from this plan, yet also it is neat to see how much we have accomplished and where we actually stayed. Finally, the best part about this feature is that we are able to look at the glass in a "half full" perspective and see how far we have gone instead of what we have left to do. I remind you all that are following along at home to check out this entry on google earth tracking, which can allow one to look at satellite imagery upon our actual stops on the trail contained within the spreadsheet.

Aspects of Proper Hydration

One of the major lessons that this trip has reinforced on us is the constant importance of good hydration when being active in the outdoors. During our initial time on the trail we noticed the typical sweat and salt loss that is known to all people who engage in tough endurance activity, or even those of us simply sweating in the heat. It is common sense that one must intake water to replace the water that is lost by sweating, yet most people also do not think about the water lost by breathing and urine production/waste. Simply put our intakes of water on the trail have been huge and maybe then not enough. We have attempted to intake around a liter per hour of hiking which is a lot of water. Having an intake of water close to this amount is astounding, and water and hydration are essential to preventing cramps, muscle recovery, and energy production. Unfortunately, when drinking such large amounts of water in a hot environment the other side of hydration rears its head. The aforementioned salt loss is the one major factor that we have tried to also gauge. Salt loss is a lot harder to get a handle on than water loss and I have never repeatedly strung together the extended endurance tests that we have encountered on this trip. We had initially planned to try out the tablets made by Nuun Hydration, and while we know that this sort of electrolyte replacement is important, we were not sure how many electrolytes we would need. We initially and usually most people place a huge importance on water intake, and also on sodium intake. While sodium is the most common electrolyte, we have realized the importance of intaking a spectrum of electrolytes, and we have realized that sugar filled sports drinks are not the best way to intake these beneficial compounds, and often these popular drinks like Gatorade do not provide a spectrum of electrolytes, yet only Sodium and/or potassium. The Nuun electrolyte replacement, or the Camelback Elixir are both broad spectrum electrolyte replacements. The are designed to prevent dehydration and other conditions in which the athlete intakes a lot of water yet not enough electrolytes. One such condition called Hyponatremia involves an imbalance of sodium and water in the body. This imbalance can be compounded by usage of Aspirin, Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory agents, which we are commonly taking for the dreaded "trail ache." The symptoms of this condition include nausea, muscle cramps, disorientation, slurred speech, confusion, and irrational behavior, and many of these symptoms have been experienced on the trail even with our plentiful intakes of water and represent instances of hyponatremia. Undoubtedly, we have decided that we must intake electrolytes and that with our daily active exercise times that range from 8-12 hours we need to intake these substances as if we are ultramarathoners. Although we have at times had an admirable intake of water, we have definitely not had the proper intake of electrolytes including sodium to accompany this water intake. The amount of salt loss and water loss experienced when hiking 20-30 miles in mountainous terrain is significantly higher than many other endurance activities. We are in effect aiming to perform almost a marathon every day for the rest of the summer. We know that the cramping and loss of performance combined with loopy behavior is at times dehydration, at times hyponatremia, and at other times low blood sugars from not enough or right dietary intakes, yet we have certainly learned the importance of electrolyte intakes for our trek and in endurance pursuits.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Trail Magic, Trail Names, and Hydration update

In addition to what Spencer just posted, i thought I'd add that we are very grateful for our rather unexpected "trail magic" here in Erwin. We were fully prepared to stay at Uncle Johnny's and continue on our way but were really happy to hear about an offer for a place to stay, etc.

Which brings me to my next thought, if anyone out there reading this happens to live along the AT or has any family or friends that live along the AT that wouldn't mind a few "healthy" smelling college students dropping by for a laundry/shower/meal/sleep recharge, please post a comment on here. Anywhere along the AT from Erwin, TN to Katahdin, ME would be great!

Today Spence and I finally ended up owning our trail names. After running into a Southbound thru-hiker named Rambo Ron that started up north in July 2006 and hasn't stopped yet, i came to the realization that I can use Ben in my name and a little alliteration isn't all that bad. So i began to think of something that would fit using the letter 'B' and the gray bandanna on my head that I've been wearing for the last few hundred miles came to mind. Since it is pretty much taboo to give yourself a trail name i told Spence I had one in mind and if he guessed it, it would stick. Well he did and Bandanna Ben is here to stay. Spencer is going to stick the the trail name Warpzilla that was coined during the GA trip with Troop 215 in 2005. He was always hiking so darn fast that we said it was Warp Godzilla pace, which shortened becomes Warpzilla quite nicely. We've come 338 miles in the last 2 and a half weeks and now we finally have the quintessential Trail Names.

And lastly, the hydration update. On our day up and over Clingman's Dome in the Smokies, water sources were really dry overall and we had a tough time getting enough water early on. We decided to try and ration our water to make it past the Dome and to hopefully a better source on the other side. As we were descending we both noticed a tightening on the same spot on our right leg just above the knee. Long story short, we have attributed this cramping due to improper hydration because our bodies are sweating so much salts during the day that water simply isn't able to replenish it. We hope to remedy this in the future by drinking gatorade and other electrolyte filled sports drinks as we hike and not only water. We will keep the blog updated on the progress of our hydration efforts. So far it has been one of our toughest challenges.

All in all, a great trip so far. We realize that we are a few days behind our planned itinerary but we are making the most miles we safely can and hope to continue to do so. Thanks for all your words and support, they really keep us going.

-Bandanna Ben

Erwin, TN

We have been shown great hospitality by the Honrath Family who lives literally right next door to Uncle Johnny's Hostel (located just off the trail). We were planning to stay at Uncle Johnny's tonite but graciously accepted the invite to enjoy a home cooked meal, shower, and laundry at the Honrath's home, now that's a nice end to a 27 mile day. As far as all you Troop 215ers keeping in touch out there, we were at Uncle Johnny's camping on the 2004 AT summer trip. That trip started at Sam's Gap, where Ben and I reenacted the Troop beginning photo to the best of our ability. Leg cramps crept in towards the end of today and only had ourselves to blame for definitely not drinking enough water. Hydration, or lack there of, is most definitely the cause of our cramps. We are going to begin to drink more than water throughout the day i.e. elixir (by camelbak) and Gatorade mix. The electrolytes in these mixes ought to give us the extra replacement that we have been missing. Also, in the Damascus, VA drop (and every other drop from here on out) Garrett has placed Nuun electrolyte tablets. Well, time for a shower, then a Spaghetti dinner! That's all for now, maybe some pictures later tonite...stay tuned.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Trail Update 6/4/07 (Spencer + Ben)

We have just now made it to Hot Springs, NC at about 1:30 this Afternoon. We were recently in Cosby, TN being resupplied by the Chappell family and Chris (my roommates). They rented out a cabin for the night and we got an excellent meal, a shower, and some time in the hot tub. It was hard to get back on the trail. Sunday morning we headed back to the trail at Davenport Gap and we stayed the night at Roaring Forks Shelter. Ben and I have had some trouble with our right quadriceps. Ever since day two in the Smoky Mountains, a sharp, painful cramp has developed every afternoon in the same spot for both of us. We thought maybe it was because we went 28.5 miles that day, but is has been a recurring pain ever since. Mileage in the afternoon has been excruciating, but we have pushed on as best we could. So we are getting jobs in Hot Springs for a while...just kidding. However, mileage will be dropped down below expected levels until we can figure something else out, as we are weary of taking another unplanned zero day. The Bluff Mountain Outfitters (in Hot Springs) was kind enough to let us use their computer to blog and check e-mail. We are planning to hit Erwin, TN on Thursday. More to come, hopefully some pictures soon. Thank you for everyone that has been commenting, posting, and reading the blog.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Trail Update 06/03/07

I talked with Spencer and Ben this morning. They made it through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are leaving from Davenport Gap today and will continue northward to the Walnut Mountain Shelter. The Smoky mountains are some of the tougher stretches on the trail and contain the highest elevations and some ridiculous climbs. The highest point on the trail is Clingman's Dome on the TN/NC border that tops out at 6643' which is only 41 feet shorter than the highest peak east of the Mississippi river, North Carolina's Mt. Mitchell. My hat goes off to them; they said they did 29 miles a few days ago in a constant rain, which was around a 12 hour day of hiking. They have almost caught back up with the original itinerary. We had intended on making it where they are this morning last night so we are only a night off of the original schedule.