Go to the earlier trip reports - Springer to Virginia.

The Kushmans' Virginia Reports

NOTE: The dates represent the dates the reports were received.

Date: 03 May 96 08:09:58 EDT
From: Richard Kushman
Subject: Troutdale Update


"Thunder (Kate) & Lightning (Riley)" have left the trail. We very much enjoyed both our hiking and our days of rest with Kate and Riley. Their wit and charm will be missed.

Kate's boot slid on a root going up Unaka Mountain and she fell, breaking her leg in two places. The Unicoy rescue team did a great job locating and evacuating her from the mountain. She has undergone surgery which includes the insertion of three pins and two plates. Kate vows to return next year to complete the trail.

All our best to Thunder & Lightning !!


Day 59 4/29/96 Monday 11.8 miles

Finally walked out of Damascus at 10:45 a.m. for a taste of Virginia. Godfather and Turtle would stay another day. The weather was sunny and very warm with rain expected by nightfall. There were a couple of good ups and the heat really bothered Nexmo. She is quite concerned about her ability to hike in hot weather. She does not perspire nearly enough to get properly cooled and heat exhaustion is the result. Our plan is to start early, keep the pace manageable, and take a long mid day break.

The heat prompted a long quiet lunch break next to a rushing stream with Chameleon and October Dawn. We then headed for a campsite under the pines near a small pond and bypassed Saunders Shelter. We might have visited the shelter but our maps were on their way to Troutdale and we were not aware of the blue blaze loop.

Bronco and Puddin joined us at the pond for dinner and a rainy night. It felt good not to be camped alone.

Day 60 4/30/96 Tuesday 12 miles

Today was one of the longest and highest climbs in Virginia. Breaking camp in the rain meant heavy packs and the cold weather meant shortened breaks. By the time we reached Lost Mountain Shelter for lunch the rain had stopped but it remained cold. The shelter register revealed that many hikers over the previous few days had taken the Creeper Trail instead of the AT, making this shelter an easy first days hike. We simply hadn't thought of it.

Climbing White Top Mountain was tedious and boring. Pleasurable views were spoiled by the wind and cold. We sought shelter in the woods and gladly descended to Elk Garden. The campsite was near a road (Rt600) but when BJ joined us there were three tents and we all felt safe. Bronco and Nexmo kept a good fire going as I crawled into my sleeping bag cursing the return of winter. Thankfully it did not rain but water bottles again developed ice during the night.

Day 61 5/01/96 Wednesday 15.2 miles

A beautiful hiking day began with clear skies and a bright shinning sun, in fact, Nexmo said "The best day yet." She liked the diversity of terrain we experienced. The temperature was cool but warm enough for breaks. We met "Long Haul" hiking South. He is hiking the trail using two vehicles, a car and a camper. Long Haul leap frogs the cars North and slackpacks each section South. He says he is warm and comfy in his camper every night.

The pine studded climb up Mt. Rogers, which is the highest point in Virginia, proved quite enjoyable and a visit by several feral ponies at Thomas Knob Shelter was a highlight for Nexmo. She enjoyed feeding and petting them and they knew whose legs to lick.

The trail through Grayson Highlands State Park was a little too rocky for me but certainly interesting and the wind on top of Stone Mountain pushed everyone sideways. The final climb over Pine Mountain brought us a rocky descent to Old Orchard Shelter.

Three girls taking a week's hike, Lobo's Pet, Chameleon and October Dawn, Bronco and Puddin, BJ, and ourselves filled the area. Bronco could not find the reported privy, apparently it is missing. Lobo's pet reported the remaining Cheese Girls had stayed an extra day in Damascus for a hiker sponsored barbaque and that Blister Sister was again visiting Zak. We miss all the fun. The wind subsided for a calm and restful night.

Day 62 5/02/96 Thursday 10.2 miles

Our maps were coming to Troutdale along with some spending money, making this a necessary stop. The terrain included only two medium ups, the weather was beautiful, and a hot shower at the Fox Hill Inn was in our thoughts. We arranged to meet Bronco and Puddin at the Village Motel, which is right on the AT near Atkins, for pizza and beer Saturday night. Chameleon and October Dawn might join us, but it would mean their slowing down.

TRAIL MAGIC DELUXE is what happened next. Just as we were arriving at Dickey Gap (Rt16) Lobo's Pet was being shuttled back after a visit to the post office. He asked the driver to wait one moment and would he take these arriving hikers back to Troutdale.

The driver turned out to be "Full Moon" husband of "Celestial Spirit" both AT hikers from 1995. Mark and Janet Holmes, in fact, manage the Fox Hill Inn. Mark took his new customers to the post office, the grocery, and then to the lovely Inn.

The Fox Hill Inn is a bed and breakfast that is modern, roomy, and clean. Call from the store and Mark will pick you up and provide a shuttle back to the trail in the morning. The walk from the store or post office is quite a hike so make use of the shuttle.

"Download" & "Nexmo"

Date: 13 May 96 18:16:13 EDT
From: Richard Kushman
Subject: Pearisburg update

Day 63 5/03/96 Friday 14.6 miles

The breakfast at the Fox Hill Inn was above and beyond the call of duty for any B&B. Eggs, bacon, hot cakes, juice, coffee, all cooked to order. What a great way to start the day. David, the owner of the Inn, brought us to the post office and back to the trail.

The day was lovely, sunny and warm, Nexmo worked at keeping her pace and suffering down during the mid day heat. The flowers along the trail are now popping out sharing all their pretty colors. Soon the leaves will wrap us in the emerald green tunnel of Virginia.

A few medium ups but generally an enjoyable section of trail ending with our arrival at Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area Visitors Center. Over the last two miles my mind was occupied with the thought of a cold soda. Unfortunately we arrived after the center closed... but wait ! Trail magic again. A workman, not quite done for the day, opened the foyer to the soda machine and rest rooms and we had access for the next three hours.

Chameleon, October Dawn, and Lobo's Pet shared the center's porch with us, Pizza Hut delivered food, the skies were clear, and the moon was full and beautiful. Roughing it? Not Really.

Day 64 5/04/96 Saturday 11.5 miles

Beautiful sunny weather with a slight breeze to keep us cool marked the entire day. Up and over Brushy, Locust, and Glade Mountains made arriving at the Village Motel in Atkins and opening a cold beer very enjoyable. The motel, restaurant, and convenience store are right next to the trail and tough to pass up. Bronco and Puddin stayed the night as we did. Chameleon and October Dawn, and Lobo's Pet after refueling, continued to the next shelter.

Day 65 5/05/96 Sunday 13.7 miles

After breakfast, a quick stop for a Dairy Queen started our day's hike. This section to Knot Maul Branch Shelter kept us going up and down as usual and wondering why many claim Virginia gets easier. We were out of water when we arrived, so Bronco and Puddin volunteered to fetch the water, which at this shelter was no easy task. They had been using our water filter whenever possible because their Sweetwater filter works so poorly. They have ordered a PUR Hiker to be delivered to Pearisburg. Chameleon and October Dawn had set up their tent in the shelter, Bronco and Puddin also used the shelter, Lobo's Pet and we tented. The thunder and lightning show during the night was very impressive and a little threatening. Rain fell for much of the night and at times was quite heavy but we stayed dry huddled in our tent.

******* BLUE BLAZE - GUARANTEE ********

I mentioned the poor performance Bronco and Puddin were getting from their water filter, which is a key piece of equipment. Their efforts to return the Sweetwater or swap for a PUR Hiker were refused by the dealer (NOC). They ordered a PUR Hiker filter from REI, which they expect to receive in Pearisburg. The point being made here is, buy your equipment from a dealer that will stand behind the product and will really give you the support needed on the trail.


Day 66 5/06/96 Monday 15.2 miles

Fortunately the rain stopped soon enough and the tent was dry for packing. After a short downward portion we climbed Lynn Camp Mountain which was just the appetizer Next, over four miles of up - up - up to Chestnut Knob Shelter should have been enough for any day, especially considering the threat of rain. Nexmo somewhat reluctantly wanted to continue, so we headed for Davis Farm Campsite.

Before leaving the shelter we had the pleasure of meeting Pipsissewa. This older generation section hiker clearly impressed us with her spunky get going attitude.

We proceeded down to Walker Gap and back up onto the ridge overlooking God's thumb print, Burkes Garden. Half way along the ridge thunder storms arrived and convinced us to pick the next campsite available. That turned out to be a level area next to Virginia road 623. What fun - pitching camp in the rain. Bronco and Puddin soon joined us after their own lightning filled ridge walk. Rain continued without let up through the night. This had been a difficult day and both Nexmo and I clearly felt it.

Day 67 5/07/96 Tuesday no miles

We had no reason to leave early. The rain was steady and going through the packing up drill could wait. The next motel and a mail drop were 15.6 miles to Bland, VA. Tired legs and poor weather would not let us make that in one day. We hatched a plan.

THE PLAN: Wingfoot lists the James Burke Inn located in Burkes Garden which we would walk to and arrange a slack pack into Bland the next day. This would keep us out of the rain and avoid loss of time.

THE REALITY: We walked about three miles down the mountain before hitching a ride to the inn. There was no one there. The inn was not in business. Luckily the Big Walker Motel, in Bland, gave us the phone number of Jim Aliff, who picked us up and delivered us out of the rain. The plan was back on track, Jim would also slack pack us the next day.

NOTE: Godfather and Turtle also visited the James Burke Inn and found it occupied. They had a nice stay and a fine meal. Apparently the inn will be fully operational sometime in the future. Burkes Garden is a beautiful valley with picturesque farms but no hiker services are available. The inn would be a pleasant stop and hopefully will prosper.

Day 68 5/08/96 Wednesday 15.6 miles

Jim delivered us back to VA623 and we started our hike to Bland. The rain had finally stopped so the day was pleasant. The walk along this section of ridge was actually easier than the profile suggested, which is very unusual. We met Bud Blister at Jenkins Shelter and we all took the high road past Little Wolf Creek as is suggested after heavy rains. Believe me, Little Wolf Creek wasn't so little.

Arriving back in Bland we called Jim, he brought us to the grocery and back to the motel. News awaited us about a family member. Nexmo's father was in intensive care at the UCONN Medical Center suffering from congestive heart failure. Nexmo would go home and, for now, I would continue on the trail alone. Hopefully all would be well and she would soon return.

Day 69 5/09/96 Thursday 18.5 miles

Thanks to our local shuttle, Jim Aliff, I was back on the trail at 11:10 a.m. and Nexmo was on her way to the Roanoke Airport. This was the first time I hiked the trail without Nexmo, I missed my Nexmo.

My pack had to be as light as possible. The tent, of course, was too big and heavy for just one person but was a necessity. I trimmed anything I could and left with minimal food for Pearisburg. The only other hiker to cross my path this day was Lazy Boy. He was jumping around to different sections and hiking North.

The only really difficult part of the trail was the last six miles, but then again, it was the last six miles. Bronco had left a note at Jenny Knob Shelter letting me know they would be at Trent's store on VA606, just off the trail. Camping with friends would be quite enjoyable, so I pushed on. Trent's store offered a small deli and cold drinks. There was an adjacent field for camping and hot showers were available. Bud Blister, Screamin Knees, Cajun C, Zamboni, Bronco, and Puddin all greeted me with an outstretched beer. I was home for the night.

Day 70 5/10/96 Friday 13.1 miles

With Nexmo off the trail, Bronco and Puddin adopted me as a hiking partner. I was honored and now not so alone. They are younger and faster requiring a certain amount of hustle on my part, but I tried to keep up or perhaps they went a little slower.

I left Bronco and Puddin as they finished a phone call, thinking a head start would help. We met again for lunch at Wapiti Shelter. The Concord College Mountain Lion Trekkers from West Virginia had paid a visit and left the shelter clean as a whistle. Good job by the Trekkers and dully noted in the register.

The only big up of the day was Sugar Run Mountain, but for some reason the hike seemed to take a very long time, considering the distance covered. There were a few sight seeing breaks on the ridge that may have delayed us. We met Mad Monk, Dancing Bear, and a father and son team, Ole Swamper and Grasshopper also Jester came limping by complaining of sore feet. Finally, we arrived at Woods Hole Hostel about 7:00 p.m. where we found Zamboni relaxing. Jester soon arrived as well, making a total of five in residence. Tilly, who runs the hostel, explained the rules and signed everyone up for breakfast except Jester, he wanted to leave early.

Woods Hole Hostel is clean, roomy, and far far better than a shelter. Definitely a good choice for a restful night.

Day 71 5/11/96 Saturday 9.5 miles

Tilly rang the bell at 7:00 a.m., just as promised, meaning breakfast would be served at 7:30 a.m. Eggs, sausage, grits, juice, coffee, and bisquits were all presented at her dinning room table. The first eight hikers to sign up can pay three fifty each for a delightful morning start. There were four of us this morning to enjoy the food and stories a la. Tilly. We highly recommend stopping at Woods Hole Hostel where you will be lulled to sleep listening to the sound of love, Tilly's very own babbling brook.

Zamboni was the hero today. Well, actually Zamboni's parents were the heroes. Woodstock and Peppermint Patty were the trail names affectionately given them. Woodstock planned to slack pack with his son to Pearisburg and Peppermint Patty agreed to take all our packs to the motel, not just her son's. Trail Magic again thanks to Zamboni's gracious mom and dad.

Without packs the ridge walk to Pearisbug went quickly and even the afternoon rain could not dampen our spirits. After a little slipping and sliding coming off the mountain we made our way to the Holiday Motel. The rest you know - shower, real food, good company. Only Nexmo was absent - and I missed her.

"Download" & "Nexmo"

Date: 30 May 96 10:32:12 EDT
From: Richard Kushman

Day 72 5/12/96 Sunday no miles

A day off in Pearisburg with not much to do but laundry. Bronco received good news regarding his ankle. An x-ray showed no stress fracture, as he had feared, only a pulled ligament. Godfather and Turtle came into town making it six for pizza and beer at the motel. Sharon is finally beginning to like her trail name. Bronco explained that ever since she met Blue Grass, a young flirtatious South bounder who thought she and her trail name were very cute, Puddin has become quite pleased with "Puddin".

Day 73 5/13/96 Monday no miles

Lazy day, just getting ready to leave Tuesday. Bronco and Puddin moved to the hostel and would pick me up in the morning for the hike to Troutville.

Day 74 5/14/96 Tuesday 19.4 miles

Bronco called in the morning to let me know he and Puddin would stay another day. His ankle was still very uncomfortable and more rest was clearly needed. The expected shuttle never came so I called the Rendezvous Motel and they soon had me in their van headed for the trail. Nexmo would meet me in Troutville next Sunday, so a hiking I would go. I mentioned slack packing and the driver explained they do it all the time. I made a very quick decision. I would slack pack South to the motel from VA635 and get a good jump on the section to Troutville.

The weather was gorgeous Sunny, clear, and cool enough for very pleasant hiking. I crossed paths with Zamboni, Ole Swamper, Grasshopper, Breaking Wind, Quizzy, Twisted Sister and Sprout (known as the Bumps). I also had all day to think about my currant feelings regarding the hike. I was hitting a wall, I did not want to hike without Nexmo, I felt pulled elsewhere. The scenery passed by without my noticing, and each step became a chore. Breaking Wind had good advise - "If you are not having fun, take a break." - I could do that.

By the time I returned to the motel I had made a decision, I would shuttle to Troutville, take a break from hiking, and await my Nexmo.


The following is an excerpt from a short story written by David Appell, a free-lance writer from Arizona, and published in the Appalachian Trailway News. The story is titled - What I Really Saw - and I feel it identifies one of the blessings of hiking theAppalachian Trail.

David Appell is "Bronco".

..... The day before, on the fourth of July, Sharon and I rode the gondola to Stratton Village, in search of real food and a telephone booth. While Sharon was making a phone call, I stood off to the side and noticed a man approach. He stepped toward the other phone, and our eyes met, and I began to nod and say hello. Then I saw him quickly avert his glance and look away.

As the dusk settled in around Spruce Peak Cabin, I realized that, on the Trail, everyone says hello, and usually more. That is one of the things that makes it what it is, one of the best things. The rest of the world is too crowded, too busy, too often afraid to look directly at one another and say hello - too wary and cynical to worry about such unprofitable things as a sense of community, of participating in something common. On the Trail, you see and feel everything, and you see yourself and other people in a new way.

This is not something you see from a car, ever.


David touches on what Nexmo and I feel is the essence of hiking the Appalachian Trail. What brings former hikers back, what keeps section hikers returning year after year, what keeps some hiking the trail longer than expected. The Appalachian Trail represents the heart of a healthy family experience. The camaraderie, and instant friendship, extended by all its hikers exemplifies that community spirit and safety we all long for. The scenery, the long climbs, the sounds and smells of nature, the cool mounta in streams all have a certain attraction and greatly contribute to the AT experience, but it's the people. The people, shrouded in their trail names, single minded in their purpose, and all floating along together in the AT life boat of equality that make the Appalachian Trail a true life experience.

Day 75 5/15/96 Wednesday through Day 83 5/23/96 Thursday no miles

Back in 1979 Honolulu Don would call my stay in Troutville, homesteading. I walked down to the trail crossing each day and sometimes bumped into passing hikers. All the Cheese Girls are now off the trail and back home. Yoda hit the wall here at Troutville and spent her last night at HoJo's, then back to Maine. Clearly this has been a long enough break from the trail for me, time now for Download and Nexmo to start walking.

Nexmo returned on Monday evening 5/20. Her dad is home and recovering, so for now, all is well. There were a couple of Nexmo sightings at bus stations during her return. She met Wanchor at Union Station in Washington much to her surprise. Wanchor was returning from trail days and headed for the Blue Ridge area. We received e-mail from Puddin's mom which indicated Bronco and Puddin may be leaving the trail in Troutville because of his ankle. We decided to stay until their arrival.

We had a surprise visit from Ron Elliot, who has been following our journal. Ron is hoping to hike the AT upon retiring so we had fun discussing different aspects of trail life. He also offered Trail Magic in any form needed while we are in Virginia. Thanks Ron.

Zak arrived on Wednesday and Bronco and Puddin on Thursday. Bronco, the uncomplaining soldier that he is, would continue hiking the trail, so we all planned for a Friday departure. I was looking forward to hiking again and not only was Nexmo back but we could share some trail time with Bronco and Puddin.

Day 85 5/25/96 Friday 17 miles

Nexmo's first day back on the trail would be a slack pack, thanks to Pooh, a fellow hiker whose wife was visiting. Pooh offered to deliver our packs and some wine up the trail to Bobblets Gap Shelter. How could we refuse? The day was humid with hazy sun and rain predicted. Thanks to Pooh, Nexmo's re-entry to the trail was smoother than expected. The terrain was moderate and the temperature not terribly hot. Bronco, Puddin, Zak, Nexmo, and I had made arrangements to meet at 7:00 p.m. near the shelter. Saint Pooh arrived early and carried all five of our packs and the wine to the shelter - not an easy task - providing us with a hefty dose of trail magic. Thank you very much Pooh!!!

We enjoyed a pleasant evening meal complete with wine and settled in before the rain came. The Bumps (Twisted Sister and Sprout) arrived just after dark and squeezed in next to Zak. They are cute young ladies that spread their infectious giggles like crumbs along the trail.

Day 86 5/26/96 Saturday 12.3 miles

Back to full pack hiking today for Nexmo. Chilly morning rain and occasional afternoon sprinkles kept us wet. The profile again was moderate and we planned a long afternoon break at Jellystone Camp Ground.

Luckily we got to finish the trip to Jellystone in the back of a pickup and immediately ordered cheeseburgers and Cokes. Jellystone was packed with holiday campers all suffering a rainy weekend. We played pool with Bronco and Puddin (they won) for most of the afternoon then stocked up with beer, and were shuttled back to the trail. Bryant Ridge Shelter was close enough that we could afford the extra weight of the brew. We arrived finding Zak, Duffbuster, Bloody Nose, and One Armed Bandit all enjoying the finest shelter we have seen thus far. We dispensed a little Miller Lite trail magic of our own and spread out comfortably in the upper loft. Bryant Ridge Shelter is tri-level, has a rain protected eating area, and plenty of extra room. Definitely a good place to stop and enjoy.

"Download" & "Nexmo"

Date: 05 Jun 96 10:51:43 EDT
From: Richard Kushman, Waynesboro

Day 87 5/27/96 Sunday 10.1 miles

Morning drizzle set the tone for a mostly wet day and the climb up Floyd Mountain only added to a gray beginning. Here in Virginia the Memorial Day weekend was certainly a washout. A short chilly lunch at Cornelius Shelter then on to Thunder Hill Shelter for the night. Nexmo was the last to arrive and her greeting included some very choice expletives for the last climb of the day. I jokingly introduced Matt, a section hiker, as a priest and turned her face red. Duffbuster, One Armed Bandit, Matt (The Priest), Bloody Nose, and Bronco and Puddin all helped Nexmo and me celebrate our wedding anniversary. Puddin whipped up a no-bake cheese cake complete with strawberries and after the appropriate song, we all happily indulged.

Sleeping became impossible with the combination of very active mice and creative snoring. We sneaked out of the shelter, pitched our tent, and enjoyed a comfortable night even with occasional pouring rain.

Day 88 5/28/96 Monday 12.4 miles

This was not a good day for Duffbuster. His return to the trail, after knee surgery, was now over. More rest would be needed so he reluctantly ended his hike.

Morning rain stopped and we slogged on to Matt's Creek Shelter but not without having to climb Highcock Knob. Luckily, another night of pouring rain held off just long enough for us to pitch our tent and have dinner. The gloomy weather contributed to Bronco's mood and highlighted our need for a day of sunshine.

A group of four hikers stopped only briefly to feed and do pushups. They had all decided to stop and do fifteen at every shelter, just for a little exercise. We thought that was nice.

Day 89 5/29/96 Tuesday 2.6 miles

Easy morning walk to the power plant on the James River. The attendant let me call Wildwood Campground and they pleasantly supplied a shuttle to the post office and the camp. They also let us stay in their rec-room for the same price as a tent sight, which proved much warmer and dryer.

Nexmo had been wrestling with her desire to hike. She feared the heat exhaustion and headaches warmer that weather would soon bring and simply did not want to continue. Nexmo decided to stop hiking. She would become our resident trail angel.

Duffbuster was at the campground and would be leaving for home. He delivered Nexmo to the Roanoke bus station and she headed for Harpers Ferry and the Nexmobile. She would ride the bus all night and return the next day. Bronco, Puddin, and myself busied ourselves with pinball, horseshoes, ping pong, and basketball. While we waited for Nexmo's return, we were officially on vacation.

Day 90 5/30/96 Wednesday no miles

The Nexmobile, with our trail angel at the wheel, arrived and we continued our vacation in a motel at Lynchburg. Bronco, Puddin, and I planned to slack pack to Waynesboro with a resident trail angel by our sides. Was this really hiking?

"Download" & "Nexmo"

Date: 18 Jun 96 15:59:36 EDT
From: Richard Kushman
Subject: To Shenandoah Park

Day 91 5/31/96 Thursday 11.5 miles

Back to the James River then up and over Big Rocky Row and Bluff Mountain. Not easy hiking, regardless of pack size. Nexmo met us on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just past Punch Bowl Shelter. She had investigated campsites and picked Otter Creek Camp Ground f or our nights stay. Compared to shelters or wilderness campsites this organized camp ground presented a whole new feeling. Under penalty of law, we had to place both tents on a small framed gravel area. Bronco and Puddin were now our very close neighbors. Let's just say that tent walls are very thin. The evening was very pleasant and we felt safe no one even considered hanging the food bags.

Day 92 6/1/96 Friday 16.1 miles

The Nexmobile again delivered us back to the trail and we were on to Hog Camp Gap. We passed Bruce and Molly, who were out for a day hike, and they asked us to wait at the gap for some goodies. They had previously met Nexmo and helped with directions for our rendezvous. Nexmo was also waiting with cold beer and Bruce and Molly insisted we enjoy their trail magic of chips and gum drops. Hopefully there is no penalty for receiving excessive trail magic.

There was a large field with plenty of room for a comfortable campsite. What an enjoyable evening with extras, like fresh fruit salad, provided by our very own trail angel. Breaking Wind was the only other hiker to arrive for a calm and moonlit night.

Day 93 6/02/96 Saturday 17.3 miles

After breakfast we headed North and Nexmo promised to meet us at Crabtree Falls. We decided to add some interest to our hike by visiting the falls instead of sticking only to the white blazes. The soothing freight train sound of water cascading over and over down the mountain confirmed this as a good decision. We then Nexmobiled to the Montebello Campground for a lovely night and dinner at a picnic table. Nexmo had arranged for barbecued chicken and corn on the cob - oh the luxuries.

Day 94 6/03/96 Sunday 16 miles

While we were hiking Saturday, Nexmo was getting some trail advice at a local hostel. We decided to take the suggested scenic route North from the Tye River. This meant blue blazing the old AT Trail, now called the Mau Har Trail. The trail was rugged, steep, very scenic, and followed a stream, with its many water falls and swimming holes, as it ascended toward Maupin Field Shelter. Freezing water and the fact that Bronco threatened pictures, were the only reasons I did not skinny dip in one of those inviting pools.

We were met by a father and son team hiking South, the young man in a leg cast and using crutches. Unfortunately we did not stop and get the details but clearly he was either very determined or foolish or both.

We pushed on to Humpback Gap but I must confess, if the Nexmobile had appeared sooner along the parkway, we might have been quitters considering the heat.

Nexmo again spent the day at this wonderful hostel (unnamed by request) then picked up her tired hikers.. Nestled along the Blue Ridge Parkway this "must stop" for thru hikers is a throw back to earlier times and simpler ways. No electricity, plumbing, or telephones interfere with the true family spirit created by the proprietor It is very easy to understand why some hikers have stayed much too long and allowed their skills to become rusty.

The bunk rooms were mostly full with what seemed like a hiker reunion so Bronco, Puddin, Nexmo and I tented down in the meadow. Still close enough for us to experience the 2:30 a.m. barnyard roosters, crowing to the bright full moon.

Day 95 6/04/96 Monday 6.8 miles

The hike into Waynesboro was short and easy. I was listening to my radio and heard for the first time about the two killings in Shenandoah Park. When I arrived at Howard Johnsons, where Bronco, Puddin, and Nexmo were waiting I gave them the unbelievable news. It was only later, after this terrible event was confirmed, that we all really believed it true.

We were about to enter and hike through the Shenandoah National Park on the same trail that had been our home for over three months. This crazy, inhuman, beastly invasion of our home turf certainly changed the overall mood of the trail. The family spirit of the Appalachian Trail will eventually return but the beautiful young women are gone forever and the sorrow will continue to linger for a long long time.

We camped at the Comfort Inn and Bronco and Puddin tented at the firehouse with EZDUZIT, "Julie McCoy Cruise Director", Popcorn, and Spare. Pooh also arrived and stayed at our campsite.

"Download" & "Nexmo"

Date: 24 Jun 96 10:19:42 EDT
From: Richard Kushman
Subject: Into Sheandoah Park...

Day 95 6/04/96 Tuesday no miles

Bronco and Puddin decided to continue with full packs. First stop was the outfitters where they purchased a new stove then on to the park entrance. The ranger there did not really have much information regarding safety but did suggest people stick together as much as possible. Park rules forbidding campsites near shelters would probably be overlooked. None the less, we were all just a little spooked. Puddin had second thoughts and when a group from the unnamed hostel came by to drop off one hiker Bronco and Puddin decided to spend the night there.

We picked up Pooh, stopped for fresh vegetables for dinner and headed out to the hostel for a fun filled day. Bronco and Puddin beat Nexmo and me at horseshoes but only because they scored more points.

Nexmo prepared the veggies and Lazy Boy and River Wind cooked up a huge pot of gumbo. The warm yellow light of the gas lamps revealed satisfied smiles and full bellies as the pleasant conversation continued into the night.

Day 96 6/05/96 Wednesday 10.9 miles

Bronco and Puddin stayed at the hostel and would hike with full packs. Pooh and I would slack pack and Nexmo would continue her angel ways. We filled out the necessary permit and began heading for Shenandoah Park. Nexmo would search out a campsite and pick us up at Turk Gap.

When we reached the top of Bear Den Mountain there were Bronco and Puddin, just sitting in the garden of tractor seats, enjoying lunch and the view. They decided to follow us to the Nexmobile and share a campsite, safety in numbers still occupied our minds.

Nexmo had set up camp at Loft Mountain Campground. There were showers, rest rooms, plenty of water, and several wild deer just casually sharing our space.

Day 97 6/06/96 Thursday 16.4 miles

Our campsite remained at Loft Mountain as a welcome destination for the day. Before returning to Turk Gap we left water at Black Rock Gap, which was a mid way point. This section offered almost no water and it did prove to be a wise decision on a warm sunny day.

One thing most noticeable to all of us was the absence of hikers on the trail. We were seeing no one. The registers at all the shelters had been taken by the FBI for the investigation. Our understanding was they took all of them as far North as Pennsylvania. Ridge runners were leaving new registers as quickly as possible but news and comments from those ahead were now lost. The trail was feeling different.

The terrain was moderate with only the climb over Trayfoot Mountain somewhat annoying. There were a few splendid overlooks and of course Black Rock offered picture taking interest. Arriving back to a comfortable camp with showers and cold drinks can really become habit forming, and oh so nice.

Bronco did a great job of hot dog cooking over an open fire and we all enjoyed a semi-hiker meal without pasta.

Day 98 6/07/96 Friday 13.5 miles

We left camp and headed North. Nexmo would pick us up at Smith Roach Gap and bring us to whatever campsite she selected. The trail seemed empty, however, we did have two separate meetings with fully armed rangers. They offered no information at all to our questions regarding the killings.

We reached Smith Roach Gap and Bronco and Puddin decided to continue with their packs and find a wilderness campsite. Pooh returned with us to Lewis Campground where Nexmo had set up shop. We gobbled down some more wieners, secured the tents, and headed f or Big Meadows where we sipped cold drinks as the heavens poured down. We were the only hikers using the lounge at Big Meadows for rain shelter and this along with empty trails seemed unusual.

Day 99 6/08/96 Saturday 8 miles

Pooh convincingly pushed for a new and different hiking experience. Nexmo put on her boots and joined us. We abandoned the white blazes for the scenic trails to three waterfalls. First we did a loop trail, which did include a section of AT trail, to Lewis Falls. Then it was on to a loop which brought us first to Rose Falls and then to Dark Hollow Falls where we ate lunch and watched the water cascade and tourists take pictures. I must admit, the hike was scenic and interesting and it felt good to be trekking with Nexmo.

Back to Big Meadow where we met Bronco and Puddin who were enjoying a meeting with old friends that had come to spend the night in a comfortable lodge room. Thunder showers again forced us to seek shelter in the lounge where Cajun C, Screemin Knees, and The Honeymooners were also camping. Bronco as well as Cajun C had been told by a ranger to be careful around shelters because they suspected a hiker, this of course conflicted with other rumors. Law enforcement was releasing no real information, rumors were flying down the trail and leaving everyone a little jittery.

Day 100 6/09/96 Sunday 6.5 miles

Afternoon downpours were again expected and in fact a reality. We made this a very easy day, except for the rocky trail, and only hiked from Big Meadows to Skyland, where the soaking rain chased us into a small cabin for the night.

We all filled a good size hiker table in the dinning room as, Home Office, Mr. Maine, and EZDUZIT joined the rest of us for dinner. Talk of course returned to the recent tragedy. Most hikers were not overly concerned about the safety of the trail but were saddened by the obvious cautious pause before fellow hikers extended that well known "AT" instant friendship There were some that hiked the road instead of the trail and perhaps a few that left the area, and of course our little group was conveniently snug in an organized camping area or cabin.

EZ decided to head out for the next shelter and Cajun C and Screemin Knees sort of poured themselves back on the trail. We of course had a dry cabin waiting.

Day 101 6/10/96 Monday 9.3 miles

What a surprise as EZDUZIT joined us for breakfast at Skyland. He had reached Pinnacles Picnic Area the night before where some friendly people with a van provided Home Office, Mr. Maine and EZ with a ride back to a dry room. Just too much rain for EZ.

Pooh decided not to hike, he also was tired of the wet weather. I headed for Thornton Gap and Nexmo returned EZ, Home Office, and Mr. Maine back to Pinnacles. EZ asked Nexmo if he could slack pack with us and now that Bronco and Puddin were hiking with the Honeymooners there was plenty of room. EZ would return to Skyland and share a room with Pooh.

This section of trail was quite rocky but would have included some nice overlooks, like Mary's Rock, if the rain and fog had not interfered. I was soaked to the skin when I finally walked into the restaurant at Thornton Gap to meet EZ and Nexmo, but a warm cabin was again waiting.

"Download" & "Nexmo"

Date: 26 Jun 96 13:03:45 EDT
From: Richard Kushman
Subject: update

Day 102 6/11/96 Tuesday 14.5 miles

Pooh, EZ, and I started the day from Thornton Gap and headed for Gravel Springs. Nexmo decided to be a tourist by visiting the Luray Caverns. She also checked out the available accommodations in Luray.

The hot humid weather made a moderate trail seem much more difficult than it was. We stopped at Gravel Springs Hut (shelter) and just like at all the other shelters the register was brand new. Only the most recent hikers had left their thoughts.

Nexmo picked us up as planned and we spent a comfortable night in Luray avoiding the afternoon thunder storms. EZ said he was having a great time and enjoying the slack packing, the real food, and good conversation.

Day 103 6/12/96 Wednesday 13.7 miles

A nice full breakfast at the motel restaurant and then back to Gravel Springs Gap. This was our last day in Shenandoah National Park. We were expecting our next set of maps in Front Royal and Pooh had a very important mail drop there as well. Pooh would be leaving the trail for a blue blaze to Paris France with his wife, and he was expecting his passport.

We pushed on through the hot humid rainy weather and stopped for a late lunch at Tom Floyed Wayside. There is a store there with great milk shakes and cold soda. Bronco and Puddin , and the Honeymooners were all under a roof area enjoying lunch as we arrived. They also decided to spend a dry night in Front Royal, so the Nexmobile was now scheduled for a busy afternoon.

Nexmo picked Pooh, EZ, and I up on schedule and we headed for the Twilite Motel. I then returned to the trail crossing and collected Bronco, Puddin, and the Honeymooners. We all settled in, took a swim, and planned dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Two sepa rate trips now required for every move kept the Nexmobile quite busy.

Day 104 6/12/96 Thursday 18 miles

Sally, who is the honey side of the Honeymooners, was clearly wanting a break from the trail and decided to stay with Nexmo. We dubbed her Sallyride. Steve, the other half, would slack pack with our group, to Harpers Ferry.

So - Bronco, Puddin, EZDUZIT, Steve, and I hiked North. Sallyride and Nexmo brought Pooh to Harpers Ferry, where he began his blue blaze to Paris. They then went to Sky Meadows State Park to set up camp.

The day was long, hot, and the elevation profile on my map was pure fantasy. We stopped at the Jim and Molly Denton Shelter and were dully impressed. It was clean, had a large deck, a comfortable Adaronndack bench, a shower, and a water spricket (Steve's word).

The PATC deserves a round of applause for doing a great job maintaining the trail and shelters in their area. We all noticed and appreciate their efforts.

We then stopped at Dicks Dome Shelter, just to see what this one of a kind geodesic creation was like. It certainly was different and luckily not used as a model for all AT shelters.

While we were trudging through the forest, Nexmo and Sallyride were very busy arranging help from two of the women that work at the park. They bent some rules and ferried all our packs a mile into the camping area, saving us extra work at the end of the day. Hot dogs again cooked over the fire and no rain led to a night of peaceful sleep.

Day 105 6/13/96 Friday 16.5 miles

My map was dated 1993 and I had the opportunity to see a 1996 map, and I must say the elevation profile on the new map is much more realistic. The elevation profile as seen from the trail, as one is sweating along, is much too realistic. This section brought back memories of Georgia and was just plain tough, especially with the heat. - After all the miles, listen to me, still complaining about the hills.

Our trail angels wiped away any memory of the tough ups and downs with a wonderful dinner of salad, spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread and carrot cake. All of us seated at a beautiful wood table and using real china and metal forks and can you believe, fresh brewed coffee to polish off the feast. Nexmo and Sallyride had wings on and we love them dearly.

This would be our last night with EZDUZIT. He was skipping ahead to Keys Gap so he could meet his wife in Harpers Ferry Saturday. The carrot cake at dinner was inscribed 'Big Chunk Hiker' to honor his previous arrival in Harpers Ferry. Last year EZ hiked from New York to Harpers Ferry and when he arrived at AT headquarters Jean Cashin took his picture. EZ thought he didn't deserve to be in the book but Jean assured him what he had done was a " big chunk" and in the book he went. EZ has affectionately been our Big Chunk Section Hiker, whose humor and story telling will be missed. He plans on a short break and will head North from New York to complete the trail.

Day 106 6/14/96 Saturday 14.1 miles

This was a hot day. The first half was a continuation of steep ups and downs with very little water. When we reached the trail to Blackburn Trail Center we all felt like heading in and staying there for the night. Magically, someone had left water jugs at the intersection and after eating a sandwich and filling our water bottles we continued to Keys Gap. This turned out to be a very good choice. The second half of this days trail was much easier and we made excellent time.

The heat and pesky bugs convinced us to eat dinner at the nearby pizza shop. Trail food was becoming only a memory. We set up camp just South of the road nestled in the trees and had a pleasant evening. We were only one day away from Harpers Ferry, which to me at least, felt like a milestone.

"Download" & "Nexmo"

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