May 1, 2011

things Mike likes about Virginia

Megan gave you pictures--I'll give you a thousand words:

In the early days of our hike, we'd hear tales (from hostel owners, veteran hikers, fellow hikers, etc.) of a legendary land where mountains dissipate into rolling hills of grassy farmland, and miles melt away with little notice and no effort---a place where [put on your best Lloyd Christmas voice] "the beer flows like wine, and the women flock instinctively like the salmon of Capistrano."  I'm talking about a little place called Virginia.  Naturally, it became a landmark in our minds, and we soon found ourselves daydreaming of Virginia and wishing ourselves there on a hot day in GA, or an especially steep-climby day in NC, or a snowy wet day in TN.  Before long, we had both (subconsciously, no doubt) thought up a modern-day Garden of Eden where blisters and discouragement, and rain, and smelling terrible from days on end without bathing (except of course with wet-wipes, which almost make everything worse--like spraying air freshener in a just-blown-up bathroom...) were troubles to be forgotten/ mild discomforts of the past.  And, as is usually the case with these things, no place (no matter how pleasant) could ever stack up to the flawless utopia of our imagination.  It's like retuning to a place as an adult that you visited and loved as a kid, only to find that it wasn't that nice or fun or big.  And if your mind can create that kind of disparagement from a few jumbled memories here and there over the years, just think of what it can do with 12 straight hours of unbridled imagination time every day for six weeks!

Sorry if you can't follow my stream of consciousness--in the immortal words of CH, "track with me here!"

So, when we arrived in VA to find that it's just like the rest of the AT (you know, Appalachiany) we may have felt a slight sinking of the heart.  But, again, that's our minds' fault, not Virginia's.  And after destroying all of our preconceived notions, we've truly enjoyed this new state--and we're experiencing neat things here everyday.  For instance, even though it does actually rain, it has rained much less frequently here and we've enjoyed some balmy hiking weather with clear skies and moderate temps.  Secondly, as Mc mentioned before, the wildlife tally is skyrocketing with sightings of wild pony herds, bear and even a fighter jet [yes, we're counting the fighter jet that shredded through the valley--on eye level since we were on a mountain--as wildlife].  Also, the land has levelled out a lot--climbs are much fewer and less challenging, and we get to walk though someones gorgeous pastureland almost daily, which is a nice break from the woods.  The trees are all getting their leaves back too and everything is so nice and green.  Oh, and lets not forget the lift that we've gotten from the warm hospitality of family (thanks again Betsy and Marlene for the hot showers, delicious home-cooked meals and comfy beds!!).  Lastly, and certainly not least, are the stunningly-beautiful and inviting granite formations that cover the mountaintops and lure me into a daily dropping of the pack to boulder a little.  Side story, we met a guy "Handstand" at Kincora Hostel weeks ago, who just caught back up with us and who has been reported to drop his pack for a nice bouldering session quite frequently.  When I asked him about it, he affirmed the rumors and we talked about climbing all through dinner.  Fast forward to Saturday morning when Megan and I were walking the ridge line above Roanoke before our final descent and were stopped by a fallen limb that had been dragged into the path with a ripped-out page of a journal duct-taped to it at eye level.  The note read as follows:

Your mission should you choose to accept it, is to climb to the top of this rock/cliff and retrieve the stick that I have wedged in the crack above your head.

Handstart matched/crossed on the ledge that's on eye level, make a couple of bumps to the left, heel hook on start ledge up to nice sidepull and top out.

P.S. Hey Caboose!
P.P.S. Beta on back...difficulty rating V2-


Words cannot express the joy that I felt in accepting his challenge--it plain and simple made my day.  I've got to admit (sadly) that it took me a few tries, but I got my weak self up there and got that stick down.  I told Megan that I may have to swap out my pillow and sleeping bag for a chalk bag and a pair of climbing shoes (Brooks running shoes just don't crank down on a small ledge for you like a good set of 5.10s).  We'll see. 

So high-five to Virginia so far, and 'hello' to everyone at home.  We love and miss you!


  1. Folks,
    Hope you had a good time in Roanoke. Mom says you're going to return to either Waynesboro or Lexington around the 17th. Thought I'd give you a heads up about something you and Alan may enjoy (maybe others also). On May 15th, VMI has it's annual New Market Day parade to honor the cadets that died at New Market during the War of Northern Agression. Just thought you'd want to know about it in case the drop-off date is flexible enough to accomodate. If I'm calculating correctly, you should be crossing I-66 near Front Royal on Memorial Day weekend. Maybe after a restful cruise you'll come back making better time? Anyway, you'll be within shoutin' distance. What would you think of joining us at Anna Michener the 31st through the 2nd, and then putting back in where you left off afterwards? Think about it.

    See ya,

  2. Hey - it finally worked! I switched from Firefox to IE. Might want to suggest that to Megan's mom in case that's her problem (Mom said you told her that she was having "error" problems also).