Saturday, May 19, 2018

Bear Garden Hiker Hostel; Breaking for Weather

We just picked up my resupply box at Bear Garden Hiker Hostel. The owner, a very nice lady who is proud of her business, gave us a tour and showed us her home and how she is preparing strawberry jam for the hikers. In the next breath she said, "If you stay here, the dog can't stay inside the hostel. You can sleep outside over by the chapel." This is just another example of the hypocrisy Forest and I have encountered on the Trail at almost every town. "We appreciate your service to our country and pray for you every day, but don't ask us to make any special arrangements for you or clean up after you." The sad part is that they are often not mean-spirited people...just oblivious. But I'm ready to give up on hostels.

One of the store owners asked me what Forest is for (which by law they are not allowed to ask), and I said PTSD. The shopkeeper then said, "Like I told you, no emotional support dogs are allowed." When I tried to explain that Forest is a service dog, not an emotional support animal, who is specially trained to preserve my personal space, watch my back and provide bracing and retrieval support, he just ignored me. When I tried to show him Forest's ID and the letter from Canines for Service, he just hustled me out. This just gets exhausting and makes my PTSD worse.

We got in the car and drove until we found a nice spot to hang out for a minute so I could breathe.

The rainstorms continue, and all of the streams on the Trail are flooding. Most aren't expected to crest for days, so stream crossings (which occur often on the Trail) won't be possible until late in the week. For that reason, and because I can't afford to hang out in a hotel for days, I've decided to head home with my wife today; I'll return Friday. This will give me time to rehydrate and get some more nutritious food into me. It will also give Forest a rest and some time for some real grooming. So for now, take care and thanks for reading. I'll be back soon.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Bad Weather; Catching Up

Forest and I arrived at the hotel last night at 8 p.m. They were very nice and accepted Forest as a service dog should be accepted. By the time I checked in, took everything to my room, fed Forest, and cleaned up, I was too tired to go to the restaurant, so I ended up ordering a pizza in the room. I started charging all of my electronics, washed some clothes, and took advantage of the WiFi to upload some videos to Facebook and provide a few updates for the blog.

The weather report for today and the weekend is pretty bleak: a flash flood watch through tomorrow, a chance of thunderstorms every day, and a 80% to 90% chance of rain every day. My sister and mother-in-law offered to watch my son for the weekend (thanks so much to both of you!), so my wife is driving up tonight. We will go to Bear Garden Hiker Hostel tomorrow to pick up the resupply package that is waiting there and will decide from there where we want to stay tomorrow night. This will give us a chance to talk about the food situation and better plan how to maximize calories (and taste) in the future, while minimizing weight. I also need to figure out how we can carry more water, so that Forest and I are both hydrated properly. Most of the hikers on the Trail are heading to Damascus for Trail Days, so the hotels and hostels outside of that immediate area should have vacancies. I don't think we are going to go, unless I determine that I have a pressing gear issue that the vendors there might be able to fix.

Thomas Knob Shelter: the Ponies in the Campsite
These pictures are a little fuzzy because they are screen captures from a video. This is one of the videos I mentioned previously. I woke up to find a mama pony right in front of our campsite. She was calmly munching grass as her foal nursed. When it was done, the foal started coming right toward our hammocks. A little panicked because I didn't know what Forest would do, or whether the foal or mother would panic and kick or bite, I had to shoo it off. Fortunately, it wandered away. It was unbelievable how calm they were; they are definitely used to being around people. Probably some of those people have broken the park rule and given them food because they certainly seem tame.

Some Random Shots from the Past Few Days

View of Walker Mountain
with the Storms Brewing in the Distance
Forest in His Raincoat Crossing a Log Bridge 
The "Green Tunnel"
Purple Iris: the Spring Flowers are Beautiful

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Hotel Night

It's been stormy and wet for days, so I'm headed for a hotel just off the Trail in Rural Retreat, VA. It's definitely not a superior hotel, but it has laundry facilities and WiFi. I've stayed there before, and I remember that the food in the restaurant was good. I'm really looking forward to eating both dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow there. I haven't been as diligent about eating lately as I should be, so I'm feeling a bit malnourished and dehydrated and really looking forward to a good meal that doesn't involve dehydrated or packaged food.

The hotel allows service dogs as long as they have some legitimate form of identification, so I won't face the kind of challenge I've had lately in that regard. I realized that Forest hasn't been off his leash at all since my family visited, so I'm looking forward to giving him the run of the room to play and just be a dog for a night. That always makes both of us happy.

We will stay at the hotel tonight and then head out tomorrow to pick up my next resupply package.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Partnership Shelter

Sorry for the delay, everyone. We left Troutdale and didn't have any cell signal until we climbed back up to the ridgeline. It was cooler and cloudy yesterday, and we were able to mix some day and night hiking, so we were able to make up some time and get in 16 miles. We stopped near the Partnership Shelter (mile marker 532.2; elevation 3,360 ft) at about 5 this morning. We will stay here and sleep, and move on again this evening.

We have about 24 miles to go to our next resupply, which we should be able to complete in 2 days, but there are a lot of thunderstorms in the area that could cause us to take temporary shelter off and on as we go.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Troutdale Baptist Hostel, Day 2

I got up this morning, showered and walked to the Post Office to pick up my resupply package at about 9 a.m. Unfortunately, it didn't include cigarettes, so I decided to try to walk to the only store, which was about 3.7 miles away. It got hot really fast today, and I could tell it was affecting Forest. At about 2 miles I stopped under a tree to give him some water and try to cool him off in the shade. A man came out of his house and asked me to move along. I said, "I'd be happy to, but my dog is really hot. Would you mind filling this bottle up with your hose?" He turned around, walked back in his house and locked his door. I'm beginning to understand why no one stops in Troutdale. Luckily, soon after that we were picked up by the store owner who happened to drive by. He was kind enough to drive us to his store, and then brought us back to the hostel.

This episode made it evident that I will have to night-hike to keep Forest out of the heat. I'm also going to try to get my hands on some 1/2-inch PVC joints to make him a shade canopy.

I'm seeing more and more people leave the Trail. Everyone tries to act like it's the best thing they've ever done, but they're only trying to convince themselves. Hiking the Trail actually sucks most of the time; you just have to decide whether it's a price you're willing to pay for the exhilaration of finishing. Most of the people who finish are the ones who decided they would from the beginning. It  will become a better, more honest crowd the further I go.

There's no place here to hang our hammocks, so we are sleeping on bare plywood beds. My back is really hurting. I'll be happy to get back on the Trail in the morning.

How It All Began

In August 2017 Canines for Service Inc. in Wilmington, NC, provided Service Dog Forest to me (U.S. Army Veteran "Fisher"). It was ...