AT Day 041: Thursday May 18,  2023

Mile 637 + 0 miles / 0 km

Total Distance Hiked: 637 miles / 1025 km

Plaza Motel, Pearisburg, Virginia 

A: 0 ft/ 0m  D: 0ft/ 0m

A night in the tent in town was really quite pleasant. We didn’t have to worry about bears, I could have a leisurely coffee while still in my sleeping bag and Hammer could have a much needed sleep in. 

We waited till  8ish before walking downtown to a coffee shop for breakfast. Sadly the shop was closed, permanently. And many of the town stores were empty. There is a new coffee shop, and as far as we could see, the only one in town. Limited breakfast options but what we had was very nice;  avocado and bacon on toast was surprisingly tasty. A boiled egg on top would have gone down a treat but it wasn’t possible. 

They heard Hammer was in town, urgent delivery

We walked to the Plaza Motel where we had booked a room for tonight and to our surprise our room was ready.  Last night’s guest did not show up. Great to be able to check in early and the lovely Linda at reception did our laundry while we planned and shopped for our resupply.  By 1pm all town chores were done and we could rest.  Hammer watched TV while I caught up on the blog. 

And in keeping with a word from Hammer on zero days, here are his thoughts from Tennessee. 

Hiking in Tennessee was a little confusing. The trail flip-flops between North Carolina and Tennessee for 227 miles. We were never sure which state we were in. But I guess it doesn’t really matter, the miles still need to be hiked.  It was confusing though when we passed through towns and wanted to book accomodation,  we were never sure what state we were in. We did eventually leave North Carolina with  67 miles of trail remaining in Tennessee.

Tennessee has also been home to some amazing wild flowers. It is a sight to see Corky find a new flower and squeal with delight as she attempts to photograph it. There have also been some memorable people we’ve met.

We haven’t stayed in many shelters so the opportunity to socialize is limited to on- trail or in town stops. There have been a number of memorable characters with whom we’ve crossed paths. 

Silver Lady

We came across a woman, trail name ‘Silver Lady’ part way up one of the longest and toughest climbs in North Carolina/Tennessee. She was sitting on a log, taking a break. I chatted to her for some time while Corky was busy making friends with some flowers. Silver Lady said that she started hiking the AT in the 1980’s but didn’t get serious about it till the mid 90’s. She would take a weeks vacation in Spring and Autumn most years and hike a section of the trail.  She retired last week, at the age of 80,  and hit the trail a couple of days later. She was hiking a section from NOC to Fontana Dam. She will then swing north and hike the 75 miles back to Fontana Dam and it will be job done.

What an inspirational lady to be out on the trail completing her journey which started so long ago. I am in awe of her energy and dedication.

Mr Ripley

Mr Ripley  is from Switzerland and read about the AT about 8 years ago. This year his wife said you have been wanting to do the trail for awhile, so why don’t you go and do it. So he is hiking the AT and with his many years of preparation his gear is super lightweight, with a base weight of 6.5lbs. He is also on a  ketogenic diet, which would be a challenge on its own.  He has been following a keto diet for the last 6 years and has regular blood tests which show remarkable and positive health indicators. While hiking in freezing cold condition over the Roan Highlands  we discussed many topics from Swiss National Service to the strength of the Swiss Franc, and hiking in Australia and New Zealand. We hiked a pleasant 12 miles together before we arrived at Carvers Gap where Mr Ripley was picked up by a shuttle. He realised that with his ultralight gear he could survive the conditions, but only barely and had wisely decided to contact a local hostel who were happy to shuttle him to the trail at the beginning of the day and pick him up at days end, until the weather improved.


Twister is the happiest guy I have met on trail to date. He hikes quite quickly but stops for coffee and to wait for the rest of his crew from time to time. Each encounter with Twister is uplifting. This is his second time hiking the AT and he said it is the best recovery from recent health issues. He has also hiked most of the PCT being taken off trail by the fires towards the end. He loves the AT because it is so much more social then the PCT which is more of a true backcountry hike.


We have met Flash on a number of occasions. He is not a morning person and so is not on trail till late, but he has an easy stride and manages to cover long distance exceptionally quickly. He often passes us during the afternoon. He will hike with us for a chat before vanishing down the trail. Interesting to talk to while we hike together. He does not stay in towns so it was inevitable that he would move ahead as we take zero days in towns. He has a fascinating work history. He was raised in Kent in the UK but has worked in New Zealand and Australia for a number of years and is studying nursing in Melbourne, Australia.

Guru + Jeager + Fabien (Erwin)

Guru and his hiking team met on the REI shuttle to Amicolola Falls and had hiked together as far as Erwin where they lost Canadian Mike to injury. They lost Fabien, one of the German duo, to love and a new job back in Germany. He left the trail near Laurel Falls. 

Guru seems to have lived multiple lives. He was on a profesional mountain biking team and has ridden with the Tour de France winner Cadel Evans among other well credentialed cyclists. He is a doctor and has also coached basketball teams. He is also a hiking gear enthusiast and loves to talk. He was suffering knee issues and after a particularly close bear encounter, with only the mosquito mesh separating him from the inquisitive bear, he decided to quit the trail in Marion.

Jeager was very quite especially when partnered with Guru, he was happy to sit back and let Guru do the bulk of the talking. In Germany he works for a supermarket group in IT and they have kept his job open for him to return to at the end of the hike. He is the last man left on trail from Guru’s group.

The Guru, Fabien and Jaeger

Tommy (Big Bald)

Tommy is a young guy who set out to hike the PCT this year but due to the amount of snow on the PCT he flipped over to the AT. We met him on his first day on the AT, near Big Bald.   We flipped-flopped with him along the way, and he appeared to be  thoroughly enjoying the hike.  Although he was a bit shaken by the bear encounters on the section of trail coming into Damascus. We were surprised that he also left the trail in Marion. 

Hammer with Tommy, Jaeger and the Guru.


We first met Hand-made, whom Corky continued to call Home-made, just above Watauga Lake.  Hand-made is an interesting person. He is hiking with a wooden frame pack he made himself when he was 18. He has attached a heavy duty army shirt to the frame which he loads with his hammock,  sleeping gear and food. His diet is exclusively Pop-tarts and oats mixed with peanut butter and chocolate chips.   He has chosen to walk barefoot, which must be incredibly challenging when its been cold and on the rocky sections of the trail. He starts early and finishes late and is always cheerful when we have come across him. He doesn’t stay in towns, just passes through to resupply. He always remembers our trail names and has a great knowledge of the trail. He and his father maintain a 4 mile section of the AT trail around Mile 880 in Virginia. We last saw him near Mt Rodgers in Virginia. 

The Family

There is a family hiking the trail whom we met briefly at Mountain Harbor B & B. When I say a family, it is a mother and 15 of her 16 children and a large Alsatian dog.  The eldest son is acting as support crew. They are on Facebook and YouTube documenting their hike under the title of “32 feet up”. 

Strangest hiker

Though unverified, there is apparently a guy hiking and carrying a leaf blower. If the report I have heard is correct, it appears he was  preparing to hike the trail when he got word from God to hike with a leaf blower. So he answered the call. I dare say if he encounters a bear, the leaf blower may scare the bear more than clapping and yelling.

It will be a a few weeks before we are done with Virginia, the longest state traversed by the AT. Until then, I’m signing off.