Day 65 – the final miles

Hiking a final 6 miles to take me to 730 miles (1175km), just over one-third of the total trail.

Saturday June 14th. I had hiked into Daleville on Wednesday the 11th and then had two days off to see the doctor and rest. Now I wanted to take the total trip up to one-third of the whole trail, around 730 miles, which left me 6 more miles to do. I only expected the 12 mile round trip to take about 6 hours so slept in until 7:15am and left the Super 8 motel at 8:15, stopping by the Sunoco gas station to pick up a couple of sandwiches for lunch. I carried nearly a full pack, but it wasn’t heavy as I only had 1 day of food.

There is about flat 1.5 miles in a mix of woods and roads from Daleville until crossing the railway tracks at nearby tiny town Troutville. Then it is all uphill, first through farmland and cow pastures before entering the usual forest.

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With all that variety in the early going I reached the junction to the first shelter, Fullhardt Knob, at mile 729 after what seemed less time than the actual 2 hours. This left just the final mile down a gentle downhill.

I took my time but soon reached the official end of my hike on the AT.

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Here is the final blaze.

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After a few minutes contemplation I turned around and went south. I took the 0.1m side trail to the shelter and signed the register, briefly explaining my situation for anyone coming behind.

As I finished that and prepared for an early lunch I was joined by Heike, the German woman I have overlapped with several times on trail, last time about 180 miles ago. She is going well but was sporting a decent bruise on her arm from a fall caused by tiredness at the end of a day with little water, rocky treadway and being forced to hike more miles than desired. I could recognise that situation!

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Heike

And then up the tail to the shelter came Ray, The Major, who told me he had certainly got sick that night a couple of weeks back and had to go home to recover from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a tick-borne disease, his case fortunately being classified by his doctor as “low grade”. He also had an infected leg from callouses on wet feet becoming cracked and letting in bacterial infection. Phew! So he has recovered now and skipped ahead for now to be able start again today with his bubble, ie John, Big Cheese, Shawn, etc. He said that, despite battling a serious illness, he gained 5lb by being off trail.

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After lunch I said goodbye and wished them both luck and headed back the 5 miles towards Daleville. I was kind of hoping not to see anyone I knew on the way so I didn’t have to explain myself again but it didn’t work out that way. Among others I met Engineer, Shawn, John, St Rick, Long John and Bart and explained why I was headed the wrong way. Actually it was probably good to have the closure of literally saying goodbye rather than just skulking off quietly. Everyone was very nice and sympathetic and Engineer even gave me a beer!

With so many conversations it took me about 4 hours to cover the final 5 miles and it was 3:30pm when I got back to my motel room.

Only time then for a short rest and shower before heading out to the nearby shopping center to pick up a final package I no longer needed plus some well-liked US groceries for dinner and to take home, including Boston baked beans. I was greeted by Gizmo in Outdoor Trails and told my story for the final time. In the evening I just packed for my journey home.

The final AT sign on the way back:
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10 thoughts on “Day 65 – the final miles

  1. Goodbye, Sparky – and thank you so much for your interesting and charming journal. I’m so glad you wrote again and also to hear that you got to speak to quite a few of the hikers you’d met as you were finishing up.
    I will truly miss reading your trail missives. I’ve enjoyed following your hike and am so sorry you’ve had to cut your journey short.

    Great job, both the trekking and the writing!!! Hope you get back soon to continue. Sadly, I’ll never be on trail, but hikers like you who put so much effort into letting others in on their great adventures make up for it a bit.

    Good travels home, speedy healing – and do come back!

  2. Hey Sparky
    Feel free to write occasionally about the healing process and what re-entering “normal” life is like. I often wonder about that. How the transition from trail to home to work-a-day schedule goes both emotionally and psychologically. It would make me happy to see a notification from “sparky” in my inbox.
    Safe travels!
    Jan

  3. We will all miss sparky in my case early every morning….you have proved a real inspiration and we all look forward to welcoming you home.gill and dad.

  4. Yo Bro, so sorry to read of your injured foot – it has been great following your progress day by day – 730 miles is a fantastic achievement – you should be rightfully proud even if you are desperately dissapointed – we all look forward to seeing you again back in the UK

  5. THANKS HAV BEEN WANTING TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS A LONG TIME GIVE ME ENCOURAGEMENT AND HOPE ENJOYED READING AND FOLLOWING YOU GOOD LUCK IN ALL YOU DO

    THANKS

  6. Hi Sparky

    As someone who hopes one day to do a long distance hike I have thoroughly enjoyed reading of your travails on the AT.

    If you can, tell your growing fan base how your recovery comes along. Hope you can be back hiking soon!

  7. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I have enjoyed your blog and will miss it!! I feel badly that your trip was cut short by injury. My guess is that many hikers face the same situation each year, so know that you are not alone. Obstacles only make the final finish that much sweeter!!! You should feel proud of your accomplishment. You may already know this, but there is an international Appalachian Trail that continues on your side of the pond. Check it out at http://www.iat-sia.com/. Perhaps once you heal up you might give it a try!! Best of luck to you!!!

  8. Sparky, I’ve followed you since the link from Wired. You persevered long after many would have thrown in the towel.

    While it’s frustrating that the body can’t keep up with the spirit this time, hiking 730 miles is no mean effort, and you’ve made some lifelong friends and had some unforgettable experiences. My favorite from your blog was the encounter with the mother bear.

    Good luck on recuperating and getting back to long-distance hiking when you’re physically and emotionally ready.

  9. Sparky- your story was a very inspiring one. I read your entire hike on here in 5 days! Amazing feat- don’t feel anything less than great about what you did. I hope all is well with you back home.

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