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  • Writer's pictureRobert Moore

Marion to Woods Hole - the deluge

I set out for 90 miles to Woods Hole Hostel on a partly cloudy day. No problem. If the rains come, you deal with it. Lol. I was about to be taught a lesson by the trail.

Cristina dropped me off at the visitor center outside Marion. It was around noon and I was only going for 7 miles. The trail was mainly hard granite and sandstone for most of it. Mostly downhill - very punishing with 5 days of food on board. I made it to the shelter early and looked for a tent site but there was no one there so I set up in the shelter. I ate a couple of Arbeys roast beef sandwiches that I'd packed in, did my camp chores, some yoga and turned in early. The empty shelter filled up as soon as I layed down - shoulder to shoulder with hikers.

In the morning, I got out early and headed north through some nice rhododendron filled river bottoms. The blooms were coming in and the valley was stunning - to the eyes and the nose.

The bridge was out at Lick Creek, so I had about 100' of wading at the river crossing. Good practice for Maine where there are a lot of river crossings.

Then the rains started....and continued for 3 days. One day we got 4". I made pretty good progress but, inevitably, all of my dry gear got soaked. And my outer gear was waterlogged - adding a few pounds to the load. And my feet, which were soaked, were getting far more sore than usual. Every step was agony but I wrote it off to the rocky approach to the shelter on the first day of this leg. I soaked my already waterlogged feet in cold spring water whenever possible. That seemed to help but I was going really slow. Eventually, the rain convinced me to leave the trail (hit the chicken switch) to get dried out and rest my feet. I stayed off my feet at the only motel in Bland, VA - Big Walker Motor Inn. Cristina Ubered me food to save me some steps. The rains continued and I used the opportunity to rest those feet and joints - little did I know that my pain was a result of an old medical condition resulting from some military medical issues.

Cristina even Ubered me a foot bath and some epsom salt. I soaked and soaked and felt good for a while. In my spare time I called Cocaine Bear (a Warrior Expedition hiker that had to drop due to some broken bones in his feet), he was still doing physical therapy after all of these weeks and might not hike again. I was getting worried that I had pushed my 15s and 18s too far - had I fallen victim to mileage chasing and got an overuse injury? I was bummed and Cornbread was gone and I was in the middle of the Virginia Blues. I was at an inflection point - I could get off the trail and celebrate my two month odyssey or I would have to dig deep and find a way through the pain. Habitually, I went to my go-to centers of strength when I couldn't discuss something with my wife. I looked at the dog tag on my shoe and asked Minter for strength (see my post on Memorial Day). And I prayed to God for the solution. Remarkably, the answer came like a flash of brilliance. I had felt this pain before - years ago but very similar. I had all of the preliminary symptoms leading up to the painful conclusion but I had not put them together as causation.

I was experiencing a flare up of my autoimmune condition - a parting gift from my time in the Army. A result of getting 14 immunizations one afternoon before a deployment to Iraq. I'd had a few bouts with it over the years and we discovered, through many trials and errors, that a strong round of steroids would reset my system. So, now I could to Cristina and we quickly had a solution to get my GP to send a prescription to a pharmacy that I could almost see from the top of the mountain overlooking Pearisburg,Va. All I had to do was descend the 5.1 brutal miles to get there - they don't deliver up there.

But first, I swung by Woods hole Hostel to grab some resupply that Cristina had sent me. More to carry but I wouldn't be swinging back that way again.

Neville at Woods Hole Hostel

It was a miserable 4 hours where I had to use my trekking poles as a makeshift walker. It was muddy and rocky and every 10th step I was walking into a spider web. My good buddy, Rob Harrell, told me before I left to put all my 'quit into a box and leave it there'. So, I did.

After getting my meds, I had to stay out of the sun for a couple of days. Perfect opportunity to surprise the family for a quick visit. And some rest.

I'd learned a couple things on that leg. First, don't get comfortable with the weather. The mountains don't care how tough you think you are. Second, understand that your doing something incredibly strenuous with little rest. Every weakness will become evident and can take you off the trail.

So, I'll refocus and redouble my attention to detail without taking this unique expedition for granted. I don't know too many arrogant hikers - humility is a lot more powerful than pride up here.

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1 Comment

Chris Jolly
Chris Jolly
May 28

Rob, reading and listening to your post and the challenges your facing and how your overcoming them brings back so many memories I recall when my buddy Terry Little “walked and completed” the trail and we talked about them while he was hiking. You have that inner strength and that mental toughness you’re pulling from to get you through any of this. One step at a time. God’s grace and peace be with you!

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