Last train to Clarksburg

Added: 29-7-2006

Unsurprisingly, when we woke up the day after our 25 mile yomp we could hardly walk. We hung around Philippi in the morning, did the library stuff and then headed down to the local newspaper to see if they wanted a story. The good people there did, and we passed some time answering questions and insisting we were not Rainbow People, who, depending on who we have talked to, are kinda wandering hippies in a ‘crusty’ style or gay thieves. We hope the piece in the paper will make it clear we are just wandering idiots, as opposed to wandering rainbow idiots.

Because we were low on supplies such as the denatured alcohol we use for cooking, our next direction took us off the prescribed ADT route and on a quick dash to Clarksburg, some 20 miles north west of Philippi. We set off after lunch on Thursday, but not before meeting interested folks at the gas station including very kind fellow hiker Shannon who gave us energy bars and tea for our stash. Much appreciated.

So yeah, our walking style wasn’t too good but we pottered on up the 57 in the direction of Clarksburg, stopping on the way for a coffee at a small place which said it was a cafe but in reality was just a place for loads of video poker machines. We are seeing plenty of these establishments outside of towns, somewhere locals can pull into on their way home and gamble away the rent or little Brandy’s college fees. Odd places, but the fella on duty, Joe, let us have a coke and a pepsi for free in exchange for a chat – a nice break as it was getting very humid outside.

By the end of the afternoon we were knackered, and had managed only ten miles. We pulled into the small hamlet of Overfield and immediately fell into more luck. We were looking for somewhere to camp and the first person I asked, Junior, was more than happy to let us kip in his garden. We were given delicious cantaloupe and introduced to Cousin Joe, who was mowing the lawn, and all was right with the world. We set the tents up, marvelled at Junior’s skills with the bow and arrow (like many other people we have met, Junior was a keen hunter and had some amazing stuffed deer heads in his front room, along with a couple of stuffed wild turkeys. We learned loads of hunting stuff from him, inlcuding the fact that you may have to stay still for two or three (or more) hours to shoot a turkey. Wild turkeys have such good eyesight that they can see you blink) and did some much-needed washing. We even didn’t freak Junior’s wife, Pam, out too much when she returned home to find two English blokes (guys, did you think we were Canadian?!!) camped in the yard. In fact, Pam took the whole situation perfectly in her stride and, wonder of wonders,  suggested that we get up early and get massages – she and her next door neighbour Lhea (I hope I’m spelling that right? I coulda put Love Monkey Slave like the tattoo said, but …;-) were trainee massage therapists.

Suffice to say that next morning at 7.30am Dave and I were waiting at the caravan door to get our massages. A strange but good way to begin the day, and even Dave’s gigantic blister seemed happy to be involved in a bit of kneading and stretching. Pam and Lhea – have to send out a big thanks for all the help you gave in actually getting us moving again…

After the massages it was more walking, but not before I managed to mislay my tent bag with the poles and pegs bag in it. I have no idea where it has gone, perhaps it’s the racoons again…

We got to Clarksburg about five hours later, after walking through the rain and traffic on the 57 and the 20. Not good walking, although we did get to meet the extremely generous Grandma Wanda at the Grill by the 79 Intersection, and we did get to watch the Tony and George press conference where they told us that everything would soon be under control. Just as soon as we dealt with those who hate freedom etc. You know, I’m sure I’ve seen that press conference before…

Clarksburg then. a strange place – it looked like it had once been nice but now it just looked deserted, like all of the life had been sucked out of the middle of it and sent to the Wal-Mart and malls on the edge of town, leaving the town centre to be just a place for traffic to pass through and closed shops to rot in. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it, there really were about 30 or so closed-down shops in the centre of the town and the whole place had the most depressing air. a few people we had met on the way had told us to expect this, pointing to the out of town malls as the culprit but whoever was responsible it was a real shame – there were some pretty nice buildings there if someone wanted to take a chance on a shop (sadly, the Model Railway Society shop had also closed down – looked like it had quite a track in there that the community could come together over. someone reopen it?)

well, we crossed the Foruth Street bridge over into the even more delapidated Glen Elk area and immediately checked into the scuzziest hotel in town, the new holder (replacing the Chesapeake Hotel) of the Dirty Place award. The Parsons Hotel is quite a building, reminiscent in some ways of an asylum and indeed one of the guys wandering round our floor in his white long johns did resemble Billy Babbit from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. $40 a night though, pretty cheap…

Except that we didn’t stay there. Through a series of convoluted events, mostly linked by alcohol, a saxophone-playing Texan named Mark, a trumpet-playing Canadian named Mark, a heavily tattooed poolplayer named Lindsay, a whole bar of locals singing ‘Country Road’ and the blonde network anchor from local television station WDTV5, we ended up staying at the home of our new friend Lee, waitress from Julio’s ( we ate good), DJ of  many electroclash tunes, owner of a car trunk full of bass, new owner of 9 husky puppies and our saviour from a night in the Parsons listening to the residents shout at each other. Lee, you rule. I’m actually writing this at your computer while Dave snores in the front room (time on my hands, the reason for such a long journal entry)…

so Philippi to Clarksburg has been quite a scene. and I didn’t even mention everyone who kindly sorted us out with breakfast at the Polky Dot, or the nice people at the convinience store over the road from the Parsons Hotel. Seriously, the list of people to thank in West Virginia just keeps increasing, s’difficult to comprehend sometimes…

next we head to Parkersburg. More soon come…

Stuart                         Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook 

Phillipi, West Virginia

Added: 27-7-2006

Dave got up yesterday morning and announced that he fancied a beer. Although it was 8am he was quite serious and so began our longest day yet – an epic journey in search of a bar, beer and good company.

The previous day had ended pretty darned well, so we were in good spirits despite the fact that the sun had disappeared and it looked like rain at any minute. On Tuesday afternoon we had left Parsons after a quick interview with the local newspaper and an absolute superb sandwich and piece of pie at Mama’s Place. We walked about three miles out of town up and down a massive hill and were passed by a large white SUV containing Tuesday’s Guest Star, a fine lady named Alice. Not only did Alice tell us of a good camping spot nearby, but when we arrived there 30 minutes later she was there waiting for us with a bag of cookies and a bag of cinnamon cake. On top of this she had put her grandson Matthew to work building us a fire and her other two smaller grandchildren were running around finding us wood (when not losing their shoes in the adjacent river).

What to say about such hospitality? A big thanks. We had a great Just William kind of an evening, sitting round the fire (we were not the best firelighters, it has to be said, but we did get it going eventually) playing the guitar and eating sweet things. I really caned the cookies – as anyone who has seen me eat biscuits will know I’m a fool for sugar, and am well on my way to that cherished set of wooden teeth before I am forty…

So yes, we got up yesterday morning and Dave voiced his beer needs. Cut to 2.30 later that afternoon and we were in Nestorville, a small junction really, just a place with a gas station and some strange moth-type creature that landed on Dave’s hat and wouldn’t leave. We’d done 15 miles at this point and were looking pretty good. The temperature said 95 degrees but I wasn’t feeling it (in retrospect I might have been delirious) and on we went.

Altogether we covered 25.4 miles to get to Lil’ Moes in Philippi, and by the time we got there our walking was pathetic, our throats parched but our egos massive. Our longest day yet, by some margin, and all to get to a fine place where the people were friendly yet again (Todd, Jason, Bronwyn, Tavia – y’all good people). Special mention has to go to Adam behind the bar who was an absolute star – letting us crash at his apartment upstairs from the bar so all we had to do was crawl up some steps at 1.30am this morning.

I have a hangover, and my writing does not quite feel right.

But it was all worth it. 25.4 miles…at the beginning of the trip I never thought we’d walk that far in a day. All we needed was another mile and we’d have done the Marathon. This is our next ambition. After that the Wordsworth, where we cover 30 miles in one day. Not sure when that’s going to happen though…

Stuart                            Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Over a hundred miles across West Virginia

Added: 25-7-2006

So much to report, and we’ve found so little connectivity to do so. no Internet, no cell phone where we’ve just been. just wilderness, greenery (everywhere) and mountain men and women. ladies and gentlemen, West Virginia recently got even better…

as is becomming traditional with me when I go days without a journal entry, let me break it down the following way:

  1. You last found me at Bill Signor’s place in Martin. What a time. Bill was the consumate host, seemed to be able to do everything from amateur astronomy to cook amazing breakfasts, and had more opinions on all things worldly-wise (ok, we stayed mostly focused on the US’s role in the world than anything else but…) than practically anyone else we had previously come across. This was A Good Thing. Our evening with Bill consisted of us throwing left and right wing opinions about everything across the table, drinking home-brewed beer and then bottles of locally-produced West Virginia wine, and generally having a great time. After a long day we got to bed very late but very satisfied (and showered, and with clean clothes). All good. Oh, and Bill’s house was truly amazing, he designed it himself and the views out the back were stunning…

  2. From Bill’s we headed off in search of a store to replenish our provisions. We were recommended a place in Scherr but instead opted for what we hoped was a bigger store a little off the ADT in Maysville. This was the correct decision. What was not a correct decision, was my deciding to go the wrong way (again) after a junction at a place called Falls. This time we went only a mile the wrong way (with the corresponding mile back) but I was gutted and bought Dave lunch to compensate. Figure I need to discipline myself more. I haven’t sent us the wrong way since (I did instigate a speciality Hamilton Descent, reminiscent of a special I pulled in the Picos de Europa, but more of that in Point 8 below). In the end this detour actually set us up for better things due to the timing of our arrival in Maysville…
  3. Now Maysville is tiny. But it has the most amazing country store you can find, a real hub of the community (there is nothing else there except an elementary school). It is run by the laid-back Galen, and the people are darned friendly. We met a young girl called Kathleen who was kinda our guide for the afternoon (in between laughing at us and being horrified at our socks) and just hung around the store because it absolutely bucketed down for an hour or so. We eventually got ready to leave but Galen offered to let us camp in the backyard and who were we to argue? He also let us shoot some nice video footage of him explaining the store’s origins (over 100 years old, with the ledger and photos to prove it) and Kathleen did some pretty good impressions of Dave’s walking style for the camera as well.
  4. Our stay in Maysville then got more interesting when we met Galen’s neighbours. How to describe what happened next…partying couple (26 and 16, respectively), three kids, 2 years old to six years old, cheap alcohol everywhere, a hunting bow and arrows around that the kids were running around with (Dave and I got to shoot it too, the tension on that thing amazed me and my puny arms), general levels of utter backcountry craziness that we haven’t experienced before, the littlest kid running around with a knife and broken bottle, stories of killing things (hunting is so so big around here, so that’s not surprising) and guns, the utter madness of kids loving the cameras and getting Dave to teach them to play the guitar, the surreal feeling that comes from being somewhere so unlike you’ve been before that it all seems like you’ve walked into a movie about rednecks and are just there to watch the madness unfold…I can’t really describe how strange the four hours we spent in the company of M. (‘Dizzy’ to her friends, she appeared to keep falling over and injuring herself, possibly due to the large amounts of booze consumed during the day) and P. were, apart from the fact that these strange people continued to display the kind of friendliness to us strangers that all people of West Virginia…we left the next morning in a daze, accompanied by vegetables P. had pulled up from the garden for us…
  5. And then we really hit the wilderness. Out of Maysville and up the road several miles to Dolly Sods. This was Saturday – a real day of walking.We just got our heads down and walked. Now that Dave is back to full fitness (apart from some utterly tremendous blisters, one of which is developing a culture and commerce system all of its own) we can really get going and we’re more than capable of getting up to 20 miles a day in, possibly more once we get back to the flat. So on Saturday we just walked. Uphill to the Sods it was – from about 1600 feet up to 3500 feet, nice and high for around here. And we walked well, fast and hard, so much so that when we finally got to our campsite we were knackered. Saturday night was not party night, and we were in bed by ten.
  6. The next day was the first of two great wilderness hikes. Over the Sods first, good tough going through a strange landscape that is apparently reminiscent of Canadian tundra. It didn’t open out from woods as much as I thought it would, but when it did the views were amazing. We got an early start and enjoyed the walk, crossing streams and getting muddy. We came down the other side about 1.30pm and walked another couple of miles to the Canaan Valley State Park Lodge where we consumed red meat in a rather unsavoury fashion. We are getting immense appetites from all this walking.
  7. The rest of the afternoon was spent in woods on the other side of the valley, and it was my favourite walk yet because of the late afternoon light and the amazing amount of rhododendron bushes that are about (West Virginia’s state flower apparently). We stopped several times to get video footage and finally ended up at a woodland shelter about 7pm. We expected the shelter to be deserted (we were in the middle of nowhere) but instead disturbed a young couple who were staying there. We pitched up tents, apologised for our intrusion and went on to have a great night with Pearce and Karen, very cool people who were locals from the area and were studying at the nearby university. I don’t think they expected anyone but were extremely gracious with their fire, their airplane-sized bottles of Sutter Home and their all rope which we needed to hang our food away from the clutches of bears. Interesting people too…Pearce was 22 (I think that’s right mate? Apologies if I misheard) and had just returned from Iraq and four years in the army. Get that…difficult for my 31 year old self to understand. he had plenty of interesting things to say about what he found over there, more in a later Project entry…
  8. So, yep, that was a good night alright. Yesterday morning we upped and left (hopefully) without waking them and continued our trek across the woods to semi-normal civilisation (it’s extremely rural out here, bizarrely the landscape reminds me of Kent where I come from, only it’s about 50,000 times bigger)…another good day of walking ensued, I didn’t get us lost although we did end up following a trail that required us to make a ridiculously steep descent down to a road. It was actually great fun (not sure if Dave’s blisters would agree), our friend the Mountain Goat Shone would have loved it, and though we were both knackered at the bottom it must have saved us something like ten minutes walking on the day…
  9. And so we continued along the ADT to last night’s stop at a motel in Parsons. I am now writing this at the local library and feeling pretty refreshed indeed after a good night’s sleep and 10 cups of coffee (they just keep it coming over here…). I’m caught up on the news (it’s bad) and the sports (5 million for Damien Duff to go to Newcastle??!! and not to Spurs?!!) and we’re gonna head out of town later this afternoon after doing laundry. We hadn’t had a shower since point 1 above, and yesterday we were way, way too funky for my liking. I’m hoping to find out more about our upcoming route and library locations on the way, and hope that future journal updates will be a lot shorter than this one. If you’ve read it this far, I appreciate it….

So yep, all for now. Some points to make: many apologies for people I should have called including you, Marcia, with your kind offer of the Pocketmail arrangement. My mobile is just getting no reception. I’ll call as soon as I can. Many thanks to all the newspaper people who have been interested so far. We’re gonna try the Parsons Intrepidist or whatever it’s called in a minute. Thanks to everyone signing the Guestbook – all appreciated. As are donations to the British Heart Foundation (Rich C you are the man, as are Sandra and Phil). Click here for that.

Finally, David Malouin just sent me the best US article on choosing an English football team I have ever read (with the exception of calling Spurs ‘The Spurs’, which no one does, I think it’s most amusing and mostly spot on. But you’ll see why :). Click here for that…

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Blackwater Falls Lodge

Added: 24-7-2006

Just a very quick message from the very dirty and smelly Walkingthestates team. We’re in Blackwater Falls Lodge, a rather too pleasant (for people with our smell to frequent, anyway) state park holiday location, and we’re taking advantage of free wi-fi for five minutes before another day’s hiking. We’ve been out of communication for about three days now, no cell phone, no nothing – all because we’ve been walking across the amazing Dolly Sods wilderness and Canann Valley. Things have been great, we’ve been at altitude and it’s been a bit cooler, we’ve met even more amazing people, our times with whom will be described in depth at a later date. Our walking is getting much much better, Dave seems as near to 100% as he’s been yet and, all in all, this is the best bit of the walk so far. The kindness of the West Virginia people continues unabated, the sun continues to shine and we continue on in the hope of a shower and a launderette at the end of today’s walk. It really has to happen…

More soon come at the point of next Internet access…

Stuart                           Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Nearing Dolly Sods

Added: 21-7-2006

West Virginia does it again. We were off the road on a resting mission yesterday in Keyser after arriving Tuesday afternoon. Keyser is a small town nesting in between green West Virginian hills and the people there showed us a good time indeed. I think Dave’s entries might cover our stay in more detail but suffice to say we had a good night out with the people of Oriole’s Bar and the Candlewyck Inn on Tuesday and a good sleep in a good room, followed by a full day of library action and shopping on Wednesday. We had planned to leave late yesterday afternoon but the owner of the Inn, Fred, offered us another night for free. Not difficult to say yes (it meant I got to watch Blade: The Series. Another hour of my life (seven advert breaks!) I won’t get back)….

So today we were heading out of town about 8am when we got stopped by Chrissie from the local Keyser newspaper who had us drop by their office for more photos and a chat (you can see our most recent front page here: check Dave’s ‘Blue Steel’ look). All publicity being good publicity and that, we grinned into the camera when asked. After that she very kindly gave us a lift back to the trail and so began our day of walking. Everything went pretty smoothly today, apart from going 1.5 miles the wrong way which was a pain in the ass (stay on the road, the instructions said! we did…how can you turn off a road to stay on it?!), and altogether I think we have clocked up over 20 miles for the first time. Not for the first time we met some great people, including Mark who cycled with us for a mile or so giving us local knowledge, a cyclist we met who had biked across the US a couple of years previously, and also a family who were chopping down trees to make a new fence on their farm.

Said family, when hearing of our need for somewhere to camp the night, told us to ask at a house opposite from their chopping – and this house is where this email is coming from. The very very very fine home of Bill Signor III, designed by his good self and showing many signs of style, including an observatory and a really amazing stone chimney and fireplace. Man, this place is something, and we are the luckiest people in West Virginia at this point. Bill is a jack of all trades, master of none (in his own words – but he’s also a retired surgeon) and holder of views at the opposite end of the political spectrum to us. This is fantastic, of course, and we’re already into some good verbal sparing (and his superb home brew).

So yeah, things are good. The day was hot again, but not as bad as Tuesday. The scenery made the day though – this place is so green, ridiculously so, and we’re beginning to get great views of the mountains in the distance opening up. S’gonna be a good weekend, heading off for some wilderness camping…

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

More generosity

Added: 21-7-2006

As I write this entry we are sitting at the bar of the Candlewyck Inn where we are staying for an unexpected second night. When we returned from our chores in town the manager, Fred, offered us to stay on another night for free. As we weren’t going to manage a lot of miles this evening anyway, and  as we hate to pass up anything on offer for free, we readily accepted. Cheers Fred. I have just sated my appetite with a huge pasta meal and intend to recap a little on the events of the last few days.

West Virginia has been good to us. As soon as we came over the 50 cent bridge into the state we liked it. For a start it was a relief to get off the canal trail which had been a little monotonous to say the least. We were back on country roads, in West Virginia. We immediately got the chance to legitimately break into John Denver, we got to see fields, streams, bridges, meadows and mountains. We got to fish and ride in pick-ups and enjoy the kindness of some great people.

After Sunday’s fishing exploits, on Monday we luxuriated in the hospitality of the Shanholtz family. While we were in the library in Fort Ashby writing previous journal entries we got into conversation with the librarian, Cindy, and were invited to spend the evening with her. We swam in the pool, did our washing, got fat on great pork chops and chatted with the family. It was far beyond what two overheated and severely malodourised hikers had any right to expect.

The kindness has continued. Yesterday evening Rebecca and Dylan, who we met at the Oriole Bar in Keyser, practically paid for our entire evening and people everywhere have been great. We are on front page of the local paper again – it’s a very odd feeling to be waiting at a supermarket checkout and see your own face staring back at you, now I know how Jennifer Aniston feels. Sort of.

Tomorrow we set out early to beat the heat and head for Dolly Sods which should be spectacular. We have been warned about the Copperheads and Rattlesnakes (make lots of noise) and the black bears (back away slowly whilst playing dead, keeping quiet, making a lot of noise and making ourselves look big.) This will be the highest point that we will reach until the Rockies and we are very much looking forward to it. Let’s just hope the ankle holds out.

We will be 4 or 5 days without any chance to shop so are packing plenty of food and plenty of weight. My hiking anorexia has returned and I have spent the evening consolidating our condiments to bare necessities, agonizing over porridge requirements and whittling away excess sole on my flip flops (they still retain flip though I may have compromised their flop.)

DaveHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

West Virginia Works

Added: 19-7-2006

We are currently sitting in a library in Fort Ashby West Virginia on one of the hottest days we have had so far. Fate has chosen this day to be our most up-and-downiest yet, to invent an adjective, and we have sweated. We have sweated a lot. We have just left Cindy’s Restaurant where we ate huge amounts of food and then followed that up with huge pieces of pie. When we walked out of the air-conditioned restaurant we realised exactly how hot it was and it amazed us that we had got any miles done. The Weather Channel says that it is currently 36 C.

Since we were last able to update we have finished the C&O Canal Trail and have met many more interesting and generous people. Chief among these was Phil Goddard who we first spoke to a few weeks ago when he called us to introduce himself. Phil is also undertaking a Coast to Coast walk at the moment although he will be following a different route to us, from New York to LA (please see the link in Stuart’s entry.) Both parties wished the other luck, exchanged advice and promised to keep in touch.

One of the bits of advice that Phil gave us was to phone ahead to the various newspapers on our route to drum up some publicity and to add a bit of interest to the trip. The first time we tried this the newspaper that we spoke to had just received a similar call from a Mr Phil Goddard. Despite walking completely different routes we were about 10 miles from each other and we arranged to meet up. I am extremely glad we did, it was a pleasure to meet Phil and we learnt a lot.

One of the ideas that Phil had adopted on his trip was never to turn down an invitation. We liked the sound of that and decided to follow suit. It was with this approach that we ended up fishing yesterday evening. We arrived in West Virginia in the late afternoon and stopped at the first bar we came across with the intention of fnding someone who would let us camp on their land. After ordering beers, so as to fit in with the locals and further our extreme dehydration, our opening gambit was an entirely superfluous but hopefully endearing “We’re not from around here…” We went on to enquire about the possibilities of camping and were invited to camp right by the bar by its owner Sandy.

This sounded good and we began settling in, discussing sport with those at the bar. Opinions were somewhat split on the respective values of football (soccer) and American football (football). Stu and I were staunch defenders of the former but had to revert to calling it ‘soccer’ – a term we hate – as those in the opposing camp refused to recognize it as football. As one enthusiastically bearded drinker put it, “That ain’t football; our ball’s fucking oblong.” (Except that he probably didn’t use the semi-colon.)

After a few beers a counter-offer appeared from the right-hand side of the bar. We were invited by Drea to spend the evening fishing with her and told that we could crash in a caravan in her yard.  We took her up on the offer immediately had a great ride out to her place in her pick-up giving us a first real taste of the West Virginia countryside and spent a fantastic evening waist-deep in the Potomac displaying great ineptitude in the field of fishing.  It was a beautiful evening with the sun setting over the railway bridge at the curve of the river, the day cooling and the swallows flying. We stayed until dark and caught nothing, it really didn’t matter.

Dave                            Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Keyser - from the only place with wi-fi

Added: 19-7-2006

A few thoughts that at first might appear unconnected with walking…one of the things I have taken for granted in my job for the past four or five years is my ability to keep up with the news on an as-and-when basis. now I find myself on the (very very hot) roads of West Virginia while the latest crisis in the Middle East unfolds and I am feeling a litte…out of it. It’s a quarter to seven here in Keyser, some 12 miles west-ish from Fort Ashby (yes, I am in a bar again, there is some huge-selling country band I have never heard of on the video screen above the barmaids and people are generally partying as if their early-evening-Tuesday lives depend on it. I only come to the best bars) and I’m reading the newspapers online, reading the BBC and Google news and whatever else and trying to make sense of what is happening in Israel and Lebanon right now. Damn, it’s frustrating. I need more time. I can’t quite work out what is happening and I won’t really be able to get a handle on it for a while. I am back to living in the world of glimpsed newspaper headlines, overhead snatches of conversation or radio or motel TV news reports. In short, I am as informed/uninformed as the rest of us who don’t have time to stay right up to date with the latest developments via a round the clock Internet connection. I am as uninformed as anyone else who has loads of things to do during the day (for me, read: put one foot in front of another) and I guess I am making snap interpretations of the ongoing situation as a result. It’s frustrating me – things seem so far away. I wonder if this is just me, or if it is how people feel in the areas I am walking through now – West Virginia is an amazing place but the gaps between houses seem huge and I am slowly realising the sense of place and space that comes with America.

Anyway, just a few thoughts relating to the news that really don’t have much to do with walking. Or do they? Tomorrow I’ll try comedy again. Today we walked about 16 miles in immense heat, unbelievable….

Stuart                          Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook


Added: 17-7-2006

So hot outside. so very very hot. difficult to describe what it’s like to walk with a full pack in over 30 degrees of heat but everything is sweaty, water turns warm within minutes of adding it to our Platypus packs and everything is a slog. air conditioning is good when we come across it though…

we’ve been out of range of Internet or phone for three days so there’s plenty to communicate…

  1. We left Hancock on the C&O Canal trail last Friday, after we were lucky enough to be put up in the motel room. My newspaper interview appeared in the Herald-Mail the next day (check me using words like ‘stupid’ and ‘cool’) and our local celebrity-dom knew no bounds (we think – think – that a couple of people recognised us in the street but they may have just been downwind of us). At lunchtime we participated in a walkers’ summit at a local cafe – we met the all round good fella Phil Goddard, another Englishman who is also walking across the US, albeit on a different route (check his website here). We swapped war stories and clapped each other on the backs for our efforts so far. We also ate large portions of Pie.
  2. We left Hancock (but not before Dave forgot his walking sticks and had to go back for them) and headed off for a wild weekend of walking up the towpath. Hardly anyone to see, and in bed by 10pm both nights. Friday was a ten mile ‘loosener’, while Saturday got a bit more adventurous. After lunch at Bill’s place (see one of Dave’s recent entries) we got directions from Bill himself on how to save some miles on the canal towpath. His first recommendation was fine, but the second one led us into a flooded railway tunnel, a wasp attack (Dave actually responded to the vicious wasps with Hoppin’, Jumpin’ and Whoopin’, when he should have been using Whirlwind Pyramid, our trusty defence against attacking beasts. The little buggers got him though: two stings which brought our Team Shambles tally to three – a wasp had crawled into my sock on Friday. V.painful for a bit), an impassable canal (we could see where we were supposed to go – on the other side of it – but were unable to get there) and an eventual dirt track assent up to 1000 feet only to come pretty much straight back down again further along the canal. Our longcut probably saved us only a couple of miles overall and stretched Dave’s (and mine) tendons to breaking point. Still, we got to see some pretty good views out over West Virginia…
  3. So yesterday (Sunday) we were up again nice and early despite a deafening fireworks display which took place over a period of hours somewhere near our campsite. The highlight of our morning was the Paw Paw Tunnel, a 3000-odd foot long tunnel blasted through rock that resembled something out of the Mines of Moria. We thought we’d got up early enough to make the experience spooky and isolated but when we got there we were confronted by about 20 mountain bikers and kids making ghost noises. Scary stuff.
  4. Next I left Dave at the other end of the tunnel to head to the town (?) of Paw Paw itself. Or rather the Paw Paw gas station. We’re finding that a lot of our resupplying is being done in gas stations where we can buy all sorts of unhealthy products. Yesterday’s haul included four massive ‘subs’ far too full of processed meat and cheese to be safe for human consumption (we obviously, in the name of human endeavour, tried anyway), loads of trail bars, apple danishes and kit kats (although I don’t know why I keep buying chocolate, it just melts) and also sausage, egg and cheese muffin things. We are extremely healthy right now.
  5. Leaving the garage, but not before speaking in a classic ‘English’ accent for the benefit of the very helpful ladies at the checkout (it’s kinda bizarre to be asked to ‘Say something!’ but I do my best for Anglo-American relations in every circumstance), I returned to Dave and we headed on and on up the canal to our departure point of Oldtown. At this point it was very hot, and we were tiring. There is a bridge over the Potomac river at Oldtown, and it is the only privately operated bridge of its kind still operating in the US (costs 50cents for cars, if you’re wondering, I doubt the family who owns it makes a fortune, but…). The lady at the bridge, who looked very annoyed at having to open up her window to talk to us, on account of lost air conditioning, did confide in us some welcome and unexpected information about the unexplored territory over the bridge: about a mile over the river was a bar in a field.
  6. Proceeding at once, and with more zestful haste, we eventually stumbled upon The White Horse at Green Spring more by luck than judgement. As a pub to spend a few afternoon hours on a Sunday in, the White Horse was perfect for our needs. Resembling a warehouse from the outside, the inside was very dark, had a couple of pool tables and some top people at the bar. For a good hour or so we whiled away the time learning the intricacies of Nascar racing, the different varieties of local snake, and the (hitherto unsuspected, on our part) thriving local bar scene. We also got to argue about soccer versus American football and discuss such favourites as Right Side of the Road Versus the Left and Aloo-min-um versus Al-u-min-ium. Great Days.
  7. Things get even better when a local named Drea offered to take us fishing, there and then, and then let us sleep in the camper van in her garden. Being totally inexperienced fisherman we jumped at the chance to embarass ourselves in some fast flowing water and jumped in the back of the pickup parked out front (I should say at this point many thanks to Sandy the bar owner, who had previously agreed to let us camp on the grass out the front of the bar, a fantastic campsite no doubt, but one our livers may have regretted). We drove off to Drea’s place and, after stopping at another gas station for beer and food and meeting some very friendly local types who had clearly been heavily indulging in the same, we spent the rest of the evening happily falling the river and failing to catch fish while drinking beer. As a first night in West Virginia it takes some beating. The scenery is amazing – green wooded hills rolling off into the distance – the people extremely friendly and the whole vibe incredibly laid back. I loved it.
  8. But if there is better feeling that eating a Sausage and Egg McMuffin derivative in the back of a pickup doing 60mph at 8.30 in the morning then someone ought to tell me about it. Drea took us back to the bar this morning and dropped us off so we could resume walking (here we found Dave’s sticks waiting for him; he had left them in the bar). Here we met one of her friends in a souped up car with the words ‘Rice Eater’ over the top of the windscreen (Drea, I admit, I didn’t get it. What?) and said our goodbyes. It was the best of times.
  9. So since then we’ve been walking. We’ve knocked off 12 miles but now it is frankly too hot at the moment to go any further so we are in a nice little library in Fort Ashby, WV. We’ve lunched, and now we’re checking out our route for the coming days. Tomorrow we had to a bigger town, Keyser, for resupply, and then we’re off to the Dolly Sods wilderness area for some great views and good camping. All is well in the land of Walkingthestates, and we are moving in the right direction.

Stuart                          Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Saturday Night Report

Added: 17-7-2006

15th July

Saturday Night. Its a party on the trail.

As I write it is about 8.45. We are sat in our usual C&O canal evening style on a wooden picnic bench in one of the free rudimentary riverside campgrounds on the trail. We have just eaten our surf and turf pasta. We are knackered. We have no beer. We are comparing pains. It appears that Stuart has come out in sympathy with my shin muscle pains with some of his own; its a nice gesture from his leg but it does me no good whatsoever.

Today was supposed to have been an easy day – about 15 or 16 miles on the flat next to the canal.

After a good morning’s walk, we stopped for lunch at Bill’s Place, a fantastic, out-in-the-sticks grocery store/bar. Bill’s Place was full of character and full of characters. It advertised itself as a purveyor of beer, bait and boats and is apparently at its busiest during hunting season. Its walls were adorned with stuffed deer, fish and ducks and the ceiling was papered with dollar bills. We sat next to one of the locals, Wayne, at the bar so as to be nearer to food and liquid. Wayne was drinking Schlitz beer and dipping tobacco (for Brits, this  resembles snuff but is placed in under the bottom lip.) Wayne was probably in his late-60s, about twice the age of his overalls, and talked like Foghorn Leghorn’s country cousin with each sentences preceded with an “I say” and most punctuated by several more.

Wayne told me that the Bass triangle (a beer brewed very close to my hometown in the Midlands) was the oldest trademark in the world. I never knew that.

We took a few directional pointers from Bill, who’s place it was, and who was himself in his mid-80s, and decided to take a few short-cuts to break up the trail a bit. The first of these worked beautifully – a smooth on and off the trail, a couple of miles saved and a bit of variation from the canal-side trail. The second worked beautifully until it came to the old railway tunnel that Bill had been fairly vague about – “should be fine.” It didn’t look fine to us, it looked flooded but we waded in for a closer look. This was when I disturbed the wasp’s nest and was attacked. I went into a perfectly executed whirlwind pyramid but two of the little bastards got through my defences. I think their plan was to sting me unconscious and eat me but I foiled them by swearing lots and running away flapping. They won’t be messing with Toolan again in a hurry.  

Once we had negotiated a route around the tunnel the next problem was getting back on to the trail. Bill had delivered us back to the canal but the trail was on the other side and, true to the law of shambles, this was one of the few Western parts of the canal to actually contain water. Scuppered.

Being two pedigree examples of the male sex, we refused to do the obvious thing and backtrack the mile or so that we had come and instead embarked on a free-form variant of our own making. This took us up and down a 1000ft climb and endless switchbacks. 

So it has been a tiring day and, as it is nearing 9.30, I will be heading off to bed even if it is Saturday night.

Dave                           Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

God Bless Penny Pittman

Added: 14-7-2006

Its a funny thing.

Today we had our first walk of the trip in real torrential rain. Proper “wow look at that” rain, “I’m glad I’m not out in that” rain. What logically should have been a miserable experience I actually thoroughly enjoyed.

The rain was preceeded by a day and a half of “what the hell am I doing here?” My ankle had been giving me no end of gip, the mozzies had a fatwah out on me, we had managed to spill last nights dinner (surf and turf) when showers came as we set up camp, just in time to ensure that everything in the tent attained a sheen of damp.

So this afternoon, non-limping Stu was far ahead of me and at about 2pm the clouds broke. I couldn’t stop laughing. Being in rain of that magnitude in a waterproof with the hood up, walking is like being in your own private vehicle; the world seems slightly removed and slightly surreal and this afternoon it was impossible for me to feel even a bit sorry for myself. The rain was inexplicably hillarious. I loved it.

All of which was great. The problem, though, with being that wet, in rain that heavy, is not the walking, or the going, or even having to stop to pour the water out of your boots. Its the the resting or the arriving.  Thats when the reality of the wringing out sets in; the changing and packing for later drying, when everything you touch becomes wet.

Only today I got picked up by Stu in the car of Kevin the photographer to be informed that Penny Pittman who owns a local retaurant The Weavers in Hancock had overheard our story and had paid for a motel room for us  (and for dinner at her restaurant to boot.)  So within 15 minutes I was in a bath and now I am sat, reclining even, in the Super 8 Motel a beer in hand toasting Penny Pittman. Dry.

Dave                            Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

How we got to be clean in Super 8 Motel Room

Added: 13-7-2006

After the kindness of Yogi comes the kindness of Penny – Penny Pittman to be precise, owner of the rather fabulous Weavers Restaurant and Bakery in Hancock, a town about 130 miles up the C&O Canal. It’s difficult to describe the following because we’re still staggered about the kindness but here goes…

From yesterday’s campsite I called the local newspaper from the Herald-Mail Company to see if anyone would be interested in covering our trip. Fast forward a bit to earlier this afternoon and, during an interview in the bakery with the lovely Erin and the accompanying photographer Kevin, Penny dropped over and offered to put us up for the night in a local motel – free of charge. She was taken with our journey and wanted to help out…it’s getting harder to believe just how kind everyone is in this part of the country…anyway, we’re now in warm surroundings, Dave’s in the bath and I’m recharging all the electronic equipment we have. This is truly an unexpected bonus and with a hot meal still to come back at Weavers as part of the deal I am inclined to call Hancock our most favourite place in the whole world, ever.

Perhaps one of the reasons Penny took kindly to us was the weather. We left Williamsport yesterday after spending ages at the Blue Moon Cafe with the marvellous Gloria (who was the best host and gave us free wi-fi and free cookies…I’m fully paid up on the genius of macademia nut and white chocolate) and friends, and we eventually got going again in the afternoon for a 10 mile jaunt further along the canal. the weather was humid and again we walked apart – Dave’s still on a go slow. this has certain advantages – for miles around the woods rang with profanities as the mosquitos attacked the slower-moving Dave over my new sleek walking machine (I am really there now; pack on the back feeling good and pace is increasing). I felt sorry for Dave as those little gits can really do a number on you. it’s my legs that have suffered the most when they’ve got me…

the trail was a little more interesting yesterday, with good views of the river at times and a dam to gaze on at one point. we called time on the day’s walking just at the right moment though – it began to rain heavily last night (at about three minutes from our noodles being done – we moved the stove under a picnic bench and a minute later it toppled on the uneven surface. no decent meal for us, a lesson learned and a whale of a time for the local animals. how pleased we were, going to bed on a cookie and some water which looked unholy, to say the least) and it has hardly let up since.

We were up this morning during a lull in the rainy proceedings, and were back on roads by 7.30am in search of drinkable water. we got extremely lucky about an hour in – the Green Spring Water Company on Big Pool Road. Thanks to the very kind people there we were suddenly in possession of a lot of award-winning water, much needed in the circumstances. Another few miles along roads bordered by trailers old and new, and we hit a local gas station for breakfast. Here we met the immensely tall Jack, a good fella who bought us breakfast and told us of winter camping experiences on the Appalachian Trail (and how to look out for rattlesnakes in West Virginia, v.useful information).

After this we split up, and I motored on up the road to Hancock to make it in time for the paper interview. one straight track of ten miles, three hours and two major showers later I was there in the bakery, ready to talk at length about things others probably found boring. Dave, as I’m sure he will tell, was still back on the trail when the third major downpour hit, and Kevin the photographer and found him about an hour ago drenched by a phonebooth – he’d just got into town and was quite soaked.

So here we are. Motel room, cleanliness and general all round goodness. I’ll let Dave fill you in on more for it is my turn in the shower. Tonight – Hancock. Rah.

Miles today: About 15
Weather: Rubbish
Walking style: Swaggering to knackered
Don’t: Forget to dry your washed clothes properly or you’ll smell like us
Tunes: Gary Numan’s ‘Car’s’ cos we ain’t got one, anything by Supergrass or Elliot Smith, ‘Hi Diddly Dee, an Actor’s Life for me’, the ‘Pure Imagination’ song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (original one!), Arcade Fire ‘Neighbourhood #2 (Laika)’, Jack Nietzche ‘Lower California’, Common ‘Be’, Chicago ‘Beginnings’, Talib Kweli ‘Get By’, Bob Marley ‘Waiting in Vain’

Stuart                               Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

From Boo Boo Boulevard

Added: 12-7-2006

Boo Boo Boulevard is our current address as we reside at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Campground. The owner saw us struggling down the hill to the site and elected to give us free pitches for the night – smarter than your average bear-themed campground owner. It has been a treat to get a shower and a swim and we are set fair for a return to the C&O trail this mornng. It also meant that we were able to dine in luxury – out of tins instead of packets. Tonight we will be back on the usual beef flavoured pasta with packet tuna; surf and turf as we like to call it.

The Canal Trail is something of a misnomer as the canal actually disappears after about 40 miles in and only reappears very occasionally. In its place is the indentation of former canal, just about the right shape to retain all the rain water we have been getting. It is home to legions of mosquitos which have been attacking us every time we stop. My back looks like a small-scale 3-D topographical map of the Himalaya and I have a bite on my right arm the size of my right arm. Also much of the way is thick with trees on both sides which is rather claustrophobic and doesn’t afford too much of a view. It has given us much needed shade though which is a blessing. When the views do open out the views over the Potomac are fantastic and we have seen lots of wildlife – herons, turtles, eagles etc.

We came of the trail yesterday to get a bit of variation in scenery, some resupplies and to walk through some of the Civil War battlefields of Antietam. Although we were back on roads and the heat was immense it was great walking – rolling hills, dry stone walls, views over the hills, meadows and a real sense of history. The town of Sharpsburg and the houses in the surrounding areas were older than much of what we had seen previously.

Dave                            Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Yogi Land

Added: 12-7-2006

I guess one of the few rules we have of the road is that we should take showers whenever we are able to get them. This is why this evening I have been showering at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Resort outside of Williamsport. Strange indeed, but true. This Yogi-themed resort is our latest campsite after we abandoned the C&O Canal for a day (we were getting a little bored with it and know we’re gonna be on it for the rest of the week) and walked from Antietam Creek to just outside of Williamsport. What’s more we’re here as guests of Ron, the manager, and his staff after they took pity on us following a day in very high temperatures. Very nice people these Marylanders, and we are extremely grateful.

Yesterday we left Harpers Ferry about 3ish, following visits to the library, a totally unhealthy lunch at the 7-11 and a drop in on the excellent folk at the outfitters on the high street (Dave got a pair of walking sticks, I got yet another pair of walking underpants – still searching for the perfect non-chafing/wicking combination). Temperatures yesterday were extremely high as well, and remained so until very late in the day when we arrived at Antietam Creek campsite, some 8 miles from where we set off. The area we are walking through is proper Civil War country, and the Battle of Antietam was the single bloodiest day in the whole war. The surrounding countryside is studded with small memorials and signposts describing the day.

While the sticks help Dave stand up, they are unfortunately doing nothing for his walking speed as yet. We’re moving apart on the trail at the moment as he is taking it very slowly to deal with his tendons and newly developed shin pain. By the time we reached the campsite last night his tiredness was there for the video camera to capture, as well as the 20 or so 12 year old summer campers who were camping right next to us (being knackered we basically collapsed at the first camp space we saw; only later did we realise there were loads more quiet ones further down the way).

Still, we slept pretty well and were on our way about 9am after pumping water and dealing with light injuries (Dave to explain). We decided to do something different and head west on some of the area’s small roads and it has been a good day of walking. The area is speckled with farms and medium size semi-detached houses in the US style, with plenty of flags and Stars and Stripes bunting on display, and all of this is taking place on lands that seem to roll out from the Appalachians we can just about glimpe in the distance. Very hot day to take all this in though, reckon it musta been almost 30 degrees C.

Our decision to leave the canal has been a good one – we got to head into the small town of Sharpsburg for breakfast in the local diner and I finally got to post something to the good people at IFLA HQ. The people we have met have been uniformly nice and despite the heat and solitary walking for both of us (I’m on point, unsurprisingly) it’s been a good day. To fall into the loving embrace of Yogi Bear and discover his kingdom has wi-fi and a pool has also been quite a result. All in all, totally pleasant. Little to recount in the way of disasters or hugely amusing situations, which means it’s been a regular enjoyable Tuesday. It is Tuesday?

Stuart                          Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

From Harpers Ferry

Added: 10-7-2006

What a morning here. Transferring a formatted journal entry from a memory stick to a computer is apparently way more difficult than I imagined. Anyway, 30 minutes after I sat down in front of this computer I am typing. It’s a really hot, really beautiful day outside, and today we resume our walk down the canal from Harpers Ferry.

It’s been good to get some r&r off the trail for a day or so – we’ve just been relaxing in local bars meeting all sorts of characters. Yesterday we left the campsite and headed into Harpers Ferry proper. It’s a nice little town which is kept looking very much like it would have done during the Civil War – old shopfronts, old streets and volunteers wandering round dressed up in period clothing (bizarre fact about Harpers Ferry – it’s twinned with Chatham in Kent. I saw no chavs here though). It’s also a town full of tourists and hikers, the former in their clean summer shorts and shirts, and the latter all hairy and funky with big packs and sticks. Dave and I had booked into the Hilltop House, a really nice hotel with a view over the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, so we headed up there about lunchtime and dumped the bags.

As it was World Cup final afternoon we then got in the mood – Dave headed into town to do some sightseeing before kickoff, I headed straight to the bar. It was my pleasure to be part of the crew at The Pub (original name) for the afternoon, watching the football and meeting the locals including the giant Carl Finnegan, a man whose size was admired as much by himself as those around him. When four tequila shots before 3pm won’t do, try five! Carl builds mansions (yep, loads more house building going on this area too, as Sandy the barmaid told me) for people with lots of money, so I told him Dave was definitely in the market for a large house at the end of the walk. Carl was extremely enthusiastic about Dave’s plans (way more so than Dave, who looked – as did I – rather frightened in the grip of Carl’s ‘builder’s embrace’) so it is now my fervent hope that we can return to Harpers Ferry in a year or so and all move into Dave’s new financially crippling mansion together.

Carl Finnegan, yesterday.

Anyway, as you all know, Zidane went a bit nuts and France eventually lost. This, I think, was A Bad Thing, as Italy seemed to me to be an extremely unimaginative football team who can only perform on the counterattack. But hey, that’s the Italian way, right…

After The Pub we headed back to the hotel to get clean and then went down into town proper for some food and some live music. Here the evening began to get very special as we met up with Chanda and Scott, local experts on the paranormal of Harpers Ferry. Sadly, due to the rain and the increased chances of photographing a false positive of a ghost (the rain plays havoc with paranormal pics) we were unable to go ghost hunting in town, but we did head back to Chanda and Scott’s place for home brew, crystal healing (we’re trying anything on Dave’s new shin complaint), paranormal pictures and Scott’s amazing collection of GI Joe dolls. It was an evening I will never forget and, yes guys, we will be practising our grounding from here on in.

So that’s about it for Harpers Ferry. We’re hitting the trail in a couple of hours to head to a campsite about 10 miles away. I figure we’ll be on this canal trail for about another week or so. Check the new pictures in the the two most recent albums of the Gallery, keep signing the Guestbook and, if anyone is feeling particularly brave, please consider donating some money to the British Heart Foundation via this link. I think we’re currently the worst fundraisers ever, must try harder…

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbookether.

Sunday 9th July

Added: 10-7-2006

This journal entry (written on Sunday) is bought to you thanks to the kindness of the good librarians at Harpers Ferry Public Library – many thanks!


Thanks to the magic of laptop, I’m writing this journal entry sitting outside the Harpers Ferry Camp of America launderette. Inside I can hearing the soothing sounds of Fox News coming from the TV in front of which is sat one rapt man. It seems Sunday morning is an important appointment to keep for those interested in right wing views.

So yesterday I wrote an amazing journal entry (car crashes, explosions, mistaken identities, cutting edge fashions, lovers reunited after years apart etc.) but the library computer in Brunswick ate it. I don’t think I have it in me to be quite so exciting today so I’ll settle for telling you that we have made it to Harpers Ferry, an historic town some 60 miles up the C&O canal. Dave and I have been walking strongly (for us, anyway) and have covered about 18 miles a day since we left DC for real on Thursday. The way has been pretty easy – a flat canal towpath which has mostly been under the cover of trees. This has several advantages – we can make good time, there is little up and down to bother aching joints and we stand little chance of getting lost. It also has drawbacks however – the path can be extremely boring at times, the canal disappears for long stretches into a shadow of its former self and instead becomes a sad excuse of a stagnant trickle perfect for housing legions of mosquitoes that attack us at every stop. Seldom have I been so attacked on a walk, I’ve been bitten plenty but not as much as Dave whose back is a sight to behold.

But we are back on the trail again and doing what we do. We’ve been camping out, using a free hiker-biker site on Thursday night and camping by the side of the Monocacy Aqueduct on Friday night. The hiker-biker sites are every 5-10 miles and are very primitive, typically with a water pump that doesn’t work and a portaloo on the verge of being condemned. We have got to meet some nice people at these sites though, including a great fella called Skip who showered us with packet food and told us loads about the local wildlife, local history and also the crimes of the Bush administration (where are the Republicans?!! We’ve met one!). Skip was a great guy to chew the fat with, although we also briefly met a couple who were riding the trail with their dog in a trailer off the back of one of their bikes, and a spacey looking guy called Dan who looked permanently bemused, perhaps because he had tried to spend an immensely stormy Wednesday night sleeping in the open. All of his stuff was covered in mud…

Friday night we camped by the Moncacy Aqueduct and it was much more scenic. There were plenty of night fisherman on the aqueduct itself which made for a quite social occasion, although we were woken up during the night by some kids fishing on the other side of the river and having quite a good time (“Dude, let’s have another Miller Lite!”).

Again, the best thing about being back on the trail is the people and we’ve run into a good folks once more. Tom and Gale at Whites Ferry have to be the best – dead friendly people who were more than happy to chat politics, mosquito repellents, bike accidents and clog dancing. Although special mention must also go to Dennis Brown, a man intent on conquering the C&O canal with the correct equipment, and the handful of Appalachian Trail (AT) hikers we met coming into Harpers Ferry. For a brief section the C&O and the AT combine and it was here we passed hikers who looked way fitter than us, walking with sticks and purposeful strides that kinda leave us for dead. Take Dogwood for instance (not his real name – you’re supposed to have a trail name on these proper walks. Not sure what mine would be, Aguilera probably, for yesterday I was dirty) – about 6’4, lean and rangy and looking like he could still run a marathon after a day’s hiking should he be asked to. A real nice fella, as was the next guy we ran into (walking in heavy rain with his top off). These guys have done 1000 miles on foot from the south of the AT and still have a 1000 to go – and all of this is way tougher than the C&O canal…

Once we got to Harpers Ferry we were pretty tired and had been walking in the rain for about an hour. I’d called ahead to a campsite on the edge of town and reserved a camping cabin for the night but whether or not we would have made it without the help of a very nice couple and their pickup truck I don’t know. Dave thought he’d developed shin splints, which I figure means he’s going for the whole shebang of leg injuries, and the giant pizza which we’d mistakenly ordered in the town of Brunswick (a nice little place with some great hills for the relaxing hiker who needs to be exercised on the way to the library. We ate at the Brunswick Pub where the video jukebox was set to Country all the way. Some of the songs…the most literal of lyrics about being 30 and not being able to find a man, having kids from a previous marriage and not being able to find a man, being sent to war and, er, dying, but yet being grateful to buried in Arlington Cemetery. It’s a whole new world of music for me) wasn’t behaving as well in its digestion phase as he’d hoped. We were quite a sorry bedraggled pair but nonetheless we made it to the campsite where I promptly locked us out of our cabin. This meant I had to fetch the 16 year old maintenance boy who told me not to do it again. I was ashamed.

Anyway, today is officially a Rest Day. It’s World Cup final and we intend to spend this beautiful day in the pub, after a spot of sightseeing of course. We’re booked into the Hilltop House, which everyone says is one of the best places to stay in the town as it overlooks the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. This area, and Harpers Ferry itself, is probably the nicest scenery we’ve encountered yet and, shin splints aside, I think we’re gonna enjoy the next part of the walk.

Stuart                          Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

A great loss.

Added: 8-7-2006 2

I have nothing to say at this point; the library computer just ate the best journal entry I have ever written. It is difficult to describe just how much of a loss this is to the literary world but I think we should all take time to think of happy things at this low time. Darnit.

Stuart                          Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Leaving DC.

Added: 6-7-2006 0

Well, we appear to have nonced up the the world cup again. The problem with England is that we don’t do very well against your foreign teams. Still a nice traditional finish for us; a needless sending off and unsuccesful penalty shootout.

The end of the world cup proper seems to put a full stop on our sojourn in Washington DC. And, England games aside, a very pleasant time it has been. Despite my flirtation with disability we have done Washington proper and hopefully left our mark on the place.

My leg bits seem to have sorted themselves out (though the next week or so will be the true test) I got myself fitted with a pair of custom superfeet orthotics today – many thanks to Carmen and the crew at Hudson Trail Outfitters – and we are now packed and ready to get back down to business tomorrow morning.

We were due to leave today but have been delayed variously by exuberant 4th July celebrations, huge storms and long power cuts, and the France-Portugal game. Quite glad we did not leave today as terrential rain returned this afternoon (cue further power cuts) and our revered host cooked up a spectacular mexican feast. So we are fed, dry and doing the last of the chores.

The storms have been quite amazing. Yesterday we were hit by the motherstorm which killed the electricity during extra time in the semi-final, hugely annoying. It did give us the opportunity to act the goat and get extremely wet though. I did my bit for pan-Atlantic silliness by running round the neighbourhood in my Union Jack shorts waving a large American flag.

We spent most of today packing. I have spent much of the last couple of weeks obsessing over weight – I have been accused of having hiking anorexia, obsessing over the weight of everything. We need to get the pack weight down, either that or employ bag wallahs or beasts of burden. I went on but couldn’t find a suitable model. So we have shed significant weight in the form of things. We have, however, retained laptop, video camera and guitar which obviously means that quite a lot of the practical and useful things had to go. I will keep you posted on what we should have kept.
Dave                           Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Independence Day

Added: 4-7-2006 1

Independence Day, the same as Elliot Smith sang about and millions of Americans celebrate. Apparently it’s a small festival about one of our colonies that seceded from us. While I don’t see the need to celebrate such an ungrateful action it’s one of the few public holidays our American cousins get so we thought we should take a day off to check it out. We’ve had plenty of days off recently but figured another wouldn’t hurt…

And anyway, the whole Walkingthestates thing starts properly again tomorrow.  Aided by NASA’s top scientists, the power of hot and cold and alcohol, Dave has returned to the land of the walking (wounded) and is ready to take his place in the pantheon of great walkers (er, Walking Stewart, Walking Rory Stewart). Therefore our schedule now involves a barbeque (or ‘cook out’) this afternoon and possibly checking the huge fireworks display this evening. Then…well, tomorrow morning that’s it. out of the lap of luxury and on to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal trail – over a hundred miles of…well, canal towpath.

how have we recovered so quickly, you ask? how do we know that Dave’s tendons will stand up to the stress and strain of walking by a canal? well, first of all we have had the luxury of staying at the Malouin Manor for what seems like months, giving Dave time to rest up and both of us time to get thoroughly immersed in series 2 of Battlestar Galactica which truly is one of the best things I’ve ever seen on TV. David Malouin’s hospitality is now the stuff of legend and any other crippled walkers coming through Hyattsville are strongly advised to drop in on him unannounced and stay for three weeks. The Malouin rules, period.

once Dave had rediscovered the art of walking over limping we put him on a few training exercises such as Getting Back From Town Without Enough Money, and Getting Lost Between The Metro Station and The House Of The Malouin. The second exercise in particular added many miles into Dave’s recovery bank so it was with great excitement that Team Shambles finally rolled back out on the road with a full complement yesterday. Dave and I hit the canal towpath in Georgetown where I left off last Thursday and clocked up 8 easy miles on our way to Glen Echo park. Everything, touch wood, seems fine with our walking styles, levels of conversation and general wellbeing, although I have developed an irritation with cyclists who seem to be the most glum gits ever to ride a towpath and never say hello when passing.

so yes, 8 miles yesterday, in an Eminem style. when we finally set off tomorrow we’ll have about 155 miles to do up this towpath before we cross over into West Virginia. There we enter the ‘amazement park’ of eastern America, which I’m sure you’ll agree sounds amazing, and do 262.4 miles across the state to Ohio. simple.

we’re finalising the packing today and hoping to keep the weight down to preserve fun. not sure about whether or not we’ll take our laptop but all will soon become clear. website updates will obviously be affected by the decision but we’ll be doing our best to be regular touch regardless. in the meantime, I guess this is my last journal entry until the next one. before I sign off there must be news of three things: Sine, you are a star and in possession of a fine new job. Many congratulations. Angus and Ros – my god, new warmth! very very very happy indeed and Imogen shall be in our walking thoughts. Oh, and finally…I am supporting Germany in the World Cup. shoot me. this is a purely football-based decision – they’ve played the most consistent attacking football in the tournament. and  Jurgen Klinsman is a Spurs legend. And France have loads of Arsenal connections (the dark side) and Italy have never ever done it for me (Michael, the Italian league is not the best league in the world) and Portugal have elevated the art of clutching faces and rolling around as if shot to perfection, and thus deserve nothing because I call that cheating.

job done. out.

Stuart                           Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

First of July

Added: 2-7-2006 1

2.18am here. The Specials on the jukebox. just spent the last few hours writing a new project entry and doing washing. Dave and David are out at the Fiery Furnaces gig. Guess they’ll be back soon. England game in a few hours time. My god…

Stuart                         Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

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