By Scott Mills
Saturday morning my alarm goes off at 3am and its "up and at em" to hook up with Joe and head up the the Skyline Drive to meet and hike with our friend and fellow VHTRC'er Robin Kane who is thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. We received a message on Thursday [April 21, 2005] that Rob would be spending Friday preceding our rendevous at a hut about 30 miles south of Luray. We arrive just minutes prior to our planned 7am meeting at the predetermined parking area only to find it is still closed for the season. As such, we drive about a mile north and find a parking spot. The question is.....which direction is the hut that we are supposed to meet Rob at? Joe says north and I say south. We opt for south and luckily find the hut at 6:55am. Joe looks into the hut and calls out, "Robin Kane, are you in there?" Rob peeks out of his sleeping bag and we swear we see "Grisley Adams". He is eating a pop tart and is lean and down (in my estimation) to 2 percent body fat. Rob says, "give me a few minutes to wash my face and get my pack organized, so Joe and I sit patiently and discuss his physical appearance...as in....wow he sure looks tough and weathered.
So, Rob is set, he picks up his pack and we say, "let's hike back north to the car and get some food before we set off for the day." At Joe's car, we have a plethora of high energy (read carbs) food for the day. Rob proceeds to ingest, two Starbuck's, five Mrs Field's macadamia chip cookies, an Ensure plus, some trail mix, some cytomax and a balance bar. By my estimation, he is already up to about 2k calories. And off we (Rob and I) go. Joe takes the car and drives north on the Skyline Drive to find a parking spot and then runs back to meet us. As Rob and I spend the first hour together, he relates his journey which started on March 5 and has covered near 900 miles. I am in awe of his progress and accomplishment thus far. His recap of the tough days and the glory days reflect a journey and challenge which are only fully understood by those who have traveled in his footsteps. I recognize early on that I am not capable of this....and Joe will hear me say it no less than a dozen times throughout the day.
We pretty much have a routine throughout the day of either Joe or I driving the car ahead of Robin and then running back to meet the other two. Each time we arrive at the car, Rob, eats at least 5 cookies, an ensure, some trail mix, several bags of m&m's and a pepsi. We arrived at Skyland around noon and sat down in the restaurant for lunch. Cheeseburger, chips, and coffee never tasted so good. I have always thought that I have no peer when it comes to eating on ultras.....I now consider myself a lightweight based upon what I witnessed with Robin. Rob indicated that most literature states that an average thru hiker burns about 6000 calories a day. I believe he was trying to get a little ahead on this day we spent with him.
We covered about 26 miles with Robin this day. Joe and I had fast packs....Robin had a 45 pound backpack. I put his packpack on for a minute while he was taking a short break...my God was it heavy ! I am not exaggerating when I say, we (Joe and I) had a challenge keeping up with him. I discovered muscles that are used for hiking that are not used as much for running. I was fortunate to have a the last leg of driving the car to Thornton Gap when Rob and Joe encountered a very heavy thunderstorm which pretty much hammered them. For me, the thunderstorm ended just about the time I parked the car and headed back up the mounatin to Mary's Rock to rendevous with them for the last three miles. At Mary's Rock, it was time to enjoy some Dominion Ale as the day's journey was near at an end. Once we hit the visitor center at Thornton Gap (26 miles for the day), we decided to get in the car and head to Luray for some pizza. Two large pizzas (Rob ate one and a half) and some liquid replenishment before we had to head back to Thornton Gap to let Rob off. As we said our farewells and he headed back up the trail a mile to camp at the next hut, I felt like I was sending a good friend off to war. I was saddened that I couldn't spend more time with him.....but then I thought how he would spend the night and how Joe and I would....and again, I mentioned to Joe, " I am not strong enough to do this".
It was a great day with a great friend. I know Rob's journey will be successful...it already is. I have info'd his email address (which he is able to periodically read) if anyone would like to send him some encouragement or wish him well as he heads north to Katadin. [Editor's Note: If you want Robin's e-mail address, contact Scotty or Anstr.]
One more thing....did I mention I am not capable of accomplishing what he is doing?" Good luck Rob!