6/29 Left Woods Hole, hitched into Pearisburg (Paris Burger for intellectuals) with Sunny, Littlefoot, and Clown Feet. We resupplied at the Walmart and got food at Wendy’s. Did a few miles out of town to camp. We went on an adventure to find the campsite. We had to go over train tracks, private roads, and a dry river bed. It was a beautiful spot by the river, the only downside was that it was in between 2 sets of rail roads. One across the river and one right behind us. We were woken many times that night by a loud train horn.
6/30 Awoke to a loud horn in my ear. Had a 2000 ft climb for breakfast but a nice ridge walk with grassy fields and views for lunch. Ate a real lunch at Rice Field Shelter with great views and had a little nap. Was a little disappointed to see that the privy was newly built and was no longer a wallless toilet in the middle of the open. We read in the log book that our friends Weatherman, Chloe, Vintage, Dinnerbell and Radar were roughly a day ahead.
7/1 Leaving pine branch shelter I went down a .1 mile side trail to throw away the groups trash. So exciting to get rid of trash! I ended up road walking the next 2 miles to where the trail eventually crossed the same road. I wanted to switch things up a bit. The hike for me isn’t about touching every blaze or completing every physical challenge the trail offers, it’s about the experience and learning what I can from it. We decided at lunch to cut the day short. Sunny got to pass her 500 mile marker for this trip! She originally planned to do 300 in the time she had but was more capable than she thought. It also helps that Littlefoot wants what she wants and made everyone push big miles.
7/2 Had a short day to a gravel road where we got picked up. Littlefoot, Sunny, and myself planned to spend 2 nights in Roanoke VA, a real city. Trying to reset and relax to help bring back the excitement of the trail. After stoping at the post office, Littlefoot and I hit a McDonalds for some terrible but delicious food. We then checked into our hotel, watched “To Measure a Mile” a film about a Thru hiker on the PCT, and had dinner with Sunny. We said our goodbyes, which were more see your laters, as we promised to visit her in Canada someday.
7/3 Day two in Roanoke. Littlefoot and I slept in, went out for breakfast and walked around town. We made a plan for August, where I will be going on a side quest (Shoutout Buzz) with her. The nice employee at the outdoor outfitter in town let us use the store computer to plan. We rode electric scooters to see fireworks and had a drink later.
7/4 Back on trail and feeling refreshed. Just before heading into town we made a plan for the next few weeks. It was nice to see all the exciting things we had coming up. The trail no longer feels like a mundane job that I am forced to show up at every day. Rather, it feels like a job I get to do every day, and a job that I have become a master at. We walked through many hay fields and cattle pastures. They are beautiful but tick central. Even with the heat and sun, they are not yet driven back underground. I had many on me, luckily none were imbedded. We saw the cutest juvenile raccoon who after a minute of hiding from us decided we were no threat and wanted to come say hello. The curious little guy walked right up to us and was a few feet away before we decided it was a good idea to keep moving. He even tried to follow us on the trail for a few feet. It was so sad to leave him, I wish I could have just taken him with us and had a pet raccoon. We camped in a recently harvested hay field and did not get any more ticks.
7/5 I had a wave of gratitude rush over me after the first big climb of the day. I take for granted what I get to do every day and the experience that many people dream of having. The trail has allowed me to expand my knowledge, adapt to new environments and situations, and explore new places. It has given me many opportunities to grow that I would not otherwise have gotten. As Dr. V put it, you learn much more out there doing it than you can in a classroom, or something like that. I remember in the Intro to ENVS class he finished the last class of the semester talking about two students who took a semester off to road trip around the country and how experiences like that are invaluable. There is no other way to get an experience like a thru hike other than to do it. (Although I’m actually doing a LASH, but a 1500 mile lash is pretty dang close. Don’t worry, I’ll be back at some point to give the whole trail another go.) Glad I’m back in the mindset of enjoying the trail rather than stressing over the miles we need to accomplish and how the plan is going to change. Also, side note, Keefer said I look like Chris Evans so it might have been the best day of my life.
7/6 Hot day up and over dragons tooth, the first of the VA triple crown. Dragons tooth was awesome. I unfortunately left my phone at the top before the blue blaze down to the view. I’ll put in a photo from Littlefoot, but it doesn’t do it justice. Photos never do. Dragons tooth is an area with two large, pointed rocks sticking up out of the mountain in an otherwise flatish spot. One of the rocks I climbed up and sat on, pictured below, I estimate to be 50 feet above the flat top of the mountain and have another 150 foot drop down the other side. We stopped for pizza and Gatorade at a gas station just .3 miles off trail. Hitched a ride both ways which saved me a little time road walking. The heat was really getting to me so it was nice to drink something cold and sit in the AC for a bit. I thought about hitching to where the trail crosses the same road again but after a few minutes debating and talking to Keefer, another thru hiker we have been leap frogging, I decided to push on and catch up to Littlefoot. We were supposed to camp atop of McAfee knob, a famous spot on the AT. It is likely the most photographed spot on the trail. However, a storm popped out of no where and we decided after getting soaking wet we should stay in the shelter at the base. It probably wouldn’t have been smart to sleep on the highest point of an exposed ridge in a thunderstorm anyway.
7/7 Woke up at 4 am to make it to McAfee knob for sunrise. The climb up to the knob was a piece of cake and we enjoyed a nice break at the top to sit and watch the sun come over the horizon. We then went on to tinker cliffs and just like that, the VA triple crown was complete. Onwards to Daleville to enjoy a cheap motel and a bbq restaurant. I always look forward to the copious amounts of Gatorade I’m going to drink in town.
7/8 Left Daleville around 11:30 and walked in the woods next to an interstate for quite a while. We walked through what looked like a park but had a fence on both sides because of busy roads. A few big climbs today but a nice blue blaze road walk along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which the trail continually crosses. Luckily for us the parkway was empty and we saw very few cars. While in Daleville I picked up a stove and some freeze dried backpacker meals, the good ones, not mountain house. Got to enjoy the best dinner on trail so far, Santa Fe style rice with chicken, in the middle of an empty overlook parking lot on the parkway. Did a few miles in the dark and rain to the shelter due to our late start.
7/9 Not a bad hike in the morning to get to Jennings creek gap where a local campground will pick you up. The campground has a store that you can resupply at and get hot food. I got a Buffalo chicken sandwich, a Gatorade, and some ice cream. We hitched a ride to the campground after not being able to reach them for a ride and got in just before the rain started. Decided to stay the night in the bunk house and try to make up the missed miles tomorrow. Might be a long 27 mile day into Glasgow if we’re feeling like it. It’s nice sometimes to be able to just hangout and not have to worry about what the plan was. We will make up the miles eventually.
7/10 Slept in through the alarm and also slept through the rain. Got a breakfast plater with southern biscuits and gravy from the middle creek campground before heading back to the trail. We decided, or more had to, cut out day short due to our late start. We reworked the plan at the shelter and made up the miles so we are still arriving in Waynesboro on the intended date. I am excited to reach Waynesboro as that is the start of the Shenandoahs and that means wayside restaurants, stores with Gatorade, and blackberry milkshakes.
7/11 Crossed over the blue ridge parkway yet again and stopped to throw my trash away in a parking lot. Overheard some muggles (non-hiker folk, or non-magical folk in the Harry Potter books) talking about the AT which crossed the road just before the lot. It is always funny to me the things you hear people say about the trail, especially when it is wildly incorrect but they say it with such confidence. Saw a sign that said it was a 10 min loop hike to the view and decided to jump back on the trail. Not 1 minute later I was at the mentioned view, that had a nice viewing area build up of stones. It reminded me of a sentry on a castle. And not 30 seconds after that I walked back to the parking lot to let Littlefoot know that the loop indeed does not take 10 minutes. The loop happens to be mostly comprised of the AT with only a short spur trail to the parking lot. While sitting in the lot there were many people that came and went taking the short spur trail to the view and then getting in their cars and driving away. Littlefoot and I always joke saying that we didn’t have to hike 700 miles to get here? Hiked over the longest footbridge on the AT to VA 501, a main state route that runs almost directly into Glasgow. Walked nearly a mile down the road towards town unable to get a hitch. With no cell service to call a shuttle and the road going uphill and looking quite dangerous, narrow and curvy, we stopped and tried our luck hitching again. After another 5 min I decided to text a shuttle off my garmin instinct satellite communicator. I’ve basically only used it to track my location this trip but finally it came in handy. Staying the night at staniamls hostel and picked up a package from mom and dad with some new shorts and candy. Thanks guys!
7/12 Got a ride back out of Glasgow around 8:30. The first mile and a half are relatively flat. It is long stretches of trail that are wide and level on terraces with a few steps up to the next one. We walked next to and over a creek for the first bit of the morning. Then we hit a 10 mile dry stretch up and over the big climb of the day Bluff Mountain. Stopped at Punchbowl Shelter and met Spike, the teddy bear that hikes. Someone left him in the shelter with a note asking anyone who sees him to carry him to the next shelter, trying to get him all the way to Maine by people taking turns. Littlefoot and I took turns carrying him to the next shelter. This was the first day that I became dehydrated. Once dehydrated it is difficult to get levels of hydration back to an amount that doesn’t cause a headache and fatigue. However we still made it 15 miles and passed the 800 mile mark!
7/13 Dehydrated again. Not feeling well and taking it slow. Got to swim and cool off in a creek. It was nice but put us behind schedule for miles. Sometimes it’s nice to not follow the plan though. Got to see Ros again who we met at Stanimals hostel in Glasgow and ran into several times yesterday as we all got back on trail together. Luckily Littlefoot was with me and took care of me while dehydrated. She gave me electrolyte packets. They did the trick and I felt much better.
7/14 Still a bit dehydrated but getting better. Got to climb Spy Rock which reminded me of the summits in NH and The Priest. Read some funny confessions in the priest shelter log book, as it is an AT tradition to confess a trail sin in the log. We weren’t able to write our own however due to the log being full. So here is mine, I am a dirty blue blazer and I love it. Even when I come back to do my thru-hike, (yes you read that correctly I will be doing it all over again), I will still be blue blazing. Maybe less road walking though. We saw Ros at the priest shelter and Littlefoot again helped dehydrated me by getting me some water. Isn’t she the best? We should be seeing Ros in town on Saturday (2 days) as we are both staying the night at yet another Stanimals hostel.
7/15 Later start than I would have liked. Due to the rain and getting into camp late, which has been a common theme recently, we slept past the time we said we would leave by. We had camped just before the Harpers creek shelter and stopped by the shelter in the morning to talk to a man about a horse and eat some breakfast. Got out in front of Littlefoot and didn’t see her that day until 5 pm. I ended up hiking nearly a mile south bound (backwards) to meet up with her. She was upset that I had left with no notice. It doesn’t help that I also left a note saying I might push past where we planned to camp. I didn’t, however, and we still spent the night together near humpback mountain. Got a little rain in the middle of the night but nothing bad.
7/16 Had a short day into Waynesboro and got a ride to the Stanimals hostel. Unfortunately Ros is staying tomorrow night and we will not see her. We wished her safe travels and happy trails. The city of Waynesboro is much larger than I assumed and has many good places to eat. After getting her mail, Littlefoot and I hit up a pizza place with giant slices. I couldn’t even finish two, but of course I had room for a cookie skillet. The Stanimals in Glasgow was much nicer. It had a homey feel and the man who ran it seemed to keep it much more tidy and friendly. It also helped that there were only three of us staying here. The environment at the Stanimals in Waynesboro has been stressful and aggravated as the lady who is running it is running around trying to do chores that she hasn’t been able to get to and dealing with annoying people. Not all hikers are the best people. All this to say not all hostel stays are a relaxing break from the trail. Waynesboro is basically the start of the Shenandoahs, which is very exciting. Almost every day we will be able to get food at a restaurant and even have a shower halfway through the park. It is also less than a week until my parents are here.
While in Roanoke, I noticed spending time in the hotel and in buildings, indoor spaces feel weird to me. I thought it may be because of the temperature regulation and the lack of movement in the air. Outside there is typically some sort of breeze or change in temperature. The air feels to still, it is unsettling.
I also noticed that when in cities I tend to become more reserved and have less energy. The fast paced environment and large amounts of people don’t mix well with a dirty woods dweller. There is just too much happening and I become overloaded. There is also the fact of Dunbars number, where we can only handle roughly 150 people in our environment before we start to become overwhelmed. (I guess there is some new data suggesting the number to be higher, I haven’t looked into it much.)
Thinking about people asking the question why anyone is out here. Some people come out for the beauty of nature and are disappointed quickly that there aren’t insane views at every summit and that the forests typically all look the same. I liked the way Edmond Hillary put it when people asked him about summering Everest as one of the pioneers in Himalayan expeditions, “Because it is there”. This simple and vague phrase explains perfectly why. Everyone comes out here for a different reason and it is hard for anyone else to understand why we do what we do. Everyone is on the same journey but a totally different one at the same time.
My hypothesis that venomous snakes don’t live in VA because the housing market is bad was disproven when we saw two rattlesnakes and a copper head in one day and another rattlesnake the next day.
Now it has led me to formulate a new hypothesis that venomous snakes don’t live on the uphills (for Nobo, downhill for Sobo). This is because the grunting of all the Nobos going up hill scares them away. There is less grunting going down hill.
Also, bears don’t come out in the rain obviously because they don’t have opposable thumbs and can’t hold umbrellas.
And snakes don’t come out at night because they are reading their little snake children bedtime stories.