It Rained. A Lot.
I apologize for the radio silence lately, the wifi in the shelters is awful! Someone should really fix that. But I’m back now and I got t-shirts for everybody (ok I lied about the t-shirts)!
Day 50: Quarter Way Inn to Chestnut Knob Shelter, 14 miles
To start off, in honor of the quarter way mark, I’ll give y’all a numbers update.
- Deer: 9
- Snakes: 6
- Days on trail: 50
- Miles covered: 554.1
- Stickers collected: 32
- Blisters: 5
- Showers: 11
- Base Weight: 26 lbs.
- Body Weight: 112 lbs.
- Sidewalks I have split my left big toe open on: 2
Let’s just take a moment to address the fact that I’ve lost 16 pounds already. This certainly scared me, and I’m taking steps to up my calorie intake and slow my weight loss. Such as devouring the gourmet breakfast that Tina prepared for us this morning. Tina is the woman that owns the hostel we stayed in, and she’s amazing. She clearly takes pride in doing above average work, and I highly recommend her Hostel to everyone. Also, she does have a decent resupply available.
I stuck around until about noon with Yeti, Bambi Face, and Huggable. Since I had neglected to do a pack shake down yet, they took the liberty of sifting through all of my belongings and telling me what I did and did not need. All in all, I lost 4 pounds off my base weight, including a half a pound of stickers I had been carrying around since trail days. Hey, 32 stickers don’t weigh nothing. My base weight listed above reflects the shakedown.
Tina dropped us off at the trail head and I swear it started to rain as soon as we got out of the van. Already wishing I had devoured another pizza before leaving, I set out into the deluge. Today marks day 3 in a row of rainy weather, the most I’ve had to put up with yet.
I met up with Monty at the Knot Maul Shelter and we hiked the remaining 10 miles together. The weather seemed to intensify the closer we got to our destination. More rain and colder temps seemed to shout “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” with each step. I was cold and hungry and when I finally saw the shelter I whooped at the sight. Monty stopped mid trail, squinting at the stone structure ahead of us. He didn’t seem to believe his eyes, and I just about pushed him over to get him moving again. As we crashed through the door (yes it had a door!) we were greeted by plenty of space for our sleeping bags, and some good friends.
One Liner of the Day: “ounces are pounds and pounds are pain” -Bambi Face
Day 51: Chestnut Knob Shelter to Stealth Site, 19 miles
The worst part about this morning was putting my wet socks back on. Sure, I had a dry pair in my pack, but what’s the point in putting dry socks on just to shove them into wet boots and go walking around in the rain? Nothing. There is no point. I’d just end up with two pairs of wet socks.
It rained again today, going on day four I believe. I’m not going to lie, it really sucked. When it’s been raining for days with no end in sight, it’s hard to keep the “the sun will come out eventually” mentality. The only other people I saw today were No Chill and a SOBO hiker.
I was grateful for long stretches of flat trail today. The rain meant that there were no views, but there weren’t any places to see anything anyway. At one point, around 4:30, it started raining much harder. I was soaked and cold, and all I could do about my situation was laugh. I don’t know why I was laughing; there was nothing funny about what was going on. But once I started laughing I couldn’t stop. The harder it rained the harder I laughed. Send help, I may belong in a mental institution.
Eventually I got to a stealth spot. I wasn’t planning on stopping, I wanted to do 24 today. I stood there and stared at that spot for a solid two minutes, rain still pouring down and dripping into my jacket. “It’s really not that flat,” I thought to myself. “You should move on. There’s probably a better spot further down.” I did not move. My feet were firmly rooted to the ground. Finally I threw down my pack and went about trying to set up my tent.
After 51 days I the trail I was convinced that there was no easy way to do fly first setup with my tent, but that didn’t stop me from trying. I had this convoluted idea that I could use parachord and my trekking poles to get my fly over a piece of ground that I could then set my tent up on. It almost worked too, but as soon as I got the tent poles involved, the whole thing collapsed into a soggy heap. My poor tent was completely flooded by the time I managed to get it standing. There was a lake in my tent. I spent the rest of the night floating around lake seedhouse on my thermarest boat googling hammocks.
Pro Tip: buy a tent that you can set up fly first, and practice setting it up fly first when it’s not pouring. On second thought, don’t buy a tent, buy a hammock.
Day 52: Stealth spot to Jenny’s Knob Shelter, 14.9 miles
This morning I saw the sun for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long. It would have been more of a relief if it was actually warm, and wasn’t a lie. The forecast called for more rain later that afternoon, and I shivered so badly I could barely break down my tent.
Once I finally got my wet gear in my wet pack, I all but sprinted down the trail in my wet clothes to warm myself up. After about an hour I came to a road and a small store. I went inside looking for hot food, and found my friends, River and Lost! It was so good to see some of my trail family again, especially after how terrible the weather has been.
The three of us hiked the rest of the day together, and by hiked I mean run-walked. The threat of rain pushed us to move fast so we could get a spot in the shelter for the night. We beat the rain, and were all dry and warm for the night.
Pro Tip: you will get wet. Get over it.
Day 53: Jenny’s Knob Shelter to Stealth Spot, 17.1 miles
I was so excited to hike WITH people today that I got a late start just to wait for my friends. Sometimes it’s nice to have that choice you know? Before, I was outside the bubble and didn’t have a choice about hiking alone. Now I’ve got people I can hike with if I want to! Excitement! Fireworks!
At about noon, I left River and Lost and ventured over to Trents Grocery to eat and resupply. I ordered a bacon burger, a hot dog with chili, French fries, and two chocolate milks. While eating I hung out with a group I had met yesterday; GWAG, Patch, Wunderbar, and Yard Sale. After finishing all this food, I was somehow still hungry.
Dismal Falls was the highlight of the day. The recent rains had swollen the river, making the falls all the more spectacular. It would have been a great swimming spot too, but it was too cold for me. I did put my feet in and enjoyed some sunbathing.
The rest of the day had few landmarks, and at one point I was convinced that I had wandered off the AT and on to an old section. I was only reassured that I was on the right path when another hiker passed me. The last few miles of the day were up a steep hill to a camping spot at the top. Why we keep doing the big climbs at the ends of the day, I will never understand.
Nemo, Wunderbar, GWAG, River, and Lost camped with me tonight. We aired our frustrations over the rain, Wunderbar put cheetos in his pasta, and we passed around a beer that GWAG had packed out to end the night.
Day 54: Stealth Spot to Woods Hole Hostel, 4.6 miles
I let myself stay in my sleeping bag until 7 this morning, knowing I had a short day ahead of me. We were about 4 miles away from a well known Hostel, Woods Hole, and were adamant on staying and getting to experience it. I munched on dry frosted flakes as the miles flew by under my feet. There were few landmarks today, but I found the depth of the woods themselves profound and beautiful.
Woods Hole is an organic farm where they make pretty much everything they have. Almost all of the food is grown or harvested there. They have all kinds of farm animals and a really cool garden setup. They do yoga free of charge every day, and after participating in a session I’m feeling incredibly at peace and happy. We ate a dinner of stir fry and a dessert of homemade vegan ice cream, and I fell asleep to a chorus of frogs.
Pro Tip: stay at Woods Hole.
Day 55: Woods Hole Hostel to Rice Field Shelter, 18.4 miles
I left Woods Hole around 9 this morning, a very late start for me. It had finally stopped raining, so we got some good views! I ducked into Pearisburg to make a quick Walmart run, then came right back to the trail for another 8 miles of hiking.
Later, River and I hiked the miles out of Pearisburg together. She had gotten a later start but caught up when I went into town. The shelter we stayed at was awesome. It was set just in the trees on the side of a field at the top of a hill. There was a small overlook on the other side of the field. Bird, Torch, and Medicine Man joined myself, River, and Lost tonight.
It was today that I decided I wanted to run the 5k at Troutville Trail Days. It just might kill me but ehhh…oh well. I’ll have to average 21 miles a day between here and there to get there on time. I got this!!
Day 56: Rice Field Shelter to Wind Rock Campsite, 20.4 miles
I got a late start today, and by late I mean 8:00. Yeah, that’s right, that’s late. At this point the sun has already been up for 3ish hours, and some of y’all back home are still pressing snooze. Count yourselves lucky you don’t have a blazing ball of fire as an alarm clock.
Throughout the day I leapfrogged/hiked with Bird, Lost, and River. I also got a glimpse of Inasias at one point, but she’s like a unicorn. Now you see her, now you don’t.
We passed by the Captain’s place, a home only accessible via zip line. The Captain opens his yard to hikers for free camping and also often feeds them. Unfortunately it was closed when we went by. The Captain had just had surgery and was recovering. I hope he’s doing alright now!
I do genuinely hope that people are ok out here. You know how you always ask people how they’re doing but you don’t actually care? Like if they said anything other than “great! And you?” It’s really awkward? Not the same on the AT. You ask someone how they’re doing, and you wind up having a 15 minute long conversation about blisters, during which you actually mean every well wish and piece of advice you give them. Then in camp later you check in again to really make sure they don’t need help, and if they do you gladly give them help. People out here don’t waste anything, and that includes time on not being a completely real human being. We have no spare time for being fake.
The last few miles to Wind Rock were steep uphill. Again with the hard climbs at the end of the day! However difficult it was, the last mile of “guidebook flat” was harder. The elevation chart says little about the quantity and quality of rocks on the trail, so don’t be fooled when you think it’s flat. It just might be a massive, sharp boulder field. I’ve found that my pace is directly proportional to the size, shape, and amount of rocks in the trail. It took me an hour to hike that mile.
The sunset at Wind Rock made that mile worth it. Again, pictures not words.
As always you can follow me on instagram at erica.runs or shoot me an email at [email protected]!
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