Sorry folks, last time I posted we had just left Partnership Shelter outside Marion. Been busy every since. I love this hike even with the pain in the left knee and the new pain in the right knee. You adjust. We did a quick 7 miles into Chatfield Shelter and planned to do a NERO (a short hike but not a zero) of 4.5 miles into Atkins the next morning. The shelter saved us an extra night lodging at the Relax Inn. We NERO’d that day with a meal at the Barn restaurant. Burger and fries sure were good. That evening we hit the Mexican Restaurant in the Exxon station. No margaritas but good food. So we beat the rain into Atkins and rested and ate the rest of the day. The rain passed thru the night and we were off again in the morning. Still hiking with Sharkey who I met at Saunders Shelter my first day on the trail. Good to have someone who is close to the same pace. We set off in the morning and sometimes don’t see each other until the shelter at the end of the day. Sometimes we catch each other at a view spot and sometimes leap frog each other. The 1/2 day off the trail helped my ailing knee and I was hiking with renewed vigor. Ran into bunches of hikers we had met while in Atkins and at Chatfield Shelter. K-Train, Critter, Tigger, Blues Brother, Rabbit.
As we were leaving Atkins following a big breakfast at the Barn a lady ran across the road wanting to know if we were AT hikers and we introduced ourselves. Her husband, “Slo-Mo” , was getting ready to start his AT hike here and she asked our names and we told her Squish and Sharkey and to have her husband check trail registers to know our whereabouts. We did 14 miles to Knot Maul Branch Shelter with some minor rain along the way. One lightning bolt and big roar of thunder put us under a picnic shelter that just happened to be close by. We spent 15 minutes in the shelter and as the rain subsided we did the last 2 miles uphill to the Knot Maul Shelter. Knee held up pretty good and others at the shelter were K-Train, Compost, Rocket, Sky and his dog Brownie. We contemplate the next day hike and to a shelter is either 9.4 or 20.1. Not being ready to push for the 20’s we opt to 9.4 which has 6 miles of climb.
We get a late start out of Knot Maul and run into a group of hikers we discover are part of Warren Doyle’s pupils who are doing what they call a prepatory hike for two days over the same trails we’re on this day. Make it into Chestnut Knob Shelter, at 4409′ feet with the wind howling at 50-60 mph. Chestnut Knob is atop a mountain looking into Burke’s Garden in Tazewell County, often called the “thumbprint of God”. This shelter is cinder block and is 4 sided with a door. It used to be a fire warden’s shelter but has since been converted to an AT shelter. Thank goodness for 4 walls as the wind was ferocious and the temps dropped into the 20’s. Medic and Speedy made it to the shelter when I did. Medic had waited for Speedy for two days at Partnership and now they have already caught us. These guys do 24 mile days regularly. Think we’ve seen the last of them.
The next day was a short day with rocky climbs and descents. We thought about 5 more miles to a camp ground but my knee didn’t feel like the 600′ climb at the end of the day. It was cold this night but slept warmly in my sleeping bag. Temps in the 20’s but 2000′ lower elevation that the night before. New hikers at this shelter were “Captain Underpants” (literally hikes in his underwear), Tinder, 38, Simon (Quebec, Canada), and Sharkey.
Did 12 miles of nice trail to US 52 and hitched the remaining 3 miles into Bland where we got a room at the Big Walker Motel, In getting there we had beautiful views of Burkes GardenRidge top walking for the most part along with a 600 & 800′ climb. The hotel offered tubs for hikers to wash their clothes and a clothesline to dry them on. We made good use of the amenities. Talked with my sister and BIL and finding out where I was they called my BIL’s cousin who lived nearby. He came from his office, picked us up, took us to Wytheville and fed us at the Log House Restaurant and insisted he was paying for it all and not to even argue about it. He then took us by WalMart to resupply and back to our motel room. Thanks so much to John Newberry for being our personal trail angel. Thanks to sis and BIL for arranging it for us. John also supplied a ride for us back to the trail head with an employee I used to work with at Bland Correctional Center. It was great seeing Jerry Dunn and he was surprised to see me.
On our way again, we ran into “Slo-Mo” slack-packing back to Bland. Said it was his last day as the trail was much harder than he expected. So we continue for 12 miles to Jenny Knob shelter. It was a cold morning but got progressively warmer as the day progressed. Passed no other hikers this day. Early evening with a good night sleep with just two of us in shelter. We head on to Wapiti Shelter the next morning. This is a 15 mile hike with high’s in the 50’s , good hiking temps. On our way to Wapiti we cross the road and are .5 mile from Trents store and the burgers and fries are calling my name. We put out our thumb and catch a ride in a Pick -up and arriving at Trents realize “Big Country” has yellow-blazed from Atkins to Bland (Yellow-blazing is riding in a vehicle rather than doing trail miles). Big Country said he was either going to hike a couple of miles and set up his tent or drink beer. In a few moments he said he was going to drink beer. Will undoubtedly see Big Country again before this trek is through. We catch a ride back the 1/2 mile to the trail head only to realize Sharkey has left his hiking poles at Trents. I stay with the equipment as he hikes back to the store for his poles. He catches a ride when he is 200 yards from the trail head.
We note that Slo-Mo has signed the register at the trail crossing at Trents and realize he has quite quit yet. He is an hour ahead of us. We finish the 15 miles to Wapiti Shelter where we decide to spend the night. This is the infamous Wapiti Shelter, the site of the murders of Robert Mumford and Susan Ramsey which led to the book Murder on the Appalachian Trail. Randall Smith was convicted of the murders and got a 30 year plea deal. Such a calm, peaceful , tranquil spot for such a violent act.
Next mo9rning we did 9.5 miles rising from 2603′ elevation to 4027′ over a 5 mile stretch. Passed blue blaze to Woods Hole Hostel and headed for the shelter as we only had another day to Pearisburg. Story is Wood’s Hole is much more a B&B than a hostel and the hosts are really fine people.
On top of Sugar Rnn Mt. I was able to get a text out to sister Beth for her birthday. Happy 29th Sis.
Crossed Angel’s Rest where we looked down into Pearisburg and the surrounding communities. I was back at my childhood and early adult home. We came off the Mt. walked down thru Bunker Hill and straight into the Mexican Restaurant where a 24 oz. Dos Equis was calling my name. A quick lunch and a phone call to my lovely Sister-in-law Ginny and I was being chauffered to her home in Pembroke. Greg and Ginny were wonderful hosts who helped me in every way they could. Dinner, clean clothes, shower, bed with sheets, etc… Their nephew Seth arrived and we started talking about slack-packing through Giles County. The next morning, Seth and I scout the area in his Jeep and find drop-off and pick-up points to cover the trail without having to carry full packs and being shuttled back to the house each night. Sharkey stayed in Pearisburg at the Plaza only to be joined by Slo-Mo who joined us for the next slack-pack days and shared the room with Sharkey. Following a day of scouting the mountains, Seth and I go to Right Turn Clydes for a beer in Narrows. The owners, Corey and John were there and Seth and I were joined with Karen and Clyde Turner. Saw my old dentist there too. Good Beer, good place, keep it growing.
Starting on Sunday, April 10, Greg shuttles our merry band to and from drop-off and pick-up points totalling 50+ miles of walking but many more miles on the vehicle. Each day thru Wednesday the 13th. Greg delivered us to the trail head and picked us up at the end of the day. He hasn’t asked for a thing in return. We plan on offering a thanks to him on our last day. It has taken time and effort on his part and he has been most generous with both.
We go back to walking with full pack Thursday the 14th and we will miss the daily showers and meals that town and homes provide. Seth, my nephew, will join us on Thursday and hike with us thru the week-end to Daleville. It will be great to have him along.
Sorry I’ve been awhile since posting but a rest off the trail does not always entail posting to journals. Hope you find this interesting, informative, entertaining, whatever. I’ll try to figure out how to post pics soon. I promise.
Until next time,
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