Changes in Central Virginia

Entering Central Virginia I could begin to see why some hikers sink into the Virginia Blues. It can tend to be, well, blah. But luckily for me there have been some changes.

Company

I took a couple of zero days in Marion, Va., to meet a friend, Chomper, coming in off the Greyhound. Originally the plan was for her to hike with me to Harpers Ferry, W.V.

A week before Chomper’s departure she learned she had been accepted into a Warrior Expeditions trans-America bike tour. As she was expected to be on the Virginia coast mid-month, we did some logistical shuffling to figure out how to make her LASH work out.

Chomper in her natural habitat, break time. Dismal Falls, Va.

Chomper spent all of March on the PCT and it’s been fun, her telling me the stories of the first 650 miles out West and me reciprocating with stories of my own. In our conversations I realized a few important lessons.

–You are where you are. The first couple of days Chomper wanted to preform an immediate side-by-side comparison between the two trails. I had to remind her that Virginia is not California, or Washington or Arizona, or any other place. This is where I’m at and I have to be reminded to stay right here, right now. Every day I come across something that pulls me back to myself and truly moves me to the core.

–Two make a road shorter. This was actually written on a fortune cookie fortune we got at the Chinese buffet in Pearisburg. Thus far it has proven true for her and me. She came when I needed a familiar face and this moment of transition has been expedited as a result of her presence.

–Naps are OK. The past week has hit some pretty warm midday temperatures and it has been  preferable to kick it in the shade of a shelter. Waiting out the scorching sun, watching the shadows pass, and feeling the light breeze has been another treat.

Is It Spring Yet?

The past six weeks I have been hiking through a forest of bare trees. Coming from Arizona this was new and exciting environment, but the monotony of cold mornings, brown stumps, and a carpet of decaying duff has taken its toll on me.

Coffee in the morning the last week of April. Freezing overnight temps and wondering if spring had been called off. Near Trent’s Grocery, Va.

I guess that I had expectations that the forest would be a sea of green the first week of April, which I have discovered is not the case.

Here and there are indications of the changing seasons, but thus far, the tiny buds of the ends of tree limbs, the occasional wildflower, even the red-breasted robins, have been false indicators of imminent change.

As I descended toward I-77 near Bland, Va., the leaves had unfurled in that bright green of new growth. As the green caught the light of the setting sun I nearly cried out in joy. Finally. Finally!

A world transformed. Walking into Pearisburg, Va.

I don’t have the slightest idea what encourages this explosion of growth.  From observation, recent rainfall, favorable temperatures, and the lunar cycle all seemed to crystallize in a perfect rhythm the last week of April.

Then the charge into undeniable spring wiped away my past six weeks of chilly mornings, windswept ice storms, the barrenness of the forest, a discomfort so quickly forgotten as are the pains of overeating.

But the new season brings its own unique challenges. The muggy nights and persistent dampness of my shirt, the sweating in my sleeping bag, the swarms of gnats trying to kamikaze their way into my head cavities, the bite of something that has welted my legs and caused weeping wounds when I itch.

This, and a million like it, are sneeze bombs. Also known as bird’s foot violet and are incredibly gorgeous.

Then the allergies. I suffer from near-crippling seasonal allergies and my sinuses are swollen. I sneeze a thunderous sneeze that threatens to blow blood vessels in my eyes. I discharge more mucus in the morning than I ever thought possible and I take pity on my snot rag hanging from my right shoulder strap.

Gear Swap

I exchanged my winter weight base layers for something a little lighter as well as found an obnoxious aloha shirt and had my summer weight quilt sent.

The trash is in town. New summer getup eating shaved ice on a resupply run. Pearisburg, Va.

The rule of thumb for this change is generally after crossing Mt. Rogers, Virginia’s highest peak. Thankfully I waited a little longer as a week after Mt. Rogers it hit a nighttime low of 35 for a few nights. I am ahead of many others so waited for a gear swap until Pearisburg.

I made some other little adjustments, always trying to tighten up my kit, and said goodbye to a few no-longer-needed items.

From my colder, three-plus season kit I sent home my Army surplus wool gloves. These are without a doubt my favorite piece of gear. Paired with rain shells these can withstand anything.

If there’s one thing I can’t stand because of its ease of rectifying, it’s cold hands. My gloves lived in my shorts pocket and found their way onto my hands almost daily.

Until the weather turns, goodbye olive drab Army surplus gloves.

My favorite piece of gear. Army surplus gloves.

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