Coco and Magnus – Days 47 through 59 – Snackpacking, Ponies, and Four Day Weekend
Hello! Since we’ve seen each other last, Magnus and I have hiked 165.2 miles. Approximately 150 of those miles didn’t involve a single shower. Yay? I am grateful for the human body’s ability to adapt. In this situation, my olfactory system has drastically reduced its efforts much to my relief. Here is an example.
Today, I will wash our sleeping bags for the first time. Imagine sweating for 8-12 hours a day, taking a shower approximately once a week, laundering your one set of clothes approximately once a week, and never washing your bedsheets. This is my life for the past eight weeks. I am really excited about a clean sleeping bag and again — grateful for the vacation my olfactory system has taken for offensive odors. On the other hand, I’ve become very aware of the perfumes and scents that are prevalent beyond the thru-hiking world. I’m sure it must be rather creepy and intimidating when I cross paths with day hikers and I breathe in deeply as the pass, but I gotta get my kicks somewhere. Don’t judge until you’ve hiked in my boots.
Speaking of hiking in my boots, they’re still going strong after over 630 miles! Thank you, Saloman!
Damascus, VA to Pearisburg, VA
4/23 Thursday – Day 47
Zero day in Damascus! The laundry facilities were lacking, so Magnus and I did some old-fashioned sink washin’ of our clothes and it worked out fairly well. This half-hearted washing would turn out to be our last clothes washing for 10 days.
4/24 Friday – Day 48
Prior to leaving town, I went to Mt. Rogers Outfitters to consider and ultimately purchase a new, lighter pack. I received a lot of attention and advice and the entire process lasted over two hours. It took longer to try on a backpack than the events of deciding to purchase my house and getting married combined. I also was encouraged to ditch my mug again. No. Never ditching the mug. Stop asking.
Once the backpack affair was finalized, Magnus and I hustled to get back on the trail. One last meal — canned chilli added to a bag of Fritos, shaken up, eaten with sporks. Magnus is brilliant! Tex declared “Hiker Level: Expert.” Agreed.
Our pals had already hiked on or planned on staying another day, so on we went. And what a pleasant surprise we received! A group shuttled north and slackpacked 25 miles south. To share their good fortune and “easy” hiking they invented snackpacking (v.): the act of hiking with little supplies yet carrying snacks for other hikers encountered on the way. The second clear instance of brilliance that day.
Since we got a late start, we took an easy hike in and camped beside a small pond. Again, serenaded by frogs.
4/25 Saturday – Day 49
Drizzle began in the morning, so we began hiking as soon as we could. Our tent neighbors, a group of weekend hikers, had already decided to abandon their hiking plans due to the forecasted thunderstorms. Joke’s on them! The rain cleared up after several hours and the day was gorgeous. Something I’ve leaned is you hike regardless of forecast unless there are dangerous situations.
The day was ultimately so lovely that we ended up hiking our furthest day so far of 21.5 miles and even passed the 500 mile mark. We hit up Fatman Squeeze, and hiking through Grayson Highlands we saw two groups of the fabled ponies, as well! Such a surreal experience.
4/26 Sunday – Day 50
The thunderstorms held off all day the day before and made up up for it by pouring all night long.
Another beautiful and long day. The mist and fog were so thick that we only noticed a herd of cattle when they were less than 20 feet away from us. We could barely see the white blazes, and the sun never emerged.
4/27 Monday – Day 51
This was the day we all went into Marion, VA for resupply. Good news: a shuttle at 9am and 11am would take us into town for resupply with enough time to get back on the trail. Bad news: we were over 10 miles away from the shuttle. Solution: wake up at 5:15am and start hiking at 6:15am! Once again, town legs kicked in and we covered over 10 miles before 10am. Shuttle success! This fantastic shuttle took us directly to a Chinese buffet where under any other circumstances we should have been ashamed at the rate at which we ate such large amounts of food. I was so focused on consuming calories that it wasn’t until after I ate my entire first plate of food that I realized I had been eating with the wrong end of my chopsticks. Well, at that point, who cares? I continued on.
We resupplied and took the shuttle back to the AT. With full bellies, heavy packs, and an immediate climb, none of us were inspired to hike very far. Approximately one mile in, we discovered the fantastic Fire Bone Knob campsite complete with a beautifully built fire pit and seating area. At only 3:30pm we called it a day and set up camp. We had put in over 40 miles in the previous two days, so the seven of us enjoyed our restful afternoon with some whiskey, a fire, a tiny Apples to Apples, cribbage, and a good old-fashioned sewing circle. Lots of stuff gets torn and sometimes duct tape just doesn’t cover it.
4/28 Tuesday – Day 52
On this sunny day it felt like we finally stepped into spring. We went to a museum and an old one-room schoolhouse right off the trail. At our next campsite, our group reached an even larger size of most everyone we’ve been hiking with over the past week or so. At dinner we all unintentionally gathered around in a circle. And we felt like a family. If I had a cheesy picture of it or a corny soundclip I’d add it.
4/29 Wednesday – Day 53
Ohh jeezum — lots of elevation changes made for a challenging hike. After many hours, we made it to Chestnut Knob Shelter and were rewarded with an extraordinary sunset and view of farms in a valley.
Although it was a very good day overall, this was the first time I felt dispirited. Tired and dirty and just wanting a break I knew I would not get for almost a week.
4/30 Thursday – Day 54
In addition to the sunset, we were also treated to an equally gorgeous sunrise and watched the light creep into the valley. Also, a new culinary exploration: oatmeal with hot chocolate mixed in. Why waste time?
Today was Doc’s birthday and we celebrated once more, which was probably the fourth time. Why limit yourself to one day? Another game of cribbage!
5/1 Friday – Day 55
Within the first five hours of the day we experienced light drizzle, warmth and sun, cold and rainy conditions requiring all clothes, and pleasantly cool temperatures. I would also like to note that we hiked nearly 21 miles in less than 9 hours including breaks. Others may not be impressed by this, but I am so I am going to air-toast myself with some air-champagne. *clink* *sip* *wink*
Then we slept in a campsite that was essentially a stream run-off area. Thank goodness it didn’t rain.
5/2 Saturday – Day 56
YES. Unbeknownst to us, this day would mark the beginning of what has come to be known as “Four Day Weekend.”
We even walked across a suspension bridge!
Half a mile off trail we went to Trent’s Grocery. “Grocery” may be a stretch, but there were burgers, fries, beers, ice cream, chips, and Knorr sides, so it still hit all the bases. I ate: a cheeseburger, waffle fries, half a full-size bag of chips, two Swiss Rolls, and a candy bar. Then it was noon. Time to hike on. Soon after, we came upon the side trail to Dismal Falls. Despite the unfortunate name, we investigated and I am so thrilled we did. It changed everything.
Dismal Falls is an enchanting area of wide, flat rocks that cascade icy cold water into another pool of water and then flow out into a river. All of us at least set our feet in the water. Yellow took a mid-thigh ice bath. Translator went all in.
Soon we realized that we had hiked into paradise and collectively decided we would not hike again until the next day. Treearm, Apple Cider (have I mentioned yet that she’s an Appalachian Trials blogger?), Translator, and I absorbed the hunter roles and set out for more provisions back at Trent’s Grocery. Walking across a log over a river and fording the same icy river were involved as well as hitching a ride from a nice gent in the back of a pickup. Magnus, Yellow, and Doc were the gatherers. The rest of the evening was enjoyed with a fire and s’mores among other delectables.
Side note: we miss TR (have I mentioned yet that she’s an Appalachian Trials blogger?), Sugar Magnolia, and Sullivan!
This was the end of Magnus’s and my first eight weeks on the AT. Salud!
5/3 Sunday – Day 57
Day 2 of Four Day Weekend. Despite the grip of Dismal Falls, we were able to head out early for our next stop — Wood’s Hole Hostel. I was going to be content with a warmer-than-cold shower and a sub-par laundry experience but I was blown away by this glorious establishment.
Wood’s Hole Hostel is working farm committed to sustainability and whole wellness. It is gorgeous and welcoming and the proprietors Neville and Michael are just as lovely. Magnus and I chose to tent on their property though the bunkhouse was very nice. Some of the fellas offered their energy in the form of clearing land. I preferred to shower (I love their shower house!), launder my clothes, and sit on a rocking chair.
It had been 10 days since I took a shower and I hadn’t had my clothes properly washed in two weeks. Heaven. Think it can’t get better? It can. Dinner happened.
Dinner at Wood’s Hole was a community event. We all took roles dishing or serving or cleaning over dinner and breakfast the next morning. Real plates and amazing food. Breakfast for dinner: pancakes, eggs with vegetables, sausage, homemade bread, butter, and apple butter.
The evening was topped off with a huge yellow moon shining through the trees and clear skies with sparkling stars.
5/4 Monday – Day 58
Day 3 of Four Day Weekend. Once again, we had the immensely delightful experience of breakfast once again at Wood’s Hole Hostel. Eggs with sausage, peach crisp with yogurt, apple slice, orange slice, orange juice, homemade bread, butter, apple butter, and coffee.
Neville so graciously allowed me to lead the yoga class which she normally teaches. We gathered on the lawn in front of the main building and the hostel provided mats. This was the first warm morning on the trail and the weather could not have been more agreeable. I was thrilled to be able to teach my friends and fellow hikers in such a beautiful, serene, and loving environment.
The mere 11 miles to hike to Pearisburg was primarily a solo affair and very pleasant. The bottoms of my feet were very sore, but the promise of a zero day propelled me quickly.
Haha (have I mentioned yet that she’s an Appalachian Trials blogger?) has been doing work-for-stay at Wood’s Hole, but since she had the day off, she slackpacked into Pearisburg for some city life excitement. She and descended into Pearisburg together.
We immediately drank a beer, followed by a Blizzard. Haha nearly made me spit out my Fan-iversary Salted Caramel Truffle Blizzard I was laughing so hard. Sadly, she left us to return to the hostel and the rest of us hit up the AYCE Chinese buffet.
Very full, very happy. My trail family and I chose to stay at the Holiday Motor Lodge. These accommodations may not be the swankiest or even terribly clean, but the cigarette holes in the comforters and dog scratches adorning the inside of the bathroom do add a certain charm. But hey! We get (unreliable) wifi (during office hours) and HBO (on most of the TV’s), and that’s more than what’s available in the woods. But seriously, there’s a shower and a mattress. Luxury is redefined daily.
Knowing we had a zero day coming up, we indulged a bit and had an all out great time drinking and watching Law & Order. That doesn’t sound extraordinary? Spend two months in the woods and you’ll find new horizons for the ways you entertain yourself.
5/5 Tuesday – Day 59
Day 4 of Four Day Weekend. Cereal! HBO! Coffee! Washing sleeping bags! Resupply! Typical zero day activities.
Despite having lived in Arizona and Texas for a collective 23 years of my life, I don’t think I have ever ventured into a Mexican restaurant on Cinco de Mayo. Ah, how The Trail changes us. We went. With a margarita or several under our belts, we are preparing for another stretch on the AT.
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It sounds fantastic!!
Loving your updates!!