Cold and grey
The wind never died down making for a brutally cold morning. Our morning chores, like taking down tent with numb fingers, was much harder. We had to constantly put on warm gloves to get some sensation in our fingers. This caused a later start than expected.
Shorty after setting off we hit another major milestone: 1500 miles! An incredible accomplishment in it’s self but we still have a bigger goal. We made our way across the ridgeline and reached the Eastern Continental Divide; the water that flows off this ridgeline on one side goes east 405 miles to the Atlantic Ocean via the James river and the water that falls down the other side of the ridgeline to the west makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi river 1920 miles.
Shortly after the ECD we passed the Keffer Oak, which is the tallest oak tree on the AT south of the Mason-Dixon line. We are hitting all sorts of interesting landmarks and mile markers today!
The temperature never hovered above the low 40s all day. By mid-day flurries started to fall (but did not accumulate) and would continue for the duration of the day. To stay warm we took very short breaks and just kept moving to stay warm while hiking. This is a little taste of what is to come in the Smokies.
In southern Virginia, we noticed a change in fauna. Rhododendron thickets take over the trail, particularly near water sources. Our campsite tonight was buried in one of these thickets and will hopefully block some of the wind. We ate dinner quickly and jumped into our tent for the night.
It was a very cold night but we stayed comfortable in our bags. The temperature dipped down to 29 degrees. Thankfully there was less wind and our morning chores were much easier.
With these cooler temperatures we kept commenting on how it feels more like November yet only the middle of October. The trees also have fewer leaves that now litter the trail. This hides the rocks and roots making our steps more cautious. The colder temps make it hurt even more when kicking one of these little devils. The leaves also make the trail more slick so we do more slip sliding. Always a new challenge to work around with every season.
There was a stretch of trail that brought back memories of Rocksylvania. We slowly meandered through often showing frustration with the unstable footing. We couldn’t imagine going through Pennsylvania now with the additional challenge of leaves. We crossed our fingers this stretch would end soon.
We passed through more rhododendron thickets as the temperature continued to drop. Tonight we are opting to stay in the shelter. Tomorrow is a town day and we need to get on trail early. This will save some time.
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