Heat, Rain, and a Celebration Off Trail

Day 48 (19.5 miles) Daleville, Va., to Bobblets Gap campsite (mile 748)

It was a late night last night doing video editing and uploading to YouTube, maybe four hours of sleep. Waited around at the outfitter’s store to pick up some new shorts that were ordered the previous day. Finally got on the trail at 9:45 a.m. and the temperature was high and climbing to record levels.

It was nice to climb out of town and hear the city sounds fading away. The trail was peaceful and the wind blowing through the trees was the only sound I wanted to hear.

Eventually, I came to a water source and met Brick and Snow Angel; she’s from Amsterdam and knew a lot about Gypsy Jazz and is a big fan of Django Reinhardt and the Rosenbergs.

As I passed by one of the shelters Napoleon shouted a greeting. I was wondering how far he made it last night; apparently not far.

The trail popped out on the Blue Ridge Parkway and there were some awesome views. Actually, the trail paralleled the parkway for several miles and I could see a big storm to the east. There were some sprinkles and thunder but it avoided me, thankfully.

The Bobblets Gap Shelter area was full; saw Belle and Lynn there, so I camped a little north on the trail. Shortly I was joined by Ciyuse, a SOBO from Harpers Ferry then flipping to Maine, and Duke, ex-Marine who now brews beer in Alexandria, Va., at Port City Brewing Company. Both good guys, and glad to have their company for the evening.

Day 49 (21 miles) Bobblets Gap campsite to Black Rock Overlook campsite (mile 767.1)

Started hiking a little before 7 a.m. anticipating the unusually warm weather we’re experiencing, but my pace was extra slow this morning. Here the AT is zigzagging across the Blue Ridge Parkway and the early-morning views are stopping me in my tracks. Photo ops seem to be everywhere.

Found a picnic table and a trash can near the trail, which is very unusual but came in handy as I stopped to have breakfast and coffee. Belle and Lynn passed by and seemed to be hiking with a lot of intent this morning.

Several miles later I met a SOBO at a water source and he warned me that there was a pretty big stretch ahead with no water. While I was cameling-up a half dozen other hikers came along and did the same.

Everyone eventually met at Jennings Creek for a break. I considered jumping in the swimming hole but just sat under the bridge by the creek and chilled out with my lunch. Everyone decided to call a shuttle and go get milkshakes and burgers. Duke and I chose to push on and get on with the afternoon of hard climbing.

Fork Mountain was a tough hump and I took a short break on the other side of the mountain at Bryant Ridge Shelter to cool off and get more water.

The biggest and final climb of the day was the five-mile ascent up Floyd Mountain to Cornelius Creek Shelter. I passed Espresso, Clover, Not Yet, and Heatstroke on the way up. That climb was a beast in the afternoon heat and I had to stop two-thirds of the way up to cool down and put on my knee brace. While I was stopped Napoleon came by marching double-time. I got back on the climb and about 20 yards up, where Napoleon had just walked, was huge rattlesnake on the trail. I can’t believe he didn’t see it. It was moving slowly so I pulled out my camera and started videoing. After waiting a few minutes for it to get off the trail I eventually just went way around it, giving it plenty of room.

At the shelter, I filled up all my bottles and showed Belle and Lynn and the others my rattlesnake video. Didn’t dig the vibe at the shelter so pushed on another mile or so and set up a stealth camp just past the Black Rock Overlook. Cleaned up, ate dinner, hung the bag, and called it a day.

Day 50 (21 miles) Black Rock Overlook campsite to Johns Hollow Shelter (mile 787.7)

The morning began with a tough climb up Apple Orchard Mountain past the big bubble (aka FAA tower), followed by a jaunt through the Guillotine, a rock outcropping with a precariously wedged boulder overhead. The descent down Thunder Ridge offered a nice overlook and ended with a cool break at a shaded stream.

The temperature was soaring into the 90s and the humidity made it feel warmer. The climb over Highcock Knob didn’t look that tough on the map but it kicked my butt. A few hours later the trail descended and followed along the James River. The trail crosses the river on the James River footbridge, the longest foot-use-only bridge on the AT. It’s a hot Saturday afternoon and the local teens were using the bridge as a diving platform.

After crossing a major road between Glasgow, Va., and Big Island, Va., the trail winds along several streams and eventually come to the Johns Hollow Shelter. When I arrived no one was there but soon Belle and Lynn arrived and later a half dozen or so other hikers arrived. Most of us are camped in tents nearby.

It was a tough day, the heat was brutal, and I’m still trying to cool down and rehydrate. Tomorrow is supposed to be another scorching day but I’ll be passing the 800-mile marker, so that’s something to look forward to.

Day 51 (19 miles) Johns Hollow Shelter to Brown Mountain Creek Shelter (mile 806)

The morning began with the three-mile climb up to Big Rocky Row. It was cool and the trail wasn’t too tough at first, but it was all uphill and became more rocky and tricky near the top. There were several great views up around 3,000 feet. After a bit of smooth sailing along the ridgeline, there was another climb up Bluff Mountain. At the top was an unsettling monument to Ottie Cline Powel, a not quite five-year-old child whose body was found there after she strayed from a schoolhouse seven miles away.

On the way down, I stopped in Punchbowl Mountain Shelter for water and a snack. While there I called the wife to wish her a happy Mother’s Day.

The temperature was now rising into the 90s and the humidity was making it feel hotter. I had to ease up my pace to keep from overheating. Fortunately, the last five miles were mostly flat and in the shade.

The Montreal Ladies — Belle and Lynn — had caught up and we all arrived at the Brown Mountain Creek Shelter about the same time. We set up camp along the creek and soaked our feet in the cold water; I can’t explain how good that felt.

At dinner, we talked about the next day or two of hiking. We decided to do a relatively short 16-mile day tomorrow, which will set us up for a short walk into Montebello the following day. Montebello is just a quick resupply for me then back on the trail to Priest Shelter; the Montreal ladies are skipping up to Shenandoah National Park. I’m aiming for Rockfish Gap and a hotel room in Waynesboro, Va., by Friday.

Day 52 (16.4 miles) Brown Mountain Creek Shelter to Seely-Woodworth Shelter (mile 821.8)

After a wonderful night’s sleep next to the creek, I woke up, packed up, and had a quick breakfast. It was a short walk along the creek, then the four-mile climb up Bald Knob began. There were several varieties of wildflowers on the mountain covering large swaths in pale blue, vibrant yellow, and shades of purplish pink. Bald Knob is not bald but it did have a few spots overlooking the surrounding area.

Cole Mountain had some awesome views and nearly 360 degrees in one spot. From there the trail leads down to Hog Camp Gap, a big meadow with many possibilities for campsites with a nearby spring, which I visited.

Next, the trail went over Tar Jack Ridge, a ridge with a rock wall strategically located near the top as in a possible battlefield. That dropped down into Salt Log Gap, where I stopped for a lunch break.

The final miles crossed a few streams and a small river. The afternoon heat was bearing down again today and I was happy to see Seely-Woodworth Shelter shortly before 3 p.m.

I pitched my tent behind the shelter and cleaned up, relaxed, and cooled down. Several hikers came and went but the place filled up as the sky suddenly darkened. It wasn’t long before the distant thunder was upon us at the black clouds let loose a torrential downpour with some hail. My Zpacks Duplex tent did not let me down and I was as snug as a bug in a rug. After the rain, it was time to call it a day and get some sleep.

Day 53 (12 miles) Seely-Woodworth to Montebello to Priest Shelter (mile 828.4)

Started hiking around sunrise straight down the mountain to Montebello. Scored a short-term resupply, recharged electronics, and said goodbye to the Montreal ladies, who took a shuttle to Waynesboro. They are skipping ahead to the Shenandoah National Park.

The climb back up from Montebello to Spy Rock was grueling, about 1,000 feet in a couple of miles of rocky road and trail, not to mention my pack was heavy with food and supplies.

After a lunch break at the top, I did the rock scramble up to the view on top of Spy Rock, and it was worth it. Some more hiking and the afternoon was heating up. So hot that I needed to make a side trip down a dirt road (Va. 826) to get more water before tackling the climb up The Priest.

Set up camp not far from the shelter and tried to get ready for another round of evening storms. The winds are kicking up now and hikers are hustling to get situated before the sky opens up on us.

Tomorrow is going to be a tough day as we climb from 900 feet up to 4,000 feet past Chimney Rock and over Three Bridges Mountain, probably in the rain much of the day.

Day 54 (14.5 miles) Priest Shelter to Maupin Field Shelter (mile 842.2)

Slowly packed up and was almost the last one to leave the shelter area. By 8 a.m. I was at the overlook on The Priest and headed downhill. One or two views revealed that I was descending into the clouds.

At the bottom it was foggy and misty, It was a few more miles to the next shelter, where I took a lunch break. Chatted with Paddington, Hack, Big Ben, and Jukebox for a couple minutes. They were headed to just beyond the next shelter, to Reeds Gap and from there a ride to Devils Backbone Brewing. Sounds like a good idea so I was considering it as well.

Filled up my water bottles and started up the 3.3-mile climb with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain, and about then it started to rain for real. The steep and wet rocky climb was slow going, and I had to stop a couple times to catch my breath and wring out my shirt. Eventually, I took off my glasses because the rain was making them useless. Passing Chimney Rock, there was a sign that I was about a mile still from the summit. The rain made it slippery and hard to see but it cools things down for a change. Finally, over the top, the rocky descent started. Because of the rain, there were no views and I really had to concentrate on each footstep to keep from slipping.

I arrived at the shelter, about 1.7 miles shy of Reeds Gap, and there was a break in the rain so I quickly set up camp. Just as I got situated in my tent, the rain started coming down in buckets. Put on some dry clothes and had dinner in the tent. Several hours later I was trying to sleep but the rain was relentless and getting heavier.

It poured all night and made it hard to get a good night’s sleep. The sun is coming up and it will soon be time to put back on my wet clothes and pack up the wet tent to hike toward Waynesboro.


Day 55 (20.5 miles) Maupin Field Shelter to Rockfish Gap (mile 863)

Rain, rain, and more rain.

So far I’ve encountered a bear, a rattlesnake, and ticks, but it’s not all dangerous creatures out here. This morning I had a close encounter with a rabbit and a deer; Bambi and Thumper are out there as well.

Paddington, Hack, Big Ben, and Jukebox caught up to me and they were slack packing today. I took a lunch break at the shelter before Rockfish Gap and hung out briefly with
Bluejay, Col. Jackrabbit (ret), Early Riser, and Blue Jay. Blue Jay is an older woman, a retired beautician from Texas; she hikes about as fast as me and started only four days prior to me in Georgia.

After the lunch break, I hiked with the Paddington group and we all finished at Rockfish Gap about 4 p.m.

I had contacted Enterprise car rental early in the afternoon and reserved a car to drive back to Atlanta for a few days to take care of some family stuff and be with my wife for our anniversary. I called them at 4 and asked them to come pick me up. An hour later I called again and they said they would check with the driver. They called me back and said it was too late now and the driver had to go home. I was only 11 minutes away from their office in Waynesboro but they totally let me down. I canceled the car rental and called my brothers in Atlanta who were on standby if I needed a ride. They arrived the next morning and I spent the night at Stanimal’s 328 Hostel. Thanks, Adam.

I chilled at the hostel, heated up a frozen pizza, and topped it off with an amazing cake that Rocket Man baked. The hostel was full of hikers that night, maybe 35 to 40 of us, the Paddington group, Bluejay, and many others.

I’ll be off the trail for a few days but look forward to returning later this week and tackling Shenandoah National Park and then on to Harpers Ferry.

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Comments 3

  • Christine Anderson : May 29th

    Hi Champ – I chatted with you briefly this morning in Shenandoah about tall hikers, cobwebs, bears, and the pretty morning. I thought you looked familiar, and just realuzed it’s because I’ve been reading

  • Christine Anderson : May 29th

    your blog all season on The Trek!

    • Dan Coy : May 30th

      Awesome! Cool meeting and chatting with you. Thanks again for clearing my path of cobwebs.


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