Day 35, 6/2/23
Broken fiddle hostel to Saunders shelter
9.2, mile 480.2
Wow. I slept so amazing last night. I was asleep by 10:00 and woke up to my alarm at 8:45 a.m. We had a private room with two queen beds in the hostel. That’s the good thing of having another person with you is you split the cost of things like that. The regular bunks were $40 per person and the private room was $85. It was a great place, they did laundry for us and we got to take a nice hot shower. We were debating taking a zero but we both woke up feeling surprisingly good even with how far we hiked yesterday. Our trail legs must be getting here! We went to breakfast at the Damascus diner and then went to the outfitter in town. I wanted to get a cork massage ball for when I am feeling sore. I noticed they had some clothes too and when I went swimming in the waterfall my shorts stayed wet for hours and felt awful. They had some shorts that felt so light and said quick dry so I tried them on and bought them! Then we went over to dollar general to get some extra food to last us five days until our next resupply. After hanging out at the hostel chatting with everyone for a bit longer, we decided to start hiking around 1:30 p.m. It was super hot and pretty steep off the bat so we took lots of breaks knowing we were going such a short distance today. I went for a swim in the river and my shorts dried much faster than my other ones. Stinks that I have to carry them until dad comes down to see us but that’s okay it’s only a couple more ounces. My pack was heavy today with all my food and water, it weighed 29lbs at the hostel which is the heaviest it’s been. I’m also eating much more than when we started so my food is significantly heavier. I haven’t lost any weight which means I’m doing a good job with my food! After the swim in the river when we got back on trail a huge rat snake made me jump because it was laying right in the trail. Rat snakes, although big, are harmless so I like seeing them. It then started to climb a tree which I had never actively seen happening before. We stayed and watched it for quite a while before moving on. A lot of the elevation today was right before the shelter and we powered through and got here at 6:30 p.m. There are a couple other people here and a guy went down to get water (it’s about a .2 mile walk) and then I went down right after him. When I came back he was telling people how he ran into a bear walking down there. Thankfully I did not see any bears. Our friend swiss chris who we haven’t seen in a while was in town today! He told us he saw seven bears on his marathon and Kevin and I saw none. It’s so bizarre that everyone around me keeps seeing them and I haven’t. I wonder how many I’ve walked by that were so close but too far for me to see. I’m hoping he doesn’t decide to come through here tonight. We have a fire going and there is someone with a guitar! I asked if he would play for us in a bit so maybe we will have some entertainment again tonight.
Day 36, 6/3/23
Saunders shelter to Thomas knob shelter
19.1 miles, mile 499.3
Around 10:30 p.m. when we were laying in our tents the tree next to us started to make a lot of noises. Kevin and another guy named bobcat went to look at the tree and it was very dead and when they pushed it it moved very easily. Instead of moving our tents we all went to the shelter just in case it were to fall – I was not feeling up for the risk. Bobcat told us he had a tree fall about 20 feet from his tent during a storm and that he pays close attention to the trees around now. I certainly will too. I didn’t sleep well in the shelter because of snoring but hopefully I’ll get some sleep in my tent tonight. The tree remained standing this morning. We had a later start than we wanted for a 19 mile day and got to camp and all set up around 8:00 p.m. This is also an odd area, there is the shelter and then a lot of random sites that you really need to go looking for, and a bear box that is a decent walk from where we ended up. This area is really popular for weekend backpacking because the Grayson Highlands are here where wild ponies roam around on the grassy balds. We will hit mile 500 early in the morning and then will hopefully get to see some ponies! The hiking today was a lot of the same woodsy scenery. I felt like I was back home with all the roots and rocks in the trail today. I finally saw some bears! It was a mama and a cub that were running away and I saw them through the trees. There were also two deer along the way today and lots of little chipmunks and birds too. It was super hot, I was super tired, and super hungry today. We took a decent amount of breaks but also knew we had a long way to go with over 5,000 feet of elevation gain. This will be our longest day for the next couple days before we take a zero in Wytheville!
Day 37, 6/4/23
Thomas knob shelter to campsite before hurricane ridge shelter
15.6 miles, mile 514.9
I woke up a couple times throughout the night last night but around 5:00 a.m. I woke up to hooves hitting rock. There must have been some ponies wandering around the tents. I didn’t get up to see them but listened as they hung around for a bit. This was such a cool section of trail this morning! It was super rocky and then exposed with grassy brambly fields where we saw some wild ponies in the distance. Then we kept going and there was a whole bunch of them right near a fence and I got to pet some of them! Since they are true wild ponies, you need to be very careful and there were signs saying they will bite and kick. Then a little baby came trotting right up to me and I got to pet it! After continuing on we saw some more out in the distance and got to see some cows as well. There was a lot of fence opening and closing on this stretch. We took our time in the Grayson Highlands with lots of breaks on the tall rocks to enjoy the view. It was a pretty popular place and I can see why. There were lots of flowers blooming along the trail, and there are other trails besides the AT. After we left the state park it was back into the woods with the same green tunnel we always see. About 11 miles into the day I felt pretty nauseous but kept pushing until we got to this campsite. There is a brook right by which is always nice to try to fall asleep next to. I haven’t had much cell service since entering Virginia and I’m happy I have my Zoleo to be able to message Mom and Ethan that I’m settled for the night even when there is no service at camp.
Day 38, 6/5/23
Campsite before hurricane ridge to stealth campsite
15.8 miles, mile 530.7
A very uneventful 15.8 miles were hiked today. We had one view point of a valley with some cows in it and that was about all the day had to offer view wise. The highlight of the day was sitting in a beautiful river for a while, the cool water feels so good on my legs and the birds were chirping and the sun was shining. I love stopping for dips along the trail. We got set up at camp with an older couple who are both retired engineers! They were very excited when I said I just graduated with my mechanical engineering degree. Our friend food truck who we hadn’t seen for a couple days hiked by to get to a shelter a couple miles up the trail. I’m so excited for tomorrow because we have about 15 miles to interstate 81 where we have a shuttle for 3:30 p.m. to take us to the Sonic in Wytheville so then we can get a milkshake and then head to the grocery store and hotel where we will then take a zero! I can’t imagine I’ll have much of an update on that day because I plan to lay in bed all day long.
Day 39, 6/6/23
15 miles, mile 545.7
Yet another uneventful day of hiking through Virginia. We did see two deer and one had a baby with her! Other than that the trail was super rocky with loose rocks, rooty, and lots of steep ups and downs. We were leap frogging with a lot of people today. There was a school house that was neat to go into for a quick stop but we kept moving because we had a shuttle picking us up at 3:30 p.m. Her name is Woodchuck and she is a true trail angel! She is so amazing and took us to the Sonic where I bought her a milkshake – since she doesn’t charge hikers for her shuttles it is the least I could do. Then she took us to the grocery store and waited outside for us to finish our resupply and then even took us right to the holiday inn. She is also picking us up after our zero. I couldn’t believe how kind she is and she was telling me how much she loves talking to the hikers. I’m so excited to lay in bed tomorrow.
0 miles, mile 545.7
I slept for about 12 hours last night and it was much needed, I don’t sleep that well out on the trail still. I laid in bed all day and it has been wonderful. Back to the trail tomorrow!
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