Days 35 to 41 of my 2023 AT Nobo Thru-Hike
We got a late start today due to the cold and lingering heavy rain from the previous day. Eventually, Anna built up the courage to get up first and retrieved all of our food from the bear locker. After a slow breakfast in bed, we hit the trail a bit late but at a decent speed. Thankfully, the rain abated but the temperature continued to plummet as we hiked, and the wind picked up quite a bit. As a result, we weren’t able to see much of the Grayson highlands, however, we were able to see the ponies! One even came up to me and poked my hand with its nose! After that, the wind blew off most of the mist, and a gorgeous landscape unfolded in front of us as we worked our way over to the Old Orchard shelter. With this bout of weather, I am incredibly happy that I did not swap out my winter gear in Damascus like so many others did. Likewise, I’m happy I packed out the Fireball nips!
It was my turn to lead today, so I did my best to make it as full of a day as possible. After an incredibly cold and misty night in the shelter, we woke up to a cool and sunny day. From there we cranked out a little more than 20 miles over the course of the day, with a few hiccups. Mainly my knee was bothering me from twisting on a wet rock the previous day, and Anna appeared to be having some foot issues. To help get through the rougher than normal afternoon, I did my best to keep the group occupied with good conversation, games, and thoughtful open-ended topics. Eventually, we made it to the Partnership Shelter, where we ran into 700 and several others that we had met before. There was a landline at the nearby Forestry service office, so we ordered some pizza, mozzarella sticks, and a slice of cheesecake (because we had been discussing it before). As a related note, some of the other guys at the shelter had leftover pizza, and they did easily one of the worst bear hangs with it that I’ve ever seen. All in all though, an excellent Kidz Meal day. The Masochist even gave me a 5/5!
Everyone in the shelter had a slow start today after a collective restless night of greasy pizza stomachs, a late night alleged bear sighting, and quite a lot of snoring. Thankfully, there were no bear issues, and the nearby Forest Service office had a heated and plumbed bathroom that we all lined up to use. After our slow start, we said bye to 700 as he was heading into town, and we headed on our way. We made the decision to skip lunch in favor of grabbing a bite in a little town we would be walking through. This ended up backfiring as I snacked so hard that I made myself sick, and then both of the restaurants in town were closed… Not to worry though, as I was able to score some gas station Tums, and we were back on trail in no time at all. We were all stoked today to hike through lush green sections of trail, as we have mostly had wintry forests with the only green being rhododendrons. After passing through one such section with a gorgeous stand of pines, we encountered trail magic in an old schoolhouse, which was pretty awesome! At the end of the day, we wrapped it up by camping in a lovely spot near a creek, making a fire, and jamming to some disco while we stretched. An excellent day to officially wrap up the first quarter of the AT!
After our wonderful night the previous evening, we had an early start (due to it being Anna day), which meant that we were able to cover solid chunk of miles before lunch. All morning, we were excited about our first big river crossing, which was due to a washed-out bridge. Expecting a raging, several feet deep torrent (due to comments on Far Out) we were hilariously surprised to see that it was little more than a glorified stream! After our “dangerous” crossing, we soaked our sad feet in the stream, stocked up on water, and then continued on. The rest of the day passed without much drama, except for the long climb up to Chestnut Knob shelter. We weren’t originally sure if we’d be stopping there for the night; however, the view was absolutely incredible. We also had a clear night, with a late moon rise which helped make our decision. This ended up being fortuitous as a few hours later, the Alchemist and 700 arrived! It’s always great to get the gang back together!
It was Kidz Meal day again, which means fun and extravagance! We left the shelter at a reasonable time for once, and started laying down quick mileage on the fairly smooth terrain. I had booked a hotel in Wytheville for the night, with the plan to take a well-deserved nero! We had the Alchemist hiking with us most of the day, and we kept bumping into 700 and Miles. After a brief lunch at a shelter, we continued on until we came to a nice river crossing where we stopped to soak our feet, and where the Alchemist went for a dip before our final, long climb of the day. During the climb, we ended up with quite the group marching uphill towards Brushy Mountain Outpost. Once we arrived, 700 and Miles got a hitch to a diner, and their hitch ended up being our trail angel ride to Wytheville! He grabbed the remaining four of us and took us to the same diner while he sorted out a few other hikers who needed rides. We scarfed down a mountain of food, and then headed off to our hotel. Once there, we did sink laundry, took a quick dip in the hotel pool, and then proceeded to pound more food at the nearby Waffle House. I had been craving Waffle House all hike, and I was stoked for Anna and The Alchemist to eat there for the first time! All in all, another excellent Kidz Meal day!
We woke up today feeling refreshed and ready to go after our comfortable night in the Wytheville La Quinta! After wrapping up a few chores, we scarfed down the continental breakfast before heading over to the Food Lion for a resupply. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan it very well, so we all ended up buying way too much food. After checking out, I noticed that the Alchemist was hanging out in the entrance, and he was working on a 12 pack of White Claws. So I purchased a deli sandwich, and then Anna and I helped him polish them off. No one batted an eye at us, but the pile of trash The Masochist created while repacking his food earned him a few looks. After the Food Lion, we got a ride back to the trail, where we bought ice cream from the local outfitter and then hung out for a bit. Because of the afternoon heat and our drinks, we were all really feeling it, so we made it a short day and wrapped it up at Jenny Knob Shelter. It was there that the Alchemist revealed that he had packed out hot dogs! So we grilled out over the fire pit before retiring for the evening. As we laid in the shelter, we could clearly hear a whippoorwill and an owl sounding off, which was really awesome!
We started the day off at Jenny Knob Shelter where we had stopped the previous day. Unfortunately, I slept like crap due to it being warmer than usual, so I was already up when Anna came to wake me. We then sat around in the shelter for an hour to wait for the heavy rain to dissipate before we headed out. We ended up getting lightly showered on while we hiked a gorgeous seven miles down to Dismal Falls. On the way, we went through a wonderful meadow and over a fantastic suspension bridge! Once at Dismal Falls, we decided to have lunch next to them, as the spot was absolutely gorgeous. I ended up rinsing my shirt out, laying out in the sun, and soaking my legs on the cold water. Unfortunately, I did this for a bit too long as I ended up getting a bit of a sunburn! Afterwards, we hiked another easy seven miles or so to Wapiti Shelter, where we decided to call it a short day due to the thunderstorms in the area, and the exposed ridgeline up ahead. The Masochist and I made good progress on lightening our food bags, and we hung out with everyone else. We’re going to try and start getting up earlier with the hope of getting more miles done while it’s cool out. The warm, muggy afternoons have been causing us all to hit a bit of a mental wall.
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