Days 36-40: The Weather Has Turned Against Me

I haven’t paid too much attention to the weather for the first 35 days of my thru-hike. Turns out, that’s because I was spoiled.

The last 5 days have definitely tested my gear, body, and mind.

Day 36

Hiking from: Tent site past Route 58

To: Campsite past The Scales

Miles: 19.5

Total grade: 369.8 ft/mile (+)

Motivation: See some horses?

Favorite part of the day: Reaching 500 miles

Comments: This day was miserable but informative. For example, in the freezing rain of the foggy Grayson Highlands I learned that my Zpacks Vertice rain jacket is more of a windbreaker than a rain jacket. I got to test out my pack rain cover for the first time. Thankfully, that did work. I learned that if you fall on rocks, it will rip your rain pants. No horses were seen. Only fog. I did, however, reach 500 miles and, while that felt great, stopping to take in the moment resulted in my hands refreezing and aggressive shivers, so it was a brief moment of pride.

By the end of the day, I was completely soaked through and there was no sign of the weather improving. Thus, another lesson: how to set up your tent in the freezing rain while minimizing how wet you sleep. This skill still needs improvement as I felt like I was aboard the Titanic once I boarded by blow-up sleeping pad in semi-dry clothes and prayed I didn’t roll into the sea of wet around me while I slept. It was even harder falling asleep knowing that the rain may not stop for another two days which means I will continue to be wet (and cold) for two days. Miserable.

Reaching the 500 mile mark in freezing rain! This is a forced smile.

Day 37

Hiking from: Campsite past The Scales

To: Trimpi Shelter

Miles: 16.7

Total grade: 419.0 ft/mile (-)

Motivation: Hike closer to Marion

Favorite part of the day: Sleepless in Seattle with dinner

Comments: It rained most of the night but when we woke up there were patches of sunlight finding their way to our campsite. We agreed on a later start and began spreading out our belongings around the campsite to expose them to as much sun and wind as possible while it lasted. We left camp around 10:30 with damp belongings hanging from our bags looking like a personal clothesline.

We made it to the next campsite without anything drying but also it wasn’t any wetter so that was fortunate. We laid out our things again and watched Sleepless in Seattle on Netflix while eating our ramen dinner.

Me being my own clothesline for the day

Day 38

Hiking from: Trimpi Shelter

To: Mt Rogers National Recreation Area Parking Lot

Miles: 10

Total grade: 353.9 ft/mile (+)

Motivation: Marion, VA

Favorite part of the day: The hot tub

Comments: In complete contrast to the two days before, this morning was hot and sunny. About 45 minutes into our hike we were greeted by cows on trail then trail magic at the road crossing. That’s a pretty fantastic morning if you ask me. Then we hiked to the next gap that we’d be picked up from by the shuttle driver for the Merry Inn Hostel in Marion, VA. Once we got to the gap, there was a woman whose husband is hiking the AT and she had beers and snacks. Two trail magics in one day — gotta love it.

We arrived at the Merry Inn Hostel around 3 pm and got checked into our room. Then we learned that there was a taxi service next door that could take us to a hot tub and that immediately became the plan for the day. After a nice refreshing soak, we went to resupply and picked up Little Caesar’s pizza. This meant the end of our day consisted of garlic sticks, pizza, tall boys, and movies. The best part? Being dry.

Also, a huge shout out to the taxi drivers in Marion. They were nothing but friendly and made sure to show us the sights and spilled some juicy gossip.

The cows 🙂

Day 39

Hiking from: Mt Rogers National Recreation Area

To: Davis Path Campsite

Miles: 14.2

Total grade: 405.6 ft/mile (-)

Motivation: Road crossing restaurant

Favorite part of the day: Daisy the Basset Hound

Comments: This was a long day but not because of the hiking. Our day started at 6:00 AM at a local store & breakfast place called Massey’s that provides free breakfast to hikers. There was French toast, fresh fruit, and plenty of coffee. In addition to the perfect meal, the owner is the sweetest woman. We talked to her for about 1.5 hours but it felt like minutes. She is truly such a great person. I highly recommend stopping by for breakfast or even just to say hello. She also offers a place to stay for thru-hikers with laundry and a cool lounge.

After Massey’s, we went back to the hostel to pack up and get a ride back to the trailhead. I started listening to A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson this day because I thought it would be fun to listen to him describe the trail while experiencing it myself. I was right but the bear and snake chapters did scare me a little. I like to forget about that reality while I’m hiking.

We hiked past an old schoolhouse where we met the local Deputy’s dog, Daisy. She was a Basset Hound and so, so friendly and full of energy. She actually began to follow us when we continued on the trail. It wasn’t clear at first if she was following us or if this was her normal stomping ground as we were going through fields around houses so we allowed it at first. But then Daisy didn’t stop following us down the trail and we were worried she was going the wrong way. We told her to go home and would stop on the trail to redirect her but she would just go around us, continuing northbound on the AT. Eventually, we were equidistant from the schoolhouse to the next road crossing where we’d have service to call her owner so we walked with Daisy until then. She’s a very good little hiker. We made it to the road crossing where we were also planning to stop for lunch/dinner as there was a Mexican restaurant right on trail and called the local sheriff and the schoolhouse (which is also a museum). Eventually, her owner came to pick her up and laughed it off saying “This happens a lot. She just loves the AT!” So we said goodbye to Daisy and went to eat Mexican.

While we were eating it began raining again. It had been on and off all day and we really didn’t want to reach our tent site in the rain and have to get our gear wet again after just drying it out in Marion. So we stayed in the Mexican restaurant and watched the weather forecast until the rain passed. We used this time to order a new tent (Z packs Duplex) and a new pair of shoes (same Altras) to Daleville, VA.

We only had a couple of miles to the tent site once the rain passed and passed the 1/4 way to Katahdin sign on the way there. I didn’t know it was coming up and it was a welcome surprise. It feels like that’s simultaneously a lot and nothing at all.

Daisy the aspiring thru-hiking Basset hound

Day 40

Hiking from: Davis Path Campsite

To: Campsite past VA Route 625

Miles: 17.4

Total grade: 482.8 ft/mile (=)

Motivation: meh

Favorite part of the day: First river crossing!

Comments: Day 40 was pretty uneventful I hate to say. It was windy and cold. Oh, how I miss the sun. Lots of ups and downs aka PUDs (pointless ups and downs). I also noticed it was fairly busy on trail. Before this point, we’d maybe pass 1 or 2 people a day, but during this section, we’d seemed to catch up to a bubble and we’re leap-frogging at least 4 groups throughout the day.

The end of the day brought the first river crossing on the AT. It was very mild as river crossings go. The water only reached my mid-calve but boy, was it cold.

When I got to camp I was absolutely starving. I think my hiker hunger/stomach is finally here. Late bloomer with that and trail legs.

First river crossing

Till the next post!

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