Days 42 to 49 of my 2023 AT Nobo Thru-Hike
As a foreword, I wrote all of these journal entries at the time they took place on trail, but I fell behind on keeping up with the blog. The date listed at the top of this page is the publishing date and does not correspond to my current location on trail.
We started the day pretty early, as we wanted to take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures, and because we wanted to make it into Pearisburg at a reasonable time of day. After a short morning climb, we were up on the ridge line, where we were able to quickly crush miles while it was nice and shady. At one point, we passed a bear skull, which was pretty neat to see, and the Alchemist jokingly suggested that one of us wear it to empty out future shelters. After that, we rolled into the very fancy Doc’s Knob shelter (which has a porch), and we had a quick lunch break. From there, we continued to crush miles until we reached the gorgeous Angel’s Rest overlook. I climbed around on a few large rocks in the area, and then we descended down into Pearisburg through a gorgeous meadow covered in flowers. Once in town, we made a beeline to La Barrancha, where we killed a few fishbowl margaritas and enjoyed phenomenal food. Since I was suffering from hiker hunger, I then went across the street to Dairy Queen and killed a large milkshake as well. By now, it was late, so The Masochist decided to stay in a local church hostel, and Anna and I rode with The Alchemist and his wife, Flying Camel, to a hotel in a nearby town. Once in the town, we knocked out a few cleaning chores, grabbed some Chilis, and then promptly passed out!
After a lovely night at a hotel, we woke up early so that Alchemist and Flying Camel could drop us off at the trailhead. After grabbing some breakfast on the way in, we met Masochist at the trail, and then began the long climb up. I was still hurting from the day before, so with the added humidity, it was a looong climb to the top. Once up, we had lunch at a shelter, and I checked the weather as we were expecting thunderstorms. The cold front was still coming, but it had slowed a bit, so we decided to hoof it to our original intended target. We made pretty good time across the ridge line, and thankfully, despite the rumbling storms around us, we were only sprinkled on a few times. During our ridge walk, we also had the strangest encounter with a roving pack of goats. We came out into a clearing, and immediately saw this group of them. They stopped what they were doing to stare at us, and as soon as Masochist made a noise, they aggressively rushed over to us. Anna and I had our legs licked, and we were shoved around a bit, but Masochist was largely unscathed. After the goats, we picked up the pace a bit to avoid them, and to beat the impending frontal squall line. We thankfully made it to Pine Swamp Branch shelter, and just as we were wrapping up dinner, the squall hit. Since we were already set up, we were able to enjoy the gorgeous thunderstorm as it rolled over our valley. I’m incredibly thankful we made it on time, as a ton of water came down in a short period of time. Fingers crossed the trail dries out by tomorrow!
Last night sucked, to put it plainly. Around 2:00 a.m., I woke up to a burning feeling on my arm. I was in a top bunk (which was very tricky to climb in and out of), in a very cramped and crowded shelter, so I tried to carefully fish out my headlamp. Once I had it, I flicked on the red light, and was confronted with a nightmare scene… I was COVERED IN LARGE SPIDERS!!! In an effort to not wake my fellow hikers, I carefully shook them off my quilt, being careful to not knock them onto anyone below. After I had gotten them off of my immediate person, I carefully climbed off the bunk, and then proceeded to use my trekking pole to try and scrape them all off of the roof above my bunk. After a very thorough inspection, I ignored the burning and tried to get a few more hours of sleep. When we all woke up in the morning, Anna and Sriracha asked me what the hell I was doing the night before, and I regaled them with my harrowing tale. It was around that moment, that I inspected my hands and arms, and noticed that I was covered in bites and welts that burned and itched. I had nothing to treat them with, so we went to wake up Masochist, who was thankfully dry in his tent, and we hit the trail. I was exhausted, and itchy, but thankfully the rest of the day passed without much drama. Despite the heavy rain the previous night, the trail was mostly dry and cool. During lunch, we shared a War Spur Shelter with a group that we had been passing back and forth with, and we learned that their names were Slinky, Pinky, Scratchums, and Deets! After lunch, just the three of us cruised on and didn’t really see anyone until we started hearing children’s laughter mysteriously drifting out of the woods. Since we thought we were in the middle of nowhere, we were confused when we rounded a bend and saw grade schoolers everywhere! Thankfully, we quickly spotted an adult, and learned that it was a Montessori group out on a field trip! The woman we were talking to tried to describe to one of the kids what we were doing, and her only response was “I’m tired.” Me too, mystery forest Montessori kid. Me too. Eventually we rolled up to Laurel Creek Shelter, where we were joined by Sriracha, Nearmiss, and Red Line for an early night in a cozy shelter.
Once again, it was Anna day, and it was strangely warm out. We knocked out our first two climbs of the day fairly quickly and held off on taking a break until after the impending river crossing that we were expecting. All of this was for nothing, because when we finally arrived, someone had carefully laid out boards and stacks of rocks, making the climb a piece of cake! After our lunch, we went up the last climb of the day, and realized at the top that we had forgotten to grab water. On top of this, we were also running incredibly low on food. We then slogged across the top of the ridge, wishing we could find anything to filter. Because we felt like crap, we ended up skipping the Audie Murphy memorial and a few other spots. We finally reached the climb down into the gap, and I nearly stepped on a five-foot-long rat snake! After that, we made it to the bottom and ran into the most beautiful sight: Fresh Ground’s Leapfrog Cafe! He fed us fresh-made burritos, mac n cheese, fried bacon, handmade fries, cookies, and all you could drink Gatorade. After that, he told us if we stayed there, he’d come back to make breakfast in the morning! Then, to top it all off, he left his laptop and a DVD of Step Brothers to have a movie night! An absolutely incredible trail magic experience, and a highlight of my hike. Needless to say, we’re looking forward to our breakfast tomorrow!
We awoke to the famous Rocky theme this morning announcing that Fresh Ground’s breakfast was ready! We then proceeded to stuff ourselves full of fresh, hot food before pushing up the trail. After a quick climb, we had scrambled across a ridge until we arrived at the Dragon’s Tooth, which we naturally had to climb. While up there, Scribe suddenly appeared out of nowhere, took our picture, and caught up with us on trail news. He informed us that 700, Miles, Unity, and the Alchemist were all just behind us, and we informed him of our plan to post up at the Catawba grocery store. I then relayed the information to the Alchemist, and we scrambled down to the store. Once there, we all went crazy on food, ice cream, and drinks. All in all, we probably spent at least three hours there just avoiding the heat of the day and catching up. Eventually though, we packed up, and moved on up the trail to camp for the night. Due to the no dispersed camping rules in the triple crown area, Alchemist had chosen to go on ahead the night before, so 700, Anna, Masochist, and I stealthed in a meadow right outside of the no camping zone, and we caught a gorgeous sunset. Another excellent Ryan day in the books!
Our sleeping spot ended up being wonderfully soft, but quite humid and buggy. I woke up early with a horrible stomachache and had to battle brambles to find an appropriate cat hole location as we were miles from the nearest privy. 700 had left early to try and beat the heat, and Masochist had also left early to pick up his resupply from the Catawba post office. After getting lacerated from the brambles, Anna and I started our hike, albeit slowly due to my stomach, toward McAfee Knob. Along the way, we had a chance encounter with Fresh Grounds, who gave us each some snacks as he was shuttling someone to trail and not setting up in the parking lot. We also met Eagle Eye, the local ridgerunner, who gave me some calamine lotion for my weird rash, and who gave us some info on the local bear population. Apparently, there was a large male and some of his older offspring that hung out in the area! Eventually we made it up to McAfee Knob, where we had our poorly lit pictures taken (bad location of the sun), Masochist caught up with us, and then Slinky, Scratchums, Pinky, and Deets all showed up as well! Scratch and Pinky interviewed us for their Trek Instagram video, and then hung out for a bit longer when we decided to head on since it was getting warmer. Not long after, we found 700 lounged out in a shelter, smoking, and hanging out with some day hiking Moms. Due to the heat, he had decided to take a siesta, so we ended up passing him as well. We made it up to Tinker Cliffs, which also had amazing views without the crowds, but the heat sort of detracted from the experience, so we continued on. We arrived at Lambert’s Meadow shelter pretty early, around 5:00 p.m., and stopped by for some water and to make a decision. The shelter and the surrounding area were already pretty full, so we decided to push on to see if we could find a stealth spot closer to town. The next few hours ended up being a slog as we were totally shot from the hot miles we had already done. The one time we thought we found somewhere, we ended up seeing a medium sized bear lumber by, maybe 50 yards parallel to the trail, so we decided to keep moving! Around 8:00 p.m., we decided to stop to make dinner and figure out what to do, since there was nowhere to camp. We were only a few hours out from Daleville, so we ended up voting to push on to town to crash in Alchemist’s room, which he had offered to share with us. We then donned our headlamps and pushed on for what felt like eternity. I played 2000s dance hits on my phone to try and encourage Masochist and Anna, but I could tell that they were suffering and in pain. The whole time, we kept getting dive bombed by insects, and the trail was rougher than expected, which did not help matters. The one redeeming factor is that we had a gorgeous view overlooking Roanoke and a nearby lake from the ridgeline. Once we finally started the downhill, I felt something painfully pop in my leg, and next thing I knew, I was hobbling the whole way down, hardly able to bend my knee or put any weight on that leg. I tried to ignore this though, and focused on just getting everyone to the Super 8. Around 11:00 p.m., we finally arrived, and were greeted by a sleepy Alchemist. The three of us quickly showered, and then promptly went to sleep. Fingers crossed none of us seriously damaged anything…
After our late night sliding in, we all slept in a bit. Unfortunately, this did not seem to help my IT band, which is so sore that I needed help to walk around. After finishing laundry, Anna and I grabbed our own room, and then our group headed over to the local diner for breakfast, mimosas, and tequila sunrises. While we were there, Pinky, Scratchums, Slinky, Deets, and 700 all rolled in, so we had another drink before heading off. Back at the hotel, we finished up chores, and then headed over to the local shopping center to resupply on food, booze, and to check out the local Goodwill and the Outfitter. Thankfully, the Masochist was able to secure new shoes, but the rest of us struck out. Of hilarious note, the Alchemist bought a rotisserie chicken and proceeded to eat it all in front of the liquor store while we shopped. After dropping off our purchases at the hotel, we headed to the local barbecue joint, where we met up with everyone in town for a delicious meal. We had 700, Anna, Alchemist, Masochist, Pony Boy, BABS, Miles, Pinky, Deets, Slinky, and Scratchums all at dinner! Post dinner, Alchemist and Masochist hit the trail, and the rest of us returned to our lodging for the night. I can still barely walk, so fingers crossed some sleep helps so that we can roll out tomorrow morning.
Upon waking up, I could still hardly walk on my sad IT band. It had gotten better, but movement was still a struggle. So right after breakfast, I made the tough call to take a second zero to rest up. Anna stayed with me, which helped through the mental challenge aspect of it quite a bit. I really did not want to zero in Daleville to begin with, so taking a second zero and falling behind everyone was quite demoralizing. She really helped make the whole day considerably better by helping me walk around a bit, by keeping me company, encouraging me, and helping me stretch. We ended up going and grabbing McDonald’s for breakfast, margaritas for lunch, and pulled pork sandwiches for dinner, all with me leaning on her for support! Throughout the day, we watched movies together on the hotel tv, had ice cream, and she helped me stretch, which greatly helped with the pain. Because of her, it ended up being one of my favorite zeros! Towards the end of the day, after we had finished our sandwiches and we were digging into dessert, I saw a familiar face walking around in the parking lot outside of the restaurant. It was Groot! I started pounding on the glass to grab his attention, and he promptly ran inside and hugged us! We hadn’t seen him since Boots Off, which was weeks ago. We all caught up and reunited, while he pounded his free banana pudding and his pound of pulled pork. Despite being against the second zero, it felt like we were right where we needed to be after all!
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