Do Deer Sneeze? (Days 58-61, VA 630 to Daleville)
Start: VA Route 630
Finish: Trout Creek
AT Miles Hiked Today: 18.0
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 693.9
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 1,495.2
We had a noisy neighbor in the hotel playing music and yelling for half the night, so I didn’t sleep as well as I would have liked. Still, having a huge bed all to myself was great!
In the morning I woke at my usual time and headed downstairs to check out the free breakfast and drink some tea. My parents walked in soon after, and we ate and chatted for a while, enjoying a slow morning. I wasn’t in a rush to get back to the trail. We cut up some fruit in the room and enjoyed our last few hours together.
We got back to the trail around 10:30, and to our delight the cooler that we left at VA 630 packed with trail magic was almost completely empty! My family walked with me down the trail for a bit, then we said our tearful goodbyes. Hopefully I’ll get to see them again in August when I reach NH!
Back to business. I was greeted with a very steep uphill back into the mountains. I began to regret my late departure, as I was already sweating through my shirt. Summer arrived so quickly! It’s almost time to start waking up at 5 to clear as many miles as I can before the sun rises.
I got up on a ridge, where the views were spectacular, but I faced a 10 mile waterless stretch. Fortunately there was lots of tree cover on the ridge which helped keep the temperature down, and the terrain was smooth to start.
The hiking became increasingly difficult as the ridgeline progressed. Rocks had to be navigated with care, as one slip could mean sliding down the rock face. Trekking pole positions were carefully considered for each step, and routes had to be planned. Very slow going.
I recharged on water at the next shelter, where I saw Ivan for the first time in a week. He lost track of Windwalker, who is far ahead of us by now.
The rest of the day was extremely choppy, and I was feeling quite miserable by that point. It was getting late in the day but I was stuck in a dry patch, with no water for 3 more miles.
I finally got to Trout Creek around 7:30. I ate and went to bed almost immediately, very tired from the day. I think the heat is starting to take it out of me. I’ll need to wake up earlier in the day to beat the heat. Maybe take a siesta in the middle of the hot day? Who knows. I’m so tired. Very short post today.
Start: Trout Creek
Finish: Catawba Mountain Shelter
AT Miles Hiked Today: 15.8
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 709.7
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 1,479.4
Another very scenic but very difficult day! I felt myself dragging ass for most of the day, probably due to the heat.
It rained on and off all night, and the day started off extremely misty. But, the sun started poking through around 8:30, and it soon became another scorcher of a day.
My first climb of the day took me to Dragon’s Tooth, a rock formation that is very popular for day hikers.
There were some locals there attempting to scale the rock. So, I figured why the hell not? I joined them up on top to enjoy the views.
The views from the top were spectacular and I spent some time lounging around, but duty calls, so I started down the side of the mountain. The terrain immediately turned into some of the most difficult I’ve experienced all trail! Scrambling on all four limbs, trekking poles thrown down because they are no help. One misstep and your hike is over! I’m glad to have hit this section in sunny weather. I later learned that a bunch of hikers got lost on the way down, including Cavs who got lost for a long time and ended up having to rejoin the trail down at the road. So, be wary here! It’s easy to get lost!
After passing through some meadows on the other side of Dragon’s Tooth, I came to my first water source of the day, and took a 30 minute break to recover. This would be my last water source until I got to the shelter just before McAfee Knob, so I made sure to chug a few liters. It was far too hot to have a fully loaded backpack. I miss air conditioning.
I saw DJ Space Gator, who told me that Crusher had zeroed at Four Pines Hostel today due to his ongoing illness. Hope to see him in Daleville in a few days. I’m sure Reindeer is far ahead of us by now.
I arrived at Catawba Mountain Shelter around 5. I thought about going up and over McAfee Knob tonight, but my body was telling me that I was done for the day. I spent the rest of the evening relaxing, chugging water to get rehydrated, and watching day hikers pass on their way to or from McAfee Knob, which is the most photographed spot on the AT. The top is only 1.5 miles from my campsite, so I hope to catch the sunrise there tomorrow, depending on what time I awaken.
I packed out an avocado from my time with my family a few days ago, so I made two bomb tuna wraps with fresh avocado. So good!
As I was writing this entry, I heard a rustling outside my tent, and out popped two deer! I didn’t have time to enjoy them though, because one of the deer immediately sneezed, which made me laugh, which scared them off. Come on, how often do you get to hear a deer sneeze? That’s absurd. This trail really is magical. This trail is becoming more and more “work” vs “play”, but times like tonight inject some levity back into the trail experience.
Start: Catawba Mountain Shelter
Finish: US Route 220 / Daleville
AT Miles Hiked Today: 17.8
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 727.5
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 1,461.6
Woke up at 5:30am, wolfed down some breakfast, and hiked fast to catch a beautiful sunrise at McAfee Knob. I had the whole overlook to myself. It was quite the sight, I’m so happy to have had nice weather the past few days for Dragon’s Tooth and McAfee Knob.
I spent about a half hour on the knob, then started hiking fast. The day was heating up quickly again, but the elevation profile today was mostly flat to downhill. I caught up with Goblin and Fern at the last water source before the 9 mile sprint to Daleville, and they showed me their naked photos from McAfee Knob the evening before. I’ll let you search those out for yourself, they’re a little too PG-13 for my blog. Suffice it to say that hikers have some very abrupt tan lines.
I hiked down towards town with Goblin, who I haven’t hiked much with before, but is a really great dude! We were cracking jokes and sweating profusely as we ran the last ridgeline to town, with beautiful views of Carvin’s Cove Resouvour to the west. There were several power line breaks in the trees, and every time we would come our from the cover of the trees, the temperature would feel 15 degrees hotter. Man, that sun is really gonna suck the next few months.
As we were heading down into town, we got to talking about accommodations. I had a room booked at the holiday Inn for tomorrow night, but tonight I was unsure of my plan. We ended up agreeing to try to rally a crew to stay at the Howard Johnson right near the trail.
We dumped out onto the very busy route 220, and road walked over to the BBQ place nearby. As I’m talking to Cavs and another hiker, I hear “Slice!” from across the room. I turn, and Reindeer is sitting there eating with his mom and aunt! He spent last night at the Howard Johnson and intended to hike out tonight. We caught up and walked back over to the Howard Johnson to book a room for 4 of us.
As I’m walking into the Howard Johnson, who do I see but Crusher and Dusty! They did a 27 mile slackpack from Four Pines! The two of them were splitting a room for the night.
We all went over to pizza hut to get food, then picked up some beer and spent the rest of the night in the room watching the Red Sox – Oriole’s game, then watched South Park until bed time.
So, 33% of the trail is now behind me. Like I mentioned yesterday, lately I find myself moving more and more into a “work” mentality – make the big miles every day, hiking from sun rise to sun set. The sense of wonder is getting harder to find on some days. But days like today remind me of how lucky I am to spend each day hiking to the most beautiful places in the world.
Start: US Route 220 / Daleville
Finish: US Route 220 / Daleville
AT Miles Hiked Today: 0!
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 727.5
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 1,461.6
I took my first real zero since Damascus today! I needed it. My body was not happy.
Despite cramming 5 hikers into our room at the Howard Johnson, I slept great. I payed a bit more than the others to sleep on a bed, which is SO WORTH IT in my mind.
The free breakfast was excellent at the motel. I did a round 1 at 7:00, then a round 2 at 8:30. During round 2 I ran into Nemo for the first time since Hot Springs, he has recovered from his Achilles tendon injury and has been doing big miles to catch back up with the bubble.
We packed up and went down to the local BBQ place for lunch, where I had a really good pork platter with hush puppies, sweet potato fries, and baked beans. Then I went to get my first haircut since I started the trail. #1 all the way around, and blend into the beard. I look like a goofball, but it’s gonna be a lot less hot than my crazy 2 month growth of hair!
Reindeer is hopping off trail to hang out with a friend for a few days, so we went over to the local coffee shop to wait for his buddy to pick him up. After he left I picked up a frosty at Wendy’s, resupplied for the next 4 day section to Glasgow, then trekked over to the Holiday Inn for a solo night in a luxury hotel. My boss back in Chicago used to poke fun at me for staying at a Holiday Inn, but it’s a goddamn 4 Seasons compared to the motels I’ve stayed in over the last two months. (Hiawassee Budget Inn, anyone?)
That’s it for this section! I’m planning 4 days into Glasgow and 6 days from there into Waynesboro. Tough section of trail coming up before Shenandoah, but I’m looking forward to getting into northern VA.
Until next time, happy trails!
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