Doubt Comes In
Day 61: Woods Hole Hostel to Campsite Near Angel’s Rest Rock (8.6 miles, marker 634.1)
This morning was intentionally slow. After a delicious homemade breakfast, I spent some time organizing my food and researching warmer weather quilts. Finally I packed up, did a half hour of yoga on the lawn, and headed out a little after noon. I ran into Jim at the trailhead, which was a treat. Jim is a really nice hiker in his mid-seventies whom I met before my break. I ran into him again on my slackpack and then right at the 600-mile marker. He’s moving a bit slower than I, so this might be my last time seeing him. I took some time to chat before heading on my way.
A few miles into my short hike, I took a side trail to look at some views where I met Captain, a young woman who is also thru-hiking. We ended up chatting and walking the rest of the way together. The rhododendron and azalea along the trail were absolutely gorgeous.
After getting some water a little before the campsites, she decided on a site with a view of the valley, and I decided on a site tucked amongst flowering trees… a different type of view. A couple other guys showed up to the campsite, and after a nice fire we went over to Angel’s Rock to watch the sunset over the city of Pearisburg.
Day 62: Campsite Near Angel’s Rest Rock to Unofficial Campsite (18.5 miles, marker 652.6)
After climbing three miles down from Angel’s Rock, today started with a side trip into Pearisburg for a breakfast at Hardee’s. The hike then took me up a long ascent where the rest of the day was a walk along the ridgeline.
It was rainy on and off starting around noon. There were a few nice views, and eventually I got to my campsite. The scene was very misty and eerie, so after setting up camp and having dinner, I climbed into my tent just in time for the rains to fall steadily for the rest of the night.
Day 63: Unofficial Campsite to War Spur Shelter (16.8 miles, marker 669.4)
I found today to be particularly difficult. The elevation change was not so hard, but the terrain was tough. It reminded me of Pennsylvania in how many rocks I had to step over and around much of the way. Fortunately, it was punctuated by gorgeous mountain laurel along much of the way. This part of the trail took me much longer than usual, and I didn’t roll into camp until after 6:30 p.m. After dinner and a solid self foot massage, sleep took me hard.
Day 64: War Spur Shelter to Unofficial Campsite (20.8 miles, marker 690.2)
The hiking today was pleasant enough, with a couple interesting highlights. It began with a nice rattlesnake sunning itself on the trail. After several attempts to get it to move, it coiled tighter and rattled incessantly, so I concluded that it now owned that piece of trail, and I took the long way around.
Then, about 10 miles into the hike I came upon the Keffer Oak, which is the oldest tree along the Appalachian Trail. This is an oak tree over 300 years old, and it is huge.
Then I ascended to the Ridgeline, first crossing the eastern Continental divide, and then hiking along the Bruisers Knob Cairns. Supposedly the cairnes were placed by farmers clearing fields, though they honestly look like early burial mounds. I did try to do some research on this online and found very little information, though there are similar types of burial mounds further south. After a long day of hiking, I finally arrived at my campsite close to 8:00 pm. After getting my tent set up and making dinner, I ended up eating in the dark. I was not a fan and will attempt to arrive at camp no later than 7:00 pm from now on.
Day 65: Unofficial Campsite to Four Pines Hostel (14.3 miles, marker 704.5)
Today included two big climbs, a number of rock scrambles, and a visit to Dragon’s Tooth. It was not an incredibly long day, but the couple miles to and from Dragons Tooth definitely took a bit of time. The views are breathtaking, and I’m very glad I took the time to go around the back of Dragons Tooth and enjoy the wind and the view from there.
I eventually descended to Four Pines Hostel, which was a very pleasant surprise. I was originally stopping there to find out about a minor resupply, and as I walked in the door, Donna (the owner) declared there is food on the table so I should eat. I asked how much dinner was, and she let me know that she just feeds people, hikers should eat, and there’s a box for donations if I’m able to give. I decided then and there to stay the night. While hanging out, I found out about a slackpack option where one of her people would drive my contractor bag of everything I didn’t need 26 miles ahead to Daleville. This sounded like a great plan and I scheduled it with three other people, keeping costs low.
Day 66: Four Pines Hostel to Daleville (14.3 miles, marker 704.5)
What a hike! Today was 26 miles of amazing views and lots of ups and downs. Ten miles in was a perfect spot for my first big break at McAfee Knob.
I stayed for about 30 minutes enjoying the views before moving on to my next rest stop and lunch break at Tinker cliffs.
Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs are often considered the Virginia Triple Crown. This is a name well earned, as all three are amazing hikes and worth visiting if anywhere near the area. Another half hour of relaxation and enjoyment of the views at Tinker Cliffs and I had to move on. Again, I found that at about mile 22, my mind started to get very tedious. I’m beginning to find any hiking day beyond 22 miles is a little much to deal with.
Day 67: Zero in Daleville, VA
“The Meanest dog you’ll ever meet, he ain’t the hound dog in the street. He bares some teeth and tears some skin, but brother, that’s the worst of him. The dog you really got to dread, is the one that howls inside your head. It’s him whose howling drives men mad, and a mind to its undoing.” – Hadestown
Today is my first day off from the trail in two weeks. This gave me time to resupply, update a few items in my hiking arsenal at the outfitters, and get some much-needed rest. During this rest time I had plenty of time to think. I’ve been noticing doubt creeping into my hike over the past couple weeks. I’ve been spending more time hiking in silence without any music or audiobooks and am very aware that the mind can be a vicious place. There is the part of my thought process that asks what the hell I’m doing out here, what am I achieving, and what’s the point. I’ve had the experience of hiking, why do I need to keep going? The funny thing is, I have zero doubt of my ability to complete this thru-hike. My doubt is only in my desire to do so. As a lay here in this hotel room, I think about the fact that it I could easily go home now and sleep in a comfortable bed every night with heat and running water. They say when you think about quitting, go into town and get a good meal, and then reconsider. So here I am in town with a good meal in my belly. It’s very tempting, but I’ve wanted to do this hike for 30 years, and very little is going to stop me… especially the phantoms in my mind.
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