James River Refreshment
The day after Daleville I walked 18 miles and crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway for the first time. I met a couple on a 2,000 mile motorcycle ride who had never met a “hiker” before. A little later some young locals gave me their leftover crackers and jelly and they told me about jumping off the James River Foot Bridge. They’d jumped several times, and since I’d heard it was a sort of AT tradition I planned to jump off too. That evening, just as I arrived at the base of Cove Mountain, ten minutes from my target campsite, a thunder storm rose from the horizon. For thirty minutes the rain was unfettered until at once the sun looked out grinning. After a dry hike I had a damp dinner.
The next few days I shortened my miles in order to arrive at the James River at the designated time. I would be meeting my grandmother there for a long awaited pit stop. Day 61 I passed through the Bryant Ridge Shelter, a true masterwork of shelter architecture with two floors, beautiful woodwork, and plexiglass windows. I chatted with Copperhead again there, who had taken the time to read some of my short stories online. Made me happy. I wrote a poem there too:
I left a rock and
moved a branch
to show that I had been here.
Crushed an ant and
kissed a fly
in the time that I had been here.
Observed the birds
through a judas hole
to glean why I had been here.
half-coined in light
to sugar my journey from here.
If you catch me, sudden traveler
do tell me that you’ve been here
as we hover in the shade.
8.5 the next day and then 10 miles the next morning to the longest footbridge on the Appalachian Trail: the James River Foot footbridge (no typo here, the bridge is named after William “Bill” Foot).
My grandmother had set up at the end of the bridge with plenty of magic snacks, and Kyle was there too. The timing had worked out perfectly as he was biking up to Boston where he would be starting a job with Outward Bound. It was great to see them both. Before we left back to her place though, there was business to take care of. Firestarter soon showed up and we made for the center of the bridge. Crossing the bridge we happened upon Samson the Bear, and it wasn’t hard to convince him to join. In the end, after filming us on my phone, Kyle even joined too. Jumping off bridges—everyone’s doing it!
Want to know a secret? One of the best views on the whole AT is off my grandmother’s front porch:
With a day of rest I revamped in a number of ways. Notably I ditched my winter gear, bringing my pack without food and water down to 15 lbs. I replaced my La Sportiva Wildcat trailrunners with ones that held my toes inside. Then I sprayed my clothes with permethrin, an insecticide that lasts six weeks and kills ticks on contact (also damages the nervous systems of cats, for some reason . . . ). No lime’s disease, thank you! I cooked myself epic burgers for both breakfast and lunch:
I also put together my new prized trail luxury:
Cleaned up, well fed, and well prepared—a big thanks to my grandmother’s generosity and support-—I hopped back on the trail and got to work on the next two-thirds of the journey.
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