After a hard goodbye to Pat and a struggle leaving home I headed back to the trail late in the day. When I put on my fully loaded pack I almost cried. For nearly two weeks I had been spoiled from slack packing and splitting up gear. My pack was back to its starting weight of 34 pounds and I started with the usual 1000 foot climb. I didn’t get very far because of my late start but I was proud I’d been able to get back on the trail after being home. The shelter I stayed at was huge, room for 20 people. It had a loft a porch and I was super impressed until i got bitten alive that night. Lesson learned, I’ll be in my tent for the rest of the summer.
Bear closure everywhere
The next day I had a plan to hike 12 miles to get past the closed shelter to the next campsite. I reread the bear closure poster and found out that campsite was closed as well so I would have to complete 17 miles. Worried I’d be hiking late I tried to distract my self with an audiobook. It was a 3000 foot climb and I tired easily. I took a snack break late in the day at the closed shelter and that’s when I got even worse news. A ridge runner there reported that the second campsite that i was headed to was closed as well due to bears stealing food the night before. Stumped and not wanting to do 22 miles I asked him for advice and he told me I should of stayed at the shelter 6 miles back (not helpful). He said if we were desperate (3 of us were in this situation) we could head back about a mile and camp in a field. We didn’t like that plan and tried to hitch on the parkway for two hours before giving up and just walking a quarter of a mile south of the road and stealth camping (hoping the bear wouldn’t bother us in this new location). We hung out bear bags high and we had a bear free night!
The town with a shelter
I wasn’t going to go into Glasgow but for some reason I decided it would be a good idea. So the next day I walked all the way to the James River to go into town. It was beautiful out for the majority of the day and I got views of the mountains and the river through the trees. A thunderstorm occurred during my last two miles and then let off just as I crossed the James River on the Longest foot bridge on the AT. I had never seen a muddier looking River. Once across I tried hitching to town. A nice couple who had the boys I’d camped with in their car came to pick me up as well and gave me a beer. They dropped us off at the restaurant in town where I ate a large dinner and when I could move I headed to the back of the restaurant where the town had built a shelter for thru hikers to stay. They had an outdoor shower, porta potties, outlets, and 12 bunks. It had been a long day so I took a bunk and settled in for the night.
The next morning I decided to do laundry since everything in this town was only a block away. I waited awhile because a few people wanted to split a load. Afterwards I went to the restaurant to eat lunch. I was trying to hitch out of town and not having much luck when two other hikers said they’d tried for an hour and had taken it as a sign to stay in town. I felt like I was getting burned by the sun standing in the road and one guy stopped just to tell me he wanted to give me a ride but felt bad for the others trying to get a hitch (they got a hitch 5 minutes later). So I decided, even though I’d just gotten back on the trail, to chill in Glasgow. I took a shower there and chilled out seeing lots of familiar faces showing up at the shelter through out the day. Had one last meal at the restaurant and then planned to have an early start the next day.
Back into the clouds
I didn’t have any early start the next morning and spent a lot of time reading waiting to get a shuttle with everyone else. I was the odd one out however and when I tried going to the church to get a ride I couldn’t find anyone. So I went to the road and I was lucky. Within 5 minutes a guy had picked me up and dropped me off at the trail. It was the hottest time of the day and we had a big climb and a long walk to the shelter. After a mile I ran into Earl Grey again and we hung out at the first shelter to get water since there wouldn’t be any for 8 miles. The walk up was long but there were rewarding views of the river and the second climb of the day made me feel as if I was in the clouds as I watched rain shadows from a far during the last hour of light in the day. I headed down to Punchbowl shelter where a campfire awaited me. It was a really pretty spot! There was a pond near by, the privy was in a nice little field, and there was lots of flat camping. The hike had been amazing that day and I felt like I was finally getting my groove back.
No luck, well maybe a little
The next day I was headed to town again because I wanted to resupply right before a long section of no towns. I walked about 12 miles of mostly easily downhill and flat that went past a reservoir and followed a stream for awhile. I had to wade one stream crossing in my Crocks! I got up to the road and stuck up my thumb. After an hour I gave up and called the number of a dude who gives shuttle rides who’s card was on the picnic table. His name was Piney and he was a nice older dude. I got a text from Earl Grey saying that if I brought beer there was a pork loin with my name on it at the campsite in town. It was late and I was starving so I asked Piney of we could stop somewhere I could buy beer. He agreed and next thing I know we had arrived at Food Lion and he asked if I needed to do any shopping. I tell him I do but it would take awhile but he tells me to take my time so in thirty minutes I’m able to resupply and buy beer. We show up at the picnic pavilion and I pay Piney for the ride, eat a delicious dinner, and stay up hanging out. When I’m ready for bed I just have to pull out my sleeping pad to sleep on the floor of the pavilion.
Some solo style
After breakfast and packing I call Piney again and get a late start on the trail. I didn’t plan for there to be no water in 12 miles but the guide book only has two sources. One is .6 off the trail the other .3. It’s hot and it’s a steep climb. With a fully loaded pack again I struggle and stop a lot. I stop at the closer water source and fill up completely just in case I want to stop earlier. It’s almost 8 and I’m on top this hill that’s not even named in the guide book. There are cool boulders, ferns, and it seems someone has camped here before. I decide it’s perfect and set up my solo campsite bear bag and all. I even climb some rocks and find a secret view where I watch a bit of the sunset. It’s nice and cool out so I sleep the best I have for awhile.
That totally awesome day
You The next day is cool and windy which is a nice change from the heat. I feel like I’m at my summer cabin walking through a fern forest. There was a place in my guidebook called spy rock which some day hikers told me was really cool. I dropped my pack and it was a rock scramble up to a giant rock with rock pools and a 360 degree view. It was one of my favorite places so far but extremely windy. Afterwards I climbed up the priest and got views on the steep descent of the valley below. I talked with another hiker who was planning on camping at the suspension bridge and when I got there a few others had set up a fire. The stream was beautiful and it was late so I settled there for the night.
Get me up this mountain for some beer
The priest had been my last 4000 footer for awhile but I had 3000 feet to climb the next morning up to three ridges. I stopped at a shelter I had been aiming for the day before and it had a beautiful campsite as well. The climb was extremely rocky and at points it was hard to know where the trail because there were a few small rock fields. It was one of the hardest climbs I’ve encountered so far but with a few awesome views on the way up and down of the valley and the Priest. I stopped at the next shelter for one more break and then pushed to the road to get a hitch to my goal of the day: Devils Backbone Brewery. Within a few minutes a truck pulling a car let me hop in back and I lay on my back as we drove down the road watching all the trees above me. The brewery is huge. It’s set up to hold events so there are several gates, a stage, several outdoor sitting areas, and a huge restaurant inside. I dropped my pack and got two rounds of flights, an appetizer, an entree, and a desert. All of it was amazing (especially their beer) and then I went and set my tent in a field out back.
Cliff side camp
The brewery serves a hiker only breakfast for five dollars in the morning and I hung out to try it. It was super tasty but an unusual breakfast consisting of root slaw, a roll, a chicken breast, fruit, and eggs. It kept me full for hours. They usually offer rides for the trail so a few of us hung around for a long time waiting for it. At 1 pm (2 hours after they’d promised us) we finally were driven back to the trail. It was hot and rocky so I didn’t make it very far that afternoon and stopped early to camp right next to a gorgeous cliff with some other folks because the next officially campsite wasn’t for awhile and I didn’t want to risk it. The sunset was gorgeous that evening on the cliffs and I went to bed feeling pretty good about my decision and excited to go to town and see my long time friend Sarah the next day!
My awesome friend
The next day I was excited but I still struggled to get off my comfy sleeping pad (one of those loud yellow neo airs that are oh so comfy). I had a medium day but had total confidence I’d be in town on time. I took my time chilling at water sources and at the last one ran into a family who was headed to Waynesboro. They let me ride with them and luckily they had to make a stop at the backpacking store as well where I got a few new items and some fuel. Afterwards they drove me to Krogers where I’d resupply. I didn’t have a list yet so I set my pack down and sat on the curb outside Krogers where I ran into some other hikers and chatted. I then did my shopping and it was when I was sitting on the ground outside krogers going through all my groceries when Sarah showed up and gave me a friendly wave. She came up and we were talking when a guy came up obviously thinking I was a hobo asked if I was ok. He then went on to ask where I’d gotten my pack and that he was interested in backpacking himself. Sarah got a kick out of this and with many other people giving me odd looks I hurried to throw everything in my pack so we could drive to her apartment in Charlottesville. I took a shower almost immediately on arriving and it was extremely nice since my last shower with conditioner hadn’t been since I was at home. We chatted, Scott arrived, and we drove to downtown Charlottesville. After wandering past many of restaurants we picked a taco place with margaritas that had crazy flavors including jalapeño which Sarah got. It was super amazing catching up with the two of them and a great first time seeing the town. we finished the night with delicious gelato and when we got home we all crashed.
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