Lost and Found (Days 54 to 57, Pearisburg to VA 630)

Day 54

Start: Spring near Pearis Ledges
Finish: VA Route 100 / Pearisburg, VA
AT Miles Hiked Today: 2.9
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 634.7
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 1,554.4

It rained out in the early hours of the morning, and there was an animal moving around my campsite making noise, so I didn’t sleep very well. It’s funny the psychological difference when you camp completely alone. I felt much more frightened of noises in the dark than I did when camping with Reindeer and Crusher.

I got up around 6:30 and was hiking by 7:30. The trail down to Pearisburg was only a few miles, but it was slick! Slow going.

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I hit the first turnoff to Pearisburg on Cross Ave around 8:30. I decided to knock off another mile and hike to VA Route 100, to make my first day out of town easier.

After crossing onto route 100, it was an easy 1 mile road walk into Pearisburg. I walked into town with Dusty and Jewels. We have been hiking around the same pace so I’ve been seeing a lot of these two. Jewels is doing her second thru hike of the AT, and has also done the PCT. Truly a badass woman!

We were all staying at the Plaza Motel, and check-in wasn’t until 1pm, so we bummed around outside using the internet and eating snacks. A water pipe had burst at the local Hardee’s, so my gourmet breakfast plans were ruined! Instead I went to a gas station and bought cheddar cheese, a can of Pringles, and a Coca-Cola.

The Mexican joint right across the street from the motel opened at 11, so I swung by there to grab some food. I was one of the first in the door so I got to witness the staff members watching the live broadcast of the national spelling bee on a big screen TV. I was cracking up at how the staff was super focused on the spelling bee.

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Smothered jumbo burrito? Yes, please!

I went grocery shopping at the food lion right across the street, and then returned to the hotel to find that Crusher had caught up! We were only a few miles apart on night one out of Bland, and then he stayed at Wood’s Hole Hostel last night. He said it was an awesome experience staying there, but I passed it too early in the day to stop yesterday.

Reindeer is here in town! He got sick and is taking a zero today. So, the dynamic trio is back together, at least for one last hurrah. We all bummed around for a few hours until 6, then we went back to the Mexican joint for dinner. Really great! I highly recommend it!

Reindeer and I were laughing at dinner at the concept of “how thru hikers break up with each other”. It starts with hikers really liking each other, hiking all day together. Then, someone suggests they could maybe just meet each other at water sources. Then, hey, maybe we just see each other in camp at the end of the day, hiking alone is good for the soul. Then, let’s just split hotel rooms in town, see you in a few days maybe. After that, you are truly broken up. I wonder if it goes the way of normal romantic relationships, where one person is clinging on desperately, and one person is backpedaling furiously.

We did nothing for the rest of the night. Watched a few episodes of Naked and Afraid or whatever that discovery show is where they drop off naked people in the wilderness and film them trying to survive. Pretty entertaining! That’s exactly how we feel surviving out here in the woods. Except I have boxes of pop tarts, and also I wear underwear.

Crusher is still pretty sick, so he’s chugging NyQuil and hoping he sleeps through the night. Not to sound selfish or anything, but it sucks to share a room with someone who is coughing up half a lung all night. Hope he feels better in the morning!

Day 55

Start: VA Route 100 / Pearisburg, VA
Finish: Pine Swamp Branch Shelter
AT Miles Hiked Today: 19.4
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 654.1
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 1,535.0

Well, Crusher was coughing all night. I awoke at one point to him making a super loud noise and yelling, then retching, then apologizing to me because he saw i woke up. He apparently couldn’t breathe for a few seconds. He is gonna zero today to try to shake this illness, and I don’t blame him. He’s been sick since before Atkins.

I got up at 6:30 and was fully packed by 7. Reindeer and I had agreed to meet at the hotel at 7:30, but I was hungry, so I went over to the Hardee’s for breakfast. I asked Crusher to text Reindeer for me, as the Wi Fi wasn’t working this morning at the hotel, so I couldn’t text him. But, I forgot that his phone got wet the day out of Atkins and has been on the fritz since then. So, I waited at the Hardee’s for him until 7:50, then when he didn’t show, I split and walked back to the trail outside of town. I figured he slept in and I didn’t want to waste the cool hours of the day sitting in a Hardee’s.

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I forgot to take a picture of the food before I ate it, so here's a shot of the empty tray!

The day began with a short walk near a cemetery, and I immediately got lost. I turned around and retraced my steps back to the AT where I had missed a turn. You gotta pay attention out here! Extra miles hiked don’t count toward the 2,189.

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The fake AT, with tombstones right alongside the trail

We had about a half mile of road walking after that, up and over a bridge. Then, I got lost again! What was going on? Apparently Hardee’s is not brain food. I walked about 100 yards past a turnoff until my spidey sense started tingling that something was wrong, and I then heard Dusty behind me yelling my name.

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Finally, we got back to the trail, just in time for the real heat to start coming down. And as we all know, what always comes the day after town? A big uphill to get back into the mountains!

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We had about a 2000 foot climb, and boy was I sweating. It feels like someone flipped a switch, and summer arrived all of a sudden. I’ll need to start hiking earlier in the day to avoid the midday heat and humidity! Summer arrived in the blink of an eye. It only gets worse from here.

I finally got to the top of the mountain, and was rewarded with some fantastic views for the next half mile.

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I hit a spring and took a long water break, taking care to chug a few liters. Not only was it hot, but we had a 10.5 mile waterless stretch to end the day! Fortunately, it was mostly ridge walking. Not a ton of views for the rest of the day, but the hiking definitely wasn’t too difficult.

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I got to the shelter around 5, happy to have made pretty good time for the last 10 miles. I was eating dinner when Reindeer showed up! Turned out his phone wasn’t working and he came by our room at 7:40, but I was already gone, and Crusher was out somewhere. So he went to the gas station for breakfast and then started hiking. We will probably hike together tomorrow. I’m glad to be hiking with him again, especially because I thought we had seen the last of each other outside of Bland.

My ankles and Achilles tendons are still really talking to me. I’m thinking about stepping back my mileage a bit to try to heal up a bit. Maybe I rushed into doing 20’s too fast? The weird thing is, late in the day is when I’m in the least amount of pain. It’s only once I stop moving that the pain really comes in, and I’m sore in the morning starting out before I warm up. Not sure what to do, but I’ll figure it out. For tonight, there’s an awesome river right next to our campsite, so I got to soak my sore feet in the ice cold mountain water, which seemed to help. Looks like a really choppy day tomorrow with lots of elevation gain and loss so I want to be out of here early to beat the heat!

Day 56

Start: Pine Swamp Branch Shelter
Finish: Laurel Creek Shelter
AT Miles Hiked Today: 18.5
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 672.6
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 1,516.5

I slept super well last night. When I awoke at my normal time of around 6:30, I was dazed and sluggish for a while, which really doesn’t happen to me very often. Reindeer asked me to come wake him up when I woke up, so I roused him and packed up.

At 7:30 I walked back over to Reindeer to see that he had gone back to sleep. I’m more of a morning person, and he… well… he isn’t a morning person. I think he has trouble falling asleep, whereas I zonk out every night around 9pm. He called for me to get moving, so I split.

It was another beautiful morning, watching the sun come up, as I walked along a river for the first mile.

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Wildflowers next to the trail

I had a 1500 foot climb, but it was early enough in the day that it was still relatively cool. Still, I was in my sleeveless shirt and shorts, and sweating by the time I got to the top.

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The terrain was not great once I got to the top. The grade was relatively level, but I was jumping from rock to rock, which is brutal on the ankles! It also means I move around 1 to 1.5 mph, which is much slower than my normal pace.

Around 11 I came to Mountain Lake Road parking lot, where I took a good long rest.

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Typo, or nonsense? I'll let you decide.

Now the day was getting hot and humid. I slowed my pace down and enjoyed a great view on Wind Rock. The good views are getting rarer and rarer these days!

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The rest of the day was super choppy. Down 2000 feet, up 1800 feet, down again to the shelter. There was some spectacular trail magic in the gap between the mountains, which was much appreciated! I ate bananas, and got some Gatorade!

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I rolled into camp around 5, pretty beat up. My ankles and feet hurt, as does my back. My back has never hurt me before! I must be getting old. I’m ready for a zero I think. I got to soak my feet in the ice cold Laurel Creek before bed, though, which was a real treat. As I was soaking my feet I spoke with Maine-iac, who is on his second thru hike and is a doctor from Maine.

Reindeer rolled in around 6:30, and he has a similarly rough day. The terrain was less than ideal, and we were both hurting. Still no word from Crusher. Hope he made it out of Pearisburg ok.

Tomorrow I get to see my family! They are driving up from North Carolina and doing trail magic about 3 miles north on the trail from me, starting around 10am. I get no service here so I hope they are still planning on doing the magic, we last spoke when I was in Pearisburg on Thursday. I’ll get to see my family and my dog Rocky, and I’ll get a full day with them as well. Hopefully that time off the trail will help heal my sore feet! If not, I’ll likely zero in Daleville next week.

Day 57

Start: Laurel Creek Shelter
Finish: VA Route 630 / Family Time At The La Quinta Inn!
AT Miles Hiked Today: 3.3
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 675.9
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 1,513.2

I woke up around 6:30 as usual, but I only had 3 miles to get to the gap where I was meeting my parents, so I lay back in my tent and listened to the camp pack up and leave. Around 7:30 I finally got out of my tent and packed up. Reindeer and I walked out around 8:45.

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We quickly emerged out of the woods into about a mile or so of field walking. The day was among the most humid I’ve experienced on trail. It felt like swimming through the air, and any small uphill felt like a struggle.

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Reindeer and I stepped onto VA 630 at almost exactly 10am, and we dropped out packs to see if we could find the nearby dirt parking lot. As I was walking up the road, my family drove up! Perfect timing!

This was the first time I’ve seen them since they dropped me off at Springer, almost two months ago. It warmed my heart to see my mom, dad, younger sister, and dog again. I missed them all so much! And they found me just as I was coming out of the woods. So cool.

We set up a canopy, and they brought out a huge array of food. They wanted the full trail experience, so they brought tons of food and drink to do some very solid trail magic! Pasta salad, watermelon, oranges, apples, ham, fruit snacks, oreos, cheese, soda, beer, and Gatorade all available to the hungry hikers.

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Lots of hikers rolled through. I knew about half of them, including Reindeer, Dusty, Backseat Driver, Hellbender, and Morel. But, we also got Google and Littlefoot (who have read this blog in the past! Hey guys!), and a bunch of other hikers whose names I’m forgetting. We got a constant stream of hikers for 5 hours. I ate for most of that time, but managed to squeeze in some good conversation and stories! It seems like my family really enjoyed themselves. We packed up around 3, but stuffed a big cooler full of the remaining trail magic and left it near the trail for hikers passing by. We will grab the cooler and trash when my family drops me off tomorrow at this gap.

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We rolled back to the lovely La Quinta Inn in Radford, about 40 minutes away. I was feeling slightly queasy from eating for most of the previous 5 hours, so I sat quietly in the back seat as my family caught me up on the happenings of the real world since I’ve been on trail.

My mom brought me cotton clothes, green tea, and supplies to repair or replace my gear as needed. I showered and changed into clean clothes, while I sipped tea and chatted with my family. As we decompressed at the hotel over the next few hours, I felt truly relaxed for the first time in a long while. Even being in town can be stressful for hikers, as chores are often in the back of your mind, and you’re with your hiking buddies. But with my family, I felt myself fully let go of all stress. It was fantastic.

We went to dinner at 6 at a local restaurant in town. I wasn’t sure I would be able to eat as I was still a bit full from earlier, but looking at the menu, I realized I was ravenous. So, I did the only thing a hiker could do: I ordered two full entrees. It was glorious.

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Sometimes you just gotta create your own food challenge.

I somehow managed to eat all the food, despite also eating some wings before as an appetizer. We went to the local food lion to resupply me to get to Daleville, then it was back to the hotel! We were in bed around 9. I couldn’t have scripted a better day off the trail.

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I’m really fortunate to have a family that supports me during this hike. I can only imagine what went through my parents’ heads as I planned this hike over the last few years. They watched me quit my job, move away from Chicago, and enter this strange world of thru hikers. They send me my mail drops and my gear. They send me cards of encouragement and comics to make me laugh. So this post goes out to my family, who have showed me nothing but unconditional support throughout this hike. I’m being honest when I say I couldn’t have done this hike without you guys.

That’s it for this post – it should be an easy and scenic 3 days to Daleville from here. McAfee Knob is a dozen or so miles short of Daleville. I have a mail drop going to Glasgow, and the timing is such that if I left after one night in Daleville, I would arrive on a Sunday when the post office is closed. So, I’ll be taking a zero in Daleville to arrive in Glasgow on Monday, if all goes well. Seems like a really small town, so I may not even spend the night in Glasgow. We shall see! That’s thinking too far ahead. For now, I’m feeling refreshed and ready to spend some time in Daleville!

Until next time, happy trails!

-Slice

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Comments 2

  • Avatar
    Brenda Lynch : Jun 2nd

    Your family sounds wonderful!! They must be so proud of you for pursuing your dream!! You are doing great and your posts are so uplifting–hope in some way to return that to you. Happy and Safe Trails to you!!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Pete Smokestack Buak : Jun 4th

    Vinny and other hikers and hiker feeders. It is poor form to leave unattended food on or near the trail. I have observed the results of animals getting in and making a mess. Think Leave No Trace ethics

    Reply

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