Here are a few more day’s trail updates. Thank you for all of the support!
Day 61 – VA-42 to Chestnut Knob Shelter
Everyone had a slow start today, which is understandable considering the mileage and the late finish yesterday. But everyone seems tense today, with some irritable comments being made. Immediately out of camp we had a steep uphill… we really need to stop stopping at the bottom of these hills! But it was a long climb up to Brushy Mountain. We had a few more big climbs, up Lynn Camp Mountain and up Chestnut Ridge. We decided to stop for lunch at a pond a little past half way up Chestnut Ridge, which was a nice spot to relax. Star enjoyed chasing a rabbit through the tall grass, which made all of us laugh as she leaped in the air like a deer over and over. We continued our hike up to Chestnut Knob Shelter, and after looking at the guidebook, decided to call it an early day. There were no campsites listed for the next seven miles, and we didn’t want to risk being caught on a ridge run and having to pull another late night. We all set up camp to take in the beautiful view, and laid out all of our gear to dry in the warm sun. Bookie and Older Dog volunteered to slack pack the two miles back to the pond to get water for everyone, while RIkki Tikki and I rested our aching knees. There was finally cell service, after three days of not having any, so I was able to touch base with loved ones back home, as well as catch up on some journaling. We watched a pretty amazing sunset as we threw a tennis ball for Star (hey, even Star needs some play time once in a while!).
Day 62 – Chestnut Knob Shelter to Laurel Creek
What a great choice to stop at this shelter! We watched a beautiful sunrise across the valley, watching as the town below lit up. It was neat to see the fog down below start to burn off and reveal the buildings and fields as the sun rose into the sky. The only downfall to camping in a big field is that everything was covered in dew. Pretty sure my tent was wetter than if it had rained all night! Bookie, Star and I were ready quick, and left camp prior to Older Dog and Rikki Tikki. Having the shorter afternoon yesterday really rejuvenated my spirits and the day seemed to go by smoothly. There was a quick rain shower in the morning, but we barely got wet. WE stopped for lunch at Jenkins Shelter, and then continued on, making camp in decent time. There weren’t a lot of views today, but it was a good day of ridge running, covering miles pretty quickly. It’s sad to think this may be last night with any of these guys, as I am getting off trail for a couple days tomorrow to spend time with my parents. But obviously, Older Dog hasn’t started pushing higher miles yet, so maybe I won’t be too far behind everyone.
Day 63 – Laurel Creek to US-52
My excitement got me up and ready early, but not everyone else was. Rikki Tikki blessed us with some wooden flute music prior to leaving camp, and it really made me reflect on what the trail has already taught me, already given me. I’ve met some amazing people out here and formed lots of memories with them. It saddens me to think this might be the last day we hike together. We all left camp together, since it was our last day together, but Bookie and I are a little faster on the downhills and pulled ahead. We kept a great pace all day, even though it felt like it winded me, but when I saw mom and dad, I knew it was worth it! And not to brag, but let me just say that my parents provide some GREAT trail magic! Apples, oranges, bananas, watermelon, soda, water, homemade chocolate chip cookies, granola bars. My mouth is still watering! We sat for about an hour, talking, resting and eating, then packed up and headed for their trailer. We left two coolers full of soda, water, cookies and fruit down the trail, as “Michigan Magic”. Bookie, Star, Older Dog and Rikki Tikki piled into my dad’s suburban with us, for the opportunity to get a hot shower at the campground, a warm meal cooked by my mom, and a resupply in town. As we were getting to the main road crossing, I looked over and saw Whiz Bang and Figgi sitting next to the road! I told my dad to pull over, jumped out and got Whiz Bang her cell phone finally! While we were stopped, we opened the truck back up and gave them a little of the trail magic from my parents. After a bit of conversation and catching up, we continued to the campground. We all got our showers, and they all did some laundry. Mom set out a lunch of sandwiches and fruit, and we all just lounged around, relaxing and talking. My dad drove us to the grocery store to resupply while mom cooked dinner. It was so nice to just relax and talk the afternoon away like that. After dinner, us hikers made an ice cream run back to the grocery store. They set up their tents in a field adjacent to the campground, with permission from the campground owners, and we all headed to bed.
Day 64 – US-52
We were up early this morning, with the gang wanting to be back on trail at a good time. They all showered again, while breakfast was cooking. Mom made eggs and sausage, and we did our best to polish them off! Dad and I drove them back to the trail, where it was a quiet drive. Goodbyes are never easy. We replaced some of the trail magic left down the hill with fresh soda and some cut up watermelon, and then I decided to walk the half-mile of road with them. We said our final goodbyes at the last road crossing. Watching them walk away, I felt very lonely all of a sudden. Dad and I drove back to the campground, mostly in silence, where I got my shower and spent the remainder of the day talking, journaling and relaxing. It was great to be with my parents again.
Day 65 – US-52 to Helveys Mill Shelter
I slept in this morning for the first time in a long time, but it wasn’t a great sleep. Mom cooked pancakes for us and I continued to catch up on my journaling. I could tell my dad was getting anxious, or perhaps nervous, about joining me on trail for a few days. After lunch, dad and I packed up our bags and headed back to trail. As we were prepping to hike, Scott Jurek RAN past us on his record attempt for the fastest AT Thru Hike time! We hugged mom goodbye, and I promised to not let dad get hurt. We had planned for a short day, just to get up on trail and to be able to start tomorrow at a reasonable location. Dad did real good, considering today was the first he’d been backpacking in probably a decade or two! He got winded on the uphills, the same as I always do, but took his breaks as needed and made great time for his first day out. We set up camp, relaxed, and talked for a while. While we were cooking dinner, Moonlight and her fiancé, Moon Lover, walked into camp!! I hadn’t seen either of them since Trail Days, where they stayed to do Hardcore (a trail maintenance event with Bob Peoples). I caught up with her for a long time while we ate our dinners. A sudden rainstorm hit, so we dashed to the shelter for cover and to finish our dinner. We all chatted some more there, but the crowd was not one I would choose to spend a lot of time around, so as soon as the rain stopped, we hung the bear bag and headed to bed.
Day 66 – Helveys Mill Shelter to Campsite
Dad and I got up early this morning. Our gear was wet form the rain overnight, but we packed up quick and were on trail by 7:30. Our goal had been Jenny Knob Shelter, which we reached by 3, but dad was feeling good and offered that we should hike one more mile, to a campsite, to lessen tomorrow’s mileage. So we pushed past. What a great day of hiking! Looking back and seeing my dad hiking behind me brought back so many memories of my childhood, of the trips we took together when we were both first learning how to backpack. I’m so glad he agreed to join me on the trail. And he kept a great pace all day. We crossed paths with the Moons a few times throughout the day and were able to catch up a little more, which was nice, too. Later in the evening, I received a text message from Rikki Tikki saying his knees were bothering him and he had decided to go home. It’s sad to see another member of my trail family going home.
Day 67 – Campsite to Dismal Creek Campsite
Again, we were up early and packed. Dad let me know he was sore this morning, which is completely understandable, so we went a little slower today. And it was another great day of hiking! We had lunch at Dismal Falls, which were beautiful. Not real tall, but there was a nice swimming hole at the bottom that the Moons availed themselves to. We moved on after lunch, making camp by early afternoon. We camped right next to a nice flowing stream. After getting tents set up, water filtered, and soaking our feet in the stream, we both relaxed with our kindles and chatted the afternoon away. It was a nice relaxing afternoon. The Moons arrived as we were cooking dinner, and camped alongside us.
Day 68 – Dismal Creek Campsite to Sugar Run Gap (Woods Hole Hostel)
I could tell dad was very sore today, but he still did an amazing job hiking today. There was one long uphill that I could tell was taking it out of him, but he took his time and kept at it. Needless to say, though, he was real happy to see the road that led to Woods Hole Hostel. We walked into the hostel to find Bookie and Star still there. Star came running up to me, tail wagging and her whole body shaking. Funny little dog. Mom was running a little behind, as the GPS had led her up and down some dirt roads, so dad and I enjoyed an ice cream smoothie from the hostel. Mom arrived, and we headed back to the campground, stopping in Pearisburg so that I could buy a replacement Sawyer bag. Dad and I took showers, and we all ate dinner, telling mom stories and relaxing. I hit up the grocery store for resupply and quickly fell asleep. What a great trip with my dad.
Alright, folks. The trail calls… I know I’m not caught up completely, but I’m closer than I was yesterday! Be safe out there, and remember to Spin the Compass.
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