Hey, all. I know I am WAY behind in posting updates, and I’m not going to lie – the majority of them will probably have to wait until I am off-trail. The end beckons and I need to focus on hiking… but they WILL appear, eventually. Here’s the next few trail updates to keep you satiated…
Day 69 – Sugar Run Gap to Pearisburg
I slept in a little this morning. I always hate leaving the comforts of civilization and sleeping in seems the easiest way to prolong that. I went and took another shower while Mom cooked breakfast. Once I was packed and ready, my Mom and Dad drove me back to Woods Hole Hostel. We picked Bookie and Star up there and drove back up to the trail – no sense climbing a half mile uphill! We got back on trail at 10:00 and the hike was nothing special, with a bunch of PUDs. But my new shoes are wonderful! We got to Pearisburg around 4:00 and made a dash for the post office so Bookie could pick up her resupply. While there, we were invited to a community picnic, so we hurried to check into a hotel and get a shower before heading over. It was a nice barbecue, with all sorts of foods. A local church puts the event on every year in an effort to bring the community together. We hung out with Booger and Hobbit while there, two other NOBOs. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Food Lion and then went swimming in the hotel pool. We made a last minute run to Dairy Queen for ice cream just before they closed, then went back to the hotel and watch TV until way too late.
Day 70 – Pearisburg
We decided late last night to zero today. There is a farmers market going today, along with a “Blues, Brews and BBQ” festival. While it wasn’t as good as the town folk had made it seem, it was a nice relaxing day. We went back to the hotel after the festival and had a long swim in the pool, which helped stretch out some sore muscles. We met up with a trail friend, AJay, and got Mexican for dinner. We enjoyed some ice cream while watching the Orioles play on TV, and just relaxed the day away.
Day 71 – Pearisburg to campsite
We slept in a little this morning, leaving town at 9:00 under a blaring sun, it was definitely a hot and humid day. On the first hill leaving town, we were surprised to see a goat. A white goat, roaming through the forest. Certainly not what we expected to see! We heard a lot of thunder most of the day, but thankfully didn’t get much rain. About halfway through the day, we came across another hiker – MacGyver! I haven’t seen him since before the Smokies. Unfortunately, we had heard reports that the campsites had dry water sources, so we packed water for 4 miles. Not my idea of fun, but it worked out – we found a nice unlisted campsite at the top of a grassy hill, providing a nice view. After a 10 minute break, we decided to just stay! I’m glad we did, as we were treated to an amazing sunset.
Day 72 – Campsite to Wind Rock Campsite
Today was a rough day, both for the climbs and for the weather. We got up early and were on trail by 7:15, with nice cool winds in the morning. But there were a couple really unpleasant uphills that wore out the legs, including a long hill up to Bailey Gap Shelter. We took a long lunch at the shelter to recover and to rehydrate. Getting water, I slipped on some loose gravel in the path and tweaked my right knee a little, but it didn’t seem to linger too long. As the day went on, the temperature and humidity just kept rising, making it a very uncomfortable day. And with little water along the trail today, we had to be careful to not run out. We got to our destination for the day to find a decent campsite with a rock outcropping and a decent view. We cooked dinner and took it up to eat at the view. A small group of us watched the sunset before turning in.
Day 73 – Wind Rock Campsite to Laurel Creek Shelter
Today was another scorcher of a day, even though it was windy. I fell going up Kelly Knob, slipping on a wet rock that was hidden under some overgrown weeds, and felt my right knee cap slap the ground. This one didn’t go away and caused me some discomfort all day. We ate a late lunch at Laurel Creek Shelter and decide it wasn’t worth carrying extra water to find a stealth site when we could relax this afternoon, rehydrate and make up the miles easily tomorrow. So we decided to call it an early day, which was a good decision. We snacked, drank lots of water, and napped and just relaxed all afternoon. Another thru hiker, Post Man, waited out some thunder in the shelter. He had experienced a close call with lightening and was very skittish around storms now, but nothing developed from the noise and he hiked on later. I’m glad we stopped short today, as I am headed to bed feeling better than I have on some mornings. Sometimes the better part of valor is knowing your own limits.
Day 74 – Laurel Creek Shelter to Trout Creek Campsite
Today was our longest mileage yet! And it was a hot and humid one at that. We got up early and were on trail just as daylight was entering the woods. It was a very quiet hike, with neither Bookie or myself talking much. We saw Keefer Oak, the largest tree in the southern Appalachian Trail. After that, we had a long, tough uphill. I could feel the knee pain from yesterday a lot today, which added to the discomfort of the day. Somewhere in the morning, it sprinkled for about half an hour or so, but didn’t really muddy the trail. Unfortunately, I slipped and fell again today. We were walking on some slanted rock faces, going across them, and my shoe slipped on the wet rock. I slid down the rock face about three feet before coming to a stop and when I stood up, I could feel the tension in my shoulders. I also broke a pole tip, with the metal carbide tip breaking off. After lunch, we had another uphill and it poured rain for over an hour – but it felt great, cooling us off as we hiked up.
We saw the Audie Murphy Memorial, a site dedicated to the most decorated World War II solider near where he died in a plane crash. It was a nice spot to cook dinner and rest for a bit, and knowing we had a long way to go, was worth the time. As we hiked down the mountain, we watched the sunset and everything going dark. We didn’t make our original destination but made it to a campsite with a bunch of other hikers just as it got dark. We set up tents and filtered water by headlamp, thankful we had stopped for dinner earlier. While we didn’t make it to our goal, it was still a solid day.
Day 75 – Trout Creek Campsite to VA-624
We had a normal start to the day today, getting on trail at 8:00. It was already hot and humid before leaving, and the long uphill out of camp left me drained. When we got to the Dragon’s Tooth, I was somewhat disappointed. People had hyped it up a lot but it wasn’t as spectacular as I had expected, I guess. Bookie and Star were both drained, too, by this point, plus we were all tired and sore from yesterday, so we made a decision to end the day early. Bookie made a phone call to a friend in the area, AJay, and we walked out at VA-624 to the Catawba Grocery store, for lunch and to get picked up. AJay took us back to her house, where we enjoyed air conditioning, showers, and a good dinner at the Homeplace Restaurant. After dinner, we stopped at Krogers for a quick resupply and then went back to the house to repack, talk a little, and head to bed. I am so thankful for people like AJay, opening their homes to us. Not only was it great to get to know her and her daughter, but it was great to have a comfortable place to rest!
Day 76 – VA-624 to Lamberts Meadow Shelter
We got up and repacked and were on trail by 9:00 this morning. We had planned to hike up to McAfee Knob and spend a little time there, for lunch, pics, and general “soaking it all in” time. We took an extended lunch and just enjoyed the wind, the view, and the people. Others there had reported that a bear had been in the area earlier in the day, so we were hopeful for our first bear sighting. We didn’t have to wait long, either! As we left the Knob and walked down towards Tinker Cliffs, we saw what we are guessing is the same bear! It was a good 50 yards away and as soon as it saw us, it immediately ran down the hill and out of sight, but I have now seen my first bear!
Our enthusiasm died quickly, as the climb up Tinker Cliffs was worse than the climb up McAfee Knob. When we got the cliffs, there was a group of three young men sitting there. We took a breather and chatted with them for a long time, about the trail, about thru hiking, and about the work they do as overseas missionaries. They are some amazing men – calling themselves “The Wolfpack that Loves Jesus,” and it was very inspirational to listen to their individual stories of doing missionary work and preaching overseas. After they said a quick prayer for us, we departed ways and headed to the shelter. We got there near dark, and were quick to do camp chores and get settled in. Unfortunately, there were “bear-like noises” all evening and into the night, so it was not the most restful of stays.
Day 77 – Lamberts Meadow Shelter to US-220 / Daleville
We had a slow start this morning, still sleepy from the heat and bear noises all night. It was a very humid day, and as used to it as I should be, it seems to be sucking the life out of me! The hike itself was fairly easy, but the heat and humidity seem to make it much worse. We got to Daleville and immediately walked to a gas station to get some cold Gatorade. Needing some supplies, we decided to get a cheap hotel room at Howard Johnson’s – and it ended up being one of the nicest rooms we’ve had to date! We swung through Pizza Hut for lunch, then walked to the outfitters to get my trekking poles re-tipped and for Bookie to pick up her resupply box. We went back to the hotel as it started to rain, and swam in the pool in between rain storms, relaxing and making calls home in the evening.
Day 78 – Daleville to Wilson Creek Shelter
We both slept in this morning, enjoying the air conditioning as long as we could. After a quick breakfast, we headed back on trail a little later than planned. For some reason, towns always seem to slow the morning process down. We had decent weather most of the morning, stopped for lunch along the trail, but afterwards, the weather got hot and humid again. We arrived at Wilson Creek Shelter just as a rain storm was starting, and were able to get our tents up before anything got real wet. The rain didn’t last long, and soon after we were socializing with the other thru hikers there. I found out one hiker, Octopus, whom I had met a few days prior, was one of my Instagram followers. He recognized Harley Bear on my pack and introduced himself. It was nice to meet him and talk a little. It seems as my week-long break is approaching, I am meeting a lot of people I would like to have more time to get to know. I guess that’s how the trail works, though.
Day 79 – Wilson Creek Shelter to VA-43
Even with the heat last night, I slept surprisingly well. We got up early, but were still slow to get started. I hate to make assumptions, but I know Bookie is upset that today is my last day on trail and it seems as if she is moving in slow motion to prolong our time together. Even Star seems to know something is changing. The hike wasn’t particularly hard today, although it was mostly uphill. The humidity was rough, as always, though, and the hike was quiet and somewhat awkward. We got to the road crossing where I was supposed to be picked up and my ride wasn’t there, so we started walking towards town until I saw his truck come around the corner. We got a lift into town and ate lunch at Burger King (big mistake… greasy food on my stomach after all this time is not good!) We dropped Bookie and Star back at the trail, and we said our goodbyes. It’s a little odd not knowing if we will see each other again on the hike and knowing that when I come back, I will be hiking alone. We started our long drive back home, the beginning of my week of motorcycle bliss.
Days 80 thru 87 – HOME
These days were spent catching up with friends, riding my motorcycle with the bike club, attending a big event in Cincinatti and generally trying to let my body heal from all the hiking.
Alright folks, that’s enough computer time for one sitting. I will try to get another update posted soon, but again, my focus right now is on hiking. Thank you for all of the support I have received and for the encouragement everyone is passing along to me. It really does help make this trip a little easier! And remember, always Spin the Compass!
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