Northern Virginia

Since Virginia has over 500 miles of AT running through it, here are some bits from the second half of the journey.

Zero Day in Daleville

Shortly after completing the Virginia triple crown, we were excited for a much deserved zero day in Daleville, VA. We reserved two nights at the Super 8, and due to the close proximity to the trail, many of our fellow hikers had the same idea. Our usual routine for zero days is to get to the hotel (usually roadside motel) the night before, lay our stuff out on the bed, shower and clean up while waiting for our laundry to finish, and then take care of our resupply. We try to spearhead all of our chores as soon as possible so we can get off our feet for one full day. Being the social butterflies we and many of our fellow hikers are, Daleville turned into the first day of college – seeing friends and meeting new ones, usually with a couple of ‘soda pops’ and some variety of fast food or stack of pizzas. Probably unsurprising to those who know us personally, our hotel room was full of hikers, beer, food and laughter.

1/3 of the way!

What an accomplishment, relief, and mind-blowing milestone. Here’s how they all verbalized between Pepper and I over the next 15 minutes after passing the sign:
“Holy shit! We hiked one third, or 731 miles, of the Appalachian Trail!!”
“Yay!! We made it one third of the way to Katahdin!”
“Holy shit… we’re only one third of the way on this long ass trail.”
And, it is equally every one of those.

The Devil’s Backbone Brewery

I’m not sure if there’s any relation between the naming of the brewery and its geographical location next to a mountain called The Priest. Regardless, after climbing to the top of the Priest and the infamous Three Ridges after it, a beer (or five) is well earned. A group of us decided to do a few long days’ hikes to make it to the Devil’s Backbone Brewery, which is only a few miles off trail. Pepper and I were the last of our friends to reach the parking lot which was the designated hopping off point to get to the brewery, either by shuttle or by hitchhike. We had stood there on the corner with our thumbs out, watching the ominous rain clouds grow nearer and a very expensive Lexus sedan with an older couple get lost. They went by five times before the old man drove through a big mud puddle in the median to get to us, clearly as a last ditch effort to get back en route. They rolled down the window and asked us if we knew where XYZ Country Club was. Pepper and I both thought, “Do we look like the type of people who know where the country club is??” I gave my most convincing guess that it was in the direction of the brewery, which was enough to get them to roll their window up and speed off towards it… without us. Luckily, we ended up getting a ride from a friendly shuttle driver to the brewery where our friends were waiting for us, beers in hand.

After the last few climbs, the hiker hunger was taking over and we were able to fill up on food and beer. The brewery had a dedicated free thru hiker campsite where nine of us spent the rest of the night around a picnic table with a case of beer. I will never forget sitting in the field watching the fireflies with a thunderstorm rolling by to the north and the genuine laughter of my fellow hikers behind me.

The 3 Bears

To our surprise, we haven’t seen as many bears as we thought we would after hiking almost 1,000 miles in the woods. It was a really rainy and thunderous day when Cosmos, Pepper and I were hiking together and literally manifested a bear sighting. Cosmos was just telling us how he hasn’t seen a single bear yet and we heard some big stuff breaking in the woods and there was his first bear! A couple miles down the trail we saw another one! A few more miles down the trail, I noticed there were some pretty large rocks overturned with ants crawling around. Being the clever genius that I am, I figured that only a bear could do that and he was in search of food. We rounded a bend and there was the third bear in the trail!

Easy E’s House

One of the little motivators on the trail – which is actually a huge deal to thru hikers – is getting off trail to go to a home. Mount Katahdin and getting there is ultimately the biggest goal but it seems to fade to black on days where it’s 90 degrees, 90% humidity and the unrelenting swarm of ‘noseeums’ flying in your eyes. So we create attainable goals and events to look forward to almost weekly, like getting a hotel for a night or treating ourselves to a good restaurant meal. There’s also a big difference between getting a hotel or hostel and being invited to someone’s homestead where there’s home-cooked meals, a couch, maybe a dog, washer and dryer, and a mom (and dad). We have consistently hiked with our buddy ‘Easy E’ throughout North Carolina, Tennessee and southern Virginia. When he invited Pepper, Cosmos and I to come back to his family’s home in Charlottesville, VA, we were both flattered and excited.

Mrs. E driving us back to the AT

We met Easy E’s parents who we affectionately refer to as “Mrs. and Mr. E”, even though their last name doesn’t even start with E. They let us wash our clothes (twice), fed us an amazing homemade meal, and provided shelter and a bed in air conditioning! We even got to pet their dog Ginny! For all of that and more, we are most appreciative. It’s moments like these that provide valuable perspective and a new appreciation for things we take for granted in the “front country”


Shenandoah National Park

About one fifth of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia goes through the long and skinny tract of land us thru hikers call “The Shenny’s”. Our journey through the park started out with a lot of rain, including the first time we had to set up our tent in a total downpour. The trail was very narrow, not well-maintained, and plants brushed up against us the whole way. We came up to the shelter where we planned to stop for the night and it was packed to the roof with hikers and spiders. The next morning we packed up our drenched tent, put our soaked clothes and shoes back on and headed down the trail for another 18 mile day. Despite the rough start, the trail got better as did the weather.

The trail became flatter, smoother, and more resembled a National Park trail. It runs along Skyline drive, which turns into the Blue Ridge Parkway beyond the park’s southern border. We truly enjoyed the Waysides along the trail where we got burgers, blackberry milkshakes, beer, or even just a water refill. We saw the invulnerable park deers with their newborns from 20 feet away.

We had a startled black bear crash through camp at 1am. We met an inspirational young couple taking their 7 year old daughter on a two week hike teaching her about responsibility, nature and self realization. We cruised over nice flat rock-less sections of trail and soaked in the views of Virginia and nearby West Virginia.

As our good buddy Easy E says, Virginia never disappoints!

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Comments 4

  • AMY : Jul 20th

    Loving it! Keep up the food hiking and writing!
    Your aunt Lori’s boston friend amy

  • Kevin Winningham : Jul 20th

    Thank you SO much for ‘taking us with you on this journey / adventure / experience’ as we feel like we are right there with you on the trail & campsites due to your creative & descriptive writing! Stay safe! Have fun! Savor the moments! Keep making memories!

  • Jennifer Kimble : Jul 20th

    Yay! So proud of you guys!

  • Delaine : Jul 27th

    that last photo belongs in front of the eyes of the world!


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