Rain, Rain, and Great Food in Buena Vista
Day 85: 5,560 ft ascent, 14.0 miles
After two days off trail visiting with my mom it was bittersweet going back to the trail. We wanted to get moving again, but we knew we had a really, really big climb ahead of us and it was supposed to rain for multiple days. Our airbnb stay was over though so back to the trail in our rain gear we went.
With such a big climb and a 10:30am start, we didn’t start the day with high expectations of making a ton of miles. Up and up we climbed as the rain intensified all day.
As the day wore on, Erik and I kept making comments to each other about how well the day was going and how easy it felt. We had both dropped a few more pounds of gear weight during the visit with my mom as we exchanged some gear. Between the lighter weight and rest days we felt really good! We crushed our biggest climbing day record by quite a bit by the end of the day.
We got to the summit of the last climb and targeted the next shelter as our stopping point for the night. It was still pouring rain as we got to camp. We typically try to avoid setting up the tent in the rain, but tonight we had no choice.
Between the wet and high elevation it was a cold night. We got dry the best we could, and luckily our packas (raincoats designed to go over our backpacks) do a tremendous job keeping the items in our packs dry. We had dry clothes to change into and dry sleeping quilts. It had been an exhausting but accomplished day. Rain was in the forecast for the next day as well, so we went to sleep knowing we had another soggy day ahead.
Day 86: 2,320 ft ascent, 16.5 miles
The rain came as expected. Putting on wet clothes isn’t fun, but it’s not as bad after you remember they would be in the same state 15 minutes after standing outside if you had other dry clothes to put on. I even put on wet socks even though I had dry ones because I knew the dry wouldn’t last long enough to be worth it.
The rain had us out of camp early and on the trail. We targeted a shelter 12 miles away for our lunch break knowing the rain wouldn’t be letting up all day. We normally don’t touch anything around a shelter to minimize our risk of getting norovirus again, but rain would be our exception to that rule.
As we hiked down the trail I kept telling myself the one positive of rain hiking was that snakes normally stay inside on nasty weather days. I hate snakes and we had been seeing more and more of them lately.
I was in front charging down the trail. The trail itself was a river from the intensity of the rain. All of a sudden as I looked ahead I realized the big stick in the middle of the trail ahead was not a stick. It was a ginormous rattlesnake! Our first venomous snake sighting.
I quickly backed up behind Erik. In the moment it was self preservation. It wasn’t my fault he didn’t move away himself. As I backed up, the snake started coiling as if it was preparing to strike! This got Erik backing up with me. We gave the snake plenty of space, and eventually it turned around and disappeared back into the woods. Even though we couldn’t see it anymore, we both ran past the point where we saw it disappear not taking any chances.
It finally stopped raining when we set up camp that night. Our gear was still dry but our clothes were soaked. We were going to be in for another morning of putting on wet gear.
Day 87: 3,360 ft ascent, 9.4 miles
Our original plan was to go a full day today and go into Beuna Vista for a resupply the next day. It was finally not raining when we woke up, but our clothes and tent were still soaked. Some of our gear was even starting to get damp from all of the moisture we couldn’t completely keep outside of the tent.
There was another road crossing into Beuna Vista about 11 miles before the one we had been targeting. We decided to get off at that road crossing instead and get into town a day early to dry off.
We booked a night at the White Tree Inn, an airbnb run by a husband and wife refurbishing a 125-year-old former boarding home. They rent out four of the bedrooms and live in the other two. We walked 9.5 miles from our campsite to the prearranged pickup spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway. From the time they picked us up from the trailhead to the time they dropped us off they made us feel welcome like family.
The host’s sister offered to take us to the local Walmart for a resupply so we didn’t have to walk a few miles for groceries or pay for a shuttle. It was a different kind of trail magic that we very much appreciated.
We ate a late lunch at JJ’s Barbecue. I had the Hog Pen, which may have outdone the banana pudding we had at the local Daleville barbecue restaurant as my favorite town food stop. It had French fries topped with pulled pork, sweet bbq sauce, and cheese sauce. At this point it seems like we’re going to need to drive the route of the AT again some day just to go visit our favorite restaurant finds along the way!
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