Rain, Rain Go Away!
Posted from Daleville, VA @ mile 727
Pearisburg to Daleville.
July 4 to July 11, 8 days, 93 miles
We have been walking to Daleville for eight days and it has rained on and off the entire time! Everything we own smells of mold or mildew or skunk! The worst offender is the socks–worse than skunk! For six of the last eight days, we haven’t had access to a shower or an opportunity to wash our clothes. I can hardly stand the smell of ourselves!
In spite of the frequent rain, we have had enough sunshine to keep us happy and to take memorable pictures at most of the scenic overlooks-like McAfee’s Knob.
Here are eight little stories of our long, wet trek to Daleville.
Day 1 July 4
Wild Goats and Face Plants
The strangest thing about today’s walk was the large white goat we saw standing alone in the middle of the forest. He looked like an apparition of one of the Three Billy Goats Gruff –complete with the horns and the ‘goatee’. We couldn’t figure out what he was doing out there or where he came from, but it was a fun apparition to see!
The only glitch in this otherwise lovely day was my fall from grace. As I was mindlessly stepping over a log, I was commenting to Mel that I wondered why people had worn a track around the log when they could just as easily step over it. Splat! I was flat on my face in the bushes! The good news is, the bushes weren’t filled with poison ivy–and there were no hidden rocks on which to bash my head. It was a momentary shock to my system, but no serious damage was done.
Day 2, July 5
Rainy days and Slippery Steps
The trail today included a lot of rocky downhills which really started bothering my feet by the afternoon. Backfire and I took a much needed break at the Pine Swamp Branch shelter early in the afternoon. It would have been a nice place to spend the night (because it had bunkbeds and a fireplace) but it was just too early in the day to stop. So, we headed towards the next shelter only 5 miles away. Unfortunately, it was all uphill and it took us almost three hours to get there! To add insult too injury, it rained all the way up! It was too hot to put on rain jackets so we were totally soaked when we got to the shelter!
At one point in this wet afternoon, as I was coming down off a bridge with wooden steps, my foot slipped out from under me and I went down with a thud on my back! Two falls in two days! Fortunately, I didn’t get hurt because my backpack totally cushioned my fall!
Once we got to the shelter, we laid out our mats, cooked our meal and felt thankful to be out of the rain as it continued to fall throughout the evening.
Day 3, July 6
Long Days and Sleepless Nights
OMG! Today was a long, hard day! We were walking uphill all morning over a rocky trail AND it was raining most of the time. We were soaked once again! Eventually, though, the trail went downhill, but that was almost as hard as the uphill because it was slippery and rocky and often quite steep. The rain eventually stopped, but the trail remained very, very slippery. My feet ached from all the walking, my knees hurt from all the downhills AND I was hungry most of the day–even though I’d eaten all of my ‘allotted’ snacks for the day–plus two or three I’d stolen from the next day! Oh my!
When we got to our destination shelter and were setting up our place to sleep, I commented to Backfire that there were turds on the shelter floor and they were much bigger than what a little, tiny mouse would have left. What animal did he think might have left them I asked. Without missing a beat and without any concern in his voice, Backfire replied, “Rats.”
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME??! RATS?”
I already had trouble sleeping in the shelters because of the mice that might scurry across me in the night, now he’s telling me there might be rats?
(Backfire later confessed that he really thought that they might be chipmunk turds. Thanks!)
DAY 4, July 7
Big Oaks and Baby Bunnies
We walked through farm fields and meadows this morning and it was a pleasant change from all the woods walking we had been doing. There were cattle grazing in the fields, and big rolls of hay along the way. As we were walking down a narrow path, I spotted a tiny bunny nestled in the grass right next to the path.
Bohemian, a man who had recently started hiking with us, and sees himself as a bit of a forager, wanted to kill my little bunny for his next meal by hitting it in the head with a rock! Fortunately, he refrained from doing so, but it unnerved me nonetheless. Backfire and I are cautious about even stepping on millipedes and killing them!
Later in the day, we came to the ginormous Keffer Oak, the biggest tree along the southern half of the Appalachian trail. We had the obligatory picture taken as we wrapped our arms around it, dwarfed by its enormity.
For awhile today, the trail was relatively easy–until we hit a stretch of rocks along a cliff that were very slanted and precarious for us to negotiate. They are aptly named the Goat Rocks.
Day 5, July 8
Rainy Days and Moldy Nights
The day started out with rain so we ate our breakfast in the shelter and enjoyed the company of a boy scout troop that we had been running into on and off for the last few days. They were a friendly, well-behaved group of teenagers who were on a seventy mile hike with their scout leaders.
Five miles into our day, we came to the Audie Murphy Memorial. Murphy was the most decorated soldier in World War II and starred in many movies after the war. One of the boy scouts gave a presentation about Murphy’s life which piqued my interest enough that I wanted to read more about his short but remarkable life. The memorial on the trail is near the spot where Murphy died in a plane crash in 1971 at the age of 46. Backfire and I enjoyed visiting with the scouts once again and listening to their presentation.
From the memorial, it was a mostly pleasant afternoon going downhill picking blueberries, black raspberries and red raspberries along the way. The red raspberries were the tastiest and the juiciest of all of them and we filled our bellies as best we could! (A hiking belly is never a full belly!)
Late in the day, Backfire and I were worried about getting hit with rain before we could find a tent site and walked beyond our expiration point before finally coming across a very tiny flat spot that would just barely accommodate our little tent. It was good enough! There was just enough time to set it up and cook a meal before the rain came pouring down! Another wet night! OMG! Everything we owned already smelled moldy, mildewed, sweaty or skunky! I could hardly stand the smell–or more wetness!
Tomorrow we have about six miles to go before we arrive at Four Pines Hostel where we can take a shower and wash our clothes! We’ll also be able to resupply and get a real meal before heading to Daleville–where we will stay in a motel and enjoy a real bed with real sheets–and no stickiness. Heaven!
Day 6, July 9
Better than Christmas!
Today was the day we would be walking to 4 Pines Hostel where we would be able to take shower and do laundry after 6 days!! AND we could get real food–well, pizza from a gas station anyway. The very thought of it was better than waiting for Christmas!
It rained last night (no surprise!), but the skies cleared by morning. Backfire and I got up shortly after dawn, packed up our wet tent and our wet selves and headed out around 7:30. We only had about 5.5 miles to walk to the road that would take us to the hostel, but it was going to be slow going over the top of the mountain known as Dragon’s Tooth!
Dragon’s Tooth was even more difficult than I had expected–with precarious ledges and hand over hand climbs and difficult descents (at least for me they were!) And, it was really, really hot with the sun beating down on those rocks. So, the combination of having to concentrate hard on what we were doing plus the heat of the day sapped most of our allotted energy.
Four Pines Hostel is a huge, converted garage filled with an assortment of beds, cots, tables and chairs, a fridge, two microwaves, a bathroom, a shower and a freezer full of popsicles! Everything a hiker needs!
Four Pines is owned and run by a guy named Joe who loves helping hikers out and offers his facility on a donation basis–a thru hikers dream come true!
There were also two cats and two dogs who had free range of the place and I took one look at all the stuffed chairs and couches and beds and thought fleas and ticks, so I picked a cot rather than a bed to sleep on, and a wooden chair rather than a stuffed one to sit in.
Within a few minutes, though, I felt something crawling on my leg. It was a tick! Good grief! I’d been in the woods more than two months and it was the first one I’d seen!
Day 7, July 10
McAfee Knob and Tinker’s Cliffs
Today was the day I would finally get to see McAfee Knob for myself! I have seen so many pictures that I almost felt like I had already been there. It’s the most photographed spot on the AT. Day hikers can get to McAfee Knob by walking a mere 4 miles up a rocky hill. I have been walking more than 700 miles to get to the same point to have my picture taken! Backfire has been here twice before, but he won’t stand on the edge of a cliff–picture or no picture!
Later in the day, we had another long climb up to Tinkers Cliffs, but the path to the top was exploding with wild raspberries so we took lots of breaks as we filled our bellies! (One of the many reasons it takes us so long to get anywhere!) Once we reached the actual cliffs, there were more spectacular views like there were on McAfee’s Knob. There was also some rain, but it didn’t last long and we took more pictures.
Day 8, July 11
Heaven on Earth
We ended our day yesterday confident that it wouldn’t rain all night (according to the most recent weather forecast at 4 Pines), and we optimistically hung out our wet, stinky clothes to dry. It rained. By morning, our clothes were wetter, but not stinkier, than they were when we hung them out. We put them on wet, but they dried out quickly on our hot, hiking bodies!
I was so excited about getting into Daleville and checking into a motel, and having a shower and eating real food–that it made a relatively short hike (10 miles) seem twice as long. There were some beautiful views into the valley, but all I really wanted to do was get to the valley! We had been hiking 8 days without the benefit of a real bed, real food or real privacy.
We arrived in Daleville by 1:00, checked into the hiker friendly Ho-Jo’s motel next to the trail, quickly showered and then ‘ran’ to the Three Little Pigs restaurant for BBQ pork sandwiches and sweet potato fries! Heaven!
From The Spider Diaries
Next stop: Glasgow, VA
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