Rainy Days and Trail Magic Hot Dogs
Bama➡️Baxter Day 81&82
Day 81: 14.6 miles
This morning we slept in at the shelter. I was so eager to sleep in and actually feel rested. All of my clothing was still soaking wet from yesterday sadly. There was way too much moisture in the air last night for anything to dry. And the rain is just going to continue all day today as well it seems.
We packed up and set out once everyone was ready. It was raining on and off but wasn’t too bad. All of us wound up pushing out 8.8 miles before taking our first break. We only stopped for a few minutes in between so that I could quickly stretch. Then we continued along until we arrived at a shelter to take a proper break. It was nice to be able to rest inside of a dry shelter. As we arrived it began to absolutely pour but we were luckily able to avoid the worst of the rain.
We spent a long time resting in the shelter before finally getting back to walking. The rain had let up so we kept our rain gear off as we began the next stretch. But just a few minutes in it began to rain lightly again and I had a feeling that it was about to absolutely dump. I quickly put my pack cover back on and put on my light rain poncho. I brought it as an alternative to wearing a rain jacket. When you’re climbing all day long in the rain a rain jacket can become absolutely insufferable. I get way too hot and sweaty and it makes the climbing so much harder. But I found the poncho to be very airy and breathable. I’ve been carrying it this whole time and only just now used it for the first time today.
I was so happy to have the poncho because we had to do a 3.7 mile climb with rain dumping on us. I was able to stay dry the whole way and not over heat. It was actually perfect. My mood was fantastic as I trotted through the woods in the pouring rain. I had no complaints. Every now and then it would lighten up and then shortly after it would drench us. At a couple points I literally laughed out loud as we got pounded with some of the heaviest rain that I’ve ever walked in. All while knowing that under the poncho I was completely dry
About 6.2 miles into our next stretch, we arrived at the Laurel Creek Shelter. There was only one other person set up inside the shelter when we arrived. The forecast for the rest of the day was a lot more rain. So we decided to call it a day a bit early and stay in the shelter. The sun came out briefly, and I used the opportunity to dry out everything that I could. After about an hour the rain started up again so I quickly had to grab all my things and bring them into the shelter. But it was certainly better than nothing.
At the shelter I had service, so I was on my phone and wound up messaging with a hiker, Tripod, who did the PCT last year and the AT in ‘21. He was just finishing up his Pinhoti Trail hike so I messaged him to talk about the Pinhoti. He mentioned that he was actually finishing up the trail just in time to attend trail days and would be able to give some people a ride down if they needed. So he agreed to take me and 2 of the guys down to trail days in just a couple of days! It was truly perfect. Boosted has his family coming down, but they are only able to take 3/6 of us. I was so glad to be able to secure a ride down with such short notice.
The rest of the night was spent relaxing in the shelter and hanging out with everyone. I was happy to be inside and away from the rain for the night for sure.
Day 82: 21 miles
This morning we all woke up inside the shelter and got packed up. It was actually much nicer out today and was no longer raining which was great.
The start of our morning was really cruisy with a good bit of downhill. A few miles in, we walked by the Keffer Oak, the largest oak Ttree in the southern portion of the AT. It is over 300 years old and was absolutely breathtaking. From there, we continued along to do a few more miles before taking our first break. There was a bit of a climb coming up from the old oak tree but it wasn’t too bad. We were all just so happy that it wasn’t pouring rain anymore.
When we arrived at the Bruisers Knob Cairns, we decided it was as good a spot as any to take a break and dry our stuff out. I laid out my tent and got comfortable. We all took our shoes off to try and dry out our socks and shoes as well. We stayed for a long while there before continuing along.
After that we walked for a handful more miles. We passed a sign for the Eastern Continental Divide; which marks where the waters on the west side of Sinking Creek Mountain flow into the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, while the east side flows into the James River and the Atlantic Ocean. I thought that was a really cool sign to see.
After passing that sign, we continued along. We were planning to take our next break on the north side of Craig Creek. The bridge has been washed out, so we knew we would have to take our shoes off and wade through the river. But before we could reach Craig Creek, we passed a trailhead by VA Route 621. A man named Allen was set up there doing trail magic! I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten any trail magic, and the timing could not have been more perfect. We were just about to stop for a break less than a mile past the road anyways.
Allen was set up making loaded hot dogs, “hiker dogs” he called them, and also had brownies and lemonade. Everybody’s spirits were so high after we arrived. I had 3 amazing hot dogs and loads of lemonade. Allen has worked with local bird populations for years tracking the number of hawks through this region. It was super interesting listening to him talk about what he has been doing over the years.
After spending a long time hanging out and chatting with Allen, we decided to continue along. We had about a mile before we reached Craig Creek and had to take our shoes off to cross. But the water levels were low enough that it was an easy and safe crossing.
On the other side we put out shoes back on and got back to walking. There was a gradual climb coming up from the creek, and it went on for a couple miles. My body was feeling strong, though, thanks to the hiker hot dogs from Allen.
We stopped off at the top of the climb to take a quick break. Our original plan was to do a few more miles to the Pickle Branch Shelter. But while we were sitting there taking a break, we realized that we would be passing right by a hostel in the next couple of miles. All of us were definitely overdue for a shower and some laundry, so the hostel was sounding like a good idea.
Sweet Pea had service and managed to book a reservation for the 6 of us at the Getting Pickled Cabin. Tomorrow a few of us are getting a ride down to trail days with Tripod so it sounded fantastic to be able to get clean before then.
The trail crossed right over VA 620 and Trout Creek, where we were able to wait for the kind owner of the cabin to come and pick us up. He brought us back to the cabin, which had everything you could have ever needed. We dropped off our things, and then the owner of the cabin offered to drive us down the street to get some food at a nearby gas station. That was an awesome surprise. We all really wanted a nice cold drink and something to eat.
Then back at the cabin, we all took super nice hot showers outside and got a load of laundry going. Everybody ate their food, and we watched an episode of the Queen’s Gambit while we waited for the laundry to be done. Then we called it a night.
Tomorrow morning Smokey, Sweet Pea, and I are going to have to do a pretty early start. The three of us need to meet Tripod around 10am tomorrow, so we’ll have to get 8 miles in fairly quickly. But Spring Break, Tia, and Boosted are all going to be getting a ride to trail days on Friday instead. It’s too bad that we couldn’t all get a ride down together. But I was just glad that all of us were able to finagle rides down in general. We’re nearly 250 miles north of Damascus at this point, so getting a ride down so far could have definitely been tricky.
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