Sometimes the (Virginia) Blues is Just a Passing Bird: Days 60–64

Day 60: Niday Shelter to Four Pines Hostel; 16.7 miles

Predictably, after just grazing around my food bag for “dinner” last night, I felt weak by the morning. Sparks gave me one of her GoMacro bars to supplement my breakfast. I’d given her a protein bar the other day, so it felt like a delicious exchange!

Sparks and I hiked a few miles together and came to a gap where trail angel Jason provided cold drinks. There was also a trash can nearby (this is a big deal)! AND Banjo happened to be sitting with Jason, so all of us got to reunite.

Sparks, Banjo, and I hiked together for a while up the mountain to Dragon’s Tooth. Banjo and I hiked a little faster on the climb today and once we were on the ridge line for a while, it started storming. I felt nervous, but we were in a position where it felt like the quickest way out was through.

The thunder subsided by the time we made it to Dragon’s Tooth, then we started heading down the steep rock face toward Four Pines Hostel. I put one trekking pole in my backpack so I’d have a free hand and extended the other to what I like to call “adventure mode.” It was kinda fun — we just took it slowly in the rain.

We saw Ramen Bomb in the distance as we approached Four Pines. I couldn’t wait to hear about his weekend with his professor and reconnect. When we sat down, Sparks’ husband Paul (aka F Minor) presented us with some burritos, chocolate milk, and protein bars!

The evening passed too quickly: I took my first outdoor shower, RBT played mandolin, and Banjo played banjo. We talked with Sparks, F Minor, Buck Wild, and a group of mothers and daughters. I met a crew from Michigan (we outnumbered everyone!) and roasted marshmallows by a huge campfire.

Banjo with banjo

Ramen Bomb Tom with mandolin

Great bonfire! Thanks for capturing the moment, Sparks! 📸

I have a feeling I won’t get much sleep tonight in the bunkhouse, but I’m so excited to finish the Virginia Triple Crown tomorrow!

Day 61: Four Pines Hostel to Lambert’s Meadow Campsite; 16.5 miles

There are places on the AT I’d known about for years, but they seemed like a faraway dream — or even just the seed of an idea. McAfee Knob is one of those places. Maybe it’s silly, but it felt surreal waking up at the hostel knowing I’d hike up to meet McAfee today and finish the Virginia Triple Crown.

After talking for a while with Data and Badger, I walked the 1/3 mile back to trail. It would be another day of few water sources, so RBT and I started the day weighed down with plenty of water from the hostel. Banjo had left already — he has to hike ahead to get to a certain place in time for his aunt’s birthday. We’ll see him again next week.

RBT and I pushed through the heat of exposed, steep pastures and moved up and down ridge lines. Once we got to the parking lot for McAfee Knob, we stopped in the shade for a quick rest to book a hotel in Roanoke.

The climb to McAfee Knob was gradual and (thankfully) shady. We saw a baby rattlesnake as soon as we arrived!

Sorry, Mom!

RBT and I took the classic pictures — McAfee is the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail, after all — had a snack, then were off to Tinker Cliffs.

Out of all the VA Triple Crown, I think I worked the hardest for Tinker Cliffs. It’s a steep climb going NOBO (the steep part is maybe 1.5–2 miles long?), but now that I have my hiker legs, it wasn’t too bad. These thighs feel like tractors, strong enough to hike and hike and hike even when the rest of me would like to sleep.

Taking in the views at Tinker Cliffs!

There was some light rain on the way up to the cliffs that cleared just in time for some gorgeous golden hour views. After walking along the cliffs for about half a mile, the trail wound back down the mountain to our campsite for the night.

Lambert’s Meadow Campsite is right by a creek. After a few days of long water carries, it feels indulgent to use and drink as much water as we want tonight.

I ate chili ramen with peanut butter and peanuts then drifted off without taking a wet wipe bath. I figured we’ll have a short half day tomorrow with showers at the end of our hike. However, I ended up waking up to give myself a good bird bath anyway. I can’t stand feeling dirty. Am I the cleanest thru-hiker (not platinum blazing) out here? Probably not. But maybe. 

Day 62: Lambert’s Meadow Campsite to Daleville; 9.5 miles

Into town we go! I got to enjoy a lovely ridge walk, Mexican food for lunch, and a truly life-giving nap at Roanoke’s Econolodge. RBT and I ventured out for Subway and Wendy’s after sunset and had to walk through the drive-thru lines for both. Weird. Anyway, day 62 provided a top-notch lazy afternoon and a great night’s sleep. 

Ridgeline break!

Feed us. Please.

Day 63: Zero in Roanoke

I’ve been looking forward to this day in Roanoke for weeks — Banjo lives in the city and Plantasia told me it’s worth checking out.

After hitting up the hotel breakfast, Ramen and I walked a mile into town, stopping at McDonald’s on the way (I got a strawberry banana smoothie). We also stopped at the post office to ship some winter clothes home. RBT wanted to check out a bookstore, and I think it’s the first time I’ve ever left one empty handed.

Next we went to Walkabout Outfitters where I picked up a new Kula Cloth. Unfortunately, there does indeed come a time where the cloth doesn’t really ever smell clean — even after laundering it. I reached that point about 250 miles in and suffered for a few hundred more. I also bought new Darn Tough socks because one of my pairs had holes worn into the heels, and the other pair was nibbled up by a mouse. I’ll trade them in after trail for new ones.

I picked up some postcards at Chocolate Paper, then wrote on them at Mill Mountain (accompanied by an iced mocha). RBT and I consumed cheese fries and hard kombuchas at Jack Brown’s, then went to a music store because RBT was considering picking up a mandolin for trail. Later on, we met up with my Aunt Jayne and Uncle Ron for dinner.

Currently in my sleeping bag wishing I’d ordered more of these cheese fries when I had the chance.

It was so, so good to spend time with family after my recent bout of homesickness. Ron (aka Splat Man) has hiked long sections of the AT in Maine and New Hampshire, so we all traded trail stories over pizza and wings before heading back to the hotel to continue the conversation there.

I started feeling tired around hiker midnight (9pm), so we parted ways until morning. But not before Jayne gave me a very-much-needed hug/massage. She gives the best hugs.

A good zero, indeed.

Day 64: Daleville to Fullhardt Knob Shelter; 5 miles

Splat Man and Aunt Jayne took us to Cracker Barrel in the morning, then drove us to BeeChill hostel to pick up my new shoes (!). Aunt Jayne surprised me by paying for them — I’ll think of her often as I walk the trail over the next few hundred miles.

So new!

It was time.

We drove to one more outfitter in Daleville before resupplying at Kroger. I was feeling sad about saying goodbye to my aunt and uncle and didn’t have motivation to hike. Ramen encouraged me to walk just five miles to the first shelter; sometimes it’s hard to leave town.

If it’s any indication of how bummed I was feeling earlier, I had to pull out my list of reasons for hiking the AT for the second time on my thru-hike today. I needed to remember my “whys,” what I hope to learn from the experience, and how I’d feel if I quit. Maybe I’ll share them with you here one day.

Ramen Bomb and I hiked up the five miles to Fullhardt Knob Shelter and stopped there for the night. We needed to apply permethrin to some of our gear and clothes and decided it was a “smiles over miles” kind of day. Plus there’s cell service here, so Ramen can watch the Yankees and I can schedule this blog. Don’t judge!

Also passed this sign today!

Over dinner, we chatted with a group of guys hiking part of Virginia together who met in college 30 years ago. They offered to take our trash and made us s’mores. Trail magic.

Before bed, RBT and I had some wine and dwelled in the sunshine. We hear the Northern Lights may make an appearance — maybe I’ll actually fully get out of my tent to pee tonight so I can look up at the sky.

Holy (beverage) trinity: protein shake, red wine, and water.

It’s been a challenging week for me, but it’s going to be okay. It might even be good.


A little aurora borealis action through the trees!

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Comments 1

  • John "Tercius" Rutkowski : May 12th

    Great post. I just finished a walk with college friend from 50 years ago.


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