Southern Virginia is NOT Flat!
Through the first part of my AT hike I frequently heard “Virginia is flat.” I beg to differ! Southern Virginia offered some significant elevation challenges combined with onerous rocks! My hourly pace fell significantly, especially in the section from Weary Feet Hostel to Daleville. I found that my tempo was seriously interrupted by having to pick my way through rocky spots. There were long, steep grades and the Roanoke Appalachian Trail club seemed to delight in taking you over the most challenging terrain they can find. Oh – and switchbacks – forget about it. None of that sissy stuff allowed!
I had been happily wearing the Merrill Moab Speeds I bought in Hiawassee to replace the Altra Lone Peak Fives I started with. The Moabs were comfortable and offered more stability and as a result I got far fewer blisters. Shortly after I left Weary Feet I crossed a gravel forest service road and was walking through a fairly deep pocket of wet leaves when I stepped onto a covered, slanted, algae encased root. My right foot skidded left and knocked out my left foot. I went down so fast I didn’t have time to react. I heard a fairly loud crack as my right hand (which was holding my right trekking pole) hit the ground. There was immediate pain in my wrist. I was pretty certain it was broken and this was later confirmed by x-ray in Pearisburg. I used my Buff as a makeshift sling and was able to continue hiking, albeit with only one trekking pole.
In hindsight, I realized that my shoes had some traction issues as I had worn them down in the 400 plus miles I had put on them. Wet wood, algae-covered anything, and worn stones represent some of the most common slipping hazards on the trail. Keeping good tread on your shoes, as I discovered the hard way, is critical. My hike continues as it was a “lucky” break. I have a non-displaced fracture of the distal Radius near the epiphysis. I will be sporting a removable splint for the next four weeks along with a new pair of shoes.
As word of my broken wrist spread, I received advice to be especially careful when descending from the Dragon’s Tooth rock formation. This small part of the AT includes some steel handholds and a few places where you have to negotiate almost vertical terrain with a pretty significant drop-off. I made the decision to slackpack this part of the trail which I believe was the right call. I was able to negotiate the challenging bits easily without a pack and with my working left arm. In fact, I think this was my favorite part of the trek so far!
I left the trail on June 23rd to fly back to Colorado for my daughter’s wedding. I will start hiking again on the morning of the 29th. Due to my late start, lost days for wedding stuff, and a couple of ER visits, I may be transitioning to a flip flop hike. This would mean I would leave the trail and fly to Maine to start hiking southbound (SOBO) from Katahdin. I would then end my hike where I got off, to complete a flip-flop thru-hike. I am not crazy about this idea since I always envisioned a Katahdin finish, but the reality is that I would need to hike 1468 miles before the snow flies in October. This would equate to hiking 13.5 miles per day until October 15th with ZERO zero days. This is not impossible, but it is unlikely. I don’t have to make a decision yet, so I plan to hike as much as I can, take advantage of slackpacking opportunities and see how it goes. I am looking forward to getting back on trail. The rocky trail. The not-as-flat-as-I-thought trail! I start the Northern half of Virginia tomorrow.
See you in the woods.
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