The Hiker Vortex. Week 9 on the AT!
Hello Friends! As we travel the Appalachian Trail, we enjoy varied experiences. The trail comes with surprises, and we never hike the same area twice so it is always new to us.
This amazing experience can also feel very intense and tiring at times.
There are many reasons a hiker may have to get off trail. Illness, injury, and fatigue in general; physical, mental, and emotional are reasons to take respite.
Many hostels and hiker-friendly towns can be found along the trail. The cost of services can add up, but some hostels offer work for stay. They may provide meals as well as lodging to the needy hiker in exchange for chores.
It is not unusual to hear of a hiker vortexing: staying more than three nights at one location when they are not sick or injured.
We have heard of several hikers succumbing to the vortex. Some of them using work-for-stay options, and others paying to stay. I imagine that once you make yourself very comfortable, it becomes difficult to finally put on your pack and leave.
As for us, aside from two zero days over the course of our hike, we put on our packs and headed north.
Mile 733.3 dry campsite
Today we made it to the 1/3 mark!
We took our time in the morning, enjoying breakfast in bed before leaving camp. Our hike into Daleville was fun. There was more up than expected and plenty of nice views of the James River. The sun was shining, and it was quite warm.
Our smell was very sweaty and stinky.
We’ve seen lots of different kinds of lizards skittering about. Today we saw one with a blue throat. We also saw couple of snakes. The last one was a very baby snake. It might’ve been a rattlesnake.
When we made it to the road, we took a left toward the Mexican restaurant, where we ordered some lunch and texted our friends Lost and Found. They happened to be at the motel right next door so they came over and enjoyed lunch with us.
Since they have their car, they took us over to the Kroger where we were able to re-supply. The little strip mall also has an outfitter and a coffee shop where we saw lots of other hikers.
We went back to their hotel and put our food in our bags. Now we have nice heavy bags and lots of food to last us until Wednesday, when we plan to arrive in Buena Vista.
Today happened to be the start date for a Trail Days sort of weekend in Troutville, which is not far away, and a local church was shuttling hikers to a free dinner.
The Baptist church that was putting on the dinner did a lovely job. They seem to really care about hikers, and the ladies had a really hard time understanding that we did not eat meat.
Instead of getting too sucked in and staying at the tent city that was going to be constructed at the park nearby, we were able to get back on the trail and hike a few more miles.
We found a great little site off to the side, and All Day was able to hang our heavy bear bags without too much difficulty.
The lightning bugs are out! A beautiful breeze is moving through the leaves.
Mile 752.6 Cove Mountain campsite
We awoke naturally around 6am and took our time breaking camp.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the terrain was friendly.
At our first break, All Day got to wash up and Lost and Found found us. We got to hike and chat with them until our 2nd break, as they are not as committed to long breaks as we are.
We proceeded to crisscross the Blue Ridge Parkway. This was fun, as I remember driving down it on a family camping trip when I was 12. We came upon a car with 4 people who were excited to ask us questions about thru-hiking.
We had a bit of rain that helped to cool things off and ended up hiking a longer day.
Tried to be quiet as we set up camp close to another hiker who was already in their tent.
Mile 768.1 Black Rock Overlook campsite
We woke up a little later than usual and enjoyed a leisurely camp time.
As we were packing up, Lost and Found showed up. We spent the day hiking together, which was very nice, and the conversation made the miles fly by.
The creek was unavailable for swimming since it was so chilly out and it didn’t really look that appealing. However, there was a wonderful bridge area that we were able to hang out just like hobos under.
We saw a very nice shelter, possibly the nicest shelter on the Appalachian Trail we’ve seen so far. Bryant Ridge Shelter. Multilevel structure with a Porch and lots of convenient hooks and places to hang things.
Fortunately, the campsite we were interested in had enough room for us to set up and relax.
We saw a luna moth, deer, a scarlet tanager, and many red efts.
Mile 775.9 Harrison Ground Spring campsite
I became ill over the night with diarrhea and vomiting. It was pretty miserable. All Day also felt nauseous but did not succumb. We had eaten quite a bit the day prior and are not sure if it was food poisoning or norovirus. The mystery of camping illness.
In the morning, our friends had left but had messaged us they would get us out if we wanted later today. We decided to make it to our next water source and stealth camp in the woods.
There was a campsite in 7 miles calling our names. I didn’t want to or drink much and was just very tired. At one road crossing, someone had left trail magic of gatorades and apple sauce. It was perfect trail magic.
It took us a long time to get here, but it is a great little site with a spring.
All Day put up the tent and took care of all chores. After a nap, I was ready to eat some crackers and another apple sauce. On the upswing!
Tomorrow there is a 14-mile stretch to get us past the next “Bear area,” a place where camping is prohibited because of close encounters with bears. If either of us is sick, we will have to wait it out.
The terrain was friendly and the temps in the high 60s. Clear sky.
Mile 789 John’s Hollow shelter campsite
Today we awoke feeling better after much rest. Our day of hiking was quite nice, and the weather was beautiful. There was a deer on the trail heading Sobo, and it did not seem to want to move first.
We decided that since I felt much better, for our anniversary, we would hitch into Glasgow and check it out.
We walked across the longest footbridge on the AT. While crossing the bridge, we saw a turtle swimming in the water, but he dove down before we were able to get his portrait.
At the road, we suck at our thumbs for the first time and got picked up by a shuttle driver who is not allowed to drive us for free but charged five dollars, which was fine.
As we made our way into Glasgow, he told us everything the town had to offer which was right there. We went to every store in town. All Day sent his shoes back at the post office then we got some fruit cups at the Dollar General. We went to the market and got a couple other items and then headed over to the only restaurant in town, which is pretty good.
Their prices are reasonable, but our shuttle driver says not to tell them that.
All Day grabbed a little ice cream, and we went back to the free hiker pavilion, where we enjoyed some hot showers, relaxed a bit, and then headed back out to hitchhike back to the trail. It only took a few cars passing before a truck picked us up and let us hop in the back, which was ideal.
We made it back to the trailhead, and the guy who gave us a ride was interested in the trail and was currently reading AWOL’s memoir.
We hiked the 2 miles up to the shelter area, where we had the campsites all to ourselves. A deer seemed unafraid, munching on vegetation close by.
Mile 798.7 stealth site
All Day was up all last night with the same illness I had two nights prior. We can assume it was norovirus brought out from Daleville. More reports of hikers not feeling well are indeed coming in.
We have been doing our best to be careful, and we wash our hands each day, but everyone is more vulnerable on the trail.
That meant that today All Day was very weak, but we still had to put our packs on and walk north, toward water and in the direction of Buena Vista. If the illness runs the same course, he should feel better tomorrow.
We did have a big climb and some nice views. There is a haze in the air and talk of fires from Canada causing smoke to come this way.
All Day took a nap, and I worked on a plan for the week, but it is always so hard to tell how many miles to plan for.
We are just a couple of days behind our original plan. A plan written out when we had no idea what hiking the AT would really be like.
The weather was beautiful today with sun and a gentle breeze.
Buena Vista, VA
White Tree Inn
When we awoke this morning, All Day was feeling much better. There was a lovely breeze in the air, and it was rather cool outside. We were able to break camp around 7 o’clock.
The terrain was quite friendly, and we found our water source after a while, and All Day was able to eat more. But even when you feel better after you’ve been sick, it just takes it out of you to hike.
When we made it up to the road crossing, we decided we would try to hitch into town.
We did get a ride from a guy who works for the railroad and was just kind of killing time driving around. He had no idea where Buena Vista was but was happy to take us to the Food Lion.
After doing our shopping, we made it to the post office in time to get our bounce box and checked in right across the street at White Tree Inn to our little room. We were able to go through our bounce box and take out what we wanted to get showers and do laundry. Send our bounce box back. It was a productive afternoon.
The White Tree Inn was perfect for us as it is like a Hostel but better. It’s not very busy, and the bathroom is quite available. Also, laundry didn’t cost extra.
There happens to be a farmers market on Thursday evenings, so we were able to enjoy that. Among other things, we picked up some fresh sugar-snap peas and a giant cinnamon roll for breakfast tomorrow.
We shared some stuffed shells at the original Italian restaurant and then came back to our place to eat some fruits and veggies on the porch with a really good chocolate milk.
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