The Sights and Sickness of the Last 300 Miles

Since the last update, I’ve spent some time off for various reasons, but I’m still trekking along. They say, “The last one to Katahdin wins,” but I’m hoping to get there long before the last hiker of the season.

Getting back on trail

After my short trip home, my husband (trail name: Rollie) drove me all the way from our home in Pennsylvania back to the hills of Virigina. The best part was that he spent the night with me at Four Pines Hostel and hiked a few miles with me the next morning.

Together we saw the Keffer Oak Tree, a 300-year-old tree with an 18-foot circumference, and the rock cairns that I can’t seem to find any explanation as to their existence.

The Keffer Oak

Rock Cairn

The next few days…

The views of the next few days were extraordinary. The Eastern Continental Divide, the Audie Murphy Memorial, and then…Virginia’s Triple Crown: Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs. Honestly, some of the best views in Viriginia!

Who knew this existed in the middle of nowhere–so cool!

Audie Murphy Memorial

The Audie Murphy Memorial stands near where the most decorated WWII hero lost his life in a plane crash in 1971.

Dragon’s Tooth monolith

That’s me!

Standing on the cliff at McAfee Knob was not for the faint of heart. Last fall Rollie and I climbed McAfee Knob and only he was brave enough to stand on the edge.

Cliff hanging…

Hanging from the cliff at McAfee Knob is for the foolhardy, IMHO. This is Tree Man. He is an experienced and strong rock climber. DO NOT TRY THIS. Seriously though. I saw him chalk up his hands and I knew something epic would be happening. I ran to the other cliff to get the photo, all the while hoping my photo wouldn’t end up on one of those click-bait sites called, “Photos Taken Moments Before Tragedy Struck.”

View from Tinker Cliffs

The view from Tinker Cliffs into the valley below was breathtaking. I spent an hour just drinking in the sunlight, sights, and breeze. What’s really cool is that you can see McAfee Knob from Tinker Cliffs.

Being sick

I’m unsure about what exactly put me out of commission for a couple of days. It could have been bad salmon (I had some of the bagged fish with minute rice for dinner). It also could have been the dreaded norovirus which spreads along the trail like wildfire.

From the internet: Norovirus infection can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea that start suddenly. Noroviruses are highly contagious. The infection is the No. 1 cause of foodborne illness in the United States. You can get the norovirus infection in many ways, including through:

  • Close contact with someone who has the virus.
  • Touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth or nose.
  • Eating or drinking contaminated foods or beverages.

I only had one of the two symptoms, which makes me wonder if it really was noro.

I spent the majority of the night throwing up, which is no fun when you’re at a tent site. Heck it’s no fun when you have the luxury of a flush toilet either. The tent site had no water source and I knew I needed to rehydrate. I called and arranged a shuttle to a nearby campground. A shuttle driver was willing to transport me even though I was sick (a huge blessing!). As soon as my strength allowed, I packed up my tent and headed for the road crossing.

Why go to a campground?

The campground was a safe place. I knew I could pitch my tent and not worry about every little noise. I knew I could get a shower when I finally felt well enough. I knew I could rehydrate with juice from the camp store. I knew I could keep to myself and not infect others.

I checked in, pitched my tent, and promptly went to sleep. Three hours later I felt well enough to get a shower and wash the “sick” off of my body. I had been told by others who previously dealt with noro that I should take it easy returning to hiking, that I could become weak and dehydrated quickly.

Feeling better but still not 100%

After sleeping through to the next morning, I decided to slack pack for the day. Slack packing is when a hiker takes a small pack with only food and water, leaving the rest of the pack at camp. It’s especially nice when recovering from an illness or injury as it allows the hiker to carry five pounds instead of 25 (or more).

By the following day I was back on trail.

More sights getting up to the 800-mile mark

The James River Footbridge is the longest foot traffic only bridge on the Appalachian Trail.

The James River Footbridge. The little dot on the left is my backpack which I put down about halfway across the bridge before walking back to get this photo.

I thought the Triple Crown had views that would be unmatched in Virginia and then I got to see the James River from afar.

Beautiful view of the James River

The Guillotine is a crazy-cool rock formation

A sad memorial

Water sources

Water sources are becoming more scarce as I’ve headed north, lots of the creeks are currently dry and springs are low-flowing. Here’s hoping for more rain to replenish the water

Gathering around the water source

More milestones


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Comments 4

  • YeeHa of BeeChHill : Jun 17th

    Loved this post, Carol, including how you managed through a GI illness! You had a great approach to isolating while providing self-care & time for rest. And your photos of some of our favorite SW VA places are absolutely stunning and inspiring. For other hikers looking for a water source near Daleville, we leave a well water cache at the AT near our hostel. Enjoy each day’s walk!

    • Carol Fielding : Jul 4th

      That is so kind of you to leave a water cache. Not having to find/filter water is a huge gift.

  • Will : Jun 17th

    I have a lifelong friend that settled down in the Pacific Northwest who always asks me when I’m coming up to hike the PNW with him.
    The thought of seeing some of the last of our unspoiled lands with an old friend is becoming more tempting as time passes
    Following your journey has certainly renewed that temptation.

    Think I’ll call an old friend

    • Carol Fielding : Jul 4th

      Awesome! Go take a hike!


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