The VA Triple Crown: My Sketchiest Stunts, Lowest Morale, and a Much-Needed Family Visit
The Virginia Triple Crown
The Virginia Triple crown is pretty famous on the AT. In fact, it holds one of the icons and most recognizable points along the entire Appalachian Trail, McAfee Knob. McAfee Knob is also the most popular hike in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Needless to say, I was excited to finally have reached it.
Virginia’s Triple Crown has three main viewpoints: Tinker Cliffs, McAfee Knob and Dragon’s Tooth (from North to South), all between VA 652 and VA 620 (Trout Creek).
Tinker Cliffs give hikers a stunning view for 0.2 miles as one hikes along Tinker Mountain. McAfee Knob is a pronounced rock ledge that provides a stunning 270-degree panoramic view, perfect for watching the sunrise or set. Finally, Dragon’s Tooth is a 35-foot tall quartzite rock spire that reaches into the sky.
My Time Along the VA Triple Crown
Miles: 1468.1 -1501.7
First off, I need to mention that during the days I hiked the VA Triple Crown, there was some kind of heat wave passing through because it was SO HOT. It was over 90 degrees with probably 90% humidity (okay I’ll admit I cannot confirm that the humidity was over 90% but it sure did feel that way) and as a result I WAS DYING. You’ll see that reflected in the low mileage I completed each day because it was way too hot (and there was practically no water on trail) to be hiking 20’s.
On Day 109 I waved goodbye to Dex, a fellow thru-hiker I met while hiking north who lived nearby and picked me up, let me shower at hers and drove me to resupply. I then hiked 15.5 miles up and over Tinker Cliffs to a campsite right before McAfee knob.
The next morning, on Day 110, I woke up at 4:45, packed up all my gear, and hiked to the top of McAfee Knob, with the goal of watching the sunrise and completing one of my trail challenges: to do a handstand during a sunrise and take a selfie with a stranger. You can see my completed video here.
Even though this day started amazing, with a gorgeous sunset and new friends, the heat, humidity, and SHEAR AMOUNT OF SPIDERWEBS I WAS SILK BLAZIGNG THROUGH dragged on me. My motivation to hike was lowww. And I fluctuated between feeling guilty about not wanting to hike, and telling myself that it was okay. I finally landed on deciding that it was okay for me to not want to hike. I don’t HAVE to push myself hard every single day. And so, to help with the heat and to raise my spirits, half way through the day, I hiked out to a gas station where I refilled on water, ate ice cream, and rested in air conditioning. I stayed there for almost 3 hours before finally willing myself to put my backpack back on and hike back out. After this, I felt a rejuvenated, and I hiked back out to Dragon’s Tooth. On the way up, I ran into a group of ladies hiking, and they gave me an apple and a bag of peanut m&m’s, this unexpected trail magic further rejuvenated my spirits. In fact, by the time I got to Dragon’s Tooth, I was feeling so good that I attempted, and succeeded in doing the SKETCHIEST HEADSTAND OF MY LIFE THAT I AM SIMULTANEOUSLY SO PROUD OF:
I ended the day at the Pickle Branch Shelter (which required a blue blaze WAY over my 0.2 mi rule), but there was barely any water to be found on trail so I had to go there.
On my third day, I woke up with no desire to hike. It was still a bazillion degrees on trail, and I felt like I couldn’t take a step without spider webs getting on my face, in my hair or my mouth (I learned to hike with my mouth closed), or wrapping themselves around my legs. And since I knew my mom was planning to pick me up from trail that day, I decided to simply hike 6.6 miles to the VA 620 Trout Creek where I could then road walk my way back to the gas station from the day prior.
On my way, I stumbled across a whole bunch of walnuts! In my excitement, I set about smashing, cracking, and eating a whole bunch of them! It was messy work, and my hands turned brown from the dirt, but the walnuts were good and I was happy to have done it. When I arrived to the gas station, I immediately went to use the bathroom to clean off my hands… but then brown marks on my hands didn’t come off… I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed… and finally used google to learn that I had stained myself with the oils from the walnuts and the stain could last up to 3 months!!!
After giving up on cleaning off my hands, I exited the bathroom, not anxious to step back outside in the hot sun… luckily the gas station worker took pity on me and instead of making me wait outside, she let me stay inside in the AC. This led to me happily sitting on the floor of the gas station, eating an ice cream sandwich with a dopey grin on my face. I then ate MORE ice cream in order to complete ANOTHER trail challenge: to see how fast I can consume an entire pint of ice cream. Watch the video for that here.
Then my mom arrived!!!
My mom and I had planned her visit almost as soon as I got on the Appalachian Trail. I was so excited and happy to see her, and not only because she was rescuing me from the dreadful heat.
My mom and I stayed in Roanoke in a hotel (the only hotel I’ve stayed at on the entire trail, since I’m always trying to save money) and it was GLORIOUS. The beds were SO COMFORTABLE. This immediately began to help bring me out of my slump. Its crazy what getting a good night sleep + air conditioning can do for one’s soul.
Also, with all that time (and finally a private bathroom),my mom helped me complete a ton of my town chores. She even encouraged, and helped me to WASH MY QUILT!!! Something I have avoided doing on the entire trail because, well, for those of you who have ever washed a down sleeping bag/quilt before know… its soooooooo time consuming. She even took me to a store so I could get the proper soap! We also spent our time eating good food, drinking good drinks (I discovered a Guava Gose made by the local Three Knotch Brewing Company that we both loved), and playing lots of cards!
While she visited, we also drove to see Shenandoah National Park, where we got more blackberry milkshakes, and my mom got to meet Nightingale, the trail angel who helped me along SNP from my last blog post!
I checked ANOTHER trail challenge off here, to post here, because my mom and I both love car karaoke.
Another adventure? Why not. My mom and I hiked up to McAfee Knob together! I was super happy to do this, not only because I got to do it with my mom, but because I got to see what the views look like during the day, since before, I was only there for the sunrise.
More? You ask. What more is there to do?
Answer: Have MORE family visit!!! My cousin lives nearby, and she drove up after work on Friday to meet my mom and I.
She made me browned butter rice krispies which were to die for (she’s an AMAZING BAKER and Rice Krispies were perfect because they’re so light!), we got tasty food together and (drum roll please)… my cousin and my mom then helped me complete yet ANOTHER TRAIL CHALLENGE. This trail challenge was the most complicated so far, it was to recreate the below scene from the movie The Proposal.
Watch our creation here. I am very proud of what we did.
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