Trail Update #8: the week we hiked for food
I am now over 700 miles into the AT.
Having nothing better to do at this point than to set arbitrary goals for myself (ranging anywhere from “you have to make it to that fallen tree before you can take a break on this massive uphill” to “I can definitely hike 200 miles in the next 10 days” <stay tuned for next week’s update to read about my progress on that one>), ANYWAY…this week Slim Shady and I decided to set our entire schedule around a hiker feed that had been advertised all over the trail, so we set out from Pearisburg on Friday needing to hike 51 miles by midday on Sunday. Because why not?
Long Story Short:
We totally rocked it and the feed was amazing. It’s put on every Mother’s Day by former thru-hikers who cook delicious homemade meals in Dutch ovens right on the trail. This year was the 13th year running.
Long Story (a bit) Long(er):
Our first day out of Pearisburg was a nightmare. We knew it was supposed to rain all day, I knew I wasn’t going to have any cell service, and we had a number of logistical obstacles working against us:
1. Because of the way road crossings work in town, Slim and I were starting from two different points on the trail as I’d hiked an extra mile to the second road crossing before coming into town.
2. Slim is about 8 feet tall and all legs and he hikes significantly faster than I do, so I left 2 hours before him.
3. We were planning to camp at a private house near the trail called The Captain’s Place, but you have to zip line across a small river to reach it, and you can’t use the zip line if the water is too high…(say, like, after an entire day <or three weeks running ?> of rain?).
4. I had kinda vaguely said, “if we can’t go to the Captain’s I’ll just meet you at the next tenting site” which, to be fair, is a bit subjective as the actual listed sites sometimes differ between the two main AT guides we use, AWOL and Guthooks, and most flat spots have previously been used as tent spots anyway.
The Captain’s was 21 miles away. I got there first, soaking wet and freezing, decided the water was way too high to even go looking for the zip line, couldn’t face putting up my tent in the cold and rain, and hiked another 3 miles to the next shelter. Slim was attacked by BOTH a raccoon and a dog, didn’t know if he was ahead or behind me when he got to the Captain’s, and ended up camping along the trail with some friends in a spot that turned into a river overnight. You can read his hilarious account of the day here.
The Sun Returns! ? ?
Slim caught up to me by lunch the following day, and we decided to take a short day and just go to the next shelter (side note: we’re now at the point that I consider anything under 15 miles a ‘short’ day). So we hiked 14 miles, hung our wet stuff to dry in the sun, and had a relaxing Saturday afternoon with all the people from my shelter and Slim’s campsite the night before – all clearly destined for the hiker feed the next day.
Sunday hiking to the feed was pretty perfect – warm, sunny and relaxed as we had plenty of time to get there before it started. We split up the day – 14 miles to the feed and another 7.5 after it – and let me tell you hiking on a completely full stomach when all you really want to do is lie in the grass in a food coma is a challenge!
Another easy, warm camping night later, we climbed the notorious Dragon’s tooth, hit 700 miles, and had a night indooors at 4 Pines Hostel.
By some miracle, I’m in the middle of a stretch of sunny days right now. Just.so.happy. Apparently, according to new friend Grey Mountaineer who has been out here almost as long as I have, 50% of the days have been rainy so far. I can’t describe how not fun that is. But, for now, ???!!!
Yesterday my dad came out and killed it climbing McAfee Knob, the most photographed site on the AT. Now we’re hanging out in Roanoke for the day, eating some well-deserved ice cream and going to the movies.
And as noted above, this week I’m booking it 200 miles up to Shenandoah National Park to stay with family friends over Memorial Day Weekend, and see my besties and my dad again!
Happy hiking and more to come…
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