Week 9- Finally Spring and 800 miles

Day 57

I was up and on the trail at a good time and ready to get through 9.2 miles to get into Daleville. My legs were still a bit sore from the hard and long previous day, and I could definitely feel it on the few uphills the trail presented. The morning started off nice and cool, and I was enjoying the nice temperature and the peaceful forest as I made my way toward town.

A nice lake view during the descent

The trail gradually turned from rocks and steep descents into soft dirt and a gradual incline as it wound closer to town, and then suddenly the trail passed a group of bushes and spit me out onto a busy road. I turned left and walked to the nearby strip mall where I had an amazing bbq lunch, visited the outfitter, and resupplied at the grocery store. Then I headed back along the road to the nearby motel, and got checked in. It was amazing to get clean and do some laundry, as my last shower had been a week ago and I was feeling pretty grimy. The motel was full of other hikers, and the one washer and drying were kept humming all afternoon as we all washed our clothes. I settled in for the evening after a good burrito dinner and turned on my room’s a/c to it’s maximum power for the night.

Day 58

I woke up in the motel and meant to get back on the trail by 9 ish, but the draw of the relaxing bed won out and I didn’t get back on trail until a little after 11. It was already hot out and I immediately started sweating as I worked my way up the hills out of town. There was a long but not too steep climb to the top of Fullhardt Knob, which was good because the heat would’ve had me pausing every few feet to rest on anything much steeper. I made it to the top in a couple hours and then worked my way down and around the nearby ridges before starting to climb back up toward the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail crossed back and forth along the parkway a couple times and was usually only 20-30 ft away from the road in this section, so I took the advice of a couple comments in FarOut and walked along the road for a little while to get the better views of the nearby mountains and enjoy the stronger breeze. I carried out extra water from the last source a few miles back and I was glad that I had because I stuttered to a stop a little after the Montvale Overlook along the parkway and I dipped back onto the trail to find a stealth spot to camp for the night. I set up my tent and made dinner while listening to the wind in the trees above me. The road was very quiet with only one or two cars passing while in was there, and after dark I got snuggled into my quilt and started relaxing for the night. Suddenly, I thought heard tinny voices like from a radio, and I rolled over to see a bright light coming towards me. Maybe a late night hiker walking down the trail? Nope the light turned towards my tent and in my almost asleep haze I heard “officer something something with the national park service”. It took a second for that to get through my brain, and my first thought before it registered was that the police were there to kick me out of my camp spot (even though I wasn’t breaking any rules). After a second I understood that it was a park ranger not a cop, and I unzipped my tent to poke my head out and see what was up. The ranger told me that there were going to be prescribed burns in the area tomorrow morning starting at 7, and that I should move to the other side of the road once I was packed. I thanked him for the information and he headed back down the trail while I laid back down, not at all sleepy any more. I’m usually up around 7 am and while I considered setting an alarm to make sure I was up, I figured that the early morning sun on the ridge top would get me up, either that or the forest burning down around me would do the trick.

Day 59

I spent most of the night tossing and turning, unable to get comfortable, and was therefore up well before the prescribed fire began. The morning was just barely cool, and I set off down the trail trying to enjoy the semi-coolness as long as it lasted. The trail also started off fairly easily, with very gradual elevation changes before descending quite a way to Jennings Creek, which was good because paired with the increasing heat and my lack of sleep I wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about any hard hiking. I reached Jennings Creek around lunch time but first jumped into the cold and deep swimming hole for some relief from the heat. After eating lunch I hung around the river a while longer enjoying the feeling of not being hot and the view of the river before continuing on. The second half of the day proved to be more challenging, with a steep climb up from the river. At this point the temperature was somewhere in the high 80’s and I was having a rough time of it and just wanted to stop hiking. I staggered into the very large Bryant Ridge Shelter and wetted myself again in the nearby creek to cool off before sitting in the shade of the shelter. A couple other hikers came by and we chatted for a while while the afternoon wore on. I was undecided on if I was going to stay in the shelter but after talking with the others I decided to push on like they were. It was around 5:30 and just starting to cool off a tiny bit, and I put on an audiobook while climbing two thousand feet to a tent site near the top of the next mountain. The bugs were really bad upon arriving and I threw up my tent and dove inside for refuge for a little while until it was safe to get back out and make dinner and finish getting ready for the night.

Day 60

I slept much better and woke ready for the day’s hiking. The trail started off going uphill a bit before leveling off and finally going up and over the top of Apple Orchard mountain. Throughout the morning I enjoyed looking at the large fields of trillium flowers that surrounded the trail, and stopped a few times to take pictures of all the different flowers that were popping up along the trail side. Spring is definitely here with all the pretty flowers Ana’s tree leaves that are starting to pop up.

Sections of the trail are surrounded by hundreds of these trillium flowers

Just below the mountain peak was the guillotine, a large boulder wedged between walls of rock right over the trail, and I stopped to take some fun pictures.

Here I am poking the guillotine

I paused for lunch at thunder hill shelter before continuing on, and less than half an hour later I noticed the dark clouds passing overhead and the wind starting to pick up. Thankfully the darkest clouds passed by without the storm breaking, but eventually rain did start falling and I donned my rain gear for the rest of the afternoon. The rain wasn’t too hard to deal with, and the cooler temperatures and fresh smell of the forest was a welcome change to the previous days, but even so after a couple hours I was tired of feeling damp. Fortunately the rest of the day was mostly downhill, with only one climb up Highcock Knob (which was some very funny comments on FarOut, as you might imagine). After a few hours the rain stopped and I got to watch low hanging clouds drift over the nearby ridges as I continued hiking. I made it to Matts Creek shelter and decided to stay in the shelter in case of some overnight showers, and there was plenty of room for the night with only two other hikers there.

Day 61

I slept in this morning, knowing that I only had about 2 miles to get to town. Those two miles were the longest mostly flat section of trail I think I’ve experienced so far, and I was able to knock out those miles in less than 45 minutes. I hitched a ride into Glasgow and the first thing I did was stop at the post office to pick up my new pair of trail runners.

Old vs. New.

After 787 miles it was definitely time to retire my first pair of trail runners. They held up remarkably well with only a couple small holes and some very worn out cushion and tread. My new pair is the same model, and hopefully they’ll mitigate some of the aches in my feet I’ve been feeling the last few weeks. After that I walked over to Stanimal’s hostel and grabbed a bunk, shower, and laundry before heading to the one restaurant in town for lunch. Fortunately the calzone I got was delicious and I had no problem devouring it and a salad. I stopped by the Dollar General to resupply and then headed back to the hostel to chill for the rest of the day.

Day 62

I had a late start out from the hostel and was booking it up the first ascent to try and make up some time. The climb was pretty long, and once the first ascent was finished, the trail leveled out for a couple miles and then continued climbing again to the summit of Bluff Mountain.

The view on the ascent out of Glasgow

Fortunately, the weather was lovely, and I only worked up a light sweat on all of these uphill climbs. In the early afternoon I passed the 800 mile marker, woooo.

Woooo! 800!

I stopped at a small pooling trickle to filter some water, and noticed a frog in the pool which darted away when it saw me. I still gathered water from the pool, my filter is up to the task of removing the frog pee. The descent from Bluff Mountain involved a series of ups and downs, before finally heading down to the Pedlar River which I crossed on a bouncy suspension bridge. I took a small side trail to a lovely tent site next to the river and set up camp quickly in the dying light. I dove into my quilt in the dark, glad to have the river nearby to lull me to sleep.

Day 63

The day started with an easy five miles along the Brown Mountain Creek, and I stopped a couple times to read the interesting informational signs about the former freed slave community that lived along the creek in the early 1900’s. The trail started trending upward and I walked through a parking area where I was given a croissant and a clementine, super delicious trail magic! After the parking area the trail headed up a long three thousand foot climb to the top of Bald knob, which took a couple hours and was tiring. Fortunately, the rest of the day didn’t have any major climbs, and after a quick lunch on top of Bald Knob, I continued on. The trail threaded across a couple of grassy balds, the first in a while, and I enjoyed the slight change in scenery. I passed the Seely-Woolworth shelter but decided to push one more mile to porters gap, which had a spring piping out from under a large boulder. I set of camp and made dinner before heading to bed. Unfortunately, a couple hours later I realized my pad was deflating, and I had to reinflate it three times overnight. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the leak once it’s light tomorrow.

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