Week 9: That Time I Walked Back to Roanoke
When I left Roanoke last January, I wasn’t sure I was coming back. Sure I had planned to hike back should my AT dreams become reality, but 700 miles is a long hike. I wasn’t sure sure it was going to happen. However, Friday I sat in Salem’s Mill Mountain Coffee & Tea enjoying a hot chocolate. Hiking back to Roanoke became reality.
The week leading up to my grand return has been tough. Rain, or threat of rain, for days. The damp gets to you. Your clothes are damp. You are damp. The trail is muddy and slick. Everything is encased in fog. You start to think funny thoughts. However, more than anything you just wish for the sun and to be dry. It does make for some cool photos.
For me, Roanoke is where this entire AT journey began. I’ll admit that I’m not someone who would be described as outdoorsy. Prior to moving to Virginia, I never expressed any interest in camping or backpacking. However, I live in a state that isn’t known for having mountains and thought I’d take advantage of the terrain while here. Hiking back, was like hiking home. Here the trail was familiar. It’s where I spent my first night in the “outdoors” and where I had hiked my first miles on the trail. It’s where I had decided that maybe I wanted to hike 2198.1 miles.
My first experience “camping” I did an overnight in and out hike from VA 311 in Catawba up to Dragon’s Tooth. I had a sleeping bag, a hammock, some food and a daypack. I didn’t have a tarp, bug net, bear bag, or the other things one needs to do an overnighter. I started out too late and ended up night hiking. Then spent all night terrified that a mouse was going to attack me (luckily one didn’t). With relatively no sleep, I got up at 5:30 and booked it to the top of Dragon’s Tooth for sunrise. Exhausted, I trekked back to the car and ate a bunch of pizza.
As a thru hiker, rehiking these miles has been interesting. What I remember once being so grueling, is relatively no challenge at all. I remember the footbridge where I ate lunch, the steep climb up to Dragon’s Tooth, the awesome view. However, much of the rest faded into the background of greenery and up’s and down’s. While that was a measly 20 mile hike, I imagine looking back on this journey will be much of the same. I’ll remember the highlights but much will be forgotten.
I get asked quite often about my greatest fear out here. It’s a combination of forgetting and falling. Really falling is easier to imagine so of course that is more of a fear. Big slick rocks. Several days ago I made the mistake of walking where there was little traction and I fell. I’ve fallen a lot, but this was a big fall. A scary fall. One where you sit and have to assess if you’re going to be able to get back up. I ended almost in a hurdle position. Weighted down by my pack, I was unsure if I could get up. Would I just slide down more? A little scraped, a little sore and mostly afraid I got up and scrambled to the other side of the rock shelf where the trail began again as dirt. Little did I know, I would have to walk across similar slick rock shelves for the next mile and a half. Each time I was scared I would fall again. Your time on the trail is so tenuous. All it takes is a misstep, a fall, a tear, a break and you’re off the trail for good. Those thoughts kept running through my mind as I inched my way across the rocks. Facing my fears over and over again. I obviously made it because I’m not writing you from those rocks, but it was a tough one. Luckily I was fortunate enough to be reminded that it’s even worse in New Hampsire. I love when people do that. Not.
However, here I sit clean, warm, dry, and well-fed in Daleville ready to head back out to the trail. I feel as though I have accomplished something big returning here. 1/3 of my journey is complete. However, I feel like bigger accomplishments are yet to come.
Also I would like to give a big shoutout to Joanne for mailing me a baller care package in Pearisburg and to both Beth Woodward and Mary K Brumfield for opening their homes to me this week. There’s nothing a dirty, hungry hiker loves more than a real house and real food.
If you care to mail a care package my way:
Molly Bybee, General Delivery, Waynesboro VA 22980; Please hold for AT hiker; ETA 05/30
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