A Week of Rain and a New Tramily Member

Day 52:  Marion to Chatfield Shelter

After a full day of rest in Marion, we returned to trail in rainy weather. My feet are bruised and after running out of food on my last carry, I may have overpacked this time. I struggled with a heavier-than-normal pack and bruised feet.

My bruised feet.

 

South, a section hiker out on the AT for a few weeks, asked if it was cool if he hiked with us for the remainder of his trip. Though only 23, the Dirty Thirties happily accepted him into the tramily. We are excited to share our Appalachian Trail experience with him.

It’s forecasted to rain nonstop for the next week. I knew rainy days would come but I have to say, I’ve lucked out thus far. I hope the weather isn’t as bad as predicted.

Rain gear for the fanny pack!

 

Day 53: Chatfield Shelter to Knot Maul Branch Shelter

Rain, endless rain…

I set out with my rain jacket on but it immediately got too hot to wear. I have accepted walking in the rain and getting wet. Rain gear is pretty much pointless.

We went to the schoolhouse/museum along the trail, which had trail magic. I got to enjoy some soda and a small snack. We continued on and at a road crossing found ourselves on the outskirts of a town passing the Barn Restaurant so we stopped there for breakfast. It was a fun side trip and it was nice to get out of the rain for a bit.

School’s out for summer but trail magic is always in session.

We also crossed the quarter-way mark today!

The quarte- way mark and our first picture as a tramily with South.

Though I felt fine, awake and physically good, I could not move very fast today because of how heavy my pack was. It really sucked and I had to stop and drop my pack several times to take a break, which is no fun in foul weather. I feel like a rookie having packed so much food and worse for not eating it.

By the time I got to the shelter there were no spots. It figures, since it has been raining around the clock. I had to set up my tent in the rain, huge bummer, but I expect these things to happen on the Appalachian Trail. The rain is forecasted to continue and thus we have decided to shelter hop in order to ensure we are at least able to sleep dry.

Also worth noting, today we passed by the area where Stronghold was killed just three weeks ago. We all stopped and held a moment of silence in his honor.

A tribute to the man who died doing what we all came out here to do: hike the Appalachian Trail.

Day 54: Knot Maul Shelter to Chestnut Knob Shelter

It rained all night and my vestibule did not keep my gear dry. It sucks to have wet gear, a heavier-than-normal pack, and continuous rain. Do you know what it is like to put on wet clothes in the morning? It’s awful! So I huffed it to the next shelter, desperate to secure a spot and have a dry night.

The Chestnut Knob Shelter is a tiny cabin with four walls that was converted into an AT shelter and sits at the top of a grassy bald. It is an oasis considering today’s weather. It is cold and raining very hard today, with high winds at 30 – 35 mph. I am so glad to have four walls surrounding me. We already have about five extra people beyond the shelter’s capacity but it is understood that we must fit as many hikers in the shelter as possible given the windy conditions.

 

Trying to dry out at Chestnut Knob Shelter.

We continue to check the weather for good news but it appears that more rain is in our future.

Day 55: Chestnut Knob Shelter to Jenkins Shelter

I woke up at 5 a.m. to quietly gather my things, determined to be the first one to leave and get to the next shelter to secure a spot. Apparently South had the same plan so we hustled through the rain and 30 mph winds together. We had great conversation on our hike despite the concerning weather. It’s a bummer to be socked in with rain but such is life on the Appalachian Trail. We got to the shelter around lunch time and Fossey and Zia were only an hour behind us.

With several hours to kill before bed, Fossey and South dedicated their time to getting a fire going despite the fact that it has rained nonstop for the last five days. Would you believe they were successful?

 

South and Fossey, masters of fire.

We all hung out by the fire, in the rain, and sang songs and told stories and laughed so hard. It’s amazing how much fun we can have in the woods.  As we got ready for bed it occurred to me how much I’ve enjoyed the last few weeks and how sad I am to get off trail in three weeks for my flip to Katahdin. I really love our trail family dynamic and I don’t want that to end.

Day 56: Jenkins Shelter to Bland

The Dirty Thirties crushed it today, hiking nearly 12 miles in less than four hours. We ate lunch at the Mountain Outpost, which has one of the tastiest burgers I’ve had on trail yet. It was difficult to get a hitch but we did eventually manage to get a ride into Bland. Bland is not a hiker friendly town and we had to pay for a shuttle to take us the next town over to get our laundry done. If everything we owned wasn’t muddied and soaked from six days of rain, we probably would’ve skipped over Bland. There’s not much here. It’s nice to have a dry bed for the night though.

Day 57: Bland to Jenny Knob Shelter

Finally, a non-rainy day! It seems unusually cool for mid-June; today’s high was in the 60s. I’ve heard terrible things about Virginia in the summer so I’ll take a break when the weather gives me one. So far, I would say Virginia has been a very pleasant experience. It is by no means flat but the hiking is easier compared to Georgia and North Carolina. While we haven’t been doing big miles lately, thanks to the rain, we have been hitting big smiles and my love for the trail continues to grow. Now that the rain is behind us, I am hopeful that we will begin to cover bigger miles.

On yes, we also hit the 600-mile mark today! Just 1,592 more miles to go!

 

Team Dirty Thirties at it again.

 

Day 58: Jenny Knob Shelter to Wapiti Shelter

Today was my second most favorite day on the trail yet! I hiked with South all morning and he and I made a pit stop at Trent’s Groceries. I would say Trent’s is not worth the extra mile. But you don’t know what you don’t know.

 

Playing in the water at Dismal Falls.

 

We met up with Fossey and Zia at Dismal Falls, where we spent several hours enjoying ourselves. The falls are anything but dismal. We had so much fun taking pictures and jumping from the falls into the pool below. Then I got the bright idea to just hike in my wet underwear the rest of the way to the shelter. Actually, I ran. I’m sure the people I passed on trail were confused to see a girl running in her bra and panties, but it was fun.

 

Rule 62: Don’t take yourself so seriously. Hike in your underpants!

 

South and I made chicken and cheese quesadillas over the camp fire for dinner and then we snuck off to make a jail cake for Fossey’s birthday tomorrow. She’s going to be so surprised! We’re also planning a night hike for tomorrow in celebration of her special day on trail.

 

Day 59: Wapiti Shelter to the Campsites at Angel’s Rest

 

The cake I made for Fossey got messed up after being dropped from a tree with a failed bear hang. I was upset because it wasn’t as pretty but I cleaned it up as much as I could. When presented to Fossey, she cried, she was so happy to receive it. It tasted delicious despite its less than appealing look.

Since a portion of our hike was going to be a night hike, we left camp later than usual. My feet are really messed up at this point. I have seven blisters, two corns, and bruising on the underside of both of my feet. I had an especially hard time hiking today as I was in so much pain. I actually cried for the first several miles. It was a mixture of pain and a lack of willingness to push forward. Fortunately, I got over the hump and was able to walk though the discomfort.

We had to stop at the Woods Hole hostel to pick up a package and we rested there for a bit since we had time to kill. Then we hiked up to a cliff view where Fossey, South, and I just chilled, listening to folk music and laughing. Sadly, there was a miscommunication and Zia had hiked on. We stayed at the overlook for hours. It was perfect.

 

Fossey and South enjoying the cliff-side views.

 

Fossey, South, and I stopped at Docs Knob Shelter for dinner and to wait for the sun to set. Then our night hike began. We were all a bit nervous and thus stayed close. At some point, I saw a set of  eyes looking at me from out in the darkness. I screamed, causing South and Fossey to do the same though they hadn’t seen what I saw. Apparently, it was something small and Fossey and South laughed at me. This is why you hike in a group at night, though; you never know what lurks.

Night hiking is a different kind of fun. The forest looks and feels different in the dark. It’s beautiful and spooky all at the same time. We came to an overlook of Pearisburg where we enjoyed the stars and city lights.  Around 1:30 a.m. we arrived to our campsite and made do on uneven ground. Tomorrow we’ll nero into Pearisburg.

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