Zip lining and Chow Chows (4/21, 4/22, 4/23)
Day 55, 4/21: The Captain’s campsite -> Laurel Creek shelter (17.3 miles)
I woke up to condensation in my tent. I thought about wiping it off with my microfiber towel, but then I’d have a wet tent and a wet microfiber towel. The end of my sleeping bag was damp, but I put it away anyways, hoping it will dry tonight. I took my tent down and gathered everything over at the picnic table to eat breakfast. People were starting to wake up and join us.
While we were eating breakfast we said goodbye to Tip who made his way across the zip line. We followed soon after. Red helped zip line me across.
The trail was in thick forest with twists and turns going out of The Captain’s. It snaked through trees that were fallen over because of gypsy moth damage. At first it was just one or two trees, and as I hiked along, the entire forest was dead or in the process of falling over. The shelter after The Captain’s was closed because of the falling trees. Hiking through the dead forest was creepy, and reminded me of hiking through Tennessee with all of the burnt trees.
There were rainclouds off in the distance, but the weather most of the morning was sunny and nice. I neglected to put on sunscreen until later in the day, and I already felt a sunburn coming on. I came to the next shelter to stop for lunch, and I found Friendly Ghost, Beetle, Rash, and Piñata already lunching there. Friendly Ghost and Beetle hiked onto the next shelter as the rain clouds in the distance crept nearer and nearer. Captain arrived at the shelter and Rash, Pinata, and I stayed to chat with him and observe the rain clouds closing in. I almost left ahead of them, but decided to fill up with water first. As I was hiking the short walk to the stream, the rain started. I turn back instead of continuing on to get water, and the rain started pouring down in sheets. I ran back to the shelter just as the heavens opened.
Captain, Rash, Pinata, and I all watched the rainstorm in awe. There was something about watching the thunderstorm from a tiny, wooden, three walled shelter in the middle of the wilderness instead of watching it from my house back home that made me feel humble in the face of Mother Nature. The storm was short-lived, and after it passed, Rash, Pinata, and I pushed onto the next shelter. Captain decided to stay put for the night, wanting to guarantee a spot in the shelter instead of push on and have to camp in the rain tonight.
The rest of the hike was uneventful. I took the hike slow and stopped to turn on cell service. One of my friends from high school who lives near the trail offered to put us up for a night when we pass through. I texted him for a bit arranging plans. I put on music and finished the downhill that winded through the woods to the shelter. Beetle and Friendly Ghost were camping since they didn’t sleep well in the shelter from people snoring last night. First Sarge was in the shelter with a girl I didn’t recognize who didn’t have a trail name, and told me she didn’t want a trail name. I set up in the shelter next to Rash and Pinata.
There was an older section hiker, 8-Miler, that was hanging a bear bag as we ate dinner. I went up the trail to get water from the fast flowing creek and it was almost dark. I turned in to the sound of very loud snoring in the shelter. My ear plugs came in handy.
Day 56, 4/22: Laurel Creek shelter -> VA 620 (21.3 miles)
I didn’t get much sleep last night. Even with earplugs, the noise kept me up. I can understand why Beetle and Friendly Ghost decided to tent. I’m becoming less and less fond of shelters. I packed up and got on the trail with Rash and Pinata.
The hike this morning was beautiful. The trail ran through some cow pastures, over a road, and up some picturesque meadows with dogwoods blooming all around us. It was sprinkling but not raining hard, and I fiddled with my rain jacket, stopping to take it on and off. I got frustrated stopping so I just put it on over my pack with my arms in it. Not long after that, the rain started coming down fiercely. I was already wet underneath from fiddling with the jacket on and off, and everything was sticking to me. It wasn’t a fun experience.
As I was hiking past the meadows, I hear a loud commotion behind me. I turned around and found 2 huge pit bulls galloping full speed towards me. This happens more than I expected it to on the trail. I love dogs, but seeing big dogs running full speed towards me when I only have seconds to assess whether they’re nice or mean gets my heart pumping. These dogs were luckily very sweet, and they didn’t come with an owner, so they could’ve jumped their fence. They followed me for a bit, keeping me company, and then wandered off.
I made my way over a guard rail, and had difficulty finding the white blaze in the rain. I stopped again to properly put my rain jacket on since it was raining hard. I came to the sign for the shelter and found a note addressed to me from Rash and Pinata. Beetle and Friendly Ghost had made reservations at a hostel tonight, and they were going to catch the shuttle in with them, and asked if I wanted to join.
I made my way up the mountain and came to some large rocks. The rocks kept getting bigger and closer together, and finally I was scrambling up very slippery precarious terrain.
Midway through walking on the slanted rocks, I texted Jason and told him we’d be in Catawba tomorrow. He graciously offered his place to me, Rash, and Piñata, and offered to pick us up tonight if we wanted. I finished the precarious rock climb, and descended to breathtaking views of the rolling mountains covered with different shades of green trees.
I came to the next shelter, and found Friendly Ghost, Beetle, Rash, and Piñata stopping for a break. Beetle had hurt her leg, and Friendly Ghost was planning on carrying both of their packs down the mountain to the waiting hostel shuttle. We tried convincing him to let us carry some of the load, but he insisted on taking it. Beetle was unhappy about her predicament. We told her to heal up quickly, and that we’d see her on the trail. I asked Rash and Piñata if they wanted to come to Jason’s place with me tonight, and they said they would think about it and let me know down the mountain.
At the bottom of the mountain, I found First Sarge and the girl with no trail name waiting for the shuttle. I had plans to meet my in-laws today to day hike the upcoming mountain, and I was running a little behind. I continued on the other side of the road, and decided to stop and change out my very wet socks for my waterproof socks, which I should’ve worn this morning anyway. I was drying my feet with Goldbond when Lou, Angie, Cheryl, Bandit, and Jasmine came down the trail! It was awesome to see familiar faces from home. As we ate a quick snack and I finished putting my socks on, Rash and Piñata came walking up. They decided to come with me tonight to Jason’s! Our whole crew started up the long climb to see the Audie Murphy monument.
Angie and I took the lead at first, singing Disney songs. The climb seemed never ending, and we were all pretty tired when we got to the top. We took pictures at the monument, and Lou brought me my hammock in exchange for my tent, an extra fuel canister I asked for, and Cosmic brownies (that I called atomic brownies). We didn’t linger long, because we had to get down the mountain and meet Jason in time to eat at the famous Homeplace restaurant tonight. I said goodbye to my in-laws and we parted ways.
The descent was uneventful, and mainly consisted of Rash, Piñata , and I talking about food and our idea for a Cards Against Humanity, Hiker Edition (“Why Do I Hurt All Over?”). We came to the parking clearing and found Jason waiting for us with cold Gatorade. We loaded all of our muddy gear into his car and made the drive back to the beautiful house where he’s renting a room. We stopped by the Homeplace to put our name down for dinner. The restaurant is so popular, you have to put your name down ahead of time to wait for a table. Inside I found Red, Lumberjill, Beetle, Friendly Ghost, and a lot of other hikers that I recognized. We drove down the road to his house to shower and change before dinner. We were greeted by two Chow Chows, Biba and Daisy. A third chowchow, Dolly, was inside.
Dinner at the Homeplace was amazing. All the hype about the restaurant was right on par. It’s homestyle cooking, and they bring you out unlimited food. I asked for more biscuits and homemade apple butter like it was going out of style. We sat and talked with Jason about the trail and he gave us lots of good advice. Talking with someone who had already finished the trail was nice and calmed some of my fears about the White Mountains.
We headed back to Jason’s house and met his landlord and landlady, Dean and Carol. Rash, Pinata, and I discussed when we should go back on the trail. It was calling for 2 inches of rain tomorrow with temperatures in the 40s. We eventually decided to take a zero tomorrow and wait out the rain to maybe get a good view on McAfee’s knob in a few days. Dean and Carol were gracious enough to let us stay with them until the weather cleared. We headed to bed, me and Piñata in the bed upstairs and Rash on the couch, very happy to be under a roof with the rain coming down outside.
Day 57, 4/23: Zero at Jason’s place
We got up and Jason took us to the grocery store. Walking around the store, Piñata said she didn’t feel well and threw up in the bathroom. We finished resupplying and Carol picked us up. She got food to make spaghetti for dinner and we went back to the house. Piñata went to lay down. Rash and I bought ingredients to make omelettes so we made 3 and brought one to Piñata, but she couldn’t eat much of it. I was sorry she wasn’t feeling well, but if she was going to be sick, this was the place to do it. She lounged on the couch and Carol graciously brought her soda and water.
Rash and I didn’t do much for the rest of the day either, enjoying the time off. Carol was in the kitchen for the afternoon making an absolutely incredible tomato sauce packed with all kinds of veggies. Their other tenant, Dave, came home and brought us 2 huge pizzas. One was loaded with veggies and had a few slices with pineapple since I voted for pineapple and ham when they asked for topping ideas. Carol made a beautiful salad with corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers. It was almost too pretty to eat. After not having veggies on the trail, this was veggie city.
Rash and I quickly finished our plates while Piñata hung out on the couch. Dean, Carol, Dave, Rash, and I talked and laughed the rest of the evening. Before we turned in, we decided to see how Piñata was doing in the morning and decide if we should hike. 2 zeros back to back wasn’t appealing to any of us. Dean and Carol invited us to stay or even call them if we didn’t feel like staying in a shelter tomorrow night. Since the trail wraps around their town it would be easy to pick us up. There’s a hiker saying: “the trail provides”, and Carol and Dean’s overwhelming generosity was a prime example.
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