AT update: 800 miles for a Hozier concert

Day 57:

My alarm went off promptly at 5am today. It was gross. But, all in an effort to see the sunrise off of mcafees knob, which is apparently the nicest view on trail. By 5:15, we were ready to go. And we FLEW up this mountain. Lindsey was like half sprinting up the mountain. I think she was anxious to not miss the sunrise. But we got there in time.

It was, in fact, a gorgeous view. You can see the whole valley clearly in front of you, and there’s not a thing to block the sun as it rises over the mountains in front of you. Truly it is a magical sight. We sat around for a while and ate breakfast, and just sat around watching the sun go up. We got rolling again around 7:15.

Sunrise on Mcafees Knob

The next stop in the day was Tinker Cliffs, the third part of the Virginia triple crown. It’s a half mile long walk along a series of cliffs looking back at the knob. It was also really a pretty view, although not QUITE as pretty as the knob. We also got over there really fast. Like, 6 miles in 2 hours. It was kinda nice, but there was one problem. We were meeting a friend from school, and we were supposed to meet him at the cliffs. But we were an hour early, so we pushed on and met him down the road.

The view off Tinker Cliffs

It was nice to have a familiar face on trail. This is the first time that one of our friends has come out to see us so far, which was cool. He hiked with us for like 3 or 4 hours, until he had to head back to get home. It was sad seeing him go, but that was a nice boost for the day. A couple hours after that we reached a town, where we stopped at a gas station to refuel, recharge, and grab some food.

The last 5 miles of the day were steadily uphill to the shelter. It wasn’t a particularly difficult uphill, but I think we were both tired. Not even just physically, but we’d been awake since 5 am and it started to feel like it. Moopy is the best adjective I can think of for it. But we eventually made it. We also crossed the 1/3rd mark, which was cool.

1/3rd of the way!

Only gotta do that 2 more times! I had a burrito from the gas station, because I really didn’t want to eat more beef pasta. But it tasted pretty good. I also got some zingers, which I LOVE, so that was a nice treat. It’s gonna be rainy tomorrow, so getting ready for a gross day.

More and more I’ve been thinking about the possibility of Lindsey and I splitting up. Part of me wants to do it. Whenever we talk through the next couple weeks, she sees us going a good bit slower than I would want us too. But for some reason I still feel hesitant. I think part of it is I’m worried that I want to go faster for silly reasons. The pace that we’re going at is fine to get me in time for my hard deadline, but I would love to be done by mid august if I can. But I’m worried that I’m rushing it and might regret it later. Part of me feels like it would be better to just stick with Lindsey and go slower. I also think I feel like I wanted to do this with a friend, and I should stick to that. But I really don’t know. I feel very very torn, and it’s quite frustrating. But oh well. I think the decision will come soon, and then I’ll live with it.

Quote of the day: “I ate the sun. Hire me.”

Today I’m thankful for my aunts, gas stations, and sunrises

Day 58:

We woke up in a cloud this morning. That is simply not as pleasant as it sounds. Everything was damp, and cold, and you couldn’t see more than like 10 feet in front of you. It was gonna be one of those day, you could just feel it. I was being lazy and not getting out of bed, so Lindsey went in ahead of me. Finally, I got up, ate breakfast, and hit the road around 7:45.

The first 7 miles or so were a cruise. The reason we woke up in a cloud is because we were on top of a mountain, so the entire morning was down hill. And despite how hard it was for me to get up, I felt pretty good once I got going, so it only took me like 2 hours to go 7.5 miles. I caught Lindsey about 5 minutes before we reached the shelter, so we rested together for a mid morning snack. It had started to lightly rain at that point, and again I sat around being lazy while Lindsey got going.

The next chunk of the day was interesting. The hiking felt more like the end of Tennessee than Virginia. It was up a mountain, then over and back down. Just up and down and up and down forever. But nothing too steep, so it still felt pretty ok. After about an hour, I popped out onto a road. The first crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway! That’s a pretty cool milestone. We weave back and forth across it for the next 100 miles or so.

Unfortunately, it was still really foggy, and I couldn’t tell where the trail went, so I spent about 20 minutes trying to figure it out. Eventually I found it, and crossed to a lookout that had a magnificent view. Or, supposedly had a magnificent view. Remember, clouds = can’t see ANYTHING. That’s happened to us a lot, and it didn’t change today. I crossed probably 4 or 5 of those lookouts in the next 2 hours and saw not a single one of the views. Around lunch it started to rain in earnest, and I met Lindsey at the next shelter for some food.

The allegedly good view for the day

We had a choice to make now. We could theoretically stop there for the day, be mostly dry, wait out the worst of the rain and do a couple reasonable days the next 2 days. Or we could push another 7 or so miles to the next shelter, potentially get soaked, and have a couple shorter days on the other end. It wasn’t raining super hard, and the next shelter was pretty close, so we decided to push.

That turned out to be a good decision. When it rained, it was a light rain. And then for a solid like 2.5 hours, it totally stopped. So we trudged along happily. The red efts, little salamanders that pop up all along the trail, were out in FORCE today. I lost count after 45 (at 10 in the morning). Lindsey counted 101 by the time we got to our last stop of the day. It was very cool to see, but I was a little worried I was gonna squish one along the trail.

100th red eft of the day!

We got to the last shelter just in time. About 5 minutes after we arrived, it started POURING. It’s supposed to rain heavy the rest of the night, so we’re staying in the shelter tonight to hopefully keep our tents dry. It should be nice. And now tomorrow is a shorter day. I’m a teeny bit low in the snack department, not concerningly so but enough that I gotta be careful about how much I’m eating, which is annoying. Oh well, I’ll live. It’s only 2 more days.

Overall today was a pretty good day. I feel really good about my pace and timing. I ended up doing 20 miles in about 8 hours, which is a pretty solid pace. I still had a couple of hours left of daylight to do more if (big if) I wanted or needed to. Feeling pretty darn good. And way dryer than I expected to be. Everything’s a little bit damp, but you just kinda learn to live with that out here. As long as it’s not actively wet, it all good.

Quote of the day: “Im gonna go piss with the efts”

Today I am grateful for audiobook suggestions, efts, and good timing.

day 59:

It didn’t rain as bad as we though it was going to last night, so things were dryer this morning. We took it a little slow, because we’re only doing around 12 miles today. Slow is relative, but we got out at 8, so that probably the latest we’ve left in a couple weeks. We did an east breezy 3 miles, mostly downhill, so we made pretty good time of it. After 3 miles we hit the road, which was gonna provide us with our side quest for the day.

Remember what I said about not having snacks yesterday? Well, there’s a campsite with a store about a mile up the road, so we decided to make a little side trip and pick up some food. We were originally gonna walk, but we got picked up by a driver on the way there. Once we got there, we fueled up with some snacks, both for that moment and for the next day and a half. After about 45 minutes there, we got a shuttle back to the trail head, and we were underway once again.

The forests were nice and damp from the rain, and that combined with the mist made for some really pleasant walking. Our late morning was as easy at it had been earlier, and we stopped for lunch at a shelter. This shelter was particularly cool because it was triple decker, and it had a porch. Very very fancy. That’s where we ate lunch, bolstered by the snacks we had just picked up earlier.

After lunch the hiking got a lot harder. We had to climb 2300 feet in the next 5 miles. To be honest, it went a lot faster than I thought it would, we finished the first section of the climb in about an hour, and I had to pause and check the map to make sure I was in the right place, cause I did NOT think we had gone that far. All in all those 5 miles only took us like 2 hours, which is pretty good pace, especially considering it’s straight uphill.

We got to our destination around 2:30. Like I said, short day. We could’ve pushed another like 5 miles to the next shelter, and to be hoe at I did consider it. But that only makes tomorrow shorter, so it doesn’t really make a difference. We sat around at camp and did basically nothing until it was time for dinner. Again our food was bolstered by the snacks from the campsite, and it’s the first time in a while i’ve felt really satiated after a meal. It’s just hard to get enough food out here to keep up with the calories. After that we just hung out until it was time for bed.

I find my thoughts keep drifting back to the thought of the two of us splitting up. I’m really really torn about it. For a few reasons, most of them not particularly rational. The rational choice is to split. We go at different paces, we have different timelines and are going about this very different ways. It makes the most sense to go out separate ways.

But I just can’t convince myself to do it. Why? Well I have a few theories. The first is that I did really want to do this whole thing with a friend. That was part of the draw for me. I don’t know how Lindsey thought about it (that’s probably something I should ask lol), but to me, this was our trip, the two of us together. But so far it really feels like we’re approaching it as my trip and her trip, and those have happened to match up so far, but they may not continue to.

Whenever I think about that, I’ve noticed a little resentment that that’s how things have worked out. But that’s really unfair. Just because that was my expectation does not mean it was Lindsey’s, and it’s really not fair for me to get upset based on my assumptions of what we would do. So I’ve been trying to let that feeling go, without much success so far. But I’m working on it.

The second reason I think I’m hesitant to split up is a little more personal. I am not someone who feels particularly secure in a lot of my friendships, and especially when I don’t see someone very often, I find it difficult to feel the strength in that connection. It makes transition periods in my life very difficult, it always feels like I’m walking away from friendships that I will struggle to maintain across distance. And I think the literalness of “walking away” in this case really aggravates that feeling. I’m not surprised I’m hesitant about it once I frame it in that context.

Anyway, sorry for rambling for a little bit at the end there. But I guess that’s kinda what this was for, so I can get better at reflecting on things like this. And I find that sharing it with people makes it easier for me to do. So, sorry again, but it probably won’t be the last time.

Quote of the day: “Out of all the hikers we’ve had so far, you two probably smell the worst” -the person driving the shuttle to me and Lindsey

Today I am thankful for poptarts, no rain, and random kids in pickup trucks.

Day 60:

It POURED last night. That’s not really relevant to anything, but Im glad I slept in a shelter. I hate packing a wet tent. It was back to normal timing today. And by that I mean up by 7 out by 7:45. Or, for Lindsey, up by 6 out by like 6:03. She was gone early. Anyways I ate breakfast pretty quickly on got moving. It was a cool morning and the fog hung thick in the air. Again, when you’re in the top of a mountain, you get a lot of clouds and residual fog. And on top of a mountain I was.

You’d think, being on top of a mountain, that the day would start off downhill. Or, at the very least, flat, right? Nope. It started with a near 2000 foot climb, which was LOVELY. About half way up there was an overlook that supposedly had a really nice view. I’ll let you guess how that one went. But the forest was really nice, it was chock full of ferns, I felt like a dinosaur wandering around Jurassic Park.

again, supposedly a really nice view

After about an hour and a half I finally summited Apple Orchard Mountain. Yet again, I couldn’t see anything on the summit, but there was a sign, which is the only was I knew I reached the top. The top was bald, and flat for a ways, before it finally started the decent down.

The summit of Apple Orchard Mountain

I went down for about half an hour, and then flat for a little bit. And guess what? THERE WAS MORE UP AFTER THAT. It was incredibly mean. I ate lunch at the summit, called highcock knob. I’m running very low on food but we made do. A little less peanut butter, a few extra chips, it all balances out in the end. No for real though, food is becoming a struggle. I feel like no matter what I do I simply cannot eat enough.

The rest of the afternoon was quite chill. I passed a few trail maintenance crews who were cutting grass along the trail. Which was good, because earlier the trail looked like a ticks dream. But after I passed them it cleared up a bunch. Anyway, around 3 I began my final decent to the shelter, and got my first sight of the James River! That’s pretty big. The James runs by pretty much everything significant to me in Virginia. I could hop in and float back to Williamsburg. I can’t pretend I’m not tempted.

When I got to the shelter, Lindsey was nowhere to be found. Which was weird, because she had left a solid hour before me, and I hadn’t passed her, so she really should’ve been there. I got myself set up while I was waiting, what else was O gonna do? A couple people came through and I asked if they had seen her, but no one had. I was a teeny bit worried, but I couldn’t really do anything but wait anyway. Eventually she showed up. Turns out she took a 2 miles detour to a waterfall, and I passed it by. I knew it was there, but it didn’t sound super worth it to me, so I skipped it. And apparently sped right by Lindsey in the process.

The rest of day was basically sitting around waiting to eat. That’s most of what we do at this point. When it was 5, we tore into dinner. Again, simply not enough food but there isn’t much to do about that at this point. After dinner I went and dipped my feet in the creek next to camp, which is where I discovered that either I have some new blisters, or my old ones aren’t as sealed as I thought they were. Either way, quite concerning that this seems to be a recurring issue. I gotta figure that one out.

I felt pretty good today, which is nice considering how not very good I felt yesterday. I’m finding that it’s easier for me to weather the ups and downs of the day, and of the week, etc. I think it has to do with how much I’m moving. It’s hard to sit around and stew in a bad mood when you can’t really sit around at all.

Tomorrow marks our second month on trail, which is another cool milestone. Also also we’re going to a Hozier concert, which will be fun. Also also also we’re basically hitting 800 miles. We’re TECHNICALLY not crossing it til Saturday but we’re getting close enough that I think it’s still a cool milestone.

Quote of the day: “Holy shit I found an Almond Joy at the bottom of my bag!”

Today I am thankful for sleeping in shelters, trail crews, and the James River

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