AT Update: we walked 700 miles for a wedding

Day 51:

All the old folks got up at 6am sharp. All the young folks heard their alarms, looked up, and collectively decided to keep sleeping. At least for a little while. I personally got up around 6:45. I was planning to have cereal for breakfast, with a lovely bowl of milk. For some reason, I’ve been craving a crazy amount of dairy recently, so whenever we get to town I have a lot. And I was really looking forward to this. Unfortunately, the milk I got was SPOILED. After a DAY. It was truly tragic. Luckily, there was some in the fridge, but I wasn’t able to save the raisin bran, which I was really excited for. But I had other cereal.

We took off around 8. Luckily, we managed to get a ride to the trailhead, so that saved us probably a solid 45 minutes or so of walking. It was a beautiful day for our start. The sun started shining through the leaves, it was all very pretty. It’s crazy to think about how much of a contrast it is from only like a month ago when we were in Georgia and everything was grey and sleeping. Shortly after we started, we hit a road, and followed it for like a mile. It was shockingly pretty, not at all what I’d expect from a highway. Truly a great view. We crossed the valley that Pearisburg was situated in, and started our climb onto the next ridge line.

The climb wasn’t particularly difficult, but it was long. 5 or so miles, but pretty steady the entire time. My favorite type of climb, if we have to do one. We passed the group that had left before us from the hostel, which was nice. They were all sticking together, which I think is really cute. They’ve got a tramily of older folks, I love it. Anyway, after about 2.5 hours we finally hit the top of the ridge. This mountain was bald, so we got some pretty cool views off the top of it. There was a shelter up there, so we hung out for a few minutes. Eventually, we kept pressing on. Our next 15 miles were flat along the ridge, so it should fly by pretty quickly.

Our view off the top of the ridge

And fly by pretty quickly it did! It was a very pretty walk, we actually had some solid views this time because the clouds hadn’t rolled in (yet). After about an hour on the ridge we stopped for lunch, sitting on a log. I’m very glad to be back to having tortillas for lunch, much better than the mashed potatoes. I don’t know if I really appreciated that before, but I did today. It was a slow lunch, we didn’t have too far to go, so we could take our time. But eventually we finished up and pressed on.

We found out shortly before the shelter that we were walking along the Virginia West Virginia border. So what did we do? We crossed the border and peed in WV. Duh. So, I don’t know if that counts as another state crossed, but I think it’s at the least close enough. We claimed our territory. Anyways, after that it was a short down climb to the shelter. And then the clouds started rolling in.

We knew that there was a chance of rain all day, but it had held out beautifully for us til we got to the shelter. After about 10 minutes, we started to hear thunder. That’ll put a lil pep in your step setting up camp. After I got my tent sent up, I had to fill water, so I tried to do that as quickly as I could. But unfortunately, before I could finish, it started POURING. I just took what I could and ran back to my tent. Somehow I managed to stay pretty dry, and now I’m trying to stay in my tent as much as I can to keep it that way. We’ll see how long that lasts.

It was a pretty good day today. I’ve found that I enjoy my time a lot more when I have the ability to talk to my friends and family. As much as I often love being alone, I truly do love being connected to the people that I care about. I wonder if that has been a part of my struggles at certain points, not being able to talk to people. Certainly something to take note of. It was a similar feeling as to why I was hesitant when it came to parting with Lindsey. We talked that out, by the way, I think we’re gonna stay together, at least for a while. But again, time will tell. All in all, a good day.

Quote of the day: “Get fucking PISSED on!”

Day 52:

It was a tough wake up this morning. My alarm went off promptly at 6:45, at which point I went back to sleep until 7. Which was a bit tough, because we were supposed to get going by 7:30. So yeah, I got us a little bit behind schedule this morning, my bad. But we still got out by like 7:45, so not the worst thing in the world. We also only had 18.5 miles today, so I’m super not worried.

You guys know how the days go by now. We climb up a mountain, walk along a ridge, climb down, rinse and repeat. Today was no different. But this climb was a bit of a struggle. A little steeper than the ones we had yesterday, plus it was insanely humid. So not the best start to the morning, but it was ok. I think I got through it a little better than Lindsey. At the top of the climb was a shelter, where we paused for a little bit. I had to use the privy, but Lindsey went on, so we separated for a little bit.

My solo hiking was a little less enjoyable than it has been. I think the trail was a little more difficult than it has been previously. It was rocky and overgrown, and hard to follow. It very much didn’t feel like cruising as it has in the past. But it was still nice nonetheless. I decided I was going to push to the next shelter before I had lunch. It was going to mean I ate a little later, like 1:30ish, but I wanted to be at a place mark. Turns out, Lindsey had the same idea, so I caught up to her while she was eating.

Todays edition of “is this the trail?”

After lunch, we had one more climb for the day. This one was pretty much as tough as the first, a little steeper but a little shorter. It was again humid at the bottom, but as we climbed the air got clearer and the wind came in. It’s gonna be very stormy tomorrow, and you could feel it blowing in on the wind. It FELT stormy. But the storm wasn’t on us yet, which meant we got the nice wind with none of the downsides. Again we followed a ridge for a couple miles at the top. About a mile from our stop we came to Kelly Knob, which didn’t have much of a view but it was pretty cool.

Kelly Knob. We definitely didn’t do anything sketchy to cross these rocks

We got to the shelter around 4:45. We could hear some thunder rumbling at a distance, so we got set up pretty quickly. I got cooking quickly after, so that I could at least have my food rehydrating if the rain came in. I’ve cooked in my tent vestibule before, but I’d rather not if I can avoid it. Fortunately, I cooked, ate, brushed my teeth, and got water before the rain came. In fact, the rain still hasn’t come while I’m writing this. But it’s coming.

I always feel weird when I have my headphones on with people around. I was feeling that a lot today for some reason. I don’t really know why. I think I feel like people judge me for it, or think less of me because I listen to things while I walk a lot. But you know what? Let them. It helps me. And I’m happier when I have music or a book going in my ear. So that’s how I’m gonna do this. I just wish I didn’t have to remind myself of that every time the thought comes up. I hope it’ll come with time.

Quote of the day: “This surely isn’t the trail.”

Day 53:

We (I) get to sleep in this morning! How exciting! Well, that was the plan anyways. Until Lindsey knocked on my door (by walking up to my tent and saying knock knock) at 7:11 because she needed toilet paper. Why do I know the exact time? Because I checked it, and was sad. I didn’t get up for another like hour and a half anyway, and wasn’t really under way until almost 9. So maybe not as much sleep as I thought, but definitely restful.

Again, the same cycle as normal today. Down into a valley, across the valley, up to a ridge, along the ridge. But this valley was different than the ones we’ve been going through. Today we were moving through open fields and cow pasture. It was honestly a nice change. It’s kinda cool to be able to see for a few miles around, as much as I do love the forest. But it wasn’t too long to cross.

The clear floor of the valley

Just before I started going up, I crossed the big attraction for the morning. The Keffer Oak is the biggest tree on the southern AT, measuring over 19 feet in circumference. It indeed did look that big. I was worried I was gonna miss it, but it’s really not possible to do. Not only is it right next to the trail, but when a tree is WAY bigger than the others around it, it’s tough to miss. The tree for sure powered me up the hill.

The Keffer Oak!

The climb didn’t take long, it was probably the shortest ridge we’ve crossed so far. On top of the ridge I stopped for lunch, probably around 3 hours and 7 miles in. I stopped on a flat rock in the middle of the forest, which was nice, but after lunch I walked about 59 feet and found a spot that woulda had a gorgeous view. Oh well.

The lunch view I missed out on

Most of this ridge walk had really good views. They were open rocky slopes with a clear look back at the valley we had crossed. The only problem is that the “trail” often was moving over rocks that were on a 45 degree slant. Not easy on the ankles. Toss in the lack of grip on my shoes (I’m still in my Tevas), and the middle of the day was a bit of a struggle.

The last portion was quite a steep downhill, but it was pretty short. I got to the shelter around 3:30, where I met Lindsey who was already all set up. Allegedly it was supposed to rain today, but we didn’t get any, so we lucked out big time. We also did a really short day, only 12.5 miles, so we’re feeling pretty good all in all. Tomorrow we meet her dad, and I get a day off while Lindsey heads to a wedding.

When I was sitting for lunch today, I noticed that the birds around me were really singing. For a minute I thought to myself “they must have been singing this whole time! I should’ve been noticing more.” But then I decided that I noticed when I noticed, and that that is enough. It’s a mentality I’m really trying to ingrain in myself, that I don’t need to feel bad or guilty when I zone out or daydream and don’t necessarily notice all these things. Just appreciate them whenever I am able, for however long and often that is.

Quote of the day: “It’s part of the genus pussyfoot!” (Allegedly that’s a real plant but I’m taking Lindsey’s word on it. Feel free to fact check)

Today Im grateful for (somewhat) flexible ankles, calm parents, and bird songs. New thing I’m trying. Let’s see if it sticks.

Day 54:

Up early this morning. Not for any REASON, it was just 6 and my body said “ok, time to go!” We were taking it pretty easy, so we didn’t actually get out until like 7:30. We only have 10 miles to go before we meet Lindsey’s dad, so we got it done quick.

And done quick we were! We got to the road by like 11. We hung out for a while, and did some trail magic for some good folks running through. After that, it was a quick drive over to Roanoke. First things first, new shoes. BOth me and Lindsey got new ones. I’m gonna commit to the sandals for a little bit, so I got some ones that actually are meant for hiking. They’re pretty comfy, and I’m excited to free the feet.

After that it was to the hotel to relax. And finally, after like 2 months of talking about it, we got our cookout! And it was in fact as good as I was hoping for. The rest of the day held nothing eventful. Just relax, shower and sleeeeeep.

Today I am thankful for cookout, showers, and queen sized beds!

Day 55:

I’m gonna keep this one real short folks. It was a zero, and I did almost literally nothing. I sent in a bunch of applications for grad school funding, and that was about it. Oh, I also got my hip checked out. The doctor thinks it’s just inflammation, nothing that I’m gonna make worse by keeping on. Which is EXACTLY what I was hoping for. Other than that the day was uneventful, but restful. All in all very good.

Quote of the day: “Someone like… sat there and made this.”

Today I am thankful for urgent care, good bathroom ventilation, and Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

Day 56:

We left early ish today. Well, 8, which is kinda late for us, but i do wish we had been able to sleep in a little bit. It’s ok though. After 45 minutes we got back to the trailhead. After some final goodbyes, we took off. About an hour after the trailhead we crossed 700 miles! Another milestone down.

Today we start the virginia triple crown. First up, Dragons Tooth. As with basically every other day, we started by climbing up a ridge line. This ridge was not super steep, but it was quite rocky, so it took a little while to climb. I wouldn’t say it was too much of a physical challenge, but it was certainly a mental one. You had to be very careful about where your feet were going. But after a couple hours, we made it to the top of the ridge, and to Dragons Tooth. The rock itself was pretty cool, and we climbed up it to get a view from the top. It was a quintessential blue ridge view, low rolling hills going in forever. It was very nice.

If I thought the way up was technical, the way down was twice as much. We were going pretty slow, and my ankles were definitely feeling the angles of all the rocks. I’m super glad that we got new shoes, because try this with no tread on our feet would’ve been a disaster. But after like 45 minutes we got all the way down, and just like that, 1/3rd of the triple crown was done!

Dragons Tooth!

The rest of the day was working our way up towards Mcafees knob. It was pretty easy for the rest of the day, we had some ups and downs but they were all pretty chill. And we only went like 16 miles, so all in all feeling pretty good. We got the the shelter around 4:30. There was a snake literally inside the thing, and it hung around the shelter for a good chunk of the afternoon. It was kinda cool to watch, but I kinda hope it doesn’t come back in the middle of the night. That would be kinda terrifying to wake up to. We’re getting up early tomorrow to catch sunrise on the knob. Oh freaking boy.

The snake j chillin in the shelter

I was really really tired today. Not physically, but I just want to sleep. Other than that, it was a pretty good day. To be honest, I don’t have much else to tell. I tend to get kinda spacey when Im tired, so I don’t super remember a lot of the day. But I know it was good! So that’s good.

Quote of the day: “A cow ditched it stomach in…. my…. ditch?”

Today I am grateful for tread on my shoes, wind, and no more beef pasta.

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