After a week of hiking more miles per day than I was used to, I made it to Daleville by Friday to meet Susan. An added surprise - Jenna, John and little Max were able to come along and visit for the weekend too. I sure needed the visit and my body did need the rest too.
Let me catch you up.
Last week I left Pearisburg - at least I tried to. Bill and Joy let me off where the trail left town, but I made a wrong turn and accidentally made a one-mile circle back to where we had turned into the parking lot. So, an extra mile and a little bit of time later and I was headed in the right direction again. Smooth move! Over the river bridge, across the highway, and up the wooded hill out of town - ahhh - back home in the forest again.
I did about 10 miles, passing the Rice Field Shelter in order to camp in the woods where it was quieter and cooler. It was quieter until just after 9p when a couple of late arrivals decided to camp right next to me. It took them until 10:30 to finish setup and cook their dinner. Oh well, so much for an early bedtime.
The next day was pretty straight forward - about 10 miles of PUDS (pointless ups and downs) before one decent climb from Dickenson Gap. I passed the Pine Swamp Branch Shelter and visited "The Captain's" place. It's a well-known hiker friendly house that allows hikers to sleep on the porch, camp in the yard, play games, rest, eat, drink and relax. No charge - just likes hikers around. And, to get there, you need to sit on the zip-line seat and get pulled across the small river. I have video but that has to wait to get posted. I didn't stay long - just about an hour - and hiked on to Bailey Gap Shelter where I hammocked in a quiet hollow down the hill from the shelter. I've learned how far I need to be NOT to have to hear the snoring in the shelter itself.
I know I need to do some more daily miles in order to meet Susan by Friday - I need to average 14 per day - instead of my usual 10-12. And to make sure, I am pushing to 15 whenever possible.
On Monday the 4th it rained all night. I do love my hammock and oversized tarp. I stayed warm and dry, but the humidity still gets my gear damp. I am about to begin the section that I hiked 7 years ago that convinced me that I like the AT and can actually do this sort of hiking. 50+ miles to go to Daleville!
I passed Keifer Oak - the largest oak tree on the AT in the southern section - over 300 years old and more than 18 feet around. 10 more miles to the Niday shelter. Hiked on for another couple of miles and camped in a cove just before a climb up the hill. It rained again all night and then again just after I started hiking - it's all part of the adventure I guess.
I made it to a little hostel by the end of the day - mile 696 - the Four Pines Hostell - I got to hammock in the barn - dry, warm and noisy with snoring and crackling on sleeping pads.
Then came one of the longest and worst days on the trail - a hard hike over several peaks and a place called the Dragon's Tooth. The trail wound around thru and over dozens of large rocks and the hiking was difficult and more dangerous than anywhere else so far. There were parts where i had to slide down the rock face and hope my feet caught the next ledge. But it went okay - and others had done it before - so I got it done too. It just wasn't the most enjoyable ride of the month.
Then next day was one of the best - a return to McAfee Knob - it's the flat rock that allows you to sit on the edge and dangle over the valley below. I love that place. Several of us hikers enjoyed the view and took each other's pictures for more than an hour.
One more day to Daleville and a Zero day - Just a 9 mile hike over the last few ridges and down hill into town. I got there just an hour before Susan arrived. I got registered, cleaned up, and was finishing lunch at the local mexican restaurant (and my second Dos XX Dark) when John called to say they had arrived.
This weekend has been wonderful, visiting, resting and doing town chores. And, I got my new Gregory Pack. It's the same model, but the newer version - I like the upgrades. More on that next week after i hike a while in it.
So, today is Sunday and I am about to get back on the trail, while Susan, John, Jenna and Max get ready to head for home. I am getting further and further away from family and friends, so I might be a while before I get another visit like this.
Here are some photos from the last week. Got to hit the trail!