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May 2, 2018 / Comments (4)

WEEK #9—Eager for Spring and Eager for Family & Friends

WEEK # 9

4/15 – 4/21 (Marion to Pearisburg)

“Eager for Spring and Eager for Family & Friends”

Of course, not everyone approaches resupply the same way, but arriving in Virginia offers more challenges than the prior 470 miles – meaning the time between resupply typically is longer, which means you must carry more days of food between resupply points. Four or five days is
common, where previously I often got by with two or three. Damascus to Marion is a fairly typical resupply plan, as is the basic period of this week’s blog – Marion to Pearisburg, but I like to think of this time as “Eager for Spring and Eager for Meetups”.   Last week, after our warmest day of hiking, where we hiked through Atkins, VA and celebrated our first 1,250,000 steps, we were greeted to a complete wash out – clouds, rain, hard rain, thunder and lightening, and more rain, 2 inches with local flooding. It was not particularly cold, but any thoughts that spring had arrived were dashed quickly the next day with snow, wind and bitter cold. This was the third time we had a warm spell that suggested the season was turning, only to be slapped down by difficult cold weather.

Sunday’s (April 14) weather, however, didn’t stall my progress toward Maine. Although I missed wonderful views (“God’s Thumbprint” or Burke’s Garden) from Chestnut Knob, I pressed out 20 miles (slackpack) in the rain – as I said in the journal, it was simply a “keep your head down”
day.  Monday was not much different – snow and grey and cold – 16 miles, but fortunately fairly easy terrain and a lift to a motel (Bland, VA) from which we could watch the snow and avoid the bitter cold.

Although very windy and cold most of the day, April 17 brought beautiful blue skies (and Brooke’s birthday). The hike was remarkably easy (on a relative basis) and the day was quiet and solitary – I enjoyed some encounters with southbound thru-hikers, but I found much of the day occupied by thoughts of how fortunate I have been to have “my girls” – Cheryl, Brooke and Amy. I’m enjoying the journey north but certainly miss them. I am eager for us all to be together next month for Brooke’s PhD graduation. And, in just over a week Cheryl should be visiting.

As I get closer to central Virginia I am hearing from friends, podcast listeners and others following the trek about visiting or hiking together or just helping out in some way. In the next ten days, after I leave Pearisburg and reach the outskirts of Roanoke, I am expecting quite a number of friends and trail angels. I’ll report on Cheryl’s visit and those activities probably in the Week # 10 or 11 update.

The rest of my trip to Pearisburg was restful and fun as I was able to reduce my miles somewhat (rest a tired back) and enjoy a few “iconic” stops along the AT. As a group of consecutive days (measured by shelter to shelter), the hiking from Chestnut Knob shelter to Wapiti shelter (almost 50 miles) was the easiest of any stretch on the AT yet. This relatively “easy” hiking continued on days 54, 55 and 56. While there were certainly a number of difficult climbs among the miles, few would likely dispute that the Marion to Pearisburg section was our least challenging hiking to date.

A big part of my zero day was spent planning the next few weeks of the journey – to Blacksburg and a meetup with Super Dave, to Roanoke and a few days of hiking with friends and a visit from Cheryl; towards Waynesboro to catchup with and hiking the Shenandoah with Wally; and arranging for our trip to Chapel Hill for Brooke’s PhD graduation.  That section of the Trail, however, did feature a few well-known stops, and at least one “iconic” place.

As eating off trail is an important thru-hike activity, certain places have become “famous” for providing meals – typically burgers & fries, and ice cream & shakes when available. During this week I was able to visit and enjoy a meal with friends at The Barn in Atkins, Brushy Mountain Outpost in Bland, and Trent’s Grocery. The iconic stop that did not disappoint was my stay at the historic Woods Hole hostel, where a enjoyed communal meals, a massage, fun conversation with fellow thru-hikers, and great relaxation. After a wonderful visit to Woods Hole I hiked the twelve miles to Pearisburg where I enjoyed an evening meal with Shelter Dog and Sleeves, and then had a relaxing zero day where I caught up on writing and journaling and spoke with Cheryl, Carl and my dad. The plan to rest up and care for my back this past week appears to have paid dividends as it was pain free for the hike from Woods Hole to Pearisburg.

Day 51 – 4/15

Begin:
VA Rt. #610 (Quarter Way Inn – hostel) / Mile 555.2

End:
VA Rt. #623 (Quarter Way Inn – hostel) / Mile 575.4

OBSERVATIONS:
[This hike was completed southbound, starting at VA Rt. #623] After a shuttle and a couple of significant climbs I arrived at the Chesnut Knob shelter before midday. The forecasted rain was threatening but had
not begun to release its fury. (I ran into a Boy Scout troop – where no one seemed to be having much fun. Then I saw Rumi and Eddie Steady and the Professor.)

There were no views at the shelter or from the meadow just below, although one could see that in clear weather the views (including of “God’s
Thumbprint”)  would be extraordinary.  I had a very long descent.  I ran into Sharkbait (“Hello Neiman”) and later, Play by Play and Pit Bull.
The rain came right after those visits and kept up the rest of the day – sometimes hard, sometimes very hard, sometimes intermittent and
sometimes accompanied by thunder. It was a day to keep your head down and just make the miles. After the long downhill (where I made good time) I still had 10 miles to go. I was pretty wet, but remained warm.

I was alone for the afternoon. I listened to music. I had a very brief lunch stop. Despite the weather, I was in a good mood as I pushed out the tough climb over Lynn Camp Mountain as well as the uphills over Brushy Mountain and the last meadow. I did see Scars, Crockett, and Footloose at Knot Maul sheltering for the day from the weather, and later Easily Forgotten & Bunny Tracks (just before they stopped at Bear Garden for
night).

I finally did the .8 road walk to the hostel and joined Texas & Stumbles, Atlas, and – unexpectedly, Pit Bull & Play by Play.

Day 52 – April 16

START:
VA Rt. #623 (Quarter Way Inn – hostel) / Mile 575.4

END:
US 52 – Bland (Big Walker Motel) / Mile 591.2

OBSERVATIONS:
I started the days hike in shorts and two layers. Initially it appeared that the sun might come out and clear everything early, however, that hope was dashed quickly. In the higher elevations the snow was falling and had been for some time. There was a half an inch on the trail throughout
the morning. I quickly added the legs to my pants, a buff, gloves and my balaclava to try to stay warm.

It snowed on and off and remained cold. Midday it eased up and appeared that the sky might be clearing again, but early in the afternoon it started to snow again and remain very cold. The trail was in excellent shape – much less rocky. Yet, due to the water and the lack of views, it was a “keep your head down and make miles” day. (Much like the day before.). Due to the prior days rains, it was noticeable how swollen and vigorous the mountain streams and creeks were. In fact, for the first time I had trouble finding a way to cross over a creek because the primary way was flooded.

Towards the late afternoon the snow picked up and the day became bitter cold. The consolation for the day was that the terrain was among the easiest in terms of topography of any day on the trail yet. In fact, there was a stretch where the trail followed an old forest road for two or three
miles and the trail was almost perfectly flat. The day finished with a seemingly never ending series of small climbs followed by a turn and a dip, over and over, until we came out to a gravel road. We had a .6 mile road walk to US 52 and Brushy Mountain Outpost, where we enjoyed
burgers until a shuttle to the motel. It was nice to be out of the snow and bitter cold for the night as I shared a room with Pit Boss and Play by Play.

Day 53 – April 17

START:
US 52 – Bland (Big Walker Motel) / Mile 591.2

END:
Jenny Knob shelter / Mile 603.1

OBSERVATIONS:
The morning started with a shuttle to the trailhead. Before starting the hike we enjoyed sausage and egg biscuits and coffee. The morning was bitter cold and very windy. Pit Boss, PbP, and I did the long road walk down across/over I-77 and then picked up the white blazes leading to the
forest. Initially there was a significant climb out of Bland, which was good because it helps us warm up.

After an hour Pit Boss and PbP moved on at a faster pace and I settled in for an easier, relaxing day. The trail was excellent and relatively easy all day as we stayed atop a ridge most of the day. I ran into and spoke with Turtle and two section hikers going SOBO as well as Teatime and
Peak, also going SOBO (started in Duncannon). I did interview with Mighty Blue for the podcast.

Overall it was a quiet, pleasant day of easy hiking. I made it to the shelter around 5 pm. Pit Boss and PbP were there. Shocktock joined female section hiker. And late a foreign hiker who did not speak English also tented. The evening was reasonably warm so we could eat and socialize for awhile, but the cold drove us in by 7:30 pm.

Day 54 – April 18

START:
Jenny Knob shelter / Mile 603.1

END:
VA 606 (Trent’s Grocery) [overnight = Woods Hole hostel] / Mile 609.6

OBSERVATIONS:
I awoke to more song birds than I had heard all trip. The morning was pleasant and warm. I boiled water for grits and coffee. I broke down my tent and headed for the trail. After a quick mile downhill we crossed VA 611, which marks Mile 600 for 2018. The only real climb of the day was next, which I did with Pit Boss and Play by Play. From there we followed a sometimes rocky ridge line, but the topography was generally flat. A two mile descent brought us to VA 606 – the end of my hiking for the day (just 6.5 miles). We walked the .5 miles to Trent’s Grocery, where we enjoyed burgers and ice cream.

Don from Woods Hole picked me up and brought me to the hostel. It was a magnificent sunny, breezy and cool day. I had a massage from Neville and enjoyed a meal with all who were staying there, which included old friends Rumi & Eddie Steady, Professor, Sharkbait, Mouse Trap (from Lithuania), Mom, Ridge, Autopilot, and Dragon (charity for Nolan, friends child with cerebral palsy – FB: Miles for Nolan, pledgeit.org) [The Kid and Soulshine showed up late.]

Day 55 – April 19

START:
VA 606 (Trent’s Grocery) [overnight = Woods Hole hostel] / Mile 609.6

END:
Woods Hole hostel / Mile 624.8

OBSERVATIONS:
After a violent early morning rain (I was grateful to be inside), I shuttled back to VA 606 and started my 15-mile hike north, back to Woods Hole hostel.  After a short while the rain stopped and it appeared as though the sun would come out. Unfortunately despite apparent attempts, we never had any sunshine all day. It was mostly cloudy, grey and cold.

After an initial climb the trail was remarkably rolling and flat – for many miles as the trail generally followed Dismal Creek passing through an almost continual rhododendron tunnel. Due to the low lying ground near the creek and the rain Sunday and last night, the trail was
exceptionally waterlogged and muddy. There were over 20 stream crossings, many of which were flooded, requiring some searching and ingenuity to pass.

It was a quest, solitary day – almost depressing due to the dark forests, wet leaves, grey sky and few points of interest. I also couldn’t help but recall that I was soon to be passing a shelter where there were two murders many years ago. Just before that shelter (Wapiti shelter) I ran into Jacolope and Ripple (who later showed at Woods Hole) as well as a section hire (Pacer) by the pond having lunch. From there the trial ended its flat stretch and started the day’s major climb. It was cold still so I vigorously started up the ascent to get warm. Before I knew it I had knocked off half the climb.

I stopped for a brief lunch of cashews, mangos and a Snickers. I seemed to knock off the ret of the hill just as quickly and ran into Atlas at the summit. Atlas and I hide down together, making good time and arriving at Woods Hole before 4:00 p.m. (Atlas was staying at the hostel as well.)

Day 56 – April 20

START:
Woods Hole hostel / Mile 624.8

END:
Pearisburg (Angels Rest hostel) / Mile 635.4

OBSERVATIONS:
After .5 miles back up the hill, I rejoined the AT heading north. The morning was bright and cold. The hiking was surprisingly easy. There was little to see (it was a green tunnel) until midday when we reached the top of the ridge where here were some great views. Before starting the long descent to Pearisburg. Atlas, Blue, and Sparks (all slackpacking) caught up to me at the views. The day remained clear but cold. I was not able to hike without gloves until almost noon.

It was a long descent to Pearisburg – a bit steep at times, a bit rocky at times – I finished with a road walk into town and a stop at the Mexican restaurant, but just before that I joined Play by Play, Pit Boss, Rumi & Eddie Steady at Dairy Queen.

Finally made my way to Angels Rest hostel. Sleeves is in room next to me. (I thought he was far north – amazing how so many hikers surge in and out and back in just when you think you’ll never see them again).

Day 57 – April 21

START:
Pearisburg (Angels Rest hostel) / Mile 635.4

END:
Pearisburg (Angels Rest hostel) / Mile 635.4

OBSERVATIONS:
Zero day in Pearisburg spent writing, planning, resting and more planning.

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Last modified: May 3, 2018

4 Responses to :
WEEK #9—Eager for Spring and Eager for Family & Friends

  1. Jim says:

    Bruce:

    Thanks for the update. Keep chugging along. Things are going well here, Keeping busy with the kids and Campbell’s sports and college search. We are looking at the Ivys, NESCAC (mainly Amherst and Williams) and the Patriot League too,

    We will catch up again soon. Jenny is going to Florida from 6/6–6/13 to help out when Sara has her knee replacement surgery in case you had not heard.

    Travel safely.

    Jim

    1. rtkchallenge_w2dqin says:

      Thanks. Glad all are well. Best of luck to Campbell on the search.

  2. Mark Heede says:

    Congrats on the hike to date Would love to catch up and hike with with you. Finally quit my job. More to life than all the hours and stress of the current position. Will have a bit if time between jobs. Maybe catch you on our (ODATC) section.

    1. rtkchallenge_w2dqin says:

      Congrats. I come off trail tomorrow for a week for a graduation. I’ll try to remember to reach out then. But don’t hesitate to remind me.

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