April 17 Day 29 Part Two Matt’s Creek Shelter
Donna from the hostel offered to drop me back at the trailhead because she was picking up two hikers. Before I left, Squirrel, a NOBO, gave me a couple of cherry brownies he made. So nice! And tasty. As we drove up to the trail Donna and I chatted and I watched the scenery; the trees are just starting to bud out and it is gorgeous. Virginia is awesome. One of my favorite states so far.
We pulled into the parking lot and I saw Cheesesteak and Lucky Boy; two SOBO Flip Floppers. They camped at Punchbowl last night. Super nice guys. We chatted briefly and I may run into them tomorrow if they slack pack. Slack packing is when a hiker hikes without their backpack. Either someone, like a shuttle driver, will meet you somewhere at the end of the day with your pack (you just hike with snacks and water) or they will pick you up and take you back to the hostel or motel for another night. I’ve never done it, but lots of hikers love to do it and jump at the chance.
I hiked an easy two miles up to the shelter and found a weekender named Spencer here. We chatted over dinner, and now I’m cozy in my tent listening to the creek. It turned out to be a sunny and decidedly springlike afternoon.
April 18 Day 30 Cornelius Creek Shelter
My first task of the day was jumping over Matt’s Creek without getting my shoes wet. Mission accomplished. It’s all easy from here, I said to myself.
After over 4,000 feet of gain I am beat. I was up and over Highcock Knob by 9:30 but Thunder Ridge took it outta me. The ascent was not steep, just long, long, long. Near the top I came across a trail crew. I thanked them for their hard work and one of the volunteers gave me a blueberry fig bar. I love those things. This is my favorite kind of trail magic. Different sections of the trail are maintained by groups of volunteers, and without them, the trail would not be what it is.
Near the summit of Thunder Ridge is a rock formation called the Guillotine. A giant bolder is trapped between two other boulders, and the AT passes right under the boulder. Pretty cool, literally, as there was still snow in the cool recesses of the stone.
I called Keith from the summit and chatted with him for a bit to get some motivation for the last four miles to the shelter. For much of those four miles the AT wound through rhododendron forests. Green! So nice.
I met Eagle and Ibex here at the shelter and it’s nice to have company. We chatted trail and have now gone to our respective tents for the evening.
April 19 Day 31 Bobblets Gap Shelter
My morning routine revolves around several events, as follows:
1) a visit to the privy
2) breakfast and coffee
3) packing up gear
4) taking down the tent
On mornings like today when it is raining, this is the sequence of events. When it is sunny, I’ll take the tent down as I eat breakfast and pack up my things. Sometimes the privy visit is the last thing I do before leaving camp. It only rained for about 20 minutes, which was good. I was on trail by 6:30, my usual time. A short climb, then a long downhill to Bryant Ridge Shelter, a very cool shelter with room for about 20 hikers. Neat place. I had second breakfast there and headed out. It was a nice day of trail; not too much ascent, not too much descent, lots of ridge walking. Nice. Except the wind blowing in from the west that was very cold and strong. There was a time of sunny calm where I was able to dry my tent. This is always a priority when carrying a wet tent.
I got down here to the shelter which is somewhat out of the wind, but not completely. Two other hikers, Kiwi and Jess are here and we chatted while we made dinner. And now here I am in my tent next to the shelter because there are no tent spaces anywhere else. Four NOBOs with a dog showed up; they are cooking food now, but soon after camp will be quiet with sleeping hikers.
April 20 Day 32 Daleville Super 8
I was up early as usual and bouncing down the Blue Ridge that I have been following since Front Royal, waiting for my morning sunrise shot. I was looking forward to staying at the shelter on Fullhardt Knob; it’s rumored to have 360 views and now that the trees are starting to bid out I wanted to take advantage of all opportunities to get views.
I was pretty cold the first four hours of the day and resorted to putting on my rain mitts (water and wind proof overmitts) over my gloves and soon my hands warmed up. Around 11am the sun took over and I finally warmed up.
I made good time and got to the shelter around 1:30. A quick 14 miles. Once I got there, I got water from the cistern there (the rain gutters funnel water into an underground cistern, very cool) and decided, what the heck, I’m going to hike five more miles into town and get a room, and take a zero day Saturday.
I made a good decision for sure. I got into town and stopped by the Howard Johnson to pick up the package Keith sent me. I was going to stay there but several hikers told me that it’s not a good place to stay, so I opted to stay at the Super 8. Good choice. Once I check in I walked down the road to the outdoor store; time to get bug spray and a new spoon, finally! I went into the Kroger to resupply, and found myself wandering around the deli area. A woman who was handing out meat samples saw me and asked me, “honey, what do you do to look so healthy? Look at you!”
“Well, I’m hiking the AT.”
“Ohhh, you’re hungry, here.” She gave me several samples of smoked turkey. “And here, you can’t shop hungry.” She gave me some cheese samples too.
I love Virginia!
I picked up a cheap novel since I finished Women Who Run With the Wolves, and everything else I need.
Back at my room I thought about how great Virginia has been, and how far I have come in this past month. It’s kind of amazing to me that I’ve made it through the weather I have experienced.
I sat in front of the TV and ate some of the trail food Keith, my amazing and intuitive boyfriend, sent me. He also sent me his pocket rocket stove since mine has finally kicked the bucket. I’m lucky to have such a special man in my life.
Tomorrow, a zero day laying around, cleaning my gear and taking multiple baths. Yes!