April 21 Day 33 Zero Day Daleville
Here at the Super 8 and it has exceeded my expectations. Probably because the continental breakfast includes a waffle maker. Two, in fact. I was up at 5:30 am because that’s when I get up every day. I was watching the news, eating waffles and drinking coffee by 6 am. Some laundry, another shower, some gear cleaning and then I walk over to the Goodwill to find a hat.
No dice. I was forced to go to the outfitter and buy a hat there. Oh well, that’s ok.
I spent the afternoon watching a Resident Evil marathon on the Sci Fi channel and fooling around on social media.
And now that it’s 8pm it is way past my bedtime.
April 22 Day 34 Catawaba Shelter
After another waffle session I was on trail before 7am. Not bad! I felt great. I need to take more zero days, I told myself. The motel zero day is the top tier zero day, the shelter zero day being not the greatest. I’d like to say they are the best, but let’s be honest here.
I climbed up about 1,000 feet and then followed a ridge line for 10 miles to Lambert shelter where I had lunch. Then another 1,000 feet up to Tinker Cliffs. Stunning views! I could see McAffe Knob, a very iconic spot on the AT. I decided to hike up the Knob and over to the shelter on he south side. Glad I did! I got my photo taken and sat there for a bit. I’m still amazed that I have made it this far. And it’s pretty special to me to be in such a beautiful and well known spot.
I’m in my tent with a full belly and a happy heart.
April 23 Day 35 Pickle Branch Shelter
Woowee! What a day. I was on trail at 6am because I wanted to get to the Post Office in Catawaba as soon as possible. Even though they open at 9am, I was hopeful I could get a ride into town and didn’t mind waiting.
Score! Thank you section hikers, who had just finished their section and were heading home.
I got to the PO and sat down on the curb for a long wait. Around 8:15 the postmaster came outside and asked me if I just wanted to pick up a box.
I got my package, arranged my pack and was on my way. Immediately I got a ride, from two thru hikers from 2012, Bearsnack and Raincatcher, with their dog Baby. They dropped me right where I left off and I hustled and hustled up to the Dragon’s Tooth, another iconic rock formation on the trail. I got up there around 11am, before the rain, which was my goal. I had hiked hard and fast all morning, something I don’t do often. I hike at around 2 mph, and this morning I was doing 2.5 or more. Anyway. I was happy that I only had four more miles to go to the shelter, and since I had finished the tough, technical climb up the Dragon’s Tooth, I was less worried about the rain.
I got here to the shelter around 1:30 and set up in the shelter. I really don’t like sleeping in shelters anymore but I like packing up a wet tent even less, and since tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, I know that I won’t have a chance to dry a wet tent.
So here I am with Pacemaker, a section hiker from Delaware, Hoot, a NoBo from Colorado and Bigfoot, a section hiker from Pennsylvania. The rain has come and I am happy to be here. A good day!
April 24 Day 36 Sarver Hollow Shelter
It rained all night and this morning as I prepared to leave the shelter I joked with Pacemaker: “At least it’s not freezing rain!”
I walked the .3 miles to the AT from the shelter and felt warm. That was the last time I felt warm pretty much all day. I climbed up 1,700 feet to the Blue Ridge in the rain and felt ok, until I got to the top and massive gusts, maybe 40 to 50 mph blasted me from the east. The rain was so heavy that even my clothes under my rain gear were wet.
It was barely 9am and I still had 14 miles to hike to get here. My supposedly waterproof rain mitts that go in over my gloves failed and I had small pools of water inside them. I spent some time cursing ZPacks and then decided that I’m just too hard core for these mitts.
Throughout the day I had several mantras that I spoke aloud:
1.) Spring will come.
2.) I will be warm again.
3.) You’re a fucking badass (this I saved for the last 4 miles).
I hiked down and then back up the Blue Ridge because hey, why not? This time I traversed the ridge for some time climbing up and over rocks, sliding sideways over wet rocks as the wind kicked my cold wet ass all over the place.
I got to the top and read a sign that said: Eastern Continental Divide
So that’s why the trail is so rugged!
I decided this would be a good place to take a break and eat something; I had only stopped hiking two other times for a couple of minutes to get water and pee.
After two minutes I was freezing and I realized that it was sleeting.
I moved my ass down that ridge, over more sideways slabs of rock and thorns and giant puddles of mud.
As I rounded an uphill corner I saw that blessed sign:
Sarver Hollow Shelter .4
And here I am in my dry clothes, wet clothes hanging up to dry.
I have a full belly and a dry sleeping bag. Now I will go to sleep.
Spring will come.
I will be warm.
I’m a fucking badass.
April 25 Day 37 War Spur Shelter
Last night as I was falling asleep I heard what I thought were footsteps. I thought, oh, another hiker is here, and I turned over to grab my headlamp.
There was no one there.
I decided to pitch my tent in the shelter, very bad trail etiquette, but it was 9pm and I didn’t think anyone would come along. I was right. I had a hard time getting to sleep though and woke several times during the night to the sound of footsteps.
It took me a long time this morning to get going and I was finally back up on trail around 7:30. So late! It was slow going and I stopped for many breaks. I knew I had put my body through the ringer the day before so I decided to have a short day and go 12.5 miles here to this shelter.
About half way through my day I stopped at another shelter for a rest and snack. I met Shivers and Sink, section hikers who asked me if I stayed at Sarver’s Hollow. I said yes and they asked me if I heard anything unusual. I told them about the footsteps and then I remembered waking up in the middle of the night with goosebumps all down my spine.
“Oh! No way! That is what some hikers say! It’s totally haunted!”
Well then. There was a very distinct energy about the place and while the shelter was nice, with the Kerouac quote in the plaque and the covered patio, I was happy to leave.
I got here to the shelter and met several NOBOs, and while I am tenting tonight, Postcard and Silver are sleeping in the shelter. Professor and Granite hung out and ate with us for some time and it was all good conversation.
This is been a tough stretch and I’ll be happy to get to Pearisburg on Friday. Tomorrow will be a big day and I think that after a good rest tonight I’ll be ready. Hopefully ghosts will leave me alone.
April 26 Day 38 Dickinson Gap Tentsite
I woke up feeling well rested and was hiking up a long ridge at 6:30am. Feeling good. Strong. I walked along this ridge for several hours, sometimes coming across small springs swollen with the recent rain. I stopped around 9am at a very nice viewpoint but I didn’t stay long; the cold was lingering on the high ridges and breaks that lasted longer than 5 minutes made me cold.
As the trail slowly descended I came across a shelter littered with trash. I had found a broken umbrella earlier and decided to clean the place up. I filled my existing garbage bag and strapped a broken trekking pole to the outside of my pack. Trash like this is usually left by long distance hikers who should know better.
As I reached the bottom of the ridge I hiked along a river for awhile and through another rhododendron forest. I knew I was going to spend the night up on the next ridge and that there would be no water up there. I came to another shelter and found an empty Gatorade bottle that another hiker has left; there was a pink lighter inside and some other trash. I took out the trash and rinsed the bottle out; now I would be able to carry some extra water up the ridge for tomorrow morning. And pack out trash at the same time. Yay!
As I was hiking up the next ridge I came across Badass Betty, a section hiker in her 60s. We chatted a bit and after hiking on a bit I checked my phone and found that I finally had cell reception. I called Keith and it was good to talk to him, as always. Then I called Angel’s Rest Hiker Haven, a hostel in Pearisburg. I reserved a bunk for one night; this stretch has been a tough one and I felt like I earned a night in a bed.
I reached the tentsite I had been shooting for and I set up my tent just before it started raining.
I cooked dinner in the vestibule of the tent and hung my food. Now I’m reading and looking forward to some town time.
April 27 Day 39 Angel’s Rest Hiker Haven, Pearisburg
I slept fitfully and started hiking through the fog around 6am. I felt tired, spent and very much looking forward to a rest. I decided to take another zero day at the hostel and when I finally got to the trailhead near town I was so happy to be picked up and shuttled to the hostel. I met Handy, the caretaker and I asked if I could stay two nights and he said no problem. Yay!
I walked over to the grocery store and got resupply for the next stretch and some food for my hostel stay. Laundry and a shower were next and then I hit up the AYCE (all you can eat) Chinese buffet.
I’m cozied up in the bunk room with several other hikers and I could not be happier. Great folks, nice spot and a good rest. Just what I needed to prepare for the next stretch.