I woke up early at the Holiday Inn so we could all get an early start. My mom and our family friend, Mary, were in the room with me. We did the last bit of packing and I gathered all the extra items they brought for me to play with. It was the first time I used my laptop in months.
Sputnik and Fair Enough crawled out of their room shortly after. I knew it was way earlier than they’ve become accustomed to on the trail. Once packed in, we grabbed some delicious Chick-Fil-A and then headed off to 4 Pines hostel.
Eddy from the hostel shuttled us back to Craig Creek road. Everyone was slackpacking except me, so that should make it a bit easier on them. The plan was for ~16 miles back to the hostel.
The ladies struggled on the first hill, which, by trail norms, was pretty easy 1500′ climb. They seized the opportunity to sit in the bench at the top. After a break we walked the ridge and they regained a little spring in their step.
We dropped down off the ridge and got ready for our second climb of the day. The bottom marked the half way point for the day, 8 miles. Right as we began back up Mary saw a snake on the trail. It was a harmless black rat snake. The 800′ climb called for a nap at the top:
The last ridge of the day was pretty rough. It was pretty rocky. The pace slowed to a crawl as they daylight flew by. In the evening we arrived at Dragon’s tooth.
Climbing off of it was pretty hard. It had metal handles embedded in the stone to make it doable. A good chunk of it was a scramble and required hand use to navigate. I felt really bad that mom and Mary had to do this at the end of the day. It was a long day of hiking. At least we got some great rhododendron
There was a nice view too.
We decided I’d go ahead and bring back the car to pick them up. The hostel was a little ways down the road from the trail. Thankfully Sputnik and Fair Enough were already there waiting for me. They gave me and Warm and Toasty a ride first then came back to grab my mom and Mary.
I cooked dinner while they relaxed. I could tell there were really sore, so much so I didn’t think they’d hike the next day.
Daily mileage: 15.4, AT mile: 698.3
I got up super early the next day. Since I didn’t think they would hike anyway, I borrowed the car and drove down to a town where my friend Mooch left her trekking poles. I checked at all the gas stations and came up empty. When I got back I was shocked to hear they were ready to go. Off we went.
It was gentle to start, with some grassy fields and then only a 600′ climb. We arrived at VA 311 and it was packed. We were about to head up to McAfee Knob, the most photographed rock on the AT, on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.
It took a while to make the 1200′ climb where we saw another snake. A whole crowd was up at the top. Rougaroo snapped some photos of us on the knob:
At the top was a whole troop of Boy Scouts headed to the same camp. I hurried down the last few miles to grab some shelter space for mom and Mary.
Daily mileage: 10.3, AT mile: 708.6
The next day we hiked on to Tinker Cliffs. I snagged a few photos to show how rocky the trail was:
The trail got a bit confusing and we ended up on a side trail just below. I ended up a ways down to see if it reconnected to the AT. I was surprised to find they were gone when I came back.
I found them enjoying the view at the top:
The next stretch was pretty far without water. Since they were having a hard time I decided to carry a good part of their water. I ended up with 9 l in my pack. They wanted to try and push all the way to town, but we were on track to end at 11:00 PM. I convinced them to tent and finish in the morning. Getting in late is always rolling the dice.
Daily mileage: 12.4, AT mile 721.0
We hiked the last few into town in the morning. I snagged a photo to prove they were still alive:
I got a room at the Howard Johnson. Mary enjoyed a shower while my mom shuttled back to get the car. We all grabbed some Pizza Hut as a great ending. They hung out with me for a while before heading home. I also enjoyed seeing everyone else at the hotel. It was packed full with hikers.
Daily mileage: 3.0, AT mile 724.0