I’ve decided that Damascus has some strange energy zapping ability. Even though the terrain wasn’t tough, I could barely make it up the 1700′ climb out of Pearisburg. I passed the first stream on the entire trail that was marked not to drink. My guess is that the local factories have polluted it in some way. I was also rather confused by a trail reroute. It’s hard to know where I’m at if the elevation profile doesn’t match what I’m actually hiking.
I hung out at the Rice Field shelter for a while because it kept threatening rain. I didn’t really feel like hiking in it. Finally, it was enough and I went on. I figure I went about 3 miles. Along the way I began to realize how much Trail Days has shaken up the crowd. Before, I mostly saw people that I knew. Now, I knew less than half. Many people didn’t take off to go down and others stayed for varying amounts of time.
Daily mileage: 9.8, AT mile: 641.1
I got a super late start leaving my tarp. I was reading more of Blind Courage and I was still in a weird funk with no stamina. Once finally hiking I ran into Poofy. He had just seen a bear only minutes before. A short while later he was hiking in front of me and scared a whole slew of them! I saw 4 or 5 bears running across the woods and climbing trees. It’s fun to see how effortlessly they climb up. It’s almost as if they were birds.
I finally I made it down to The Captains. To get there, you have to pull yourself across a river on a seat that is suspended from a steel cable. You can see a video of it on Sam-I-Am’s youtube page if you go to the Hiker Blogs section of my site. The Captains had free sodas, clean water and spacious camping. I stopped to make my dinner here.
I got to the Bailey Gap shelter and for the very first time, I had the entire shelter to myself. It was a strange feeling.
Daily mileage: 13.4, AT mile 654.5
Being in the shelter lends itself to an early start. I got going because I wanted to hit 21 for the day. I needed to make about 30 miles before I met my mom the next afternoon. I came upon Sputnik and Fair Enough at Wind Rock. They had camped near the view. When I had spoken with them a few days before, they decided they’d join us for a resupply trip when my mom and family friend, Mary, met us after the Niday shelter. I think they were surprised that it was really for tomorrow. They thought they had another day to split that 30 miles over.
I hiked with them for the second half the day when they caught me at lunch. We were all too tired to make our last planned climb and camped just north of VA 630, near the town of Newport, VA. We met the mother/daughter team attempting the record and chatted with them for a while.
Daily mileage: 17.9, AT mile: 672.4
The morning started off looking like rain and it didn’t disappoint. Not even 30 minutes after I started hiking I was all wet. The worst part was the walking in the grassy fields because it soaked my shoes completely. Had it been in the woods they probably would have stayed dry.
I took a long detour down to Sarver Hollow Shelter. It was 0.4 miles off trail, but WAY down. They just built the shelter recently, but I can’t figure out their placement. I suppose it was near water, but very few people are going that far off trail to camp. When Sputnik and Fair Enough caught up, we made the long climb back up to the ridgeline.
The ridge walking was pretty wicked today. Much of it was on exposed rocks that required using hands to get up. After you were on top, there was no flat spot to step. Sometimes there was a nice crevice to put your foot, but generally you had to hope you just didn’t slip off.
I was exhausted and me feet hurt by time I reached the Niday Shelter. I took a short break and then hiked out fast to Craig Creek road. I had planned to meet my mom there at 4:00 and I still had 2 miles to go. I headed out around 3:20 and made very good time, beating the clock by just a few minutes. She was a few minutes late however, so I guess it didn’t matter.
Sputnik, Fair Enough and I packed into the back seat of the Ford Fiesta for a ride into Roanoke. Hikers must be squishy because there never seems to be a limit on how many can fit. It did make for a rather long ride, though. After checking in to the Holiday Inn, we all grabbed some dinner at O’Charley’s. I had a steak and chicken combo that really hit the spot.
Daily mileage: 10.5, AT mile: 682.9