The trail life is a steep learning curve. Seems that my mornings always contain some delay whether that is an equipment issue or simply me forgetting something. Today leaving Angels rest after a nice breakfast in Pearisburg I felt rushed to get on the shuttle and left my trekking poles at the hostel. No Collar left me at the trail head while I waited for the drivers to retrieve my poles. Thankfully they located them and returned in 5 minutes. So I began this hike a little rattled. Proceding up the trail a short way I missed a turn and walked 30 yds. into a interesting and historic cemetary. It seemed a good place to sit down and regroup. I took several pictures Later as I began the climb up my daughter texted me asking me if I was on the trail because my tracking device showed me miles away. This just added to my frustration. In my rush to get started I did not give the device time to fix my location and once hiking it never would. That fixed I caught up with Safety Chute, a lady doing a section hike. We talked and climbed the hill in close proximity until one or the other would stop for a break. Leap frogging each other until my pack strap came apart. Luckily it wasn’t broke but I had to spend 15 minutes fixing it. I say all this because I’m learning fast that things happen and feeling angry or frustrated doesn’t make things better. I slowed down and started the tough climb to Rice Field shelter in decent time.
- This day was the first full day of sunshine and what a grand surprise when I got to the top. A full view of the west side looking down into a valley that I have been told is West Virginia and the promise of a beautiful sunset. Several hikers I knew were there including two guys who were brothers in law Lorax and The Mayor from Florida. We all had dinner and then went to a huge open field to watch natures light show. I can’t explain how the days events, surrounded by friends, and the atmosphere changed my outlook. To cap it off it was almost a full moon and a view of sunrise the next morning.
Sunrise Rice Field shelter
After eating breakfast I headed toward Piney Branch shelter which began as a short climb through a field followed by a ridge walk with beautiful views of the rolling pastures below. Somewhere along here my foot kicked a root and down I went. The speed with which it all happened startled me though my pack softened the fall. I estimate that you have decent footing only 50 per cent of the trail. The rest is a balancing act. The ridge walk was really several ridges which required a descent and climb to the next ridge. This went on for more than 5 miles . It was a beautiful day and for the first time I didn’t feel like I had to hurry. When the 1500 foot descent to the shelter began the nice trail turned into a rock fest. I try to be extra careful in these areas but it forces me to slow my pace. I have found that my trekking poles also have to be used judiciously because they tend to get caught between rocks and can cause a fall. Eventually I heard the sound of rushing water which is Pine Swamp branch. It would lead me to the shelter. After a few minutes rest I picked great spot a great spot for the tent. It looked like I would be alone for the night but eventually Crockpot arrived and before dark 4 others Including 2 new hikers Nemo and Hemingway.
This is basically the routine each day. I think I’ll begin to shorten these descriptions and tell only the destination, mileage, exceptional happenings or other interesting people I meet. If I have a particularly tough day or a really good day I might go into why that was. I would like to say that up to now the climbs have been really tough. At the end of each day I feel like my legs have done all they can do. To ask for more would risk injury and possibly my hike. Up to this point I have exceeded what my plan called for despite the mistakes. Each day seems more routine if not any easier. I expect in 3 weeks or so my legs will catch up an I can add a couple miles to my daily routine.
Day 5 War Spur Shelter 12.7 miles.
This was to be the warmest day yet. As usual it started with a hard climb and after a few hours a ridge walk but this one was different. It never did quite make the ridge. The trail stayed below the peak about 50 yds. and any breeze on the other side. With no leaves on the trees the heat of the sun made for an awfully harder hike. I kept hoping to feel the wind I knew was just a few steps higher. Eventually I spilled out into the Mountain Lake Wilderness. A big open area and parking lot with access to Wind Rock overlook at 4100 feet elevation. I stopped to eat some cheese crackers and a big drink of needed water. No one was around and I decided to take a longer than usual break. Unknown to me I was about to experience some trail magic. A car pulled up and two women (Laura and Becky) along with 5 children got out and came to the kiosk where I was sitting. We chatted a little and they asked if I would like a turkey sandwich! I don’t thing I’ve ever said yes quite so fast. Not only did I get one but two sandwiches along with an apple, a cucumber, and a coke. It really lifted my spirits which had drained in the heat. They went on to Wind Rock while I ate and I followed which was only a few hundred yards. I stopped took a few pictures and then asked for all of us to be in one together. I wanted to remember my new friends. Thank you all and best of luck to you. Now it was another steep and tricky descent with 2 swift creek crossings. The water was pretty high and very fast. Once negotiated I followed it again down to the shelter. I love hiking along beside a large stream. It’s cool and the water is loud. Magnolia was already setup in the shelter and because I wanted a fast start in the morning plus the threat of storms, I decided to as well. Near dark 3 high mileage hikers showed up and took to the shelter as well. We ate and got into our bags for the night: The morning started with the sound of thunder. Only a few drops fell as we all hustled to beat the storm up the hill. I was last as usual but was out by 7:30, a first for me. Once again these climbs in the morning really challenge me but I do see improvement. The rain came with a flash of light and a rumble just before reaching the top. That was the only lightning I would see. I put on my rain coat and headed to Hwy 42 where I would be picked up by Paul, a childhood friend I hadn’t seen in many years. The rain was steady for awhile until I heard cows mooing in the nearby. A pasture appeared below through some trees. Soon I was walking in green grass and rolling hills. The trail led through several of these with wood planks spiked to the ground in low areas. The cows looked curiously at me as I traversed their home. Timing was perfect and my ride was there in 10 minutes. So gracious for a needed rest after seven days!
Next stop Daleville, the journey continues….