I need to explain a few things first. I had a lot of wet gear including my sleeping pad and bag from last nights rain. I was anxious to get to the next shelter and hoped the sun would shine to help dry things out. When wet a down bag has no insulation value and is very hard to get dry. The Harpers Creek Shelter was only 7.6 miles away. But it did have a 500 ft. climb, followed by a steep 3000 ft. drop and then another 800 feet up before a mile walk to the shelter. We had just done the first 500 up and halfway down the Priest when two young female hikers approached me headed up the hill. They stopped and talked for a second obviously full of energy. The first one (later I learned her name was Spoons) went by me and engaged Jed while I talked some more with Sunshine. You could just sense they both had been thru hikers and their friendship was equivalent to that of twin sisters. I said stay safe and headed down the hill. At the bottom was a parking lot and Hwy 56. I waited on Jed and watched the skies hoping the sun would come out. When Jed arrived he had a proposal if I was willing. He was inclined to change plans for the day. While talking to the female hikers he realized that he had hiked with Spoons in Maine last years thru hike attempt. She also remembered him so they offered to give us a ride to the Devils Backbone Brewery and Pub about 10 miles away. They had a free campground for thru hikers with hot showers/ bathrooms and a restaurant. On top of that they also had a hiker breakfast for 5 dollars. Sounded good but at first I was inclined to keep pushing on because I needed to dry things. After looking at the guide I realized the diversion wouldn’t delay our scheduled stop in Waynesboro. Besides that I could start drying things out in the parking lot while we waited for their return. The sun came out just enough and that with the wind I did get everything dry.
I knew it would take awhile because that’s a big hill. Eventually they returned and away we went. Many of the same hikers we camped with the night before were also there and Mighty Blue on the Appalachian Trail was as well. He has a podcast that I listened to for several years. Turns out he had interviewed Sunshine and when I learned of that fact I could remember the episode. She had the same spirit on the podcast. A true ray of Sunshine. Thanks to both of them for all they did and the delightful friendship they showed myself and Jed!
The breakfast put us behind but a big day Kay ahead of us. The one negative as a result of our diversion was we had a 500 ft climb right off the bat that we would have done the day before. We started by crossing the Tye River on a suspension bridge and then immediately going up. It would only be 9 miles but considering my legs had been feeling stronger, the veracity of that thought would be tested to the limit. The Three Ridges Mountain is just that, three ridges.On top of that, three quarters of that is rock climbing. 3 places for several hundred yards you just knew an earthquake had taken place. It was tough on the feet, ankles, and knees. I used all kinds of mental techniques to keep pushing upward. There were several views which were convenient rest stops. I’ll let the picture tell the story of the steep nature of the climb. The terrain was another thing all together. Once on top a rocky downhill for 1300 ft. to Maupin Shelter. There wasn’t much daylight left so I immediately began chores and got ready for bed. I slept in the shelter because rain was expected by morning and needed a quick departure because Paul Wolfe Shelter was 16 miles away.
The climbs seemed easier this morning and the rain mostly held off until the last 8 miles. We saw many day hikers who had come out and seemed surprised by the rain. Very few had any protection and little water. It got cold and wet fast. I left my rain jacket on to keep warm even though all my clothes were soaked through from sweat as well as rain. I made the 16 miles sire but healthy. I was wet for the third time in a week and my body was ready for a zero. Waynesboro was 5 miles away. Jed arrived and we took measures to set up as the rain was not going away. Another hiker from Colorado arrived and we all had a good conversation before laying down in the shelter for the night.
It rained heavily all night. Each of us was ready to get to town soon. I made a reservation at the Quality Inn Waynesboro from the shelter. We started a muddy climb up for a good while and then had to avoid the many trees which had been blown down in previous storms. Someone said they counted over 39 on one hillside. We emerged onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and Interstate 64. A free shuttle took us to the hotel. We checked in and immediately went to the laundry mat. Everything I owned had to be washed so I just wore my raincoat and rain pants. It’s tough at times to be a hiker. After lunch there were more chores. However I found time to catch up on this blog. That’s a good thing! Shenandoah here I come. It is the most probable time to cross paths with a bear. Hope I know how to act.
The journey continues….