Day mileage: 25
AT total mileage: 646
Time: 10 hours
I slept wonderfully at Wood's Hole last night. Surprisingly enough nobody really snored, and the mattress was comfortable enough that I was able to sleep on my side, which is how I normally do in the real world. On my Thermarest air mattress (Cascade Designs NeoAir for those interested) I often have pain in my left hip if I sleep on that side. I'm not sure why, but I deal with it by simply not sleeping that way. Anyway, great night of sleep and I was up around 5:20 to start my day. Knowing that I still had to pay for my night, I laid in my sleeping bag until just after 6 at which point I got up to cut my hair before the rest of the hikers awoke. The trimmers that the hostel has are great, but they didn't have a #1 blade attachment (1/8") which I usually use. I instead had to use a #2 blade, which essentially did absolutely nothing as it's the length my hair is already. Oh well, I tried. After a quick shower to rinse off the short trimmings of hair, I packed up my freshly laundered clothes and ate a quick breakfast before wandering in the main house and finding the husband (husband/wife owners) in order to pay. I picked up some fuel for my stove and two post cards as well, with the total coming to $51. All in all not too bad for the night and amenities, but still sort of steep in my eyes. Whatever though, I've spent much less than most/what I was told to expect to spend, so I'm okay with it. It was a good experience regardless.
I was the first person to get back on the trail when I left around 10 minutes till 8. With a 1/2 mile uphill climb on the dirt road back to the trail, I had plenty of time to get excited (read: immediately regret getting out of bed) before hitting the trail where I'd have the amazing opportunity to ascent out of yet another gap! How lucky I am. The climb from Sugar Run Road was a nice gradual morning climb, netting only 600 feet in elevation gain. I hiked two miles before coming across a relatively deserted Doc's Knob Shelter. Jetcat and another hiker were there, and I shared the details (food menu) of Wood's Hole. As I've said before, food is without a doubt the no. 1 conversation piece amongst hikers. I stayed for only 10 minutes before pushing on, as I had 8 miles to go before entering Pearisburg, VA where I unfortunately needed to stop. It wasn't to my liking to have to hop off the trail shortly to get some food, but with the next town 100 miles away I needed to be cautious about how thin my food supply would grow. I decided to play it safe and stop even for just $10 in food. Keeping a quick pace on the morning's ridges, I reached Angel's Rock, a rocky outcrop with views down over Pearisburg. It was here that I met two older gentlemen, one of whom filled me in about the town. He also informed me that in winter months a bobcat lives in the caves of the rocks behind the scenic vista. We hiked for a while together, and as we were talking I was more formally introduced to 70 year old Lee. Originally from Virginia, Lee spent many years living local to Boston's North Shore as he worked in finance at Sylvania lightbulbs in Danvers. Moving back down here last September after his retirement, he hiked 50-60 miles a week in these mountain ranges to stay entertained during his free time. He offered me a ride into town if I needed one, and we hiked the 3 miles downhill while discussing some of my favorite topics: cars, vintage Coca-Cola, and petroleum history. We became quick friends, I asked questions about his time at Sylvania, and he easily kept my pace. When we reached the street where he was parked, he offered to drive around and pick me up a mile downhill so I could finish that section of the trail. I thanked Lee profusely and continued through the last mile downhill. At the bottom of the trail was a different kind of trail magic, a large box with a half dozen brand new fuel containers. Despite having just purchased one, and wishing I didn't, I took a container as a backup.
Not more than a minute later, Lee pulled around in his 5-speed 2.0t Volkswagen (important to note the engine as we discussed that it probably has the same engine as my Audi) and helped me load my backpack into the trunk. Although town is only 1 mile from the trailhead, I was exceptionally grateful for the ride as it saved me a steep walk uphill and a whole two additional miles of walking round trip. Arriving at the Food Lion grocery store, Lee asked how much I needed to buy. Replying that it wasn't much at all he kindly offered to stay in the parking lot and then to drive me back to where he had picked me up. I thanked him again and ran in to quickly complete my shopping. Simple stuff: bagels, pop-tarts, hand sanitizer, granola bars, and most importantly three 32oz bottles of blue Powerade. As I've mentioned, blue Powerade is my favorite in-town treat. I ran back outside and hopped in the car. As we headed back to the trail, Lee offered to stop at Hardee's and Dairy Queen in case I wanted some fast food while in town. I felt guilty about taking up any more of his time, knowing he wanted to make it to a Virginia Tech baseball game, so I turned down his offer. Back at the trail I stored my food, and Pneumo arrived just in time to get a photo of Lee and I with my real camera. I thanked Lee for the millionth time, and gave him a business card with a link to this blog. What a great guy who made my hike into town that much more enjoyable and my day 1,000x easier. Lee, if you're reading this, thank you again.
The climb out of Pearisburg was once again obnoxious. Steep as all hell and going on for a few miles, I had to stop a few times to catch my breath and remove general woodsy debris that were stuck to my sweaty arms. It was right back at 80 degrees today, and once again it seemed as if there was no point in my having showered earlier this morning. Despite the shade allowed by tree cover heat and humidity were everywhere, with the temporary relief of a cool breeze being a rare occurrence. Pneumo and I hiked together up this section, as its always good to have a second person to help keep a steady pace up these kinds of climbs. Five miles from the base of the trail in town we crossed a grassy bald as a dark storm cloud moved across the valley next to us. Snacking while talking with southbound hikers, we hung out for half an hour or so before beginning the 6 mile hike to the campsite we'd chosen last night. In order for that campsite to work we'd need to stop a mile after the shelter to fill up on water. The downside to hiking these ridges is the lack of fresh springs. The spring at mile 640 would be the last one for 14 miles. Filling three liters, we carried on at a steady pace with great conversation for the quickly passed remaining mileage.
We arrived at the campsite, 25 miles from Wood's Hole, at 1930hrs. We're sharing it with a solo NOBO hiker named Drew who was already here and cooking. I set up my tent and cooked dinner as the sun sank in the sky, talking with Drew and Pneumo as I ate. When we were done eating we did a 'shake down' with my pack. Shake downs are when hikers go through a backpack and come up with as much stuff to send home as possible. My bag weight has been annoying lately and I'd asked for some assistance picking things to ditch. I'm stubborn about some things, for example a 6 ounce waterproof/crush proof case for my dSLR camera memory cards, but the guys were pretty understanding. All in all I believe we came up with 5 or so pounds to ditch. The general rule of thumb is that unless you use it every day, or every other day, it goes away. A month in I'd accumulated little things that certainly add up in weight. While I've got 100 miles until I can get rid of a lot of this stuff at a post office, it's still good to know there was room to ditch things. Pneumo wants to do another shake down round on my bag after he gets back from Trail Days.
Solid day of hiking in the heat, and as of now I'm comfortable with the mileage. Again, I'm passing many groups of people every day who I've never met before. Doing higher mileage makes it like (as one hiker said) 'going to a new high school every day' where all these hikers have their established groups and we kind of just show up one night and leave the next day. Alas I don't dislike this, as I'm challenging myself and I did in fact come here as a solo hiker. There's also a good enough group of us longer-distance hikers that there is some camaraderie between us. As we did my shake down, lightning was visible on the horizon from our vantage point on the ridge. Once in my tent, and as I write this, the fabric is frequently illuminated by the electric bolts of lightning close by. Apparently there's a forecast of bad weather coming by, but for now it's just more of the same heat. Tomorrow morning I'll pick a destination for the day and head off.
I can't believe it's day 40. Having covered 646 miles in that time with 2 neros and 1 zero, I've still averaged over 16 miles per day. I think often of the excitement of getting to Harper's Ferry (the unofficial halfway point) and very much look forward to that day. The trail's been quite exciting thus far, and as I've said before it's really to the point now of being a mental challenge to put up with the isolation from 'real life' for a few more months.
Anyways, bedtime, with distant lightning bolts and a big moon as my nightlight.