My apologies for the gap in days. It turns out that cell reception is hit or miss in the southern part of SNP. I will try to flesh out the missing days… It was a very Joyful section – Mrs. Joy is a wonderful hiking companion and the miles flew by.
I would further like to note that Virginia seems to have two modes – grey, misty, and rainy, or bright, beautiful, and sunny. I think /once/ it was a cloudy day with no rain or mist… but I could be misremembering.
October 8 was in the cloudy, misty, rainy mode. It took us a while to get underway – we drove north, left her car at Hightop overlook parking on Skyline Drive, then were shuttled south about 30 miles. It was about 11:30 when we started to hike, but we only had 8 miles to go, so no worries. She set the pace, and I found it very relaxing! If wet. Yes, it rained a lot. We talked of many things… Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, and cabbages, and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.
Okay, well, maybe not. (Apologies to Lewis Carroll.) But it was an enjoyable hike, and we did talk a lot. Toward the end, though, I hurried ahead – too many people were headed for the shelter, and since I had no tent with me, I needed to make sure I secured a spot in the shelter. A good thing I did, too.
Dinner that night was a Mountain Home chili mac with beans, supposedly 2.5 servings, but I quickly demolished the whole thing. Methinks they need to adjust for hungry hikers! Everyone turned in at full dark, as usual, and there was a blessed lack of snoring in the shelter in this particular night.
During the night, the rain stopped and the wind started – by dawn, the clothes that were soaked and hung up to dry, miraculously, actually were! October 9 was bright and sunny, but cold – the wind did not let up, was gusting over 30 mph, with no reprieve until maybe mid-afternoon. We each hiked at our own pace today, and I was slightly faster, but not by much, which was good. It was too cold to stop for very long, at least until we reached the camp store at Loft Campground. We took a break there, bought some snacks, drinks, refilled water bottles, used the restroom, etc. But again – didn’t stay long. I think the longest break I took while the wind was blowing was hunkered down behind a grouping of rocks, our of the wind. There were reports of another bear on trail, but I never saw it.
Toward the mid-afternoon, the wind finally relented and the day warmed. When I reached Ivy Creek, 11 miles in, and about 2 miles from destination, it was only 2:30 pm. I had plenty of time, so I lay on a large rock for about half an hour, listened to the gurgling of the creek, the splashing of it’s waterfalls, and stared up into the swaying trees. Very peaceful! Eventually, though, I had to move on.
At yet another crossing of Skyline Drive, some kind section hikers gave me a handful of freshly sliced apples. Mmmm, fresh fruit! Fortified, I moved on the remaining two miles, feeling like I had barely hiked at all. The trail had a lot of elevation rise and gain, but it never felt difficult. Plenty of room in the shelter that night – there was no tenting space though, as there was a college group out for an excursion. Creepy guy showed up, smoking his weed and trying to bum cigarettes. None of us were smokers, to his great disappointment.
He tried to get a fire going, but had no luck there, either. The college group did manage to, though, and had brought the ingredients for s’mores. They had a great time, and it was fun watching and listening to them; they were polite, and headed off as it got dark, so the shelter hikers could sleep.
Sometime during the night, I sneezed – hard. It really set that darned rib to hurting again, still aching in the morning. Even though it was another bright, beautiful day, it was still cold, and I was in pain. Mrs. Joy was not of the mood to hike 10 more miles, either, so we hiked 3 to the next road crossing, and in the blink of an eye and the raising of a thumb, we hitched a ride 5 road miles to where her car was parked, and headed back to Waynesboro.
I had a mad craving for a bagel with lox, cream cheese, and capers. It must have been contagious, because we both ended up having one (minus the capers). Then a visit to the outfitters, and she dropped me off at the hostel, and headed back to Maryland. It was great! I will miss her!
And now? I am definitely deep in planning my return home. Two weeks and 150 miles will put me near Roanoke, which has an airport. It will also put me at the 1500 mile mark. I had hoped to get to the VA-TN border, but it was not to be, this year anyway, and I don’t regret. I am feeling ready, actually eager, to go home. Since I realized I would not be able to finish this year, I have been able to relax and enjoy the hike a lot more – the pressure of time and mileage crunch is lifted.
However, I have this weird itchy rash that keeps popping up in new places, really annoying – I am plastered with so many large band-aid pads to avoid scratching, I feel like a walking band-aid advertisement. Here’s hoping it fades quickly once I stop scratching, because it is driving me nuts. Poison ivy? Bug bites? Maybe I am just allergic to Virginia.
I am finished the Shenandoah. Bring on the rest!
I hike on!