There is a common perception on trail that “the trail provides”. Mrs. Joy and I were discussing that the other day. It certainly provided today! But I will get to that.
Today I got up about the usual time, 6:30 – 6:45, but had a very slow start anyway. The day was cold, and the propane stove was very slow to boil water, probably in part because it was on the verge of empty. I ate my oatmeal and drank my coffee lukewarm, then filtered more water from rushing Mill Creek. The Sawyer filter takes forever compared to a Steripen, but was much cheaper. Anyway, it was close to 9 before I hit trail, but I figured that was okay, since I only had 15 miles to go.
But I was fretting about not having fuel to cook with, so plans quickly re-adjusted to go to a hostel 14 miles on and see if they had half-empty canisters in the hiker box, they almost always do. It was a plan, anyway.
The trail today roughly paralleled the Blue Ridge Parkway, and was much rockier than in the Shenandoah. There was even a real mountain to climb, up to 3400 feet, Humpback Mountain. A lot of switchbacks, rock stairs, and chunks of path strewn with rocks. I took spills twice, no harm done, but it was the most challenging day in VA since the rollercoaster.I passed a few northbounders, leapfrogged a couple of dayhikers now and again. I kept stopping, had a hard time getting into the zone. Eventually I reached Reed’s Gap, 14 miles in. And then I had a choice to make.
I could try to get a ride to the hostel, tent for $20, though I’d tried calling all day, only to get voicemail. I could try to go to the Devil’s Brewpub, a place highly recommended for great beer and free tenting, but no hiker box – but at least I’d have a hot supper, or I could press on another 1.7 miles to the next shelter and eat granola bars for dinner for a few nights. I sat on a rock by the parking lot at the gap, and tried to contact the hostel again, in vain. The pub couldn’t spare any staff to pick me up. Two day hikers came out of the woods. And the trail began to provide.
They had never heard of the hostel, but were willing to give me a ride to the pub, as it was on their way. We got to chatting, and I was laughing about my being out of gas. Lo and behold, when we got there, the driver reached into the back and produced a full fuel canister! Would not accept payment for it either!
The brew pub has a sweet set-up for camping – clotheslines, firepits, plenty of logs to sit on, and two portapotties! I got everything in place, tent set up, then cooked some freeze-dried chicken teriyaki using the new canister, to save money. Feeling virtuous, I then went into the Devil’s Brewpub to sample some beer, and oh, my. Their reputation is well-deserved, that was some great beer! They certainly know how to treat hikers right, there is a $5 hiker breakfast special tomorrow I am dying to try before I hit the trail again, and they will give me a ride back to the trailhead, too.
Ah, tomorrow will be strenuous, I will need that breakfast. Climb 1200 feet to 3900, drop to 970 at Tye River, climb to 4000 feet, shelter. 16.5 miles, though if I need to stop sooner, there is a campsite at 12 miles. But I think I can do it, with a full breakfast and an early start. There will be a lot of switchbacks to make it easier.
Tonight I lie in my tent, relaxing and listening. Music from the pub; a cricket nearby; a dog barking in the distance. Traffic sounds. The moon is bright, clear, and nearly full above, casting shadows from the trees. My legs itch from poison ivy, and I am texting weird comments with my brother. Life is good.
I hike on!