Well, this will be a long one, a lot to get caught up on! The silence was due to flaky reception. Very mountainy around here. Weird, huh?
October 14, I wrote my confession to the Priest in the logbook, and moved on. I have to say that the presence of anti-Catholic comments in the logbook from other hikers was rather depressing. But what can you do…
The trail was not exceptionally hard, but I have noticed a tendency in Blue Ridge trails to curve around endlessly along the sides of the mountains or ridges, just below the ridgeline, on very narrow paths. This day was no exception. Still, pretty level most of the day – no complaints! I stopped and rested at a shelter a while, still covered my 14.3 miles by 4:30.
I ended the day getting a pickup from Hog Camp Gap to 3 Springs Hostel. While I was waiting, I say on a rock to rest – some weekend campers declared I looked amazingly photogenic and insisted on taking my picture with my phone. Well, okay…
I did not really want to stay at another hostel, but I needed a place with reliable internet connection to purchase my plane ticket out of VA, and this was the only option for at least 3 days. I did enjoy a home cooked sirloin burger, I must admit, and I had forgotten how good cotton feels on your skin. Also, I overslept and almost missed breakfast – I woke up at 7:15, it was served at 7:30. I must have really needed that rest!
October 15 – Very good breakfast, then time to hit the trail again – I had a long day ahead. 17.7 miles. Right from the beginning, I was climbing, up to the very grassy top of Cole Mountain, one of VA’s famous balds. It was reputed to have one of the best views in the state, but unfortunately was socked in by fog and cloud – this began to clear about an hour later, but I had already moved on.
There was a lot of up and down this day! Bald Knob was next (not really bald), then a long drop from 4000 feet down to the Pedlar River at 952. I didn’t mind this so much, but I wasn’t prepared for the climb up Rice Mt., it was getting late in the day and I was getting tired. There was actually a campsite with a fire ring at about the 14 mile mark, and if I had had more water, I would have camped there, but I was down to less than a half-liter – not feasible. So I trudged on, and made it to Punchbowl Shelter about 6 pm.
I was so hungry, I are a double portion of kung pao noodles, which did not please my stomach as much as I might have thought. Usual chores – hang the bear bag, filter water, lay out sleeping gear. There were three of us there – me in the shelter, one hammocking, one tenting. The water source was awful, outflow from a small pond, but I filtered it well. The privy was somewhere out there, off Navy property. But, you know, you make do. At least there was a campfire. I did not sleep very well, despite being very tired.
October 16, I deliberately let myself sleep in. I only had a 10.5 mile day planned, to the town-owned and maintained shelter at Glasglow – this actually began as an Eagle Scout project. More on that in a bit.
Very steep climb up Bluff Mountain, but the view was so worth it! Up top, I met southbounder Philosopher, and by the time I finished extolling all the expected joys of Glasglow, she decided to stay there as well. She’s about 20 years younger, but we got along well.
A lot of up, a lot of down. It was a day filled with unexpected trail magic, mostly in the form of cookies! Two chocolate chip, two peanut butter. And a bottle of water. I could not resist.
At first I was afraid I would miss the shuttle, due to the fact that the descent from Big Rocky Row into the James River valley was incredibly steep and rocky at first, but it got much better after the first mile. I even had time to stop at a shelter, rest a bit, chat with some weekend hikers, and eat my cookies. Very pleasant people, they kept offering me all this food, but I was only 1.6 miles from destination, so I declined. Not good to be greedy.
Philosopher and I arrived at the hiker parking at the same time, and our shuttle was waiting. Only $5 to go into town, not bad! And this is a very sweet set-up for a hiker. First there was the enclosed, outdoor shower, open to the sky – this in itself justified this whole town’s existence, it was pure bliss, with plenty of hot water and fresh air all at the same time! Porta potties with toilet paper provided. Clotheslines, picnic tables and benches, a fire ring with enough stacked firewood for twenty bonfires. Bunks in a shelter with electricity, tenting space, potable water. All of this sitting right behind a pizza and subs place with beer!
Showers first. Me, then Philosopher. Food and drink second. Then, campfire. Ziptie here made fire! Granted, I cheated by using a firestarter disc, but I built a very beautiful fire! We even got the ingredients for s’mores, but we were both pretty full, so only had a few marshmallows. The chocolate bars, I’ll take with me, and the rest leave for other hikers.
So now I lie in my Eagle Scout bunk, typing away. Each bunk has three levels, and I am in the middle level – there was a stray dog wandering by earlier looking for handouts, and I’d rather be out of range. My only concern is how close the levels are together. Not much headroom! Can we say “Bonk?”
Tomorrow is slated to be a 13 mile day, after I pick up my last food drop at 8 am at the post office. Unless I go crazy and try to do 20 miles to the next shelter after the 13 mile one. Anything is possible.
I hike on!