Veni, vidi, hiki.
After a first rate breakfast at the Sheraton, including fresh fruit and more sausages than I knew I should eat, we were off to the hostel again! Leaving the car there seemed like the best idea, since it was only a half mile off the Rt. 624 trail crossing, and we could walk back when the hike was over.
So we were shuttled to Rt. 620, where I left off yesterday, and where we were going to start hiking north. And no sooner had the van disappeared down the road then things began to get interesting.
You see… There was a small bridge crossing a small creek. We got a few pictures, walked across, and Jean’s shoes began to fall apart. Literally. The whole thick rubber bottom sole on one shoe started flopping free of the upper, then fell off completely. Then the other sole started flopping, and came off… Apparently they had been sitting in a closet too long, the glue had dried or something, and… Voila! Four sections of shoe! So my poor cousin had to hike the 9 miles in shoes that were essentially moccasins – no support, and certainly no traction! He is a trooper though, and soldiered on, but we were both laughing in sheer “what the heck!” disbelief. What a way to start!
About a mile or so in, and .3 off trail was a typical Appalachian trail shelter, and he had never seen one, so we walked down and I showed him the shelter, explained the standard sleeping arrangements inside (“think sardines”). And the privy, which I sorely needed at this point. Too much rich food.
The hike up Cove Mt., direction south to north, was a longish climb, but not difficult, mercifully. Jean is a walker, and I had him set the pace, which turned out very comparable to my own, so that went very smoothly. Toward the top, it started to get rockier, and we minded our step more. We’d pause to have some water, or admire a view, or eat something. As we went, I was able to see the hike through his eyes, as something fresh and new and exciting, a perspective I hadn’t had in a long time. I was so glad he was along, for so many reasons. And glad for his sake as well, of course!
Cove Mt. had the remarkable rock formation called, very aptly, “Dragon’s Tooth”. We took the short blueblaze trail down to it and enjoyed the view and climbing around and over it, very much. Pictures, of course, but only a few of mine turned out.
The climb down from the top was, in a word, wonderful. My only worry was Jean’s shoes, or what was left of them, but despite the lack of traction, there were no major missteps. The trail down was a good .7 mile chunk of rock scramble worthy of the AT, and more scrambley than anything I’d seen south of PA. Absolutely loved it. It demanded full attention and was not shy about demanding it – it was steep, it was rocky, and you had to watch your step every minute. An unexpected bonus! My cousin enjoyed himself as well, though the traction issue…
After that .7, the trail got somewhat easier, and started spiralling down the side of the mountain, until we came to the amusingly named Lost Spectacles Gap. Well, it being a gap meant we had to climb again, but it was only a short climb back up.
More rocky patches, then diagonally down the side of the ridge on easy path, this part took forever, of course. We had started at 9, reached the road about 2:45. The roadwalk to the hostel was defined by green pinetrees painted on the road surface. Cute and clever! Jean changed shoes once we got there; what was left of his were starting to wear through the bottom. We were on our way by 3:30, and hit Newport News about 9, having stopped often to stretch, and in one case, to hit the Chick-Fil-a for dinner.
So I am lying in a guest room at my cousin’s house, reflecting. The trail today was a perfect microcosm of the AT as a whole. It had something of everything, except river fording. It had easy trail, a shelter, great views, weird rock formations, rebar at points, and difficult rock scrambles. Best of all, it gave Jean a real taste of what the trail is like, it was a great section for him to hike.
Having someone with me who had never hiked the AT before really did give me a fresh new perspective. Also, because I was not alone, I didn’t sink into melancholic drama-mode. He had many questions to answer, and it turns out that he and I share common political views and non-political interests (history, family stories), so we had some great discussions. I enjoyed my final day that much more for it. It was the best possible way to end.
But it did have to end. And that is starting to sink in, a bit. I will be too busy the next few days yet for the realization to really hit me, I suspect, but once I return home, and there are no more mountains to climb… Well, I’ll just have to adjust all over again. The blog will continue until things get boring.
I live on!