Virginia Part I

31 Oct

Day 123, Mile 1563

I’m here at the lovely Woodshole Hostel, a few miles down the trail from Pearisburg, Virginia. Although housed in an old homestead built over 100 years ago, it does manage to have electricity and internet. Lightweight is in the kitchen with the owner Neville cooking up a Halloween feast!

So, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged and thus there is a lot to cover here. I’ll try to let the pictures do most of the storytelling. Virginia has been really good so far, easily one of my favorite states. We’re starting to get back into real mountains again, and the leaves are changing, and the air is getting that crisp autumn feel to it–in short it’s everything that I had hoped October would be like on the Appalachian Trail.

After heading out from Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, we trekked across the Blue Ridge and headed south towards Shenandoah National Park. Walking through SNP has been one of the highlights of my trip so far. SNP was filled with lots of weekend warriors and day hikers as well, which translated into lots of trail magic for me, such as pizza, sodas, Clif Bars, and a few choice adult beverages. Most of all though, I really enjoyed being back in mountains again, after so many miles of low-elevation ridges that dominated Connecticut through Maryland. We finally got above 4000 feet also, the first time since Vermont. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that I saw a few bear cubs too!

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View from Hawksbill Mountain, the highest point in Shenandoah NP

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Sunset from Hightop

After finishing up through SNP, I headed into Waynesboro, where my brother was picking me up to take me into DC for the weekend. But before he did, I got to have dinner at the trail-famous Ming’s Chinese Garden Buffet, which was absolutely amazing. Although supposedly all-you-can-eat, I have found that Chinese buffets have a very passive-aggressive way of saying “You eat like a Orca whale, you are no longer welcome here!” After my third trip through the buffet, they brought me my check. After my fourth pass, they stopped refilling my drink. And finally, as the coup de grâce they took my fork! I walked out–nay, waddled out–a very happy hiker.

As mentioned above, my brother picked me up the next day and we headed into DC for a very relaxing weekend. After hiking for a month straight without any zero days, I was in desperate need for some time off. I definitely picked a good weekend to come in as well, because when I got back on the trail on Sunday, I found that it had been snowing while I was away!

Less than a week after I left DC, John and my cousin Andrew came back out to hike with me for a few days, which was really great. After leaving DC, I hiked by myself for five days, which can be really dispiriting. On top of the solitude, I was trying to make big miles, so I typically ended up night-hiking to make it into camp, which can be pretty spooky. I even spent the night in a supposedly haunted shelter. The story is that in the fall of 1890, four-year-old Ottie Powell went to gather firewood and never returned. His body was found five months later on top of Bluff Mountain. I read many a story in the shelter register about hearing the sound of crying off in the woods during the night. Although I didn’t hear anything, I did find a nice pile of firewood stowed underneath the shelter.

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Fall Colors

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The James River Valley

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White Blaze in the Mist on the Blue Ridge

My brother and cousin met up with me at a crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of the best parts of having them out was being able to actually share some of my experiences with them, instead of just talking about it. And boy, did they get the full Appalachian Trail experience–rain, sun, long days, short days, awesome views, resupplies, campfires, stealth camping, homeless people in the shelter, trail names, hitch hiking, trail magic–they really got it all! John and Andrew both got trail names within their first few days, going by “Fungus Fang” and “Music Man,” respectively.

The day before my birthday was one of the best that I have had on the trail so far. The three of us summited Tinker Cliffs and McAfee Knob which had some of the best views I have had since New Hampshire. Plus that night, we had dinner at the Homeplace Restaurant. They serve homestyle southern vittles like fried chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes, and cobbler. I had been hearing about this place since all the way back in Maine, and it definitely surpassed my expectations, and I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday dinner!

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Fungus Fang, Music Man, and Tex at McAfee Knob

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Me at McAfee Knob

Alas, they had to leave and return to DC on Tuesday. While they were here though, Lightweight caught up to me, and we have been hiking together since then. We’ve both been feeling a little burned out, and having someone to hike with really helps keep up your spirit. We are well over two-thirds done now, just over 600 miles to go! The end is feeling closer and yet farther away every single day. I just hope I have the energy and spirit to make it! Right now I am shooting for December 5 as a finish date, but it all depends on how the weather holds up for me. I keep hearing that I should be expecting snow in the Smokies, so that might end up slowing me down alot. Onward!

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7 Responses to “Virginia Part I”

  1. uncle Craig November 4, 2009 at 6:21 pm #

    Now Chestnut Knob is the kind of landmark I like to see. I can pinpoint where you are. Looks like less than 80 miles to Tennessee by tonight

  2. uncle Craig November 3, 2009 at 6:18 pm #

    ye ole coach says move on bud. don’t burn daylight. 600 miles by 32days = little less than 20/day

  3. William November 2, 2009 at 8:47 pm #

    Always a pleasure to read your updates. Enjoy the last 600 miles.

    -W.Zimmerman

  4. Rachael November 1, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    Sarah’s immediate response when seeing the picture of you on the overhang:
    “hell no, I’d never do that!”

    Gorgeous pictures!! I love the one of the yellow leaves with the perfect blue sky in the background! definitely a framer.

  5. uncle Craig November 1, 2009 at 8:23 am #

    Great pictures and good blog. Keep up your spirits. You can make the finish by Dec 1. Good weather and better hiking to you. You do need to get up early to make a few miles more.

  6. Julia November 1, 2009 at 1:30 am #

    What absolutely beautiful pictures! Haha, and my dad has a good Chinese Buffet story . . . so I will now have to tell him yours.

    Well, it was 80 degrees here in NC today, so I’ll be hoping for no snow! I can’t believe you’ve already made it to Virginia – just one state away!!!

    And maybe our phone tag will come to an end soon, haha, but I’ve been enjoying your messages.

    Julia

  7. David L October 31, 2009 at 11:30 pm #

    you can do it bobby!! (from molly. and david concurs. but he didn’t type that. what is authorship? a thought to ponder for a day or two on your hike. courtesy of molly’s counterfeit literature class.)

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