5/1 Zero in Pearisburg
Today was a very lazy day. We resupplyed and lounged around the motel room. We woke up to pouring rain and were definitely happy that we weren’t hiking.
The zero was really good for letting my body rest. All of the 20+ mile days had really started to wear on my body. It was also a good opportunity to catch up on some blogging, sharing photos with Stitch and Bevo, and giving my family updates on my trip.
5/2 Pearisburg to Pine Swamp Branch Shelter (19.5 miles and 1 bonus mile)
We started this morning with a bonus mile from Pearisburg back to the trail head. We had hoped to be able to hitch a ride, but weren’t able to find one. It was very foggy this morning, and felt like it was going to rain, but it cleared up by mid afternoon.
Most of the day was pretty uneventful, until the very end of the day. By mid afternoon clouds started to form and we heard thunder off into the distance. We started walking very quickly with hopes of reaching the shelter before it started. Unfortunately it started to rain and hail when we were still about 1/2 mile from the shelter. It was the first time yet on the trail that we became thoroughly soaked, with puddles in our shoes. I feel pretty lucky that it took us this long to get poured on. We reached the shelter before the rain ended and waited it out there.
We had originally planned to get to “The Captains” a trail angel who lets thruhikers camp in his yard (you take a zip line over a river to get there) and also has sodas and wifi. However, since it was supposed to rain all night Stitch and I decided to stay at the shelter, since we didn’t want to set up and take down our tents in the rain when there was a better alternative. Bevo and Garfield pressed on because they don’t have sleeping pads, so only sleep in their hammocks. Stitch and I will head out a little early so we can meet them about 1 mile up.
I tried to start a fire in the shelters to dry off our stuff. It got mostly started, but then it started to downpour directly down the chimney. I admitted defeat, ate my dinner and got into dry clothes for the night.
5/3 Pine Swamp Branch Shelter to Laurel Creek Shelter (18.5 miles)
Stitch and I woke up this morning to the sound of rain on the shelters tin roof. Thankfully it subsided by the time that we left, which was a little earlier than usual so we could catch up to Garfield and Bevo.
About 1/2 mile into the hike we came across a stream that was flowing so strongly that what we assumed was the normal crossing was unsafe to pass. After about 5 minutes of searching for the best place to cross, we decided to cross about 15 ft down stream in calf deep water. We both got across safely, but with very wet shoes. We were every thankful that we were both wearing relativity quick drying shoes , rather than goretex shoes that would have certainly been soaked through.
We met up with Bevo and Garfield as they were coming across the zip line from the Captain’s back to the trail. The river had risen so much from the rain that Bevo (without his pack) was only a few inches above the water. He had nearly a foot of clearance with his pack the day prior.
The trail for much of the morning was a small stream. The only benefit of having totally soaked through our shoes was that we could walk straight through the stream/trail without caring.
The weather cleared up by mid morning while we were at the end of a long climb. We decided to stop for lunch and immediately all took our socks and shoes off so we could wring them out and dry a little bit in the sun. Sadly, when I put them back on they felt just as wet.
At around 2pm it looked like it was going to start raining and we were about .4 miles from a shelter. We started to walk somewhat faster and then about 1/4 mile out it started drizzling. Garfield and I started running to the shelter because we didn’t want to get soak again. It ended up taking about 15 minutes to really start raining, so Stitch and Bevo who walked at a more normal pace also got the the shelter without getting soaked. After our experience yesterday, I have no regrets about running, even if it ended up not being useful. We waited out the rain for about 30 minutes and it cleared up and got sunny in the afternoon.
The rest of the afternoon was uneventful, other than the second >1500 ft climb that had pretty much no view at the top. It is definitely getting easier to do the climb than it was at the start, but it still is frustrating to do all the climbing without any view.
Today went a lot better than expected. We were all in pretty good spirits this morning, despite the soaking wet shoes. By the end of the day the wet shoes and socks were starting to really bother all of our feet. They were causing blisters and my feet looked like raisins for about 10 minutes after I took my shoes off. Thankfully I was able to mostly dry my socks and shoes out when we got to camp so I won’t have to walk in them tomorrow.
5/4 Laurel Creek Shelter to Pickle Branch Shelter (22.5 miles)
We got up this morning and since Stitch takes a little longer than me to get ready I am still trying to figure out at what stage in her camp take down routine I need to start packing up. I got closer today, but I am still starting to soon. We had a short up and down in the morning and once again some of the best views of the day came at the lowest elevation. In the mid morning we came across a giant oak tree that was pretty cool.
There was some tough climbs and very rocky ridge walking just before lunch. There were some nice views off of the ridge, but it was also pretty tough to climb over all of it.
We were all really feeling it at lunch. The blisters from yesterday were definitely bothering all of us. However, after lunch when we started at 1500 ft climb and I felt great. While the climb felt really long my body felt great for the rest of the day. Stitch and Bright Bags weren’t feeling nearly as well and there weren’t any great views, so Bevo and I decided to get ahead of them and get water before they got there.
Bevo and I hiked the last 5 miles with Rubix who we have hiked at about the same speed with for a week or so. It was nice to talk and get to know her. She was told many of Bevo and my favorite stories and introduced to Secret Agent units.
The shelter was a long .3 miles off of the trail. It was a long walk down, but when we got there 2 European women who were starting a section hike had a fresh baguette, guacamole, and smoked salmon that they shared with us. It made the long hike off the side trail worth it.
5/5 Pickle Branch Shelter to VA 311 (12.6 miles)
Today was without a doubt the worst day I have had on the trail. We woke up to a light drizzle, which we all assumed would stop. We were all totally wrong. It rained pretty much the entire hike and was made even worse by being very cold (~40 degrees Fahrenheit). The biggest problem that we all had was very cold hands and were difficult to use. Garfield commented that while he had no feeling in his fingers, he was glad he couldn’t get frostbite.
The first part of today’s hike was uphill, but was nothing out of the ordinary. Once we got to the top of Dragonstooth, we were in for a totally different hike. The way down was bouldering (including steel drilled into rocks to make a ladder) across very slippery rocks. This portion was somewhat fun for awhile, until we lost feeling in our hands that made the bouldering much more difficult. About half way down we got worried about Rubix who we thought would be hiking alone, over the very dangerous descent. Bevo shouted up to her a few times and finally we heard her yell back. We waited for her to catch up and she was very happy to see us and have some other people to be miserable with. Thankfully we all got down safely (although cold and soaking wet). The first five miles took us 3 hours, which is far slower than our normal pace.
As the terrain leveled out it started to rain harder and the trail pretty much became a stream. While this part was easier, it was still miserable because of the cold wet rain. I started walking really quickly to warm up and taking almost no breaks because it was so cold so I got ahead of the rest of the group for the last 6 miles. There were a lot of PUNs, but thankfully the rain subsided and a started to regain feeling in my hands.
I arrived at the parking lot just as Bevo’s friends (one of whom, Ren, will be slackpacking with us for a few days) arrived. They were planning on doing trail magic so I help them set up and Stitch,Bevo, Garfield, and Rubix all arrived. We quickly became very cold and went into the privy to change into some warmer drier clothing. They had been planning to do trail magic for more people than just us, but after about 1 hour of waiting (coupled with the fact that we didn’t see anyone else on the trail) we decided that pretty much all the thru hikers were taking the day off or were well behind us.
Bevo’s friends were nice enough to give us all a ride to the motel in their new car. We wrapped up all of our bags and feet in garbage bags so were able to keep the car quite clean despite being dirty hikers. When we got to the motel we turned the room into a mini sauna so we could dry out all of our clothes.
We were all glad that had a trail family today. Bevo, Stitch, and Garfield all talked about how they would have seriously considered quitting if they were alone. I never quite felt quite that awful but there is no question that misery loves company.
Some people say “the worst day on the trail is better than the best day in the ‘real world'”. I can say with certainty that it is not true for me or anyone in my trail family. A more accurate statement would be “the average day on the trail is better than the best day in the ‘real world'”.
I am not ready to say that the Virginia blues have set in, but all the PUDs with no views and rainy weather the last few days have definitely made it the worst stretch on the trial so far.
5/6 VA 311 to Daleville VA (19.8 miles)
We slackpacked today with Bevo’s friend and got some great views from McAfee’s Knob and the surrounding area. This is one of the most iconic views on the AT and it did not disappoint. We spent along time up there taking photos (Bevo’s friend brought a real camera) and then some time just taking in the great views. This day was made much sweeter by the terrible day yesterday and a great reminder of why I am hiking the AT. We got a ton of cool photos that you can check out (along with the rest of our AT photos here https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0RJtdOXmG80yRU)
In the afternoon I gave Stitch and Garfield a crash course on the electric power industry. They were both surprisingly interested in what I had to say so it was a nice way to pass the time. We caught up to Bevo and the conversation eventually evolved into one about emissions regulations, but thankfully we avoided rehashing that debate.
I love my having a trail family in town. While we look like total hiker trash, we have great time laughing and joking about everything and anything.
Thruhiker pro tip: XL children’s shirts are about the same as an adult S/M and $1.50 less at Goodwill. Sometimes the cashier will challenge it being kids, but the tags prove the kids sizing.