5/7 Zero in Daleville, VA
Today we had a lazy zero. Watched The Princess Bride and Galaxy Quest, the former of which Stitch declared to be the greatest movie of all time. Her and Bevo were quoting the movie the entire time, much to Bright Bags disappointment. I enjoyed The Princess Bride much more than Galaxy Quest.
We headed over to the outfitter to get some more fuel and there was a coffee shop next door with very good wifi, which is somewhat of a rarity on the trail so we hung out there for quite a while.
After that we went back to Bevo’s friends room so I could use his computer to begin to calculate Secret Agent units for the whole trail. As it turns out, despite everyone saying that the north has much more elevation gain, it is not true. VT, NH, and ME do have more, but that is cancelled out by the flatter PA, MD, NJ, NY, CT, and MA. Therefore using elevation and miles to measure trail doesn’t end up being significantly different than just miles. While including terrain and weather would be a substantial improvement, that is work for future researchers. I still think that within days and weeks using secret agent is useful, even if it isn’t for the whole trail.
Over my objections (because they don’t deliver before 4pm) we ate at Pizza Hut because it was so close to the hotel.
4/8 Daleville, VA to Bearwallow Gap (21.6 miles)
Today was pretty uneventful, other than the slight extension of our slackpack. We had intended to stop after about 15 miles, but the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed, so we had to extend our hike to reach the next road at which Bevo’s friends could pick us up. I was happy about the extra miles, but Stitch was not as excited.
Garfield’s pun and humor skills were on full display today. He would be totally quiet for an hour and then just make a hilarious comment. I love having him around.
4/9 Bearwallow Gap to Thunder Hill Shelter (20.5 miles)
Today was the first day in awhile where my legs ended the day sore. It was the first time since the North Carolina that I recall us having a sustained >3000 ft climb. The rest of Virginia had much shorter (although regular) climbs. It was very disappointing to get to the top and see a very mediocre view. The next few days until we get into the Shenandoahs we have several more of them. I hope the weather cooperates so these aren’t too bad.
In the morning I collected wood for Bevo to paint with white blazes similar to the one that I found a few weeks ago. I found a great piece that was like 3 ft long, but it was a long 2 miles to pack it out to Bevo’s friend who was doing trail magic at the next gap.
Bevo’s friend came and dropped off dinner and our packs (we slackpacked today) about .25 miles from the shelter. It was great not having to make dinner. I am looking forward to sleeping in the woods again tonight.
5/10 Thunderhill Shelter to Johns Hallow Shelter (16.3 miles)
Today was the shortest non resupply day that we have had in awhile. We didn’t get started until 8:30 and took several pretty long breaks even though the terrain was relatively easy. We also had donuts for breakfast that I had packed in the short distance from where Bevo’s friend dropped off our packs it was a great way to start the day. We came across a cool view early in the morning, but the rest of the views for the day were either fogged in or blocked by trees.
This stretch of Virginia has a lot of very large river crossings (>500 ft cross). This means we have had and will continue for the next few days to have very significant ups and downs (>2500 ft). There will be some tough days until we get into Waynesboro. We will not have the luxury of an easy day like today.
I did enjoy the leisurely pace that we took today, although I wouldn’t want to do it regularly. There would be too much sitting around for me. It did allow Stitch and I to have a great conversation about life and relationships. These types of conversations are my favorite type on the trip where you get to hear someone’s perspective that might be totally different than your own.
It’s supposed to rain a lot tonight so I am sleeping in a full shelter for the first time all trip. I hope it goes well. I am in bed very early (5:30) tonight because it started to rain. I read and try to sleep early because we have a big climb tomorrow morning.
5/11 Johns Hallow Shelter to Brown Mountain Shelter (18.3 miles)
We once again woke up to rain and a very dreary day. I am happy that it is at least doing most of the raining at night, but it would be great if we could have a full day of nice weather.
We started the day with a 3000 foot climb up a mountain. i\It was very muggy and uncomfortable. Garfield and I talked about how, for the last week or so, (excluding the nights in Daleville) it has felt like everything is moist. If either of us stopped walking for more than a few seconds our glasses were completely fogged. Thankfully we got above the clouds/ fog and there were some really cool views of some nearby mountains at the top.
It was a pretty uneventful afternoon, but it did feature swimming in a dammed lake which was the highlight of the day. I am happy the weather cooperated enough for us to enjoy it and get a little clean. Since we had a relatively shorter day we got in early enough for us to start a fire. Stitch was really happy to be able to dry out her clothes.
I got into bed early tonight to help prepare for a long day tomorrow.
5/12 Brown Mountain Shelter to The Priest Shelter (22.4 miles)
Today was an overall great day for me. We started the day with a big climb. I wanted to challenge myself, so I set a goal to do the 2.7 mile 1900 ft climb in under 1.25 hours. I ended up finishing the climb in just over an hour and my body felt great. I got to enjoy the first clear view that we have had in awhile while I was waiting for the rest of my family to catch up.
Even after that climb my body felt great (unlike the rest of my family) so I was moving quite a bit faster than everyone else. This ended up working out well because we had another long stretch without water so I was able to get to water early and have filtered water ready for everyone.
We got above the clouds today and gad some great views for awhile. There was one point where one side of the mountain was totally covered in fog, while the other was clear and had clear views. There were also points when we’d start heading downhill and have it go from clear and sunny to totally foggy.
I broke away from hiking with my family for the rest of the afternoon in an effort to beat the rain. While It drizzled and thundered it never really ended up raining which was great.
I hadn’t felt as good as I felt today in awhile. I think it was a mixture of the nicer weather, earlier bed times, and the adrenaline from hiking up the first mountain really quickly.
All of us are worried about having enough food for this section. I think that shopping for so many days coupled with all the uphold has made us hungrier than we expected. We were all glad that Garfield started carrying two sticks of butter and had been willing to share it.
5/13 The Priest Shelter to tentsite (17.3 miles)
We got off to our normal 715 start to the day. It was another dreary start, although it ended up clearing up by the afternoon. We had a pretty steep downhill that went right up afterwards.
About 1/3 the way up the climb there was a shelter that talked very highly of a brewery that was 8 miles ahead on the trail. We immediately did some research and realized we could get there for an early dinner. It was a tough long climb with a couple of rocky sections. It took me a lot longer than it yesterday, but at least there were some good views at several points that weren’t completely fogged in.
On the hike down we met a day hiker who offered to give us a ride to the brewery when he finished off his hike. As soon as he passed the bend, Stitch started her “happy dance”. Shortly there after Garfield provided the quote of the day “I wouldn’t want everyone on earth to be killed. I would need a few people to play video games with.”
We waited at the road for our ride to finish off his hike. Thankfully he arrived only about 10 minutes after us. It was about a 5 mile drive and we were all starving so we went in and ordered very quickly. I stuffed myself (burger, dinner sized salad, and chocolate cake). It was definitely better than the Spanish Rice Pasta side I was planning to have for dinner.
We had another 1.8 miles to do after dinner that were made very tough by the totally full stomach, but we were happy to not have to make dinner.
5/14 Tentsite to Rockfish Gap (17.4 miles)
This was the first time in a few weeks that we woke up to a sunny day. It was a nice change from the last two weeks. We got moving pretty quickly this morning since it was supposed to rain in the afternoon. We were treated to some pretty great views in the early morning, despite not having to climb to much. That was a welcome change from the last few days.
We did the first 12 miles before lunch. We were all able to keep up with the faster pace thanks to the easier terrain, nice weather, and promise of a good bed to sleep in tonight. Garfield and I also created a “Stitch Sandwich” making sure she stayed between us and didn’t fall too far behind. She humored us for most of the day and was a really good sport about it. I also learned about Garfield’s favorite video game, Monster Hunters.
Bevo got way ahead of us after lunch, but the three of us enjoyed great conversation and laughs until it started raining on us about 1/2 a mile from the parking lot we were getting picked up at. By the time we got to the parking lot it was raining pretty hard with strong winds and the trail was already turning into a stream. Thankfully we got to an overhang where we stayed mostly dry before Bevo’s friends could pick us up.
Bevo’s friends (whose daughter he took to prom) were incredibly nice and generous people. Not only did they open up their home to all 4 of us smelly hikers, but they also put together a wonderful dinner with dessert. They introduced me to a game, Table Topics, which is just a bunch of questions about life and a persons background. We took pictures of a few of the good ones to use as conversation topics on the trail.
It doesn’t look like the rain is going to clear up for our next week in the Shenandoahs, which is unfortunate. I am thankful that the Virginia Blues haven’t really hit me despite the bad weather. I have my wonderful trail family to thank for that.