On Friday, August 25th, Little Bear Stumbles and I hiked 18.4 miles from Cornelius Creek Shelter to Bobblets Gap Shelter. There were a couple of good climbs, just enough to keep our attention focused on the Trail. It was a pretty amazing day as I saw a young buck, several other deer and numerous beautiful views.
This guy did not mind posing and just stared at me as I took pictures. I thanked him for being so accommodating.
This is where we stopped for lunch.
And here are two good pics, taken from Fork and Cove Mountains.
Lastly, the availability of water is starting to be a concern. Several hikers have posted about previously reliable water sources now being dry. I witnessed this myself, and when I finally came upon an acceptable source, I stocked up, so that I could carry 4 liters of water for the last three miles rather than my normal full load of 1.75 liters. The news regarding water sources in my future are not encouraging.
I was up before sunrise on the 26th, and Little Bear Stumbles and I started hiking with headlamps. The plan was a 18.5-mile hike to Daleville, VA. This included a few good climbs in Jefferson National Forest. A couple of miles into the hike, I was stung by a bee near where the hornet stung me a few days prior. This is getting old.
We arrived in Daleville around 3pm. Diane had reserved a room for me at the Howard Johnson there. Surprisingly, when I was taking a shower, I noticed 30 or 40 bites on my upper legs. I wasn’t sure what they were, although they seemed like chigger bites, but it explained why I was itching like crazy all day on the Trail.
Here are a couple of pictures taken along the hike. One was shortly after sunrise and the other about a couple of hours later. There was significant cloud cover all day.
The water situation continues to be a concern, with more reports of dried-up springs and streams. That changed my plan for the following day. I found a shuttle driver, Homer, who agreed to slack pack me 20 miles to Catawba, VA. Little Bear Stumbles was all too willing to come along. At least we won’t have to carry the Beasts, and we won’t have to worry about water availability.
I have to tell you about Homer, who is well known on the AT. At age 60, his wife told him he had too much stress at work and convinced him to retire. Shortly afterwards, they and their 8- and 11-year-old children, thru-hiked the AT. Last year, at age 74, he ran a 4-hour marathon with his daughter on her birthday. Homer told me he was married on McAfee Knob, spent his honeymoon on Tinker Cliffs about 5 miles down the same ridge line, and every year he and his wife have their anniversary dinner on Tinker Cliffs. Whenever he referred to his wife, it was with respect, admiration and superlatives. His license plate number is “GA-ME-02” (Georgia to Maine, 2002). He simply loves the AT and presently maintains a section.
Homer picked us up at 0600 on Sunday the 27th. McAfee Knob, one of the most photographed sites on the AT, was on our hike. Unfortunately the visibility was very poor, but hopefully these pictures give a good idea how weather can influence a hike. The first picture is from Google; the second one is of me.
Five miles later, the weather significantly improved and we were at Tinker Cliffs. It was beautiful.
We hiked 19.8 miles, and without a doubt, this was the most scenic and beautiful hike to date in Virginia. Homer knew how to pick a honeymoon location! Here are two photos taken from the Trail. In the second picture you may be able to see the white handles of my trekking poles leaning against the center tree for a size perspective.
On Monday, August 28th, we hiked about 21.5 miles. Early in the day, we met Cherokee Rose, a local section hiker who showered us with trail magic of cookies, nuts and water. Her enthusiasm for the Trail was impressive.
After bidding Cherokee Rose farewell, we tackled Dragons Tooth, which was a tough and slow-going. I put away my trekking poles, since a hand-over-hand technique made this climb easier. A few times the width of my hiking shoe was wider than the tiny ledge I had to walk on. With apologies for the angle, this picture gives you an idea of the challenge of climbing Dragons Tooth.
After Dragons Tooth, we climbed Brush Mountain, within Jefferson National Forest. Near the summit there is a memorial to Audie Murphy. This memorial has additions that have been respectfully placed there by hikers. There is also a permanent American flag flying at half mast with a solar light for night time illumination. It was a special site and I definitely enjoyed this somber visit.
Diane arrived at the Craig Creek trailhead that afternoon to pick me up and give Little Bear Stumbles her gear. It’s always great to see Diane! Her birthday was that week, so I’d asked her to come visit for a few days. We left for the hotel, and Little Bear Stumbles continued down the Trail for a couple more miles to the next shelter. She is looking forward to a visit from her husband in a day or so.
I will miss hiking with Little Bear Stumbles. I have never hiked with anyone for so long. As we had a similar pace, we were able to hike together for eight days, staying in various hostels, shelters and hotels. We had interesting conversations and made each other better hikers.
Tuesday, August 29th was my my Zero. Unfortunately I was up at 0500 as I couldn’t sleep. I went to the lobby, had coffee and read the newspaper. It was shocking to read about Hurricane Harvey and the devastating floods in the Houston area. Being on the Trail, I’m unaware of current events.
Diane and I spent the day relaxing, organizing and planning. We are now in Salem, VA and will spend two days here.
After Diane dropped me off at the trail head on Wednesday the 30th, I hiked 19 miles to Johns Creek, on a very remote access road. The scenery was pretty and I was able to get a nice picture of a pasture I hiked through.
For all the geography buffs: that day I crossed the Eastern Continental Divide on the ridge of Sinking Creek Mountain within Jefferson National Forest.
When Diane picked me up at the end of my hike, she was very concerned about driving back over the mountain on the same roads she had driven to meet me. She told me the road (VA 601) was horrible. It was washed out, had deep gulleys and sharp exposed rocks, and there were straight drops off the side. Furthermore, it was the width of one car and impossible (and dangerous) to turn around. To top it all off, there was no phone service.
We managed to return to our hotel by another route, after chancing upon a local resident and asking for directions. But because of the lack of cell reception, we still got lost and the trip took an hour longer than it should have. Thankfully, when we realized we were going in circles, Diane remembered that our old Garmin was in the car. It was able to get a satellite signal when our phones could not get a cellular signal.
Although it was Diane’s birthday, we decided to celebrate the following night. I was tired from the long day, but the following day’s hike would be short.
On Thursday, after Diane dropped me off at the Craig Creek trailhead, she returned to the hotel in Salem. Her plan was to pack and move to a hotel in Blacksburg, VA (to make it easier for her to slack-pack me as I continued southbound). While she was at the hotel, she decided to have breakfast and bumped into friends who live over 140 miles away! We had planned to visit them when we reach the Damascus, VA section of the Trail. What an improbable scenario and wonderful surprise!
My hike that day began with a 2000-foot ascent. I thought that would be the toughest part of the hike, but when I reached the summit, the ridge line was extremely rocky and consequently slow-going. This went on for more than 2 miles. Foot placement was extremely important to avoid injuries. I really do not appreciate hiking under these circumstances.
At the completion of the hike, Diane met me at the Stoney Creek trailhead and we drove back to Blacksburg. We went to a restaurant to celebrate her birthday and then went for an enjoyable drive through the VA Tech campus. Lively with students walking everywhere, the campus is very large with attractive stone buildings and landscaping.
On Friday, September 1, there was a very sketchy weather report with a high probability of rain. I considered taking a zero, but since it was dry in the morning, Diane dropped me off to hike by 6:15am and said farewell.
I started hiking while she drove my gear to a motel in Pearisburg — waking up the manager — and then drove home to Durham. As always, it was great having her here. Two miles into the hike it started to rain, which continued for about 5 hours. The entire day was foggy, cold, windy and rainy. At altitude I was shivering. I hiked the nearly 21 miles to the motel in Pearisburg. It was not a good day for hiking; it was pretty miserable.
The only picture I took was of this little guy. He was right on the Trail and I nearly stepped on him.
I missed Diane already. It was so nice to be with her after being on the Trail all day.