As I mentioned in my last post, I had a nice dinner in Atkins that I blame for the abundance of energy I felt at 8:30pm after already hiking 11 miles on a resupply day.
Just to clarify, resupply days are the days in which you hop into town, restock your food at the grocery store and maybe do laundry/shower. The problem is, towns make you soft and lazy. So, it isn’t uncommon for hikers to do low miles on days they make a town stop. With that said, the fact that I felt like night hiking almost 15 additional miles is exciting. Plus, I was determined to reunite with everyone ahead of me. I figured Rebel Yell might be at Knot Maul Branch Shelter, so I decided to hike on and find out.
During the 14.5 mile stretch that night I received quite a surprise–a sign informing me I had successfully completed 1/4 of the Appalachian Trail. During many points on the trip I’ve hollered out to the hikers around me, “Hey y’all–we’re really doing it. We’re really hiking the AT!”
Because honestly, it’s easy to forget at times. I feel like I have to remind myself that at this very moment I’m chipping away at a dream I’ve had for many years. Seeing that sign was a bittersweet moment I’m glad I was able to experience alone.
I finally reached Knot Maul Branch Shelter at about 3am. I saw that Rebel Yell’s tent was there–success! One member of our group caught. I woke him up that morning by playing his favorite T-Swift song, “Shake It Off.” Really, he knows every word.
We hiked together that day, planning how we might catch the rest of the group. Maybe we could pass them in the night and write in one of the shelter registers telling them to hurry and catch up. If I haven’t mentioned before, the trail registers are notebooks located at each shelter in which you can sign your name and thoughts, leave messages for others, or look back to see if and when someone you know came through. Right On, Mountain Goat and Chance kept writing ugly messages to me in the books.
Mountain Goat left the trail temporarily, but Chance picked up his slack by getting more creative with his ugly messages. I honestly wanted to find him at night and write ‘War Eagle’ on his tent with a permanent marker. But, none of them are actually Bama fans..which makes it worse. I think.
Anyway, Rebel Yell and I had planned to do a 20-mile day, but the day was cut short after a brutal 4-mile climb up Chesnut Mountain. We agreed to stop there as the shelter was one of the more interesting ones I’d seen. It was completely enclosed and had a picnic table inside. Considering the brisk wind on the mountain top, it was a nice setup.
After sunrise, I started hiking what would end up being my record day–25.9 miles to Helvey’s Mill Shelter. The next few days consisted of a good bit of night hiking in which I saw some cool critters:
On May 29th, I hit mile 600! To celebrate, a group of us walked a half mile down VA 606 to Trent’s Grocery.
Trent’s Grocery offers a small selection of resupply, but most importantly they have hamburgers, chocolate milk and beer–a hikers dream after a long day of hiking.
I didn’t leave Trent’s until they closed, and I hiked only a few tents of a mile before setting up camp. The next day, I matched my record with another 25.9 miles into Pearisburg, VA. I didn’t get to town until about 3am, but my bed at the Plaza Motel felt amazing. The owner trusted me enough to leave my key in the mailbox and told me to pay the next morning.
I slept like a rock for a few hours and then went through the typical process of shower, laundry, washing my pot and cup, etc. I usually hand wash my Frogg Toggs because I fear that the washer will shred them. I hadn’t used my rain pants since I left the smokies, so I decided to say goodbye to them. I kept my top portion, and even though my pants were ripped they were still useful in the rain. It’s just too hot for rain pants now. So, I must say for a $20 set of Frogg Toggs, after 600 miles of hiking they’ve definitely paid their dues!
After checkout, I resupplied and ate lunch at a Chinese buffet. My feet were still very swollen and my pack felt extra heavy. When I read the message in my fortune cookie, I knew it was time for a zero day.
So, I checked back into my room that hadn’t even been cleaned yet at the Plaza Motel. I decided Chance, Right On, Perk and Howzit would just have to be caught another day. As I propped my feet up on a pillow and faded off to sleep, my bed felt twice as good the second night.
Here are some additional photos from this section of the trail:
Well, time to hit the trail again! Until next time–
When I was attending Va Tech I hiked several sections of the AT in that area right after where you ended up. I know Pearisburg very well. I did the Angel’s Rest hike many times. Shame you missed out on that view, but you have seen many others just as good or better. Lovely pictures as always!
Thank you, Steve!
Just wonderful following your journey!!! I’ve never done a long hike but I do a lot of short hikes (~7-10 miles …personal circumstance don’t allow anything longer right now) and have hiked quite a few times in the dark early in the morning to be on top of a summit at sunrise. The best experience (and agree a bit creepy but as you said…. state of mind is really important…. was hiking up to Scouts Lookout at Zion NP 90 min before sunrise and the stars were amazing – just like you… I wish I could have captured the magic of it but it has to be experienced. You are an inspiration !! 🙂