On June 1st, I left the Plaza Motel in Pearisburg, VA feeling mildly refreshed. My feet were still swollen and sore, but it was time to return to the trail. My pack had never felt heavier after a resupply, but I told myself it would get better–I just had to get out on the trail and start eating to lighten the load. Head up, hike on. 

Pearis Cemetery – Pearisburg, VA

On the way out of town, the trail skirts the Pearis Cemetery. I decided to stop in and check it out. Apparently, 205 known graves are located in the cemetery–12 of them are Civil War veterans, 17 are children, and the dates range from 1810 to 1930.  

Graves date back to 1810 – Pearis Cemetery

Also buried there is Captain George Pearis (hence the name Pearisburg, VA), who fought in the Revolutionary War.  

Final resting place of George Pearis

I had planned on hiking close to 20 miles out of town that day, but ended short at about 14 due to the beginning of what I am calling “the return of the smokies.” The first four days out of Pearisburg were absolutely miserable. It was cold, windy and rainy–just like my experience in the Smoky Mountain National Park. I packed up my tent in the rain every morning. I set up my tent in the rain every evening. My clothes and body stayed soggy in between. The terrain wasn’t too steep, but the rocks were plentiful and VERY slippery. I never considered quitting, but I can say I strongly desired the comforts of home. Hiking conditions were no fun for about 4 days. But hey…no rain, no pain, no Maine. 

Rain + Rocks = Ouch

I hiked between 13-17 miles each of those days although I had originally planned on doing a daily average of 20 miles. Water was few and far between during that stretch, and most nights I gave up and stopped to stealth camp nowhere near a water source. I guess in my mind I chose dehydration over freezing cold/soaking wet. During more than one morning, I had to walk at least 5 miles before I reached water.

Because I was trying to make up miles, I basically tried to hike when it wasn’t raining. I ended up having to night hike by the Keffer Oak, but it was still awesome to see. 

Keffer Oak–second largest tree on the AT

Standing tall, the 300-year old white oak measures 18′ in circumference, which makes it the largest tree on the southern portion of the Appalachian Trail.  

Keffer Oak–pictures do not do the size of the tree any justice

 Also during this rainy spell, I crossed over the Eastern Continental Divide.  There are so many interesting sights to see along the way!

Eastern Continental Divide

Another special point of interest was the Audie Leon Murphy Monument, honoring the most decorated veteran of WWII. He died in a plane crash near the Appalachian Trail in 1971. It’s heart warming to see how many people stop to pay respect. 

Plaque honoring Audie Leon Murphy


Audie Leon Murphy Memorial


The last day of “the return of the smokies” ended up being fairly enjoyable. The rain let up a while after I started hiking, and I was actually able to enjoy a nice lunch at Dragon’s Tooth. My shoes began to dry out and the sun attempted to shine–finally!


Pano of the Dragon’s Tooth Area

The Dragon’s Tooth is a stone monolith located about 0.1 miles off the trail. The rock “tooth” protrudes about 35 feet in the air–definitely worth the side hike.

Dragon’s Tooth

During lunch break I was informed of a gas station that wasn’t very far off the trail. I was told I would cross a road in about two miles. From there, the Catawba Grocery is located about a half mile. I decided I should stop in to resupply on snacks. During that two mile trek, I crossed over the 700 mile marker–another one bites the dust! 

Mile 700

Mile 700

After another mile or so, I made it to the road crossing and trekked on down to the Catwaba Grocery. I was enjoying a celebratory ice cream on the bench in front of the store when I heard someone calling for me, “Dixie! Dixie!” I did not recognize the man, so I partially waved and continued to eat my ice cream. Again, he called out to me. It was then that I recognized the woman he was with–Rigga’s mom, Miss Cathy! 

Me, Pebbles, Miss Cathy

She said that Rigga and Cory were just a few miles behind me and that she was picking them up at the road crossing. They were planning to zero the next day. She said I could come for dinner, but I already had plans to visit The Home Place Restaurant later that night (about 6 miles down the trail). It was so great to see a familiar face, though. Plus, I was able to meet Rigga’s fur baby, Pebbles, and her stepdad, Scott. I said my goodbye’s and headed north.

I made it to dinner at The Home Place around 6pm. CJ, Land Mammal, Rebel Yell and I sat at a table together and were served a ‘family style dinner’. That means many plates of various foods were delivered to the table including: fried chicken, country ham, roast beef, mashed potatoes, casseroles, green beans, pintos, etc. When one plate/bowl of food was gone, they refilled it. It was truly a hiker’s dream. I had been hearing about the restaurant before I made it to Virginia, so I was glad to finally see the place. 

The Home Place Restaurant

After eating way too much food, including a peach cobbler dessert, we sat on the front porch and tried to let the food settle. The plan was to hike two more miles that night so we could watch the sunrise from McAfee Knob the next morning. As we sat there discussing our plan, the manager of the restaurant offered to let us stay in the gazebos for the night. It was supposed to rain that night, so we reasoned that waking up early and not having to pack up wet tents would help us get moving. Plus, who wouldn’t want to say they slept in a gazebo at The Homeplace Restaurant?!  

Home Sweet Home

So, we did just that. I was extremely excited about reaching McAfee Knob the next morning, and wondered if I would be able to sleep. I set my alarm for 2am, so I would have enough time to hike 4 miles before sunrise. As  I laid there in my sleeping bag looking up at the cover of the gazebo, I smiled because I was so thrilled to be warm, dry and full. More and more the trail reminds me that it is all about the little things in life..and too often we take them for granted. When the rain began tapping on the roof I slowly drifted off to sleep. 
Below are some pictures I was able to capture during this rainy spell–





Until next time–

Happy Trails 🙂