June 8th I woke up at the Howard Johnson in Daleville, VA. I had thoroughly enjoyed showering and sleeping on a comfy bed. I wasn’t excited to get out hiking just yet, but I was thrilled to be seeing Perk and Howzit again. We all ate a big breakfast and headed to the local outfitter.
My Sawyer Squeeze water filter had torn up (the bag and seal) on the last stretch of hiking, so I had to look into purchasing another filtration system. After much mental debate with myself, I selected the Platypus Gravity Filter.
There are pros and cons to each filtration device, but so far I’m very satisfied with the Gravity. I haven’t weighed each system individually, but I feel like the weight difference is probably negligible (unless you’re a gram counter). The Sawyer is probably faster to use for a small amount of water on trail in the middle of a hike, but the Gravity is my preferred choice overall because gravity does all the work for you. (Ha..see what I did there?) But, I am a fan of either and they both work just fine.
After making a few purchases at the outiftter, we headed out of town and hiked 11.2 miles to Wilson Creek Shelter. The next day, we crossed over the Blue Ridge Parkway for the first time. The parkway intersects the trail many times for at least a 50 mile stretch.
From a thru-hiker’s perspective, seeing the beautiful overlooks was wonderful…but, the most exciting part of crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway was the possible presence of trash cans! One of the most wonderful feelings is dumping useless weight.
The second day out of town, we found blueberries! It was nice to have fresh fruit on the trail. Perk and I collected some to save for breakfast the next morning. Later in the day, a group of us hung out at Jennings Creek by an awesome swimming hole.
After the swimming hole, we decided to do a little night hiking. Four of us were hiking in a line when I saw what looked like a ball of moss roll beside Rebel Yell, next to my feet and stop in front of Perk (who was behind me). Something didn’t seem right about what I had seen, so I turned around to spotlight it with my headlamp. To our surprise, we realized the ball of moss was breathing!
Who knew there were hedgehogs on the trail?! We rolled him safely off the path and left him a blueberry…although, we aren’t sure if hedgehogs eat berries. I suppose it’s the thought that counts.
We ended up hiking 20.8 miles that day and stayed at Bryant Ridge Shelter–which was HUGE!
The next morning Perk made a pie crust crumble to go with the blueberries we had picked the day before. It was divine! It still amazes me that he carries flour and lard with him.
After a hearty breakfast, I planned a bigger day and ended up completing 22.6 miles. I stopped just shy of the James River so I could enjoy it in the heat of the day. I definitely smelled much better after taking a swim!
The following day, I crossed mile 800 with the Orr Family, Perk, Howzit, Rebel Yell, Ron and Bandit. It was fun being able to celebrate another milestone with a big group.
We made it to US 60 and planned to go into Buena Vista (pronounced by locals as ‘Boona Viss-ta’) for resupply. We caught a hitch to Glen Maury Campground in the bed of a truck. Ron, his dog (Bandit) and I got POURED on. At first it was cold and miserable, but we decided instead of whining about it we were going to enjoy the free shower. We raised our arms in the air and hollered while turning our faces up to let the rain fall down on us. The man apologized when he dropped us off (because we got wet) and we told him we would’ve been in it a lot longer if we had been walking! After resupplying in town and showering, a group of us camped out in the pavilion. Some set up tents, but I chose to perch up on a picnic table.
Coming out of town the next day, we came upon a wild strawberry patch! We picked our share and I saved some to add to my water–defitely kicks it up a notch.
The following day, we caught wind of a nearby hidden treasure–the Devil’s Backbone Brewery. I pushed hard to complete 21 mile day over. Three Ridges Mountain, a 3.3 mile climb, was tough but I made it to the brewery before closing time.
I must say the folks there are definitely hiker friendly. They offer free camping on the property, and a wonderful $5 breakfast for hikers only. The waitresses will even give you a ride back to the trailhead. A group of us set up camp on the outdoor stage for the night and were definitely surprised to wake up to the sound of heavy equipment the next morning at about sunrise. The owner came over and chatted with us and told us he is a big AT enthusiast. Currently, he is constructing a wash house where hikers will be able to shower, do laundry, etc. He plans to have concerts on the new stage and host various events–so AT hikers class of 2016, be on the lookout! During this stretch of trail, the bugs almost drove me CRAZY! Everyone has to keep reminding each other not to scratch. Many of us wondered: If we were to scratch our skin off to bleeding point would the bug bite quit itching? The answer is, no. The scab continues to itch. Afterbite helps. Somewhat.
Happy Trails 🙂