Friday, June 07, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Marion, VA To Woods Hole Hostel

UPDATED 10-24-2020

This section was a week of milestones.  Longest hike, most miles in a day.  Now that I've done three twenty plus mile days in a row, I don't have any reason to do it again.  I just hope the Appalachian Trail (AT) doesn't want me to do it again anytime soon.

A group of alpaca at the Long Neck Lair farm.
Day 60 - Weird day.  The shuttle back to the AT wouldn't arrive earlier than 10:20am so I had a late start.  I woke up early - I never can seem to sleep in when I'm in town - so I had hours of just waiting for my ride.  I hate waiting.  Up until Marion I'd avoided watching TV but the night before I left I broke the trend and watch the Script's Spelling Bee.  This would open the TV flood gates.  I would watch TV in every zero day town though I did have one strict rule: No News.

At the park headquarters I ran into Pace Car.  She and another hiker had come up with a system for slack packing.  They rented a car.  One would start hiking on the southern end.  The other would drive the car to the other end and hike south.  They would exchange car keys when them met in the middle.  The northbound hiker would then drive back to pick up the other hiker.  The backpacks would be stored in the trunk of the car.  Pace Car had to leave and asked if anyone wanted to take her place.  Cali Smooth, Tarzan, Sunshine, and Sista all accepted.  During this section I would look for their rental car where it was parked at a trailhead and would leave snarky notes on their windshield.  We all got a laugh out of it when I ran into them on the trail.

I got back on the AT around 11:00am and headed north.  I was experimenting on my diet a bit.  I added a multivitamin and added a lemonade packet to my water that contained caffeine, B vitamins, and electrolytes for energy and hydration.  It seems to have made a difference.  I felt energetic most of the day and did well on the uphills.  Usually I drag my butt after taking a zero day.  The added B vitamins ( a suggestion I overheard from another hiker) seemed  to have eliminated the aching from restless leg syndrome. I will continue the experiment.

A one room school house full of trail magic.
I ran into a sign advertising Trail Magic and went to investigate.  The magic was located in an old one room schoolhouse.  There were snacks, fresh fruit, soda and water on ice, and toiletries.  I filled my water bottle and took a banana.

Farther ahead I crossed a bridge over a river and arrived at railroad tracks.  I heard a train whistle and hurriedly crossed over the tracks.  A couple minutes later the train passed.

I arrived at Atkins, VA and stopped at the Barn restaurant (with their 16 oz Hiker Burger) for an early dinner before heading down the road to the Long Neck Lair alpaca farm where I rented a room for the night.  I have to say I have been indulging myself way too much on the AT.  It would have been cheaper to tent here but the room was too tempting.

Soon after arriving we (Dayglo, Lumberjack, and a couple other thru-hikers) helped one of the owners feed the alpaca.  They are curious and strange looking especially since they had been recently sheared.

This day was a relatively short 11.4 mile (18.3 km) day.  The next few days will be a bit longer and I hope the caffeine helps.

Day 61 - I left the alpacas behind saying goodbye to our hosts and heading back to the trail.  The trail was varied today with forests, rivers, and meadows.

The caffeine didn't help nearly as much as it did the day before.  I did do a longer 14.7 miles (23.7 km) and had more elevation change but I expected more from the stimulant.

Along the way today I say a memorial for the hiker murdered earlier this year.  It was unexpected and moving.

The quarter trail mark.
Today also marked the end of my second month on the AT making my time on trail one third over but I also passed the one quarter distance mark of the trail. This just goes to show that I'll have to start cranking out the miles.  I may also change some zero days into nearo days to speed things up a bit.

Day 62 - A long day with many ups and down and a lot of AT flat i.e. a little up and a little down.  I decided to do a longer stage because my original plan had me stopping at a campsite a half a mile off trail with a questionable water source.  Turns out it was half a mile down hill too so I skipped it and went to the next shelter.  Doing this gave me my first official twenty mile day.

Chestnut Knob Shelter … Actually has a door.
Near my half way point I stopped at a stone shelter with an actual door.  It looked awesome. It even had cool hiker art.  I ate lunch and used the privy before moving on.

On the last down hill I tripped on a rock and nearly face planted.  At the last second I tucked in my chin and headbutted the AT.  It hardly noticed.  I think I will have a bump on my head.  I was actually lucky.  I could have hit a rock or root when I came down.  Instead I just hit dirt.

Here I met Lucky Strike who was struck by lightning on the trail and returned after only three zero days.

Day 63 - The forecast said rain was coming  in the next few days.  I was supposed to do a thirteen mile day but I decided to do something really crazy and push on to the next shelter to position myself better before the weather turned bad.

A bouncy suspension bridge over a river.
It was a tough day with a lot of AT flat - i.e. lots of little ups and downs - but I arrived at Jenny Knob shelter.    Along the way I  stopped at Brushy Mountain Outpost for a burger, fries, and a muffin.  I also bought water as the next ten miles were dry ones. I was feeling tired but well and I ended up doing a personal best of 23.2 miles (37.3 km).

I was looking at the next day and another hiker, Cory, noted that there was a hostel only 22 miles ahead.  She planted another crazy idea in my head.

Days 64 & 65 - I headed for the hostel.  It was a relatively easy day with a difficult climb at the end.  It was drizzly and foggy most of the hiking day.  I arrived at Woods Hole Hostel in time for a shower and a dinner made with ingredients grown on the farm.

A deconstructed chocolate birthday cake that was delicious.
My feet and legs were toast.  My three day push had knocked a day of my schedule but I took a zero day at the hostel to recover.  In the end, all that pushing resulted in little gain.  But I do know what I am capable of - three twenty mile plus days in a row.

The owner of the hostel decided to take a day off so instead of a homecooked meal on the second day we piled into cars.  I was in the car driven by a crazy guy with two hikers I'd been with for the fast few weeks, Top Knot and Silverfox.  The driver, called Golden, drove like a madman and by the time we got to the restaurant we were all white knuckled from gripping whatever we could hold on to.  Top Knot and Silverfox refused to ride with him back to the Hostel and rode in another car.

Today I will be doing a shorter hike to Pearisburg.  Unfortunately I will be hiking in the rain most of the way.  Bad planning on my part.  In hindsight I should have hiked to Pearisburg instead of zeroing at the hostel.  I could have zeroed in Pearisburg and skipped hiking in the rain.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 625.3 Miles (1,006.3 km)
Section Distance: 92.9 Miles (149.5 km)
Section Elevation Up: 18,616 ft (5,674 m)
Section Elevation Down: 18,514 ft (5,643 m)

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