Sunday, June 16, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Woods Hole Hostel To Daleville, VA

It was an unusually hard week for me on the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Despite this, moistness, rain, and difficult rocky trails were countered by incredible views.  Some have described Virginia as a long green tunnel, and there are surely sections that meet that description, but Virginia also has the Dragon's Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs.

A brief stop at McAfee Knob to contemplate life.
Day 66 - I left Woods Hole Hostel on a drizzly, misty day after a very rainy night.  The day was an easy one over a short mountain, past a rock formation called Angel's Rest, and down to the town of Pearisburg, VA.  There was no view at Angel's Rest today.  Everything was just white like the world beyond the mountain didn't exist.

The view on most of the rainy bits.
As I came down the hill and took the steps to the road I slipped on the last tread, did a whirling dance to keep from falling, and managed to pull a muscle on my left side, twist my right knee, and reinjure my left foot.  *Sigh*

I arrived at the road at the perfect time since Jug and Phoenix had called for a shuttle to the Angel's Rest Hostel.  The van arrive right after my terrible trail dismount and I got a ride to where I would spend the night.  I resupplied at Walmart, did some laundry, and ate some food while the rain came down.  It rained all afternoon and evening.

Day 67 - The hostel manager, Tramp, dropped us back at where he picked us up the day before.  I'd slept in not leaving the hostel til 9:30am.  The day was overcast, a bit drizzly, and very ... moist.  The climb out of town wasn't too bad but by the time I'd reached my short goal of the first shelter I was soaked through and cold.

The view from the Rice Field Shelter before the fog rolled in.
I only did 7.8 miles (12.6 km).  I wanted to take it easy leaving town and I did just that.  A few more people stopped by the shelter to snack before moving on.  Time passed and I didn't see anyone else walk by.  The rain probably was deterring hikers from leaving town.

At the end of the day I stayed in the shelter alone.  No one was tenting around.  No one joined me in the shelter.  I managed to get the trifecta.  I've camped alone in a campsite, I've stayed in a hostel alone (Hampton, TN), and now I stayed at a shelter alone.  I wonder how many hikers have managed this?  All I can say is it's creepy.

I put on some dry clothes and went to bed.

Day 68 - Another moist day.  I put my wet clothes back on - they didn't dry any over night - and headed out.  I did a long day of 16.5 miles (26.6 km) but my butt was dragging and had to really push myself to finish.

There were no views and the day just drug on.  I didn't even take any pictures this day.

Just a side note on a dull day.  Several rivers and creeks are off limits to drink from.  I assume it's due to pollution in the water.  I've been seeing a lot of these dangerous to drink from streams in Virginia.

Wet clothes came off and dry went on.

Day 69 - The day started off like the last two - moist.  Wet clothes went back on.  We'd actually had been lucky since forecasted hard rain had never materialized.  Today that would change.

Rain came and went most of the day and at times it looked like it was trying to dry up.  The rain we'd had overnight had revived some dead water sources.  It also swelled some streams to the point it was hard to cross without getting wet.  Most stream crossings had stepping stones or logs you could walk across.  At two today I couldn't see a dry way across so I just waded through the mid calf deep waters.  One good thing was the mud was washed off my shoes and feet.

The Keefer Oak:
the largest on the AT in the South.
I passed the Keefer Oak, the largest Oak tree on the southern AT.  Soon after I started climbing up a ridge and the sky opened up and the rain poured.  I put my head down and just kept walking until I reached my target shelter.  I was with one other hiker since this shelter was 0.4 miles off the AT and all downhill.

This was a long day and my butt was dragging after 21.4 miles (34.4 km).  Having said this, this day felt harder than it should have.

The wet clothes came off and dry went back on.

Day 70 - I woke up to actual sunshine!  Wet clothes went on again and I climbed back up the ridge and kept going down the trail.

The trail followed a rocky ridge with sharply angled stones offering gorgeous views of the early sunshine lighting the distant ridges and mountains.  On this ridge I passed the Eastern Continental Divide marked by a sign.

The early morning light on the hills and ridges.
The highlight of my day was a memorial dedicated to Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier during World War II.  He died in a plane crash near this spot.

I ended the day with my butt dragging again.  Despite the sunshine, views, and cool stuff to see I really had to push myself to finish.

My clothes ... we're rather dry at the end of the day.

I crossed the seven hundred mile mark on the way to the Dragon's Tooth.
It was marked twice a short distance from each other.
Day 71 - Another sunny day.  Soon after leaving the shelter I heard a noise which turned out to be my second bear.  This time I got a good look at its face. I hope the deer I saw earlier stayed safe.

The hike was mostly rocky which slowed me down and stressed muscles that had been slacking most of the past seventy days.  At the top of the mountain was the Dragon's Tooth, a large stone monolith.  They say you can climb to the top but I am very good at getting up things and not being able to get back down.  Since I was alone I refrained from attempting a climb.

The Dragon's Tooth.
The way down the mountain was very difficult.  For the first time I had to put my poles in my pack and climb down rock using my hands.  I was tired by the time I got down.

I left the trail to visit the Catawba Grocery (i.e. a convenience store) where I got some BBQ pork, fries, and a pint of ice cream for dessert.  I also resupplied my snacks for the next two days.

On the way to the shelter I saw my first ripe raspberry.  It was still early but I ate it and it gave me a small preview of what's to come.  I've been waiting for raspberries and blackberries ever since I decided to do the AT.  Can't wait to fill a bag with them while I hike.

I reached the shelter, butt dragging, and spent the night listening to the rain that moved in overnight.

Day 72 - I woke to the sound of rain.  I'm usually up by 6:00am and out by 6:40am but today I waited and didn't leave until 8:30am.  Turns out I was lucky.  Today was McAfee Knob day.

The view from Tinker Cliffs including McAfee Knob.
I hiked along the ridge to the left of the knob.
McAfee Knob is an iconic place on the AT.  Hikers get their pictures taken dangling their feet off a ledge.  I played it a bit more conservatively and sat near the edge with my feet planted on the rock.  Pop Rock  and Trail Diva were nice enough to take my picture.

After Dragon's Tooth and McAfee there was one more iconic place along this section: Tinker Cliffs.  I reached the cliffs at the same time as Fish who I hadn't seen since the ponies over two weeks ago.  He'd been a bit down in the dumps back then but now he was smiling and truly enjoying himself.   The views from the cliffs were spectacular.

Since I still was dragging my butt I made the day a short one stopping at the next shelter.

A view of a reservoir near Daleville, VA.
Day 73 & 74 - I did the short and rather easy hike into Daleville, VA.  I checked into a hotel for a couple nights - zero day here I come.

I don't know why my butt drug so much this section.  I guess the rain and the rocks took a lot out of me.  Also going eight days between zero days may have also contributed.

I hope the extra rest is worthy it.  A lot of the thru-hikers I was hiking with along this section are now ahead of me and once again I have separated from my trail family.  *Sigh* Time to meet new people.

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

Total Distance: 729.7 Miles (1,174.3 km)
Section Distance: 108.0 Miles (173.8 km)
Section Elevation Up: 18,027 ft (5,495 m)
Section Elevation Down: 19,731 ft (6,014 m)


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