6/8/12 - 6/9/12
Since we had decided to stay the day in town, we took our time running errands and I spent periods in between each one icing my leg. My leg was pretty sore and the most painful it had been since I first began noticing the tightness in it several days before. It was bad enough that I thought I would go and see if I could find a doctor to check it out. It turned out that there was a physical therapist only a couple buildings down from the hotel that was a provider for my insurance. After our errands for the day, we went over to the phyical therapist's office and they examined my leg. They couldn't tell me much other than I needed to rest my leg and ice it, and they gave me some stretches to help loosen up the muscle. My leg was feeling better and the icing had really helped the swelling go down. That night, instead of going out to eat, we used a grill at the hotel to grill up some steaks with some other hikers. Fuzzy and Sourpuss, Okie, Wiggy, 2-Step and I all enjoyed cooking our own food that didn't happen to be instant mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. It was a good time and it made up for us having to take a zero day. My leg was still sore and 2-Step and I thought that it would be best for us to take another day off just to give my leg as much rest as possible. The next day, since we had taken care of almost everything the day before, we spent lounging around the hotel room and enjoying the pool. The pool felt really good on my leg and with the swelling down and my ankle wrapped up for walking around town, it was the best it had felt in a couple days. Our plan is to take it easy over the next few days and see how it goes, we may be taking more zero days than we planned for in Virginia, but I don't want this to end our hike to Maine so I would rather go slow for a while than end our hike. After two days off though, we're both ready to get back on the trail tomorrow and I can't wait to see how my leg does. It's hard being stuck in town and we've really gotten used to our schedule when we're on the trail. We begin to feel lazy when we spend too much time in town, but one thing that my injury has shown me is that I have to enjoy my time where I'm at and not always look forward to Maine.
Wapiti Shelter - Pearisburg, VA
We got up at 5am and were on the trail by 6:15. We started with a big climb and it felt good to get it out of the way early. My leg was sore, but not too bad on the climb up. After the climb, it was a few more miles to the next shelter and our coffee break for the morning. While we were at the shelter making coffee we met another hiker named Butterfingers. He earned his name because he keeps losing his stuff on the trail. He had quite the list going and read it off to us while I was boiling water. After our break we only had 8 more miles into town and we tried to hurry through it as quick as possible. Right before we started our descent into town we stopped at a couple views and it was a pretty amazing sight. We were standing above the clouds and it felt like we were flying in a plane. Although the terrain was fairly flat before the descent, the trail was pretty rocky and it was starting to aggravate my leg a lot more, but it wasn't anything that I couldn't deal with. When we started going downhill though, I began to realize there might be more of a problem than I thought. It takes a lot to keep me from moving and I was feeling a pain so intense it made me stop several times on the way down. I was moving pretty slow by the time we got to the road that I thought we weren't ever going to make it to the hotel. We didn't think we were going to be taking a zero day in Pearisburg, but I was beginning to have doubts about that after the descent we had just made. We walked into town and stopped for lunch before heading to the hotel. We were surprised when we saw a swimming pool and besides the fact that my leg hurt, I think that may have been a factor in our decision to take a day off. That night I made it over to the Mexican restaurant for Fuzzy's birthday celebration and had a margarita and some food which helped make my leg feel a little better.
Jenny Knob Shelter - Wapiti Shelter
I woke up and my leg was still feeling tight, but was much better than the night before. It was also really grey and we were hoping that it wouldn't rain. We got off pretty early and not long after we started, it began to rain. We picked up our pace and since we knew we would be stopping at a grocery store right off the trail we didn't worry too much about the rain. As we got to the grocery store the rain was on its way out and we celebrated by ordering a bunch of food and picking up some tasty treats for our one day of resupply before we got to Pearisburg, VA. It was so comfortable at Trent's Grocery Store that we stayed and hung out for a while with the other hikers. When we finally stepped back outside the sun was starting to break through the clouds. We had planned to do 16 more miles in the afternoon, but the time spent at Trent's made that seem a little difficult. When we got to the shelter before our intended stop for the night we stopped to see who was there. 2-Steps's feet were already tender and my leg was really beginning to bother me, but it was so hard for me to give up on our original plan for the day. It didn't take long though and 2-Step convinced me to stay the night. It wasn't a bad decision and we had a good campfire with Wiggy, Slash, Dirty D, Spike, Spotlight and Machine. My one condition for stopping though was that we get up extra early and try to leave by 6am so we could get to town earlier rather than later. We weren't planning on taking a zero and since our 8 mile hike into town had turned into 16, I wanted to get a jump start on the day.
Jenkins Shelter - Jenny Knob Shelter
Early in our day, we arrived at a bridge that crossed a refreshing looking river and we stopped to fill up our water bottles. While we were taking a break and rehydrating ourselves, a car pulled up and we met one of the friendliest people ever. Trubrit, an implant from England, who also happned to be a hiker, had moved to the area about a year ago and had set up a hiker hostel to help out AT thru-hikers. For $5 you could stay in his dojo and that small fee also included any shuttles around town and to and from the trail. It was a really good deal and before we could say anything he was already trying to figure out how to fit us and our dogs into the car with him and his dog. As tempting as he was, we had to decline his offer and continue on down the trail, but we told oursleves that if we made it to the next road crossing before 2pm, we would call him up and stay. Our goal was to make it to the road crossing before the pizza place across the street from Trubrits dojo stopped their lunch buffet. We were saddened to find that we hadn't hiked quick enough to get there, but at the same time we knew that we couldn't stop at too many places because then we wouldn't make any progress on the trail. While stopping at the road for a quick break and a snack I was starting to notice that the shin on my left leg was beginning to bother me. The rest was good for it, but the muscle on my leg felt pretty tight. After the break we continued on our way and I tried to ignore the tightness. We got to camp and were pretty tired, but excited as well because 2-Step had just hiked her biggest day! She was so excited that at the end of the day she was outwalking me. I was happy to see camp and get off my feet because my leg had really started to feel tender. There was a good crew and we were excited to see that Fuzzy and Sourpuss had made it to the shelter as well. The other hikers that were there were also pretty friendly; Slash, Dirty D, Wiggy, Tarzan and Jane, and Spotlight were all there and we all celebrated our big mile day.
Knot Maul Branch Shelter - Jenkins Shelter
We got a good start on the day and made it to the base of our first climb fairly early. We ran into a couple of other hikers that we knew who were taking a quick break before the climb, and since we usually split up for climbs, 2-Step decided to hike with Chop Chop and Fedex. I sped my way up the climb and was waiting for them at the pond about halfway up where the ascent started to mellow out and the views began to get good. Once 2-Step got up to the pond and had taken a break we continued on to the next shelter where we planned to stop for lunch. The views past the pond were amazing and the climb was almost unnoticeable. On the way to the shelter we had a pretty good scare when 2-Step almost stepped on a rattlesnake. We scurried past as far away from it as possible as we listened to it warning us with its rattle. Upon arriving at our lunch spot, we saw one of the best shelters we've encountered on the whole trail thus far. It was fully enclosed since it was on top of the mountain and had separate bunks for any hikers that stayed there with a sturdy picnic table set inside. It was a popular shelter with all of the hikers that made their way up there while we enjoyed our lunch and the company. After lunch we thought we had a mellow day since the profile in the guidebook appeared fairly flat. We were wrong, we were very wrong. It was flat only because the terrain was condensed to a few inches on a page and in reality it was 9 miles of constant up and down with a trail that was mostly sharp rock. The climbs were never more than maybe 50 feet, but it was enough that constantly going from up to down over sharp rocks got tiring very fast. We weren't the only hikers to feel this way and sitting around the fire that night there was a lot of commiserating going on between all of us.
Atkins, VA - Knot Maul Branch Shelter
I woke up early since we weren't surrounded by trees and was the first one up. I watched the sun rise and enjoyed the quiet walk back down to the stream to let the dogs get some water. Unfortunately, the buffet that we thought we would be enjoying wasn't until 11am and 2-Step and I didn't want to sit around town that long. When we had packed up camp and walked into town we stopped at a convenience store to resupply for the next few days. After that we continued on underneath the highway underpass and hopped back on the trail. It was a nice morning and we walked through several cow pastures that were a pleasant break from the monotony of the trees. During the morning we were trying to mentally prepare ourselves for the climb that we knew was coming up later on in the day. According to the guidebook it looked fairly steep on the profile and we weren't the only ones that were apprehensive. It was the biggest climb we had seen in a while and so we felt the need to prepare. Turns out the climb wasn't that bad and everyone laughed about how they had felt apprehensive about it. It wasn't a long day, but we were ready to get to camp by the end of it. Not long before the shelter we planned on staying at, we ran into a group of hikers who were sitting around drinking beers. When I happened upon them they were sitting on some coolers that I thought had to be trail magic left by a friendly local, who knew what hikers wanted on a hot day. Before I could even ask what was in them, one of the hikers said that I could help myself to the trail magic, but they had already eaten it all. This really bothered me and I hiked out of there pretty fast. My annoyance helped fuel me up the last several climbs of the day and I was happy to get to camp and away from the group of hikers I had just seen. The group that was at the shelter was much better and after everyone had eaten we had a campfire going in no time. There had to have been at least 10 or so hikers hanging out around the fire and it was the most we had seen at a fire since we started. We met some new people we hadn't seen on the trail before and we finally met another couple that was around our age, Fuzzy and Sourpuss. While introducing ourselves I found out that Sourpuss is from D.C. and that Fuzzy is from Detroit. Upon hearing that I told them that my parents live in D.C. and I went to high school just outside of Detroit. Fuzzy asked where I went to school and I told him Cranbrook. He gave me a strange look and asked when I graduated so I told him the year and he laughed and said he knew someone from my class. When he told me the name I couldn't believe that I was in the middle of the woods in Southern Virginia and I had just met someone that I had a connection to through a friend from high school. It was a pretty strange coincidence and we became fast friends with Fuzzy and Sourpuss.
Marion, VA - Atkins, VA
In the morning, when we woke up, we were glad to know we were going to be back on the trail. We had a couple things to do, like wash Molly and resupply, and we hurried through our errands as fast as we could. After checking out of the hotel we headed to the Walmart and got food for the next couple of days. While I was in the store 2-Step was watching the dogs. While I was shopping a friendly lady came up to her and was asking 2-Step about the dogs. 2-Step, knowing that we still had to find a ride to get back to the trail head, asked the lady if we could get a ride from her. The woman told 2-Step that she would have to check with her husband, but that she didn't think it would be a problem. When she came back with her husband they told us to hop in and we followed them to their van. They had just finished up checking out some of the garage sales around town and had purchased some furniture they were taking to their son for his new house. We got to sit on his new couch for the ride back to the trail and it was very comfortable. On the way to the trail, John, had to stop for lunch at one of his favorite barbecue places. While ordering he asked if we would like to split a beef brisket dinner and we politely declined. No was not the right answer and he bought us a dinner anyway. After that little detour we finished up the ride to the trail while talking to the Jennings family about our experiences so far and what it was like hiking on the trail. I have to thank John and Donna Jennings and their daughter Janie (the self procalimed Yankee Hillbillies) for the awesome ride and fantastic barbecue. We appreciate everything and you certainly left us feeling better about our time in Marion. Thank you and I hope that you have a wonderful summer! After enjoying our delicious beef brisket, 2-Step and I threw our packs on our backs and stepped back onto the trail. As nice as the ride from town had been i was still left with a weird feeling from our experience the day before in town and felt that I couldn't walk fast enough to shake it off. It was not comfortable and I couldn't wait to see some other hikers, preferably some that we knew. Fortunately, the hike to the shelter we planned on staying at wasn't long and when we arrived there was a group of hikers that we already knew. They were in the middle of making dinner and when we started talking they told us they were hiking on a few miles to camp just out side of Atkins, VA to get to the Sunday buffet at a restaraunt right off the trail the next morning. That sounded good to us, but I also had a surprise for any hikers we camped with and since we would be all alone at the shelter, 2-Step and I decided to hike on as well. On the way to where we were going to camp for the night we passed by a museum that showed what an old farmstead would have looked like. 2-Step, since having a farm is one of her dreams, couldn't pass up this opportunity to go check it out. I was less excited, but followed her anyway. When we walked the few hundred yards off the trail to the old farm site, 2-Step couldn't have been more excited. She was basically running from building to building thinking about what it would be like to live and work on this farm site. I could tell that she was really enjoying checking out all the old buildings and was really happy to see her so excited. From there we continued on down the trail to pass by a one room school house that excited 2-Step just as much as the old farmstead. Not long after that we reached the camp site that our friend Tugboat had picked. It was on top of a grassy hill and although there weren't really any trees for the hammocks, we made it work. We were also able to enjoy a beautiful sunset and after watching the sun go behind the horizon, I told everyone that they got to share my birthday oreo pie. The other hikers weren't the only ones surprised. Since Tugboat had gotten there earlier than everyone else he had walked into town and came back with a few goodies. One of those goodies was a six pack of beer that he had bought for me since he had known it was my birthday yesterday. We all had a good evening hanging out and it helped shake off the weird feelings that I had felt after leaving Marion.
We woke up excited to get into town to celebrate my birthday. After packing up, we headed to the Visitor's Center, located 0.1 miles from the shelter, to find out if the 50 cent bus would allow the dogs to ride with us. If they didn't allow dogs on the bus, then we would have to try to hitch a ride. Fortunately, that was not the case, and we were able to get into town easily. When we finally arrived in Marion it was not the town that we expected. There was no coffee shop to get on the internet, and there definitely wasn't a movie theater for us to go see movie. The one thing I wanted to do was go see a movie, and eat the biggest bucket of popcorn that the theater had. That didn't happen. Marion itself was a starnge town and a lot of the people there didn't seem to know the difference between a thru-hiker and a bum. When we were at the Walmart, where the bus dropped us off, I was even asked if I needed money. I was so taken aback by this that I didn't even know how to respond. Needless to say, we wanted to get into our hotel room and try to re-group and figure out what we would do for my birthday instead of all the plans we had dreamed up in our heads while hiking on the trail. This definitely wasn't a trail town. The one thing we were able to do was go eat at the Chinese Buffet in town. It wasn't the best food, but I got my share and ate more than I had paid for. By the end of our day in Marion we were more than ready to get back on the trail.
Trimpi Shelter - Partnership Shelter
I didn't realize it when I set my hammock up last night, but when I woke up, I was able to watch the sun rise without even getting out of my hammock. Since we only had 10 miles to hike, we took our time getting packed and spent the morning hanging out with other hikers. The hike to the Partnership Shelter was pretty easy and we got there in no time at all. When we arrived at the shelter, we were surprised to see a large group of other hikers, already there. This was the largest congregation of hikers we had encountered since starting the trail in Georgia. One of the best things about the shelter was that it had a shower attached to it, and a sink in the back, with running water. This is not usual, and we took full advantage of the shower and sink. After setting up our hammocks away from the crowd, we started thinking about dinner. Back at the shelter, we found some hikers we had met already that had started a fire and used it to cook dinner. It was not long after dinner that we left the crowd for the peace and comfort of our hammocks and dreams of my birthday in town.
Wise Shelter - Trimpi Shelter
The morning started out really well. We were excited about all the views we saw, this got us really excited for the rest of the day. From there we descended to the next shelter. We met a lot of new hikers and a had a nice mid morning break. Although we were excited for the rest of the day, we didn't see anymore views and after 500 miles of mostly trees, we were not as enthusiastic when we once again entered into the woods. The afternoon wasn't a bad hike, but it began to feel long by the end of the day. Our plan was to end the day at a campsite that was marked in our guidebook. When we got there, we were excited to be at camp. Unfortunately, the water that was supposed to be there (according to the guidebook) was dried up. Since we were low on water, we had to hike 2.5 more miles to the Trimpi Shelter. Although not excited, it only made the following day's hike even shorter.