Four Pines Hostel - Daleville, VA
The owner of the hostel leaves for work at 5:45 AM, so it was an early morning for us. We got Molly and 2-Step packed up and loaded up into the truck and I finished my coffee before hitting the trail. The first 6 miles were fairly boring and went by pretty quickly. Soon enough I was on top of McKaffee Knob, which is one of the quintessential photos you see on the trail. I got my picture and enjoyed the view and leftover pizza. Soon enough I was back on my feet and heading to the next break spot, the Tinker Cliffs. There was a good view fromt eh cliffs of McKaffee Knob and I also caught up to a lot of the hikers who had started 6 miles ahead of me. We spent some time hanging out enjoying the view and company. After some more pizza, I was back on the trail for the last 10 miles. The rest of the day wasn't as interesting and contained less views, so I didn't stop for much, except water. The last few miles were very dry and since it was the hottest part of the day, I got really thirsty. I was so happy when I got to the hotel and 2-Step had already checked into a room and had the A/C going. We were splitting the room with our friend Golden and when I got there, we all went to Kroger's and got the fixings for a delicious feast. We walked back to the hotel and had a picnic by the pool. After dinner we hung out with about 20 other hikers and had a few beers. The dreariness of the last few days seemed to fade away with the last rays of sunshine. I don't know what to expect from the next few days, but I know that if things get rough, I just have to give it some time and things will pick up again.
Niday Shelter - Four Pines Hostel
What can I say, except sometimes this hiking thing can be a drag. This week has felt so long and it's been so hard to get up everyday to hike. We're not the only ones either. We heard that a lot of people lose motivation in Virginia, because it takes so long to get through this state (there's about 544 miles of trail in VA). There wasn't much to today's hike, except a lot of up and down and rocks. At the end of the day though, we got to stay at one of the coolest hostels on the trail. It's a hobby farm whose owner decided to open up his gates to hikers. There's a 3-bay garage with cots, couches, microwaves, ovens and a bathroom and shower. Since there wasn't room in the garage, the owner told us that we could sleep in one of the barns/storage sheds nearby. We found an empty shed with a hay loft and set our hammocks up. It was pretty cool. There were a lot of other hiker dogs there and Tess had lots of fun running around playing with the other dogs. At one point, she and another dog were chasing ducks in a small pond non-stop for about 40 minutes. We also ran into Cooper, who we met when living in Johnson City, about a year ago. We met him hiking our local section of the AT and it was so surprising when we finally caught up to him, after seeing notes in the log books for me. The last few days have been a drag, but things seemed to turn around, especially when we found out we could get Molly off the trail 2 days early. The owner of the hostel works in the town we were going to in order to get her off the trail. he had offered to shuttle everyone's packs to a hotel and then everyone could slackpack to town. We took this opportunity to see if 2-Step could get a ride to town with Molly, while Tess and I slackpacked 26 miles. It worked out and we began to feel so much better. Things really seemed to be picking up.
War Spur Shelter - Niday Shelter
We got up on time and we were the first ones out of camp. The early start was nice, because after a short descent, we had a 2.5 mile climb. It may have been a long time, but the cool morning air was refreshing and it helped us get to the top without "too much" sweat. From the top of the climb we had less that a mile to a viewpoint where I had to me an important call. We had to make a tough decision the night before and we decided to get Molly off the trail. At the viewpoint, I called my dad and made arrangements for him to pick up Molly in Daleville, VA. From the view, we began our descent down to a short section of pastures. Since Pearisburg I've just felt drained of energy, and the open fields with the sun blasting down on me didn't help. Fortunately, I got a little boost of energy from a patch of black raspberries. The few that were ripe were so succulent and sweet. It was a refreshing break from the sun, and helped give me the energy boost needed to keep going. Not long after that, we found a good spot for lunch, right by a road crossing that was near a river. The cooler air was nice, and a cup of cold coffee and some lunch helped me get ready for the rest of the afternoon. We took a long lunch and let Molly get a good rest. I've been massaging her leg a lot and she's been doing alright during the day, but it's her time and she doesn't need to be out here anymore. I'm so grateful that my parents are able to help us with Molly, because without them, I'm not sure what we would have done. Thank you so much Tom, Lisa and Case! We've started noticing a lot more ticks lately, and during lunch it was an unpleasant experience to have to pick so many of them off of Molly and Tess. The more it warms up, the more we're going to have to check the dogs. Ticks are disgusting and it's so unnerving having them crawl on us and the dogs. After lunch we had a short, but very steep climb up to a ridge line. Once to the top, the terrain mellowed out and we made quick time to the shelter before our planned stop of the day. From there we only had 6 miles, but little did we know, we would be hating the trail by the end of the day. It was hot and dry, with no water source until the last shelter, and lots of rocky ups and downs. We were very happy to get to the shelter. This was one of those nights where set up, dinner and sleep happened in quick succession. Again, sometimes this hiking thing can be a drag.
Pine Swamp Branch Shelter - War Spur Shelter
Today was one of those days that just seemed to drag on. Molly's leg is really stiff, mine still kind of hurts,and things just didn't seem right for hiking today. We weren't the only ones feeling that way either. Leif, Nomad and Golden, who stayed at the shelter last night, felt the same way too. It just seems like we've been in a hiker funk since we left Pearisburg. It took us six hours to hike eight miles because we kept stopping for this reason and that reason. It wasn't hard to find reasons to take a break. It's been nice hiking such short days, but something has to change. After lunch, things picked up a little bit. The trail wasn't as rocky and instead of hiking our longest day today, we decided to switch days and hike the shorter one today. The shelter we stopped at was pretty nice and it had a good creek near it, that was deep enough to soak my leg in. We're going to try and get out of camp by 6AM tomorrow, to avoid some of the heat and humidity of the day. Tomorrow is one of our longer days this week, and Molly usually warms up throughout the day, so we'll see what happens tomorrow. If we can get most of the miles done before lunch, we can take a long break and then take our time in the afternoon. Hopefully we feel a little more motivated tomorrow. Sometimes this hiking thing can feel like a drag...
campsite - Pine Swamp Branch Shelter
The day started out gray and just got grayer. Fortunately, the rain didn't start until later in the day. The terrain was mellow and kind of boring. Our goal for the day was bout 23 miles from where we camped. We felt pretty confident until our first real terrain change, when it started raining during the descent. We had already planned to stop at a shelter at the bottom of the descent for lunch and were were so happy to see it after hiking for a mile in the rain. It wasn't a cold rain, but the Smokies ruined any rain day for me. When we stopped for lunch, it was pretty easy to make our packs explode and the shelter got comfortable fast. It didn't take long for 2-Step to convince me to stay and the thought of a fire in the shelter (there was a fireplace inside this shelter) while it rained outdoors, sounded pretty good. Besides the rain, my leg was sore and Molly has been getting very stiff in one of her legs. Molly like our decision and made herself real comfortable on the floor of the shelter. After lunch, with our bellies full, we went searching for wood and had a fire going in no time. It's funny that we decided to stay, because a friend of ours from early on in the trail stopped at the shelter as well. We hadn't seen him in several weeks, and we spent the afternoon catching up and drying out. It's hard for me to not hike the miles we have been doing, but for Molly's sake and for mine, it's good we decided to take it easy. These are the shortest days we've hiked since Georgia, but it's good to take some short days every once and a while.
Pearisburg, VA - campsite
We spent a relaxing morning packing up and running last minute errands. Check out wasn't until 1PM, so we made sure to take our time. We also gave Molly her second bath of the trip. Her fur gets more stuff caught and tangled in it than Tess, so we bathe and comb out the knots that start to form. Tess just sheds everything off, she might smell sometimes but so do I this summer. After the bath and errands, we grabbed our bags and walked out of the door. It was a hot day and we were sad to be leaving the pool, but happy to be getting back on the trail after such a long break. Our hike started with a few miles of road walking and it was refreshing. When we finally stepped into the trees, it was significantly cooler and much more peaceful than the highway we had just been walking next to. Of course, whenever we leave town we always have to be prepared for a climb out of the valley and today we were not disappointed. Our peace and tranquility was rudely interrupted by the steepest climb we've seen in a long time. It didn't matter that we were in the trees at this point, we were hot and the climb wouldn't give up. Then to top it all off, as I came around a bend in the trail, I ran into a very aggressive dog. The owner had it off the leash and I didn't think anything of it at first. It stopped when it saw us coming and I just kept walking since I didn't want to lose momentum. When we got closer, it stepped around me to meet Tess, or that's what I thought. When I felt a pull on the leash attached to my pack, I turned around to tell Tess to keep going and I saw the dog biting Tess' neck and jerking her around. This all happened so fast, Tess didn't even have time to yelp before I grabbed the other dog by the neck, yelled, "hey!", and threw it on the ground. It struggled once before I tightened my grip and put more of my weight on it to keep it pinned to the ground. I couldn't believe it, and the owners hadn't even yelled or anything. I was so shocked ti only took the time to check Tess for blood, and then got the hell away from there as fast as I could. I finished the climb and didn't even notice the heat or steepness from all the adrenaline pumping through me. The rest of our hike was much less eventful and when we got to camp, set up took not time at all. We were able to collect some good firewood and had a roaring fire in no time. While eating an appetizer of leftover pizza, we cooked our dinner and enjoyed the warmth and comfort the fire gave us. It was good to be back in the woods and when it was time for bed, the sound of the wind through the trees put us into a deep sleep shortly after laying down.