When we looked at the elevation profile for the hike into Marion, Virginia, it looked really easy, but it turned out to be a real roller coast - hill after hill, after hill - well, you get the idea. I think it's because we were kind of anxious to reach town, and the hills just seemed to be in the way! The day also got REALLY warm, and when I had a chance, I changed into a sleeveless shirt, for the first time in weeks, and put my hair up off of my neck.
We reached the South Forkl Holston River, and also a road, VA 620, and found Craftsman and Steamroller camped there, and also some trail magic! The Valley View Baptist Church Youth had left a cooler full of Pepsi and Root Beer, and a big cooler full of snacks! I would have to think that most thru-hikers, by the time the finish the AT, have a pretty high opinion of Baptists. They had left a nice note and journal for the thru-hikers to sign, and so after we signed it, we looked through to see who was in front of us, and discovered that while we had stopped at a side shelter for water, Biscuits must have passed us. We would have loved to have seen him. We have not seen him since he met us for breakfast our last morning in Damascus.
It just seemed to take forever to reach the Mt. Rogers Visitor Center, but we finally did. I promise never to take level ground for granted again. We made a bee line for the bathroom (running water!) and vending machines (darn! Pepsi products!) once we reached the Visitor Center. I had to laugh at the sign in the restroom: "Please do not wash your clothes, dishes or your hair in our sinks. Please do not throw your pizza boxes in these trash cans." There was a thru-hiker shelter just a hundred yards away.
We soon learned that the shuttle did not run this late, but that thru-hikers get picked up easily on the highway (even the County police will give you a ride). What we soon discovered, was the cars were all going the other direction, and no one was going our way. We must have tried to get a ride for 30 minutes. This is especially difficult when you know you have a hot shower waiting on the other end. I personally do not like hitchhiking. If it takes very long to get a ride, I start to feel like the kid in school who never got picked to be on the team. Talk about rejection!
I nice young man eventually stopped and offered us a ride in the back of his pickup truck. Actually, this is the best scenario, because we haven't showered in 4 days, and I can't imagine us being inside a car with a non-hiker. Ewww! Once we were in the back, I started reaching his back window. He had both Nascar and the south very well represented. In fact, the south was so well represented, that I advised Keith not to talk. Once we told him where we needed to go, he told us he would take us a different way, did a rather quick u-turn, and then headed down a side road off into the woods. We all three looked at each other, with that "concerned" look on our faces. We all held on tight, and ended up getting taken on a very fast, curvy ride through the mountains. Apparently, our driver knew "a shortcut", and we were at the hotel in no time. Make no mistake -- there are times, we are really glad we are hiking with a retired State Policeman.
Thankfully, they have a transit system like Fort Smith's here, and when we return to the trail, we can call and request to be picked up. It will only cost us fifty cents, and they will return us to the trail!