Saturday, May 19, 2012

Almost a 20-miler

We packed up, fetched some fresh water from Curry Creek, and headed out for the day, hoping to do about 15 miles.  We usually plan on doing around 15, but the trail usually dictates how far we get.  Although we can look at the elevation profile in the AT Guide and have a general idea of elevation changes, we have know way of knowing about how rocky or rooty it will be until we hike it.  When it gets very rocky, this generally makes for tedious walking, and show us down quite a bit.
We stopped in at the first shelter, Wilson Creek Shelter, and I had to laugh when I saw the privy, because someone had fashioned a decoration for the door - the AT symbol, made out of sticks and wire.  About 5 miles later, the trail came up to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) for the first time, a nice milestone on the trail, and a sure sign that we were actually progressing through Virginia.  Virginia's part of the AT is the longest part of the trail - over 500 miles, and we have heard that it can go by a bit slowly at times, and some hikers get the "Virginia Blues," and many drop out hiking through this state.
At the road, there was a white van, and soon spotted Bernie the Whittler walking back from the woods.  He was looking for the trail, and when he spotted us, he realized he had walked right past it, and laughed out loud.  His wife and sister-in-law were sitting in the van, and he was scouting out the next drop off and pick up point that he was shuttling them to.  We went over and visited with all three of them, and learned that they were going to be heading to a family reunion about the time we would be returning to the trail after our visit with Elise, Daniel and Sean.  We were glad we had the opportunity to say goodbye, but will miss running into them on the trail.
We hiked on a bit further, and the trail actually crossed the BRP, and crossed over to the first nice overlook, Taylor's Mountain Overlook.  We were standing there taking in the view, and taking pictures, and noticed a pickup truck parked there.  There was a couple with a cooler and lawn chairs in the back, and they spotted us about the same time.  They waved us over, and asked us if we were hungry.  The man, Footnote, was a former thru-hiker (09), and this was the anniversary of his completion date of his hike.  He and his wife did Trail Magic on this day every year.  They had brought the sweetest strawberries, cold drinks, popcorn, pound cake, chocolate cake, hard boiled eggs, bananas, and brocolli.  We sat and ate, and visited, and heard all about his hike.  He had spent his career as a park ranger on the BRP, and actually hiked the entire road at one time, and had written a book about it.  I made a mental note to order it when I got off of the trail.  Can't wait to read it!
Several others came up as we ate - Roadside, Sankaku, and a section hiker.  We had met Sankaku before.  She has been hiking with her husband, Lucky Day, but for now they were slackpacking, because she was having knee problems, and wanted to give them a break. They were hiking in opposite directions.
We said our goodbyes and headed on down the AT.  It would pass just below the BRP, and then occasionally cross it again, usually near one of the beautiful overlooks that the Parkway is famous for.  Occasionally we passed huge rock walls that were built to support the Parkway.
As we hiked, we ran into Lucky Day slackpacking.  We told him we had seen Sankaku.  Since he was slackpacking, he had filled his backpack full of small bags of potato chips, and was dispensing his own brand of trail magic.  We each took a bag of chips, feeling especially fortunate to have trail magic twice already!
We came upon a really nice picnic table at a beautiful overlook, and stayed there for lunch.  Roadside arrived and joined us for a break.  After we ate, the three of us began hiking together, and within 100 yards of entering the woods, came upon a big bag of apples - more trail magic!  They were perfect - so sweet and juicy, and such great timing for right after lunch.
I don't know if the trail was less difficult this day, or if we just had an earlier start, but we began to realize that if we reached a place called the Swimming Hole on Jennings Creek, we would just be .3 miles short of doing 20 miles that day.  Although we were getting pretty tired, we decided to try to make it a 20-mile day.  We reached the Swimming Hole at 6:30, and were going to take a quick dip.  Keith had just stepped in, and was telling me how frigid it was, when Snagglefoot came out of the woods and said hi.  He told us that he was camped with a big group that included Polaris, and that Polaris' parents were camped there for the week, shuttling those who wanted to slackpack, and also cooking hamburgers for everyone for supper.  He invited us to join them.  All of a sudden, the goal of a 20-mile day didn't seem so important anymore.  We went to the campsite and found about a doze other hikers.  We were surprised, because we expected everyone to be in Damascus.  We pitched our tent, and ended up staying there for the night, eating hamburgers and enjoying the group.  Two local campers were there also, and they brought over a game we were not familiar with - there were these balls connected by strings that you threw at a ladder.
Keith ended up visiting with Polaris' dad, who had flown F-4's in the Air Force, the same plane that Keith had worked on at Bergstrom AFB when he was in the Air Force.  They had a good visit.    We were really tired from our "almost" 20-mile day, and were the first to turn in for the night.  Also camped there was Weatherman, Houdini, Q-tip, Polaris, Skeeter, All Smiles, Secrets and Shenanigans, Snagglefoot, and a couple of others.  It was a really great group to hang out with.

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