Day 35 – Crawfish Campsite – Jenkins Shelter – 28.1 miles
By the time I got up, Rattlesnake, Rodrigo, and Leaf Blower were all sitting on some logs eating breakfast. I got up, put my tent away, and made some breakfast. I mixed a couple packages of carnation instant breakfast and some protein and washed it down with some breakfast bars. 5 minutes after I left I passed a sign that said I was at the 1/4 way mark on the A.T.! I was excited and when I saw I only had a little more than 1600 miles to go, I thought to myself, “Damn. That doesn’t seem so bad!”. The trail started in the woods and then went through some open cow pastures. The pastures have been my favorite spots to walk through so far. While I was hiking through I caught up with Charlie and we ended up hiking the rest of the way together. After about 12 miles we stopped at a good spot to eat lunch. Charlie made cheeseburgers at the last town and packed more than a dozen of them. I traded him a couple bags of Cheeze-itz and I enjoyed one of the burgers. We ate for about an hour and then were back on the trail. There was a steep climb that led up to an open ridge line and I worked up a pretty good sweat. It was a 2,500 ft elevation gain over a mile. The view at the top was gorgeous though and we spent a few minutes looking out in the distance and saying, “Holy shit. I can’t believe we walked from all the way over there.” The shelter was still a good ways away, so we picked up the pace a bit and made some good distance over the next few hours. About 4 miles away from the shelter, we realized that we both needed water and we stopped to look in our guides to see where the next source was. It said we were a couple miles away, but the source was a half mile off the trail and because there hasn’t been much rain we also knew there was a chance the spring was dry. When we got to the point where we needed to get off trail, there was an older woman camping close so we asked if there was water down there. She said she wasn’t sure, but she had bottles of water in her car and was willing to give us some. She gave us two bottles worth each and also some cinnamon rolls she had and gummy bears. That was amazing “trail magic” and exactly what we needed to get us through the next couple miles to the shelter. It was getting pretty dark after this so we put on our headlamps as we had to night hike for the hour or so into camp. The shelter was full so we set up our tents. I cooked up another ramen bomb and put in some crumbled up cheese crackers to give it a little more juice. It’s so nice to be laying down after a long day and also so nice to know that I’m going to be able to do it again tomorrow!
Day 36 – Jenkins Shelter – Jenny Knob Shelter – 23.2 miles
I slept in until about 8:30 this morning because I went to sleep late last night. I got my tent packed down and made some breakfast and was on the trail at 9:30. It was another great day for weather. Sunny and just a little breeze. Charlie hiked the first 5 miles with me and then stopped to eat, but I kept pushing on so I could make the shelter at a decent time. There were a bunch of steep climbs that would flatten at the top and then descend back down. About 1 in the afternoon the trail went down a street and crossed over the interstate and on a corner right off the trail was a little store with hot food and snacks. I got a Gatorade, chocolate milk, two bags of chips, and two grilled cheeses. I ate it outside where I met Granite with his dog Max, Pizza, and Slow French. I continued on after I ate because I had 10 more miles to do and it was already 3 o’clock. The start of it was uphill, but then it got a little less steep and smoother. All of the water sources I passed were dried up so all I had was what was left of the Gatorade for the rest of the time. I had serviced at one point in on the mountain and called my mom. Literally two minutes I got off the phone with her, I was walking down the trail when I saw a bear walking up the trail towards me. I stopped and looked at it and he stopped and looked at me. I held my arms out wide with my trekking poles to make myself look as big as possible and yelled at the bear as loud as I could. Right away the bear freaked out and took off into the woods. I could hear it rumbling and tumbling through the forest. I passed the 600 mile mark at 6pm and it got my pumped for the next few miles to the shelter. I got to the shelter at about 7 o’clock and immediately went to the water source and hydrated as much as I could. There was only one person at the shelter when I got there. His name is Mr. Zip. We talked as I cooked my ramen bomb and two more hikers eventually showed up. Pizza and P1. I think the mosquitoes are officially out because they’re swarming me in the shelter and won’t stop buzzing in my ear. I feel ready for another longer day tomorrow!
Day 37 – Jenny Knob Shelter – Docs Knob Shelter – 24.0 miles
The mosquitoes were so bad that at about 10:30 I got out of the shelter and put up my tent. I was banking on it not to rain, so I left the rain fly off and slept under the stars. It was a lot better in there. I woke up at 6:30 and finally got on the trail at 7:15. I stopped at he first water source .7 miles from the shelter to drink, eat breakfast, and brush my teeth. The rain held off last night and for most of the day today. It was pretty humid and muggy out so some of the climbs worked up a good sweat. Around 11 I passed a couple people and they asked if I was going to go see the falls up ahead. I wasn’t originally going to go, but the two hikers said it was nice so I walked the .5 miles off trail to the falls. The falls weren’t too big, but the rock all over made it a nice spot to hang out and take a break. You could also swim in a little swim hole underneath the falls and I went in. The cold water felt really nice. I stayed there for about 45 minutes and then hit the trail again. It wasn’t too long before I had to stop and eat some lunch, so I had a couple bagels with tuna and one of the last Cheeze It packets I had. I hadn’t passed the first shelter which was 13 miles from where I started and it was another 11 once I got there. An hour later I finally got to the first shelter so I knew I still had 4 or 5 hours more of hiking. The trail continued the up and down trend and it was really rocky, causing my feet to hurt. I walked the rest of the way in good time and finally made it to the shelter. I was excited to take my shoes off and roll my feet out. Mr. Zip was here when I arrived and I met Red Feather, Bitcoin, and Diamond Blue Eyes. I made some ramen and mashed potatoes and used it as a dip for a couple bagels. Right as it was getting dark a thunder storm came out of nowhere and poured. We didn’t have rain in a long time so I think it’s good for the creeks and streams. I’m doing a short day into Pearisburg, Virginia tomorrow to resupply and stay in a hostel. Ready for laundry and shower!
Day 38 – Docs Knob Shelter – Angel’s Rest Hiker Haven – 9.4 miles
I woke up really early, about 5:45, because everyone else in the shelter was up and getting their things ready. I packed my bag up as soon as I could and was on the trail by 6:30. It was only 9 miles until I was close to the town so I the short day was a nice change. It was a nice morning. The birds were chirping and the plants were still wet from the rain last night. I passed Mr. Zip at one point as he was talking on the phone and we met up again a few miles down where the trail came down to a Main Street. We called the hostel and they sent a shuttle down to pick us up and take us back. This hostel is really nice and there are about 20 other hikers here as well. I got settled and then walked down the street to the Dairy Queen. I got a flamethrower burger, a chicken sandwich, and fries. After I walked over to the Food Lion and picked up some carrots, a peach, bananas, and chocolate milk. I went back to the hostel and chilled with Jaws and Fire-bender watching movies. I enjoyed not spending the day hiking and getting some rest off trail. I think it was good for my body. I watched movies until about 6:30 and then walked back down the street to the Mexican restaurant. I feasted again having some chicken fajitas, three tacos, and bottomless chips and salsa. After I went back to the Food Lion to resupply for the next few days. When I got back to the hostel I got all my things packed away and then went down to the fire and chilled with everybody. I feel stronger each day and I’m happy with the progress. I still can’t believe I’m out here doing this and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity. Not stopping til Maine.