The end of our sixth week on the trail! Almost 500 miles!
We woke alone in the Saunders shelter, just as we had gone to sleep last night. The two section hikers were making breakfast at the picnic table and the sun was shining brightly into the shelter around Tandem’s tarp. We woke, packed, and started water for coffee and oatmeal. Tandem prepared a combo of oatmeal and quinoa, which she experimented with the first time by cooking it, rather than hydrating it. It didn’t take long to cook, so simply hydrating it next time may work.
The section hikers were kind enough to take our trash on their way south to Damascus. We left the shelter at 9:15 for our 18.6 mile hike to Thomas Knob shelter. We made good time for the first five miles rolling along our last section of the Creeper bike trail.
While on the bike trail, we passed many Scout packs and troops biking. Near the back of one Pack, we passed a Tiger Cub who had fallen and cut his knee. His mother and Den Mother were caring for him. They stopped the bleeding, but I sensed that they lacked band aids. I offered them one, which they gratefully accepted. They were surprised to hear that we were AT thru hikers and how far we were going and for how long.
We crossed the Luther Hassinger Memorial Bridge and it reminded me if the trestle bridge on the Silver Comet Trail in Atlanta. We reached the Lost Mountain shelter by 12:30 but pushed on another mile to US 58 in case there was any trail magic going on. There wasn’t, so we had lunch there.
Then came the first long climb of the day up Whitetop Mountain, an elevation change of 2175 feet over five miles. I was slow up this one due to talking to all of the Scouts and leaders coming down the hill. I also ran out if water and had to grab some from a stream.
Near the top of Whitetop is Buzzard Rock. Since I’m Buzz, of course I got a picture there!
Then it was downhill to VA 600, and again, no trail magic. However, I saw the Appalachian Trail sign that is currently my background picture on Facebook and took a selfy with it.
Then we started our other long climb of the day to the top of Mount Rogers the highest elevation in Virginia with an elevation change of 979 feet over four miles. Just as we got started, a fighter jet flew over our heads really low around the mountains. It was so cool!
We stopped halfway up at 18:45 for dinner in Deep Gap. I think that every state has a Deep Gap on the AT. We were back on the trail at 19:30 for our last 2.3 miles. We hiked up to the top of Mt Rogers and got a great sunset shot.
We arrived at the Thomas Knob shelter as it was getting dark at 20:15 and found only four in a two-story shelter that holds 16. We got a side in the bottom to ourselves and learned that many of our hiker friends are .7 miles ahead partying Mexican style. Tandem and I decided to stay in the shelter, despite seeing a mouse running around it, and to get up early to catch up with their hungover selves in the morning.
Tomorrow we get to see and interact with the wild ponies of Grayson Highlands State Park. We will probably do 16 miles tomorrow to Hurricane Mountain shelter.