Day 43 — Sunday, April 27
We woke at 6:30 in the Thomas Knob shelter, packed quietly, and made hot water for coffee and oatmeal. The pair of female hikers upstairs were already up and packing.
We hit the trail by 7:30 and were twenty minutes away when I remembered that we had left the bear bag rope on the shelter after Tandem got the food down. We dropped packs in a meadow on top of Mount Rogers, and she returned to get the rope. While she was gone, I listened to Scout troops packing up around me, and I reminisced about camping with the Scouts. I also took my Sunday beard picture.
Tandem returned with the rope and we were off. We spent a lot of time and miles coming off of Mount Rogers and weaving through Grayson Highlands State Park. We saw several of the famous wild ponies and actually got to pet one! We also passed through a well-known short tunnel of stone while still high on Mount Rogers.
We eventually dropped down to the Wise shelter at 10:35, after five miles hiking. We grabbed a snack and signed the logbook. Then came the 2000 foot climb up Stone Mountain. Tandem took the climb at her own speed ahead of me and caught up with Mio. They hiked together in front of me for the rest of the day.
We joined up at the Old Orchard shelter for lunch with a few other thru hikers who were staying at that shelter for the rest of the day. I gave Mio my old Pringles can, which he later converted it into a broadcast speaker for music from his phone. He demo’d it during tonight’s fire.
Tandem and Mio left first after lunch, and I lingered to talk about wild onions and other stuff. I got going fifteen minutes later and headed downhill for two miles to VA 603. Close to the road, I was surprised to meet Lobstah coming southbound. She explained that she was trying to see more hikers to say goodbye before she pulled off mid-week to go to a wedding on Saturday and then go back to work on a lobster boat. She had removed her hair dreads. We parted with her saying that she looks forward to seeing us in Maine with fresh lobster at the end of our thru hike.
I crossed the road and started up the long 700 foot climb to the top of Hurricane Mountain. At the top, I found enough AT&T signal to send my blog update from yesterday. I also learned that it is going to rain for the next two to three days. Boo.
We all met up again at the Hurricane Mountain shelter at 17:00 and discussed how to best spend the next three hours of daylight and good weather. We agreed to shoot for the Partnership shelter the next day, which is 19.7 miles from Hurricane. They deliver pizza to that shelter and there are showers and power there, like at the Fontana Hilton.
We looked at the Guidebooks and decided that the campsite 6.5 miles away and uphill at least halfway was a push. We decided instead to find a campsite near a stream three miles ahead and mostly downhill. I led for most of the way down, we found the last stream, and set up camp.
Tandem and I had chicken flavored rice. Then Mio offered us part of a filet mignon if we would cook it. Mio is currently separated from his hiking buddy, Rain Pants, who has the dinners and stove. I gladly cooked the steak slowly in a little oil on our pot lid over the stove. It was cooked a little well due to being in his pack all day. We split it, and it was moist and delicious.
We cleaned up, and I set up my tent where we had been cooking. Mio got a fire going, and Tandem and I hung our bear bags, which no one else did. We sat around the fire listening to Mio’s music played through my old Pringles can while he guessed what we liked in music. We joked about other hikers and where everyone probably was on the trail, and I shared my Jeff Foxworthy comedy career launch story out of IBM in the 80’s.
We now have only 16 miles to go to the Partnership shelter for pizza and showers tomorrow. It will probably be raining, so the shelter will be very welcome! Sixteen can stay in the shelter.