I woke up around 6:30 again to start packing and treating my injuries. It rained hard between 2:30 and 4:30, so the tent tarp was wet. I was packed and tent down by 7:15 and eating a cold breakfast of cereal with milk, dehydrated banana chips, and a honeybun. We left the campsite by 7:30.
The first three miles were uphill. I hiked with Tandem and we cruised along with fresh morning legs. As we were starting the downhill, Mio caught up, and he and Tandem went ahead two miles to the Trimpi shelter. I knew that they were there due to their hiking poles pointing to the shelter .1 mile out. I picked up the poles and headed down to the shelter.
There were a couple of other thru hikers there, and the five of us got very lucky! The worst thunderstorm and downpour of the day hit for about 30 minutes, but we were dry and cozy in the shelter throughout. We ate an early lunch there at 10:45, and Tandem and Mio were out and on the way again by 11:00. I waited and ate more before leaving.
I wasn’t with Tandem for the rest of the 10.6 miles to the Partnership shelter but enjoyed the solitude. I sucked on Werther’s, chewed bubble gum, changed layers, and listened to my music as I hiked along at an average of about 2.5 miles/hour.
There were multiple hills to cross, but the terrain changes were not as hard as they’d been in North Carolina. I used the A.T. Guidebook to track my progress by landmarks and terrain changes but was disappointed to see that the abandoned bus landmark had been removed since the writing of the 2013 Guidebook.
After that area, I came upon another Baptist church trail angel food-and-supplies station. Not only was it stocked, but there were chairs and a pop up tent for cover! I then crossed a large impressive bridge across the South Fork Holston River, which had a nice AT sign on the other side.
I came up the last hilltop quietly (not singing out loud) and came within 50 feet of a pair of large whitetail deer grazing near the trail. The way that they took off in different directions away from me with their bright white tails flashing up and down in the air was fantastic and a once in a lifetime experience for me.
I arrived at the Partnership shelter at 15:45, five minutes behind Tandem and Mio. We grabbed three spots inside due to the incoming severe weather. Some hikers that had used the Marion town shuttle had just returned and were packing to leave.
We wandered up to the Mount Rogers Visitors Center around the corner to check it out before it closed at 15:00. While there, the three of us ordered two large pizzas to be delivered to the shelter for our dinner. We also lucked out with a trail angel of sorts that had about a dozen extra cold beers and three bunches of bananas. We took the bananas back for everyone and hid the beers, since there is no alcohol allowed in the shelter.
Other hikers trickled in for the next few hours and most found room to sleep upstairs in the shelter. In the end, there were about 20 in the shelter. Our pizzas showed up, and we gobbled down most of the slices with beer. We shared the beer with the other hikers, who also wanted pizzas, but the pizza place was no longer delivering due to the tornado watch.
The other hikers contacted a kind Marion resident who had left a card by the phone at the Visitors Center for $5 shuttles into town. A few of them met the driver and were driven to the pizza place to pay for their $130+ order. They also brought back two liters of Coke and two cases of beer. Everyone had fun eating, drinking, and talking until it was dark. Parts and pieces, amounting to about two full pizzas, were not eaten, and more than a case of beer was left. We threw the trash in the dumpster but kept the extra pizza, beer, and coke for the morning.
The first shuttle into Marion is at 9:00. I hope the severe storms miss us overnight in our open-faced, bottom floor of the shelter!
Staying overnight with 16 other thru hikers in the Partnership shelter worked out well. I was happy to see leftover Coke and bananas on the picnic table, enjoying them while I packed up. Others ate leftover pizza and drank beer. It was Long Haul Trucker’s birthday, so I started a round of Happy Birthday and everyone joined in.
About a dozen of us were going into Marion for various things like breakfast, laundry, lunch, and food restocking. The 9:00 shuttle, which cost fifty cents, was full of hikers and their packs. I left my phone charger and Tandem left her phone charging in the Visitor’s Center while we were in town.
We made various stops before Tandem and I got out last at Walmart to shop for food. We took our packs in the shopping cart. We didn’t take long to shop since this was becoming a routine. Flavors, quantities, and how or whether we split something was most of the discussion and time consumer. I was happy to get Pringles chips and Gatorade packets again. We paid and sorted food into our food bags in the Walmart lobby.
We put on our packs and walked down to the Dollar Tree store for cheaper full size Snickers. Then we walked down the street to Wendy’s for lunch at 10:30. We both had double cheese burgers with fries. I had Coke while Tandem enjoyed a great cup of coffee. I overheard a conversation nearby between two older gentlemen talking about Geocaching. I introduced myself and found that he had been caching for only a month and had 24 finds.
Tandem and I sat in the corner of the restaurant so that I could charge my phone, and we stayed there about two hours.We both used it since there were five bars on AT&T in town! She wished that she had brought her phone.
We left Wendy’s and headed back toward Walmart where we looked for and failed to find a Geocache. I emailed the cache owner for another hint but didn’t hear back. Tandem wrote her blog on my phone while I watched people and repacked my pack to hike later. At 14:15 we took the shuttle back to the Mout Rogers Visitor’s Center.
I got a touch of motion sickness in the mini bus, so after I retrieved my charger from inside, I sat for a while in the cool, foggy air. Tandem understood and waited with me. Mio left for the hike to the next shelter seven miles away. A couple of other hikers also left as we were leaving.
As we all hiked at similar speeds, with stops for clothing changes, the five of us interweaved as we hiked up and down some tough hills. I ended up hiking most of the way ahead of Tandem with Mio. We discussed things like his employment and additional education plans, his three cousins who work for Bank of America in Charlotte, natural sights on the trail that we appreciate, and Earth caches.
We continued to climb a net of 800 feet until we dropped back to 3200 feet and the Chatfield shelter. The seven miles went by fast since I was talking to Mio and not thinking about where we were. Tandem arrived only five minutes after we did.
We had decided to stay at the shelter due to the shorter hike for the afternoon and the heavy flash flood rain coming overnight. The shelter was already full, so Mio, Tandem, and I stayed in or tents and hammock.
Tandem and I had a spicy Chipotle flavored Pasta Side, which needed no additional hot sauce from my spice selections. We hung the bear bag easily and enjoyed watching and kidding with other hikers that had trouble hanging their bear bag ropes. I helped the guys that we hiked with to tie a rope securely to a rock to more easily throw their rope over a branch.
After dinner, Tandem and Mio learned and participated in the card game Canasta until it got dark. I retired early to my tent to work on the bad left blister and write this blog. I hope it doesn’t rain as hard as they predict after midnight tonight. I hear thunder in the distance.
We are shooting for 18.4 miles tomorrow to the Knot Maul shelter and hope to stay in it due to the continuing rains forecast through Thursday. On the way, in seven more miles, we are walking under I-81 near Atkins, VA. We will stop at The Barn restaurant there for a big breakfast and to pick up gloves that my buddy Mac has drop shipped to replace my lost pair. We also walk by a Shell station in case we need anything, though we shouldn’t.