The last day in April and three days from my brother’s birthday. But my mind was on what the 18.4 miles today would do to my left foot. Besides the ever growing blister/scab/sore on the back outside of my left foot, it is also suffering from swelling on the front ball of the foot from some impact that I don’t recall. The good news is that the no-closing cut on my right thumb is finally healing, thanks to our zero day and visit to the Stone Mountain Clinic in Damascus.
Enough about my physical issues. After a night of drizzly rain, I woke up to no rain sounds on the tent fly at 6:30, so I packed things in the tent quickly and had the tent down in 15 minutes. I packed the very wet fly in the front pocket of my pack separate from the rest of the tent. Al, who had had come in late and set up his tent near mine, had it down and was gone by 7:00.
Tandem and I took time and gas for a warm breakfast of coffee and oatmeal. We were the last to leave the Chatfield shelter but only minutes behind Mio. We caught him and hiked the rest if the 4.5 miles to Atkins, VA, at I-81.
Halfway there we stopped at the historic Lindamood School. There was trail magic in the school, including sodas, snacks, supplies, and pre-stamped religious postcards. We enjoyed reading the rules for students from 140 years ago. There were rules like lashings for climbing over three feet from the ground in a tree or boys playing with girls.
After several of us joked and snacked in the school, we headed down the last three miles to The Barn restaurant in Atkins. As we got closer to Atkins, we passed lots of farmland and cows.
The new Craft gloves I was expecting from Mac McCabe at The Barn hadn’t arrived, unfortunately. We enjoyed a good hot two egg, sausage, bacon, biscuit, potatoes, and pancakes breakfast, but we were 30 minutes too early for the famous hiker burger plate. We were able to charge our devices and chargers while we were there.
We departed two hours later at 12:30 all refreshed and charged up. The AT then passed under I-81 at mile 542.5 and headed northwest into farmland and over many fence stiles. You can see the white blazes painted on the I-81 bridge supports.
We climbed slowly from the highway until we topped Little Brushy Mountain. During the field crossings and windy changing weather, I was alone for a while as Tandem and Mio hiked ahead together. I used the solo time to call my wife Karen (Couch Control) because I was missing her and needed to hear her voice. After that call, I actually experienced a period of depression and thoughts of going back to I-81 and leaving the trail. But, I hiked on and passed a spot where the Davis Path shelter had once stood. There is still a privy, and it is considered a campsite now with no water.
I eventually was surprised to find Tandem sitting in the middle of the AT waiting for me. We talked and hiked for a while until we got to water, which she really needed, from a stream at a campsite at mile 548.5. Mio and Left Turn were there for water also. We had 7.5 miles to go yet to Knot Maul shelter and it was 15:00.
We had an 800 foot climb ahead of us up Walker Mountain. Tandem and I left last again and passed Left Turn shortly after we started the downhill on the back side of Walker. We caught up with Mio as well and hiked with him through more private farm land that the AT has a right of way through. I took a picture from the top of one of the farmland field climbs back south on the AT and picked up a black cow grazing in the distant left side of the image.
Right after crossing the river and before climbing 650 feet straight up Brushy Mountain, we lucked into a second stationary church trail magic station. They had oatmeal creme cookies and warm Walmart Mountain Dew knockoff sodas. A church member had just restocked the coolers by the last fence stile for the day. I think that we crossed at least seven stiles, and they got higher and harder to cross the further we went today. I left first and led the last two miles up the mountain and down the back side to the shelter.
As I descended Brushy Mountain it began to cloud over and get darker. I picked up my pace and arrived at the shelter just as it started to rain. That was the first rain for the day. Forecasters were very wrong today!
Once the first shower was over, I grabbed my tent from my pack in the shelter and set it up very quickly. The fly was still soaking wet, but the tent and ground cloth were dry. While I was setting up, Tandem and Mio showed up and quickly set up their sleeping quarters.
It rained off and on through our dinner of mashed potatoes and chicken Ramen. Left Turn showed up and grabbed a spot in the sparsely populated shelter. There were five tents and Tandem’s hammock set up around the shelter. We cleaned up, and I hung the bear bags while Tandem and Mio started another game of Canasta with two other hikers.
Just as the heavens opened up, I made a dash for my dry tent. It poured rain for a couple of hours while I wrote this blog entry, ate trail mix, and drank my last liter of Mio flavored water.
Except for one 4.4 mile, 2000 foot climb in the morning, a lot of tomorrow is flat or downhill. We will probably hike 19.1 miles tomorrow to Jenkins shelter, which is at 575.2 miles.
Our next goal is to reach the Woods Hole Hostel in Pearisburg, VA, at mile 620.4 by Sunday morning. Relatives of Danny and Queenie Ross from our previous hometown of Dunwoody, GA, manage this hostel. We are looking forward to getting there and staying overnight to start our eighth week from mile 620!