Day 50 — Sunday, May 4
This morning was another beautiful weather start, and the sun was shining at 7:15 when I woke and packed. We’ve been lucky the last few days. Tandem and I had a cold breakfast of honey buns. We grabbed our share of the beer cans to add to our trash, and Tandem hung the bag from a carabiner on her pack.
We hiked out at 8:15 and started the long easterly 1400 foot climb. Most of the trail followed an old fire road bed until we got near the top and turned west. The next few miles took us across the ridge of the mountain range back above the Wapiti shelter. At one point, it seemed that the trail was headed downhill back toward the shelter.
We passed a large relay tower at mile 618.1, which in our book was listed as a lookout tower. I should get the 2014 guide book. On the descent, we met up with weekend hikers and their dog. The trail turned back to the east for a couple of miles of rocky descent, and when we came to a spot where there was a big drop through large rocks, it surprised us and threw us off.
We got to the gravel road where we needed to turn off the trail downhill for 1/2 mile to the Woods Hole Hostel. When we arrived, we were greeted by Neville, one of the owners who manages the hiker logistics and the kitchen. Her husband Michael manages the buildings, livestock, construction, and farm.
I got my AT Passport stamped here. We grabbed a couple of the first prime beds in the bunkhouse and unpacked. Our food had to be hung from cords to avoid mice getting to it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the sun and on the porch rocking chairs and swings. We each took a shower and got laundry done. There are two large hiker boxes, and I found a Pasta Side in one. The guest book is filled with colorful logs from hikers who have stayed, and I added mine to it. The “honor” fridge is full of snacks and sodas, which we helped ourselves to. Tandem participated in a yoga session, and we played a couple of games of Spades with Hoss and Mio. Mio and I won both.
The hostel is a working farm with pigs, goats, chickens, cows, and a garden that provides fresh greens for the hiker meals. There is also Chocolate Lab and three cats. A couple of hikers have settled here for weeks to work the farm for free room and board.
By the end of the day, there were about 25 hikers staying in the bunkhouse, main house, or tenting. At 19:00, we all gathered for dinner and formed a circle in the yard holding hands. Neville had us all say our trail name, hometown, and what we are thankful for. I am thankful for being able to logistically thru hike the AT with my daughter.
Dinner was served buffet style, and we all ate in various places, with Tandem and other hikers we knew at the dining room table. We started with salad from the garden and homemade bread. The hostel sells the bread by the loaf and honey harvested from their bee hives. Then we had chili with chives, sour cream, Ricotta cheese, shredded Mozzarella cheese, hot sauce, and more bread and butter. I had two bowls of chili.
We really enjoyed dinner and then were treated to vanilla ice cream cones! The hikers socialized and then retired to their bunks when it got dark. This has been the best stay we have had and reminds me of Crooked Creek homesteading campsite at Philmont.
Tomorrow, we go mostly downhill to Pearisburg for restocking and then head uphill to a camp.
The hikers in the bunkhouse at the Woods Hole Hostel woke up around 7:30. Breakfast was being served at 8:00, but we ate our own food while we packed. It was quiet around the hostel while everyone was inside eating.
Tandem, Hoss, Mombo, Mio, and I packed, and Long Haul Trucker’s wife volunteered to take us the 1/2 mile uphill to where we could get back on the AT. Four of us took the opportunity and piled with our packs into her LeBaron convertible. Tandem and Mio rode up on the back seat like they were in a parade.
We hiked uphill and then down to Docs Knob shelter where we paused, removed a layer, and hiked on down to Pearisburg. Along the way, I got a picture of Tandem and Mio at a “view”. On the downhill, my left shin started hurting like a shin splint. It was initially painful, especially downhill, but I can hike on it.
In town, we spent a lot of time pigging out on the AYCE salad and pizza buffet at Pizza Plus, which they kindly kept open for us past the buffet closing time. They even gave us a pizza to take on the trail that they had made before we stopped eating.
We parked our packs at the Food Lion and went in to restock food. We got dinners and trail snacks, healthy cereal, and dried pineapple. We added about five pounds to each of our packs in new food. It was 16:30 when we finally sorted out the food and filled our bags. We kidded about getting a hotel room but decided to hike until it got dark.
We identified three logical stopping points — a stream without a campsite symbol four miles away, a spring with a campsite symbol five miles away, and the Rice Field shelter seven miles away. All three locations require climbing some portion or all of 1600 feet to the shelter. We passed both campsites and climbed to the shelter until 20:30.
The wind chill against the 50 degree weather convinced us to stay in the shelter, which none of us prefer to do. There was a father and son pair of section hikers already in the shelter and they made room. Boot Burner was also there but talking about moving on for some night hiking. He offered us extra vanilla wafer cookies, and I ate most if the package. We also ate our free pizza from Pizza Plus and shared a slice with Boot Burner. I kept a supreme slice for breakfast.
We hung up our food bags in the shelter since we saw a begging mouse come out from under the shelter while we ate. Boot Burner made a last minute decision to stay in the shelter rather than night hike due to the chilling wind. The six of us fit comfortably in the shelter designed for seven.
Tomorrow we will start our 13-15 mile paced days to end up in Daleville, VA, — about 90 miles north — on Sunday for Tandem’s doctor appt. I may also have my swollen left shin checked if it still is swollen.