After getting in the sleeping bag last night, I heard Tandem breathing like she was asleep and thought it ironic how scared of noises in the woods she had been minutes earlier.
I woke up at 7:30, packed my stuff, pulled down the bear bags, and ate cereal and a honey bun. Tandem caught up and we ate together. We saw a couple of through hikers that we didn’t know go by, but neither looked like Double R.
We hit the trail by 8:20 at mile 683 and climbed 1500 feet to an old fire road that was now covered with grass. We hiked side by side and talked about the day and our destination. We got to the memorial for Audie Murphy, American’s most decorated WWII combat solider, and met Free Man there who started on April 4 and is on his seventh thru hike. He has over 8000 miles backpacking. He started a quick fire between four rocks and cooked his breakfast. We took a snack break and pictures for my father in law while Tandem read the story of Murphy’s WWII heroics. It was a special spot.
We left before Free Man and headed downhill to VA 620. On the way down, we passed several trail maintainers from the Roanoke group and thanked them for what they do.
The next hour was spent doing a slow hike up right past the Pickle Branch shelter, which was .3 miles off trail, and on up to a view one mile later for a scenic lunch. We found cell signal here, so updates were sent and location apps were checked in on.
Free Man came upon us when we were loading packs. We wished him well again and continued to climb to the famous Dragons Tooth. The terrain was really rocky for a few miles, which slowed us to three miles over two hours.
We arrived at Dragons Tooth at mile 695 at 14:30. It was crowded there, but we climbed up and grabbed a couple of seats on the bumps in the tooth. Someone told us that the name of the rock feature was due to the series of rock points that each look like a bumpy tooth.
We left and started our difficult hike on big rocks downhill. There were other day hikers coming up, most of whom were college age and had just gotten out of school. We finally cleared the rocks and started hiking more quickly to VA 624 where the Four Pines Hostel is located.
We walked the .3 miles to the hostel and met Joe, the owner. This hostel operates on donations. It is located in a three-car garage and has a stove, bathroom with shower, and two refrigerators. There are seven cots, three couches, three chairs, tables, and kitchen chairs. There was also a logbook and a stamp for my AT Passport book.
After grabbing a couple of cots, we unpacked some stuff and joined a group going to the convenience store .7 miles away. Joe told me to drive the five of us in the blue hostel van. We got milk and a lighter for our temperamental stove. I got Pringles, ice cream, and Coke in bottles.
On the way back, we stopped at the AT and loaded three hikers and their packs on the back floor of the van. When we reached the hostel, those three, including Ghost Buster, took the van back to the store for food, snacks, and beer.
Games of corn hole were going on and Jimmy and his wife, I Believe, showed up. We hadn’t seen them since Hot Springs, 40 days ago. Jimmy does trail magic between helping I Believe slack pack trail sections.
We made our dinner on the electric stove, and I cleaned up. Tandem had showered earlier, and I showered after dinner, then had my pint of black raspberry ice cream. With ten talkative hikers in one place, we talked for the rest if the night about trail stories, hiker statuses, personal facts, hometown stories, and other interesting. There were about 16 staying at the hostel, including City Slicka, KT, Professor, Scout, Ghost Buster, The Alchemist, Hot Sauce, Scout, Ragnar, and Simple, who is from Atlanta.