Friday, April 27, 2012

Virginia is for Lovers

A few major victories this week! First, I made it to Virginia! This is the fourth state of 14. Next, I had my biggest mileage day of almost 23 miles. I am now less than 40 miles from hitting the big 500th mile.

Virginia makes up around a quarter of the entire trail and many have coined the phrase "the Virginia blues" because of the repetitiveness of the state and the length. I can't imagine it being any different than any other state. There are some awesome things I am looking forward to seeing here like the wild ponies in Grayson Highlands, McAfee Knob, and Shenandoah National Park. I am also looking forward to hiking more big mile days to put myself on target to finish by the end of August. If I can keep my ankle cooperating I have a good chance of making that happen.

Here is what got us here to Virginia.

Day 45 (4/24) - Black Bear Resort to Vandeventer Shelter (17.7 mi)
We usually don't do big miles coming out of a zero day but we were ready to hike. The day started with Laurel Falls and then we hugged a rock cliff to get around a river. We had one mountain to climb, which was Pond Flats. It was a huge climb, but easy thanks to all of the switchbacks. Once I got on top the wind was strong and it started snowing again. I had extra motivation for getting down quickly because I was told there was trail magic at the bottom. sure enough at the bottom of the mountain was Watauga Lake and a park and a guy grilling steak and chicken. Now that's trail magic! Next the trail took us around the lake, over a dam, and up another mountain so that we could start walking the ridge line. I was very happy to make it to the shelter because it was a weird weather day with on and off snow, rain, and wind. Unfortunately the shelter happened to face west towards the wind and we had to deal with that most of the night.

Day 46 (4/25) - Vandeventer Shelter to Abingdon Gap Shelter (22.7 mi)
I was on a mission today- big miles to make an easier day into Damascus the next day. The morning started with rain which delayed our start a little. But once it cleared up I was off. The trail today was relatively flat- by that I mean there were no major climbs and if you were to look at an elevation profile, it was shaky, but it stayed in line. I did the first 7 miles pretty quickly and took a lunch break. After lunch I passed an old grave of a man who was said lived alone and died alone. That kind of brought me down a little. Who knows what was going on that led this guy to live in such a way. I didn't dwell long and made it down to the edge of the woods for some more trail magic! This time it was Sipsy! Sipsy is actually hiking the trail this year, but took a few days off for his wife to visit and he decided to do some magic. I have never drank Sun Drop before, but I drank 2 cans and I have never had so much sugary energy in my life. Let's just say I hiked the next 2 miles in like 45 minutes. That next section was pretty amazing too because we hiked through a cattle farm. The trail was actually on a farm and cows were staring at us as we walked through them. It was pretty cool. Stopped at the next shelter for a quick dinner and took off to do the final 9 mile stretch of this marathon. About 4 miles in I started wondering if I packed my stove and pot. I took off my pack and sure enough I forgot. I was left with the dilemma of going back an getting it or hoping someone grabbed it for me. If I did go back, that would tag an additional 8 miles on to the hike. I decided to see if someone would grab it since we were all going to Damascus anyways. Wolf passed me and he didn't grab it. Then Snagglefoot passed and he didn't grab it. I was starting to worry. I did not want to spend $100 to replace that stuff. Wild Turkey and Feathers were my last hope. Wolf wasn't going as far as us so he said he would get it from them an call if he did. I finally got to the next shelter (in the dark ad rain) around 9:45. It was a long day but I felt great. I left a note in the shelter log about my stove with my phone number in case anyone did grab it they could give me a call and I would wait in Damascus. Luckily it didn't get to that.

Day 47 (4/26) - Abingdon Gap Shelter to Damascus (9.9 mi)
I was awakened by Loophole asking if I was there. He had my stove and pot that Wild Turkey and Feathers passed on. What a relief! That was stress I didn't have to carry anymore. We could tell it was getting ready to storm so I packed up, ate a quick breakfast, and hit the trail. This last 10 was supposed to be quick and easy and it would have been if not for the storm. I think this was some of the strongest wind I have encountered. It actually pushed me around a little. It was also the first time my shoes and socks got soaked. My feet were swimming and I just did not want to think of the blisters this was going to cause. I got to the Tennessee Virginia line and took a picture but I doubt it turned out because my lens was wet and foggy. About a quarter mile past the border it started to clear up. The last stretch was easy but felt like it was taking forever because it was all switchbacks down the mountain but you could see the town the entire time. But then I made it and it felt great! Damascus is known as the friendliest trail town and I was ready to see if that was true. It is! Got my bunk at The Place- a hostel ran by the Methodist Church, grabbed some lunch with Nokey and Snagglefoot, and explored the town. It was karaoke night at Quincy's and when you get a bunch of drunk hikers in a room together the entertainment begins. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard in my life. But as the night got longer, the scene just got sadder so I turned in. Laundry and resupply tomorrow.


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