May 3 – Had a great Nero day in Pearisburg yesterday. A few of my friends from home came to visit and we crushed the Chinese buffet twice, including the all you can eat crab legs at dinner. When I woke up I was feeling refreshed and excited to put in some miles. It was another beautiful spring day and as I started my hike I saw my third deer. I’m sure they’re loving the warm weather as much as I am.
It was a long climb up to Rice Field Shelter but the grade was gradual and my feet were feeling great after a day of rest. At the top I was surprised to find that there actually was a big field with a great view into West Virginia. It’s crazy that I’m so close but there’s still another 400 some miles to go before I actually step foot into WVA. I took my first break here and was feeling grateful to be able to be doing what I’m doing. Views like this are truly something special that aren’t to be taken for granted, especially because the leaves are about to come out and block them all for the summer.
From here it got extremely hot as I walked on a ridge with nothing but bare trees. I walked for miles trying to find a shady spot to eat lunch and also for water which I would see for another ten miles. It continued to heat up to about the 80’s as I hiked on, sweating out the two liters of water that I had drunk at the shelter. After a bit I came to another field with a great view where Ferris was making her own hammock. Now that the weathers getting nice she definitely inspired me to switch to my hammock when my parents come visit in a couple weeks. I ate lunch here and then carried on with another 7 miles to go to complete my 20 mile day. My path remained waterless and boiling hot, causing me to pull over and rest often. I’ll miss the views, but I’m ready for the shade that the leaves will bring. Catch 22 I guess.
After a while I made my way down off the ridge and crossed a stream. After rehydrating it was no problem to make it to “the captains”. It’s basically just a random guys house out here in the mountains that you can camp at for free. The best part is you have to cross a zip line over a river to get here. It’s these little fun things along the way that give the AT its charm. Planning another big day tomorrow but it should be a nice one to put in some miles. Definitely feeling like I’m gonna sleep good tonight.
May 4 – I met the captain this morning as he pulled me across the zip line so I didn’t have to do it myself. I had gotten up early and was hiking by 7. 21 miles was the plan today, and to start I had an what would have been an easy climb up to Wind Rock if it weren’t for how rocky it was. They were everywhere, giving me not a single flat spot to step for the entire ridge leading up to the view. At the top I met a guy named Exodus and after a few minutes ISO showed up. It’s hard to believe that there’s still so many other hikers I’ve yet to meet, but every day there’s at least one. We all continued on shortly after one another heading towards the next shelter for lunch. By this point it had gotten extremely hot again and I was wishing for a good river to jump in, but unfortunately crossed paths with none. After lunch it was a steep two and a half miles up to Kelly Knob. It was almost all completely exposed allowing the sun to beat down on me more than I’ve experienced so far. I like the warmer nights but could definitely do without it to this extent. It’s a lot easier to get warm than it is to get cold. The view from the top was worth it as it always is, as was the cool breeze I got standing out on the knob. From here, it was 4 more miles to Keffer Oak, where I planned to camp for the night. It’s the second largest oak tree on the at, 13 feet around! I walked through pastures lined with abandoned shacks and barns until reaching the tree and was shocked at how big it actually is. There’s a great campsite here and I think if I walk up the hill a little I’ll get a good sunrise. Right now I’m happy to just be in my sleeping bag though, a long day always calls for a good rest. I end today’s entry with a quote from Henry David Thoreau that I saw on a billboard today:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live life deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life… and not, when I came to die, discover I had not lived”.
May 5 – It was another sunny spring day when I finally got myself out of my tent this morning. I packed up quickly to try and beat the heat that was sure to come by midday. I started off walking through farmland until reaching a steep and waterless climb up to a rocky and completely exposed ridge that was completely dry as well. The sun was beating down on me hard as I made my way across the top of the mountains, it wasn’t even noon yet but already 70 degrees out. It would have been nice to sit down and enjoy the views from the exposed path that I walked but even standing still was unbearable. It was seven brutal miles from my campsite to the first water source for the day, definitely going to have to look ahead from now on. Water was so abundant in the previous months but ever since we started walking all these ridges in Virginia it’s been bone dry. The heat has been a complete game changer, it’s been leaving me exhausted. Going to be staying extra hydrated as of this point.
Once I finally made my way down to a road I got exactly what was needed after a long stretch, trail magic consisting of hot dogs, chips, fresh fruit, and Gatorade. ISO and Angel were already enjoying the treats when I arrived so it was a great spot for a break before the second big climb for the day.
The climb up brush mountain was almost as rough as the beginning of the day. There were great views the whole time but it was pretty steep getting up there. The trail however was nicely maintained with no rocks or roots to add insult to injury. There was even a bench at the top, and it was here that I came to the conclusion that every mountain should have this amenity. Met a really cool guy named Bonafide here and ISO made it up shortly. After enjoying our throne of champions we each headed on down the mountain and have all set up camp at a creek that I’m blanking on the name right now. Tomorrow I’ll hit two of Virginia’s Crown Jewels: dragons tooth and mckaffees knob. I feel my entries are always a bit half assed lately but the sun has really been putting the beat down on me. Right now I’m struggling to keep my eyes open so for now this is it.
May 6 – Cloudy skies as I woke up this morning. ISO and Bonafied had already rolled out by the time I was up, it ended up being a slow morning for me. It was 5 miles to dragons tooth, mostly all uphill and I had heard it was rocky. This was an understatement. Big boulders stood in my path causing me to climb rather than hike. After a while the clouds broke and the sun came out causing the heat to kick back up. I got higher and higher, eventually nothing but almost sheer cliffs on both sides of me. The entire area I’ve been hiking through over the past few days became visible as the trees became scarce at the higher elevation. Once it leveled out I reached the side trail to the dragons tooth which I took of course. The tooth is a giant stone monolith, probably about 60 or 70 feet high. There was a great view on top and a great spot to get cell service which let me know that my mom was headed down to visit me at the next road. I quickly ate lunch and headed on my way to meet her, but the descent was slow due to the terrain I faced. My trekking poles were useless, it was a straight up rock scramble almost all the way to the bottom. For the first time there were metal bars welded into some of the rocks because of how strenuous it was. I made my way down, slowly but surely, and eventually came into a pasture which led to the road that I got picked up at. It was great to see my mom when I was feeling good rather than sick to my stomach and it was a nice break to my day after a tough first climb. We went out for lunch and she had trail magic for some of the other thru hikers. Everyone has been telling me how nice she was all day. Hopefully will see both of my parents for a zero day here soon.
Once I got going again I was headed up to MCaffees Knob. I’ve done this section before but was surprised to see how easy it was now compared to when I hiked it last fall. At the top it was the same as I remembered it to be but the view was far more significant due to the simple fact that I hiked 700 miles to get to it. I had planned to cowboy camp on the knob but shortly after I arrived thunder started to roll in and eventually lightening right over top of me. I quickly headed down a mile to the shelter, but not without noticing how much different this area looked when it was covered in green rather than the colors of fall. It’s a full house at the shelter as it always is when it rains but I’m set up in my tent and have been listening to the storm all afternoon. Headed into Daleville tomorrow for a possible zero, we’ll see how I feel when I get there.
May 7 – Just a quick update for today. Made it here to daleville and planning to take a day off tomorrow to rest after all this heat the past week. Once I leave here I’ll be paralleling the blue ridge parkway for a while headed towards Waynesboro, where the Shenandoah National Park begins. 729 miles down! Waynesboro in 5 days!