Picking up from my last post…
Day Five: Campsite past Jenny Knob Shelter (10.7 mi)
On the schedule for this day: crossing the 600 mile mark since setting off from Springer Mountain in Georgia years ago. In the grand scheme of things, when it seems everyone and their brother is knocking off one of the big three trails (AT, PCT and CDT) each year, or even all three in a single calendar year, that’s nothing. Still, it was a big deal to Deep Woods and I. The elevation profile for the day was deceiving and it turned out to be much more physically challenging than expected. Other than crossing the 600 mile mark, it was a pretty uneventful day. Six miles or so in, we reached our milestone only to find nothing remarkable to capture the moment for posterity with a picture. We verified our position on Guthook, said “Cool” and hiked on. Less than tenth of a mile more we found a “600” written out neatly on the ground with small rocks. After a few celebratory pics we moved on.
The rest of the day was pretty nondescript as well. A series of PUDs (“Pointless Ups and Downs”) were seemingly thrown in to remind us that we were still on the AT but otherwise it was a nice walk, especially now that it was a bit cooler. The humidity chose to remain on the “Ridiculous” setting though.
We pulled off at Jenny Knob shelter for a final break and to tank up on water before proceeding a mile further down to a campsite shown on Guthook’s guide. If it hadn’t been so dry as of late, it looked as though the entire area would be under water. Suitable spots to pitch were hard to find and what we each settled on was none too desirable. Had we gotten a good soaking that night, Deep Woods would have been swept away with the tide while I would have been buried in a landslide. The good Lord saw fit to spare us though and we survived to hike another day.
Day Six: Wapiti Shelter (13.5 mi)
What a roller coaster of a day! Another stiff climb to start the morning sent me into a downward mental spiral and before reaching the top I actually told Deep Woods that I needed some “alone time”. Yes, I’ll admit it. Sounds stupid now but it was a good time to reflect on why I was out here in the first place as well as try to understand the reasons behind my lack of motivation for being physically prepared. I stopped and sat down for a bit to catch my breath and have a look around. I had cursed my way up nearly every climb thus far on the trip and would eventually curse my way up a few more. Unfortunately, in doing so, I was missing the special things all around me. All of the colorful fungi, beams of sunlight streaming through the leaves and highlighting the forest floor, dew covered ferns, the smallest flower. Up till now, I saw very few if any of those things. They had been there all along but for me, they had been a blur…or didn’t exist at all. What a waste.
With my head somewhat screwed back on straight, I stood up and finished the climb, satisfied to settle into “Mountain Slug Gear” while reminding myself to try to enjoy each and every moment I had left on this trip. Upon tagging back up with Deep Woods, an apology on my part for my meltdown was in order. As always, he was gracious and understanding. I’m pretty sure he wanted to smack me upside the head though.
We now moved down three miles or so to a fantastic suspension bridge over Kimberling Creek. We dropped the packs and waded in to cool off and take some pics. Not for long though. The side trail to Dismal Falls was just under two miles ahead and we were both anxious to spend some time there.
We chewed up those miles and found the waterfall and pool beneath unoccupied. Cool! I’ve seen pictures of Dismal Falls in the Spring when water gushes over the entire expanse of rock. The water level was much lower now but it was still beautiful and, at least as of this moment, we were the only ones there. Deep Woods wasted no time wading on in to cool off, going in about waste deep, while I spent some time soaking my feet. We had the spot all to ourselves for about 30 minutes when a woman toting a camera and large tripod showed up, husband in tow. We moved back to the other side to eat lunch and to give her a clear shot of the falls.
We finally got moving again, unsure how much further we’d go. The “plan” had called for staying at a site along Dismal Creek, four miles ahead. AWOL’s guide showed mostly smooth sailing up to about Wapiti Shelter, a little more than two miles further. We decided to see how things played out and go from there. Shortly after leaving the falls, rain began to fall and it was no sprinkle. We got a pretty good drenching but it was refreshing at this point. The rain gear never came out of our packs. It was either get soaked by rain or by sweat. We chose the rain.
After an hour or so, the rain died off but the humidity stayed with us. Fortunately it was a bit cooler now and AWOL was spot on for a change. After my meltdown early on in the day, things had taken a 180 and were going well. They continued as such past the Dismal Creek campsite and on to Wapiti Shelter where we decided to call it a day. And once more we had the place all to ourselves. Dinner out of the way, I crawled under my quilt completely exhausted…and absolutely content with how things turned out.
Day Seven: Campsite past Doc’s Knob Shelter (12.1 mi)
Ending the previous day at Wapiti meant that yet another climb awaited us right after stepping back on the trail this morning. This one though appeared to be the most challenging since our climb up to Chestnut Knob. To someone in reasonable shape…say, like Deep Woods…or any average hiker…or the old man that lives down the street and uses a walker…no big deal. Considering how the previous day had started, it looked pretty daunting to me. But hey, I had a new frame of mind and had gotten a decent night’s rest so I felt pretty confident that at least I wouldn’t die on my way to the top!
Things started off well enough and at one point I told Deep Woods that it felt as though I was finally getting some legs under me. We climbed on and I managed to hang on for some time but eventually I had to tell Deep Woods that I may have spoke too soon. I dialed it back several notches and continued on, finally joining back up with Deep Woods at the top. I took it as a personal victory, especially considering I was still standing upright. We were rewarded for making it to the top with an absolutely incredible view. The packs came off and we spent some time taking it all in.
Moving on a bit less than 2.5 miles more, with a short climb thrown in for good measure, brought us to a side trail leading up to a communications tower. The weather was good and there was supposed to be a fantastic view near the tower. We’ve always made it a point not to pass on opportunities like this and now was no different. We made our way up and dropped the packs once more. We sat ourselves down on the rock outcropping to enjoy yet another beautiful view.
Moving on, it was downhill a little more than two miles to Sugar Run Gap, followed by 1.4 miles to reclaim the elevation that we had just given up. This climb was a bit stiff and Deep Woods reached the top first, perching himself on a log to catch his breath and give me time to catch up. We both knew that a side trail to another view was in the vicinity and once I reached Deep Woods, we scratched our heads, wondering how we could have missed it. Deep Woods was about set off to see if we passed up the spur trail when he looked up and saw a sign with the inscription “VIEW” nailed to the tree right next to us. Alrighty then. Up we went and it was fine as well.
Resuming our walk, we had a bit less than a mile to Docs Knob Shelter where we stopped for a break and determine our next move. It was a nice shelter with water literally running under the deck out front. As tempting as it was to call it a day right there, we still had some daylight left and putting a bit more in this day would position us closer to wrapping up the hike in Pearisburg on the next.
Guthook showed a campsite just 0.6 mi ahead so we decided that would be our home for the night. We arrived only to find a young southbound couple already setup. They mentioned that the next site going North, 2 miles further, was unoccupied when they went by. Seeing as how there was nowhere else to pitch here, we moved on. We arrived at the next site and found little ground decent enough to place our tents. We were both ready to call it a day so one way or another, this was going to have to do. It was a squeeze but we made it work.
Finding a suitable tree to hang our remaining food (which consisted of no more than a few snacks and a bunch of trash) was a challenge as well. We finally agreed on a limb hanging directly over the trail. Pathetic. Deep Woods flung his boat anchor sized carabiner over and it got hung up. Standing off to one side, partially protected by some branches from a smaller tree nearby, he gave the line a good yank. Our lives flashed before our eyes as the boat anchor came flying straight at us. Thankfully, both of us came away unscathed.
Day Eight: VA Route 100 / Pearis Cemetary / Angel’s Rest Hostel – Pearisburg, VA (6.8 mi)
Despite the fact that we had less than seven miles to go, we got an early start. It had been better than eight days since either of us had taken a shower and, to put it plainly, we stunk! The kind of stink that made me think I would have to burn the clothes I had on. No chemical known to man could remove the funk from them. I think we were both ready for some “town food” as well.
Thick fog obscured the remaining views of the trip. Particularly disappointing was not being able to see anything from Pearis Ledges or Angels Rest. Those would have made for some good pics. Maybe another day.
Once past Angels Rest, it was 2 miles downhill to VA 634. Along the way we crossed paths with more people than we had seen since the group at Chestnut Knob nearly a week earlier. All were day hikers making their way up to the overlook. Crossing VA 634, a short up followed by some more down and we emerged from the forest at the Pearis Cemetery parking Lot on Narrows Road.
A gentleman out on a slackpack had passed us coming down from Angel’s Rest and he was sitting in the cemetery parking lot when we arrived. Turns out he had already called the hostel for a shuttle back so we were able to join in on the ride.
Back at the hostel, we got those much needed showers, notified Loonie and Mrs Deep Woods we were still alive and hit the road for home. I later discovered that I left my beloved Pistl wide-brimmed hat hanging in the shower house but the nice folks at Angel’s Rest promptly got it in the mail and back to me. Sweet!
Well, there you have it. I’ll drop another post soon with some final thoughts about this trip. And believe me, I’ve had a lot to think about! As usual, Deep Woods didn’t break a sweat. What a butt-head. In the meantime, I’ve got some work to do. If all goes well, Loonie and I will be back on the trail again in a little more than a week. So stay tuned for details on that.
More to come…