Strictly from a physical standpoint, I walked away from this latest hike feeling like I did fairly well, all things considered. I started the trip about 10 lbs lighter in the gut but otherwise didn’t do any physical training leading up to the start. Once again, lofty promises of being prepared and not following through. Throw in the high temps and the head cold that I was dealing with, I’ll chalk it up as a win. The end of day three was the most challenging but fortunately I was able to bounce back. Certainly a better performance than last September’s.
You never know for certain what you’re going to get weather-wise in the mountains. Loonie and I did an early August trip up on the AT in the Smokies one year and it was absolutely beautiful. Even cold at night. Go figure. However, we’re going to try to avoid mid-May through mid-September from here on. I simply don’t care for the higher temps and the bugs that come with them. Besides, Loonie and I now have so much going on with the family in May that squeezing a trip in with Deep Woods is tough. Deep Woods has his own commitments that month as well. We’ll see what next year brings.
As for my impressions of the Pearisburg to VA 624 section?
- Pastures, lots of great viewpoints, streams, the Audie Murphy memorial and of course the iconic Dragon’s Tooth and rock scramble. Very cool! Full sun and temps in the ’80’s made it difficult to fully appreciate the gorgeous walks out in the open but they were gorgeous all the same. Lots of wildflowers in bloom as well!
- There were a number of very rocky stretches. Those get tedious at times since you have to focus so much attention to preventing injury rather than observing your surroundings. Something you have to contend with just about anywhere else on the AT though.
- The availability of water presented some challenges. It had been pretty warm and dry leading up to the start. In the end, we managed just fine, though at times had to haul more water than we cared to.
- Some challenging climbs, yes, but we were able to adjust our mileage such that we only had one big climb each day. If you’re planning on doing more than 12-15 miles a day then you can pretty much count on two or more climbs to tackle each day.
All in all, it’s a stretch of the AT I would gladly do again in cooler weather.
The AT Ticker now reads approximately 705 miles for Deep Woods and I. Throw on the 260 miles that I have from the southern end of the Shenandoah’s up to Boiling Springs, PA and I personally have just over 964 miles knocked off. The good Lord willing, I’ll go over the 1,000 mile mark next year. I just need to fill in the 160 mile gap from VA 624 and the start of the Shenandoah’s and I’ll be a bit more than halfway to Katahdin!
We’ll likely break that 260 mile gap up into two hikes, one each the next two years. Next year, we’ll pick up where we left off, VA 624, and shoot for US 501 outside of Glasgow, just across the James River. That’ll be about 83 miles. Should be another amazing stretch. We’ll hit one of the most iconic spots on the entire AT, McAfee Knob, on either day one or two, followed shortly thereafter by Tinker Cliffs. We’ll make our first contact with the Blue Ridge Parkway and the many scenic overlooks it offers. Later, there will be a big climb, over 3,000 ft, up Apple Orchard Mountain, where we’ll make a side excursion to see it’s namesake waterfalls. Next up will be The Guillotine, followed by the long descent to the James River, which we’ll cross via the longest foot-traffic-only bridge on the entire AT. I can’t wait!
In the meantime, I’m SLOWLY recovering from the wicked case of Strep that I picked up somewhere along the way. That has been a HUGE PITA!!! Upon returning home, I thought the head cold had turned into a sinus infection, which it did. After a few bouts of high fever, I thought I may have contracted Lyme disease or possibly Covid. Loonie checked me over for the tell-tale bullseye mark that could indicate Lyme. Nothing. A trip to the clinic the next day confirmed it was Strep, not Covid. It’s been a much longer recovery than I ever would have expected but I’m taking antibiotics and about have it licked.
As for the rest of this year, Loonie and I hope to do the long-awaited Buffalo River Trail trek in the Fall but that will probably be it. More pressing things require our attention at home. Things will likely go dormant here for a spell but we’ll be back.
Oh, one last thing of interest. I just happened to check to see how old Nimblewill Nomad is faring on his final trek. You might recall from an earlier post where I wrote about meeting him last month at Fontana Village prior to entering the Smokies. Turns out that Deep Woods and I missed him by exactly one week. He was right behind us and is still going strong!
More to come…