There are really two parts to leaving Pearisburg, a part one and a part two. The first part involved my dad coming to Pearisburg to hike with us to Catawba. We left out of Pearisburg late in the afternoon with a goal of seven miles and to hit Rice Field Shelter.
On our way to the ridge we passed a large black snake and several slipper orchids. My dad was the one to spot them so we we were quite excited to see our first orchids on the trail. Dad had a bit of a hard time not being in the trail shape we were, but we took lots of breaks and made it to the top in plenty of time.
The Rice Field Shelter is situated just inside the trees and right out front is a spacious grass field that offers up a beautiful view of West Virginia to the northwest and a nice sunset back to the west.
This shelter also happened to have one of the better privies with a view, as in there was only one wall behind you to block your view from the shelter. The only problem with this was that the path down to the water was right by the privy so you’d better hope no one would be coming up from the opposite direction!
And then somewhere between Dickinson Gap and Peters Mountain we heard the phone ring. That wasn’t normal because we didn’t leave our phone on during the hike. Chris had left it on by accident while getting water in the morning and when it rang I knew something was up.
Prior to leaving for our hike we’d found out that my brother and sister in law were going to have their second child. It was anticipated to be born in late April and we were going to miss the birth of who we would later find out to be Ashleigh. Well, God and Ashleigh changed their minds and she arrived early in late January instead and spent 104 days in the NICU until she left us that evening before during that beautiful sunset over Rice Field. The post above titled Angel Ashleigh chronicles some of how we got off the trail that day. We all flew home that evening and Chris and I spent five days at home. It was incredibly hard to leave to get back on the trail again. My brother even asked me to stay, but I couldn’t and I think he knew that.
Up until this moment quitting the trail was an option in my head. I know it wasn’t for Chris, but for me, it was. It was long, it was hard and I missed the hell out of everyone. But, going home I realized that I had to finish.
We got back on the trail around lunch time five days later and thought we’d only do three miles and go to sleep since we had an early morning, but we kept on going and did 12 miles to War Spur Shelter for the night.
At War Spur Shelter we slept in until a very late 9am and this ended up being lucky for us. Oh, I should mention when we got back on the trail Trail Days was going on and the place was quiet. Everyone we knew was ahead of us by a week and we were planning on meeting completely new people. We stayed in the shelter at War Spur with one other person and he was gone when we woke up. By lingering long enough that morning we met Moose & Tetherball, our first April starters. Initially I thought they were a couple, but found out they were old highschool friends who’d just graduated college and were out doing something awesome before they began ‘real life’.
and Chris posed with the Eastern Continental Divide sign. We got some rain on a very rocky ridge and were glad it wasn’t too slick. We ended up staying with Moose & Tetherball at the Niday Shelter that night.
Our third day back on the trail we had to climb up 1500′ to the Audie Murphy monument. I remember we took a break on a switchback not realizing how close we were to the top and to a bench. Yes a bench. It’s really annoying to climb mountains that have roads on them. Sometimes you feel cheated knowing others can just drive on up a mountain and you walked your butt up it.
The biggest thing looming was Dragon’s Tooth. I’d heard it was steep and slick and a bit scary. Since it was cloudy with off and on rain that day I was even more nervous, but the climb up from Pickle Branch Shelter was not too bad. We knew we’d arrived at Dragon’s Tooth when we saw it crawling with Virginia Tech students. They were bouncing all around like it was no big deal and wearing random clothes not particularly suited for the weather or terrain. Chris went out to the Dragon’s Tooth but I didn’t and we didn’t get any photos from it. I think if there had been a view I’d of taken the opportunity.
We ended up stealth camping somewhere after Va. 624 near a creek as per what was recommended in Moose & Tetherball’s guide book. They kept going and since they were much faster than us I thought I’d never see them again. Little did I know that the trail has a way of bringing people back around to each other.
We had a plan the next morning to get into Catawba where we had a mail drop at the general store. It was a mile downhill to the store and we spent twenty minutes trying to hitch to no avail so we walked. Catawba hosts a restaurant called The Homeplace, which is renowned for being the AT hikers best buffet. We were bad hikers and did not go, instead we stayed and ate lunch at the general store. While at the store we met several long distance bicyclists who were coming from Pennsylvania to Oregon. Apparently there are trails all over the US for long distances bikers. We had no luck hitching out of Catawba, so it was another mile walk back up hill to the trail. 2 bonus miles, yes!!
It was a very easy hike up and we spent a good while on top snacking, making phone calls, and getting more trail magic from a day hiker and his dog. If you see that ridge in the back there, that is the ridge we walked on after McAfee Knob in order to get to Tinker Cliffs. Unfortunately we got to Tinker Cliffs and a lightning storm was coming and we wanted to get off the cliffs before it got closer so we raced down to the Lamberts Meadow Shelter which ended up being a packed house. It was also a miserable nights sleep because of noseeums and it was too hot to be completely covered up in our sleeping bags, but that’s what we had to do. I think everyone tossed and turned that night.
We headed 10 miles the next morning to Daleville, Virginia where we got a motel room for the night. A few miles outside of town we ran into TinTin and Fredo, two people we hadn’t seen since the Smokies. In town we caught back up to Moose & Tetherball at the outfitter as they were heading out of town. We lazed about the town eating Mexican, bar-b-que and resupplying at the grocery store before we left town the next morning. We were about to start paralleling the Blue Ridge Parkway.
After a brief stop at the Fullhardt Knob Shelter to check out the weird water cistern system that the shelter hosts, we stopped at somewhere near Curry Creek for lunch. We stopped for the day at Bobblets Gap Shelter where a few section hikers were staying but also our friends Moose & Tetherball who had done shorter miles because Tetherball had caught some stomach bug. We got to chat and catch up on the past few days and then it started to rain where it rained most of the night. The next morning along the Blue Ridge Parkway was cloudy, drizzly and foggy for most of the day.
At the Bryant Ridge Shelter for lunch we’d already done 14 miles. It was a bit chilly and we took some time to heat a hot lunch. We met Angela and Sweet Tooth at this shelter. I originally thought they were brother and sister but found out they were actually married. I guess people do sorta resemble each other after awhile! This shelter is a triple decker and sleep 20. The section hikers we were with the night before chose to stay here, but we were glad we were moving on because we passed two groups of an Outward Bound type group.
A little down time reading at the Cornelius Creek Shelter. Oh, I will say that the Natural Bridge Trail Club has built some really nice privies in this section, privies large enough to move around in and change clothes and with a lot of light from the outside. Some of the best ones on the trail, I think.
Before descending into the valley we met up with Angela and Sweet Tooth again and talked about splitting a shuttle to Glasgow for our resupply. We called the shuttle listed in the book and split a ride into town. We found out that it was a very tiny place and a small grocery store and Dollar General would be our resupply. Dinner was also going to consist of a gas station burger, which does well when you are hungry. Luckily we only had 1.5 miles after dinner and resupply to walk to the Johns Hollow Shelter.
Sunning ourselves on Cold Mountain after staying at Brown Mountain Creek the previous night. This section involved a fun 3,000′ climb from the creek up to Bald Knob and Cold Mountain. It was a gorgeous day so we didn’t mind too much.
After leaving the Seeley Woodworth Shelter our next goal was to go up Main Top Mountain and The Priest. At the Priest Shelter the log book becomes a confessional sort of book, with people ‘confessing’ their trail sins. Some were funny, some were anti-Catholic, some were just regular old logs. Luckily we got to go down the Priest into the Tye River valley instead of up it, but we got ours on the other side climbing up Three Ridges.
On our way up Three Ridge we weren’t sure we were on the trail at times because the blazing was pretty terrible. On top we met a hiker who was staying on top for the night and told us he’d just left a mental hospital for depression and was out here to recuperate a bit.
We pulled our longest day thus far, almost 23 miles, to the Maupin Field Shelter which was completely packed with section hikers and weekenders. We noticed a great increase on the trail in popular areas during the weekend.
We had a rainy day from Maupin Field Shelter to the Paul C. Wolfe Shelter starting at the Humpback Rock area along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We made a quick lunch somewhere near Humpback Rocks just prior to the rain and we walked pretty quickly the rest of the way down to the shelter. On our way we passed a group of Mennonite women wearing full ponchos and full dresses with tennis shoes. They were doing a section hike south. We arrived at the shelter fairly early with plenty of time to stake out a place in the shelter and lounge around the whole afternoon. Somewhere around Three Ridge the previous day we met Big Fork and Little Spoon. They were hiking with another older guy and apparently along the Blue Ridge Parkway they made a sign saying Hungry Hikers and basically asked for food. They came away with some good stuff ranging from crackers and yogurt to shrimp and other good stuff. They ended up sharing some food with us and the other hikers in the shelter….hooray for hungry hikers! Sometimes you felt like a bottomless pit and nothing could satisfy you.
The photo above was from Waynesboro where we ended up spending a very nearo day. We arrived at the visitor center at Rockfish Gap along the Blue Ridge Parkway and called for a shuttle. A shuttle list is on the back of the visitors center so you can call a list of Trail Angels to pick you up and take you to town. When our shuttle arrived he was dropping off Moose & Tetherball! Our first stop for the day was to Weasie’s Kitchen for breakfast. While there we talked to a lady next to us for awhile about the trail and we paid up and left. We had to walk up the road to the hotel since the hostel was closed on Sunday (a church). On our way to the hotel a customer from the restaurant came to flag us down to tell us that the women we’d been talking with had paid for our meal and for us to go back and get a refund for double paying! Wow! That was so nice! Since our room wasn’t ready we just walked back down to the kitchen and then across the street to do some laundry. We had a relaxing stay in Waynesboro, ate at the wonderful Ming Garden Chinese buffet and overall had a great trail town experience in Waynesboro.
The next day after picking up a new pair of boots at the post office we left for the Shenandoah’s.