18.9 miles, 456.7 overall (Abingdon Gap shelter)
The morning is wet. It isn’t raining hard, but it has rained through the night and there seems to be an ongoing light sprinkle. I have to force myself to get up and start packing. I don’t relish the idea of packing a wet tent. By the time I get out of my tent I am almost the last to get up. Miles, having very little to pack, is almost ready to go. TP is up and out of his tent already, most likely due to sleeping in a tent with Miles rather than some sort of abnormal motivation on his part. TW is of course up and moving. It seems like Biscuits is taking his time this morning. I grab my food and start on breakfast before taking the tent down.
Once I leave the only person left is Biscuits and he isn’t far behind me. We leapfrog a bit for the morning until we reach a spring a few miles in. The campsite last night didn’t have the best water source so I have planned to fill up here. I am glad I did as it is a much nicer spring. TP is just finishing with his fill-up when I arrive and Biscuits also stops for water. We all meet again in a quarter mile when we reach the next shelter, where Long Skirt is packing up her stuff to get moving. I already snacked when I got water so I simply sign the register and move on.
We pass the Nick Grindstaff monument, dedicated to a famous hermit from the area. We appreciate the irony. The monument itself looks more like a grave than a monument and we wonder if he is buried here.
The rest of the trail is actually rather boring. In the absence of big climbs, big descents, and no views due to the morning fog we are all left with our thoughts for the morning. When I’m left to my thoughts I tend to have weird ones. One day, for now apparent reason, I started thinking about the movie The Rock. For an hour I walked along the trail reciting the line, “I’d take pleasure in guttin’ you boy” to myself over and over. I did take care not to say it out loud when passing other hikers. Today I don’t have any thoughts that are as memorable.
Just before a road crossing Biscuits and I are hiking together and we come across a large metal box. Trail magic! The local church has installed this metal box on the trail and stocks it, it appears daily, with snacks and sodas. By the time Biscuits and I arrive there is only one snack cake left so we split it. We keep a piece for TP knowing he isn’t far behind, but aren’t able to keep it out of our mouths until he arrives. When he does arrive we tell him there were no snacks left rather than explaining that he took too long to get there. The church also left a register for us to sign and a disposable camera to take pictures with so we all strike poses with our sodas to spice up their album.
We leave the trail magic, but less than a quarter mile away is the road crossing where we come across more trail magic! Sipsey is a hiker who is a few days ahead of us and has already reached Damascus. He and his wife and grandson are out today with snacks, sodas, and the like for other hikers. This is fortuitous since the snacks had run out in the church’s box, so TP is able to get snacks and Biscuits and I are able to get more snacks. I check with Sipsey whether TW stopped here and she did. I won’t get to rub this one in either.
Stocked up on snacks and not needing lunch for the day, I leave the road crossing and walk the trail as it winds through some fields. It actually crosses a fence and takes us through a cow pasture where we have to dodge cow patties that pepper the trail. This doesn’t last long though, and soon we are back in the woods hiking up a ridge to the next shelter. This shelter isn’t much to see, but we stop for some food and to sign the register. Biscuits is trying to offload some of his food. He did a full resupply at Kincora, but with the trail magic by the pond yesterday and Sipsey’s trail magic today he hasn’t had to eat any of his lunches. He offers us pepperoni and swiss and I accept. I’ve been thinking about adding some pepperoni to my food supply and this lets me test it out. I decide I like it and plan to grab some in Damascus.
At this point we have done about 11 miles, but we still have 8 left. The trail magics slowed us down and I want to make sure I get into camp early enough to take my time setting up my tent and eating dinner. I don’t like being rushed in the evening and I am behind on blog entries so I could use a little extra time. Luckily today the terrain is easy so I can do a 3 mph pace pretty easily. The miles go quickly with nothing special to see. I am enjoying this new trail that follows the contours of the land rather than feeling the need to take us up and over every mountain. I do see how it can get boring though, and wonder whether this is part of the reason hikers get the “Virginia blues.”
Once I reach the shelter I am the only one there. TW and Miles have obviously pushed on. When I check the shelter register TW I see that TW signed in at 3:45 saying she was pushing on toward Damascus. I assume that means she is going to try to make it to town tonight. It is 5:00 and I have no desire to move on. I consider hiking another mile or so before setting up my tent but determine that it would be pointless. I would still be camping tonight, and with reservations with Christy at a B&B I don’t need to get into town early. I hike down the hill to get some water and then find a good spot and set up my tent. TP arrives with me and also needs water. He hasn’t been drinking enough and feels the beginnings of heat exhaustion. Still, after taking a long break and rehydrating he decides to move on and tent somewhere along the trail tonight.
By bedtime several other hikers have joined me. Biscuits stopped here, as well as Dog Whisperer (so named because he was bit by a dog), Snagglefoot and Nokey. We wind up with a full shelter and a few tents nearby. A downpour around 8:30 pushes everyone into bed early. We all plan to enter Damascus tomorrow on our way up the Appalachian Trail.