17.9 miles, 548.5 overall (Campsite at Crawfish Trail)
The shelter slowly stirs to life in the morning. A whippoorwill plagued those of us sleeping in the shelter, calling over and over during the night. In addition, some people had an extra helping of “select adult beverages” with their cookout last night and are a little sluggish this morning.
I am up and eating breakfast by 7:30 with my pack mostly ready to go but I take my time. It turns out to be a great move because Dances With Flies has a box of cinnamon rolls for breakfast and offers me one as thanks for the pizza slice last night. I accept the chance to savor some cinnamony sweetness. When I head out I also stop by the visitor’s center which is now open to get a soda and some postcards. They have an accurate looking scale inside next to the soda machine. It says I have lost 10 pounds – more than I thought, but not too surprising considering I hadn’t weighed myself in a while.
I drink the soda slowly as I start to hike. It isn’t the he’s decision, but I drank a lot of water this morning and it takes a while for me to drink the entire thing. As a result I hike slowly. Dog Whisperer (DW) and Dirty Girl both pass me while I sip my Dr Pepper. Once I finally finish I can speed up but I still go slower than normal until I can burp up the carbonation.
I’m not in a hurry today, hence the visit to the visitor’s center and the soda. The trail passes through Atkins today, a chance for resupply and a meal. The restaurant on the trail has a 16oz hiker burger that we are excited to try. From there we plan 3 miles to a campsite for a total of 15 for the day. This sounds great to me after an almost 25 mile day yesterday.
The first several miles are a gradual uphill followed by some steeper ups and downs. This gives me a chance to catch up to and pass Dirty Girl. When DW stops for a break I’m able to catch him as well, although he hikes on while I snack and I don’t see him again.
A few more miles downhill and I reach a shelter. Almost all of the entries in the register mention the burgers in Atkins. A note to businesses along the trail: if you want a lot of extra business, advertise your presence and some sort of high calorie food you offer in AT data books. Another snack and Dirty Girl catches up again. He doesn’t seem as excited about the burger as I am.
On the way into Atkins the trail winds through fields. It appears to be old farmland that is now being allowed to grow. The high grasses remind me that tick season is on the way and I should start preparing. dirty Girl already wears long pants and a long sleeves shirt for protection and although he sweats a lot, I am somewhat jealous of the protection. I make a mental note to do a more thorough tick check tonight than usual.
Atkins itself is nothing special, at least the part we are exposed to. It lies at an interstate exit and the trail follows the underpass. I am excited because it is I-81, an interstate I know well from trips to and from Virginia Tech. This part of the interstate is less familiar, but it does mean I am that much closer to places I am familiar with.
I stop first at the Shell gas station. I am looking for a few more items to get me through to my next mail drop. Mostly I need snacks, and gas stations are perfect places to find those. I easily locate honey buns and some Slim Jims. I also want to pick up some cheese but apparently they don’t carry any. I grab a couple Gatorades to complete my selection. Then I head next door to the Exxon to look for cheese. No luck there either. I will be cheese-less for the next few days. Oh well.
Mac and Snap are outside the Exxon with Real, a man who has already thru-hiked 4 times and is working on his fifth. They all recommend the Barn, the restaurant wih the hiker burger. It is 2:00 and they have already had lunch. Mac and Snap plan to do another 15 miles before dark. I’m not jealous.
I head to the restaurant and order the hiker burger with apple sauce and green beans. I like to get some fruit and veggies when I get a chance and these are two of my favorites. I also order a sweet tea and take full advantage of the refills, finishing about 4 glasses before I leave. I stay there until 3:30, taking advantage of the cell signal while I’m there to catch up on a few things. During that time Dirty Girl and Dances With Flies also arrive and eat. No sign of Trophy Wife, Snagglefoot, or Nokey. Dances With Flies assures us they left after him and never passed him. Since he arrived after we did they should be behind us as well.
While we are eating 2 other hikers arrive. I haven’t seen them before but the other two are familiar with them. Apparently these two new hikers get mixed reviews from those who meet them. I can understand why. One is in military fatigues while the other wears a kilt (a real one, not a hiking kilt) with a hatchet in the belt. I try to reserve judgment, but the fact that they don’t ask if they can eat at our table or give much of a sign of acknowledgment when I say hi to them outside the restaurant makes me inclined to not worry about trying too hard with them.
The plan, for those of us continuing on, is to hike 3 miles out of town. Dirty Girl is staying in town tonight. I see this as a good chance to try out my new shoes. I take off my hiking shoes and socks and don the Vibram five fingers. So far I have enjoyed wearing them around camp so I’m excited to try them on the trail. The trail out of Atkins is similar to the trail on the way in – a walk through fields. On the way I pass some hikers being picked up by a local car. I stop to say hi and wind up talking to them for several minutes. They are section hikers and have just finished the section north of here. While we’re talking one of them offers me an Arizona green tea and I thank them. As they pull away and I hike on I realize that this is actually my first Yogi! Yogi-ing is when thru-hikers try to get food from non-thru-hikers who happen to be nearby. Picture, for example, a park where people are picnicking. The generally accepted best practice is to sit near one of these groups and look pitiful, perhaps by sipping on some water and eating some small snack. When they show interest in you try striking up a conversation. Eventually, if you’re lucky, they will take pity on you and feed you. Since this wasn’t designated trail magic that I came across and I secured the drink by striking up a conversation, I count this as a non-purposeful but still successful Yogi.
The last couple miles go quickly and the new shoes feel good. I had been having some trouble with blisters where my insole meets the shoe again but these shoes don’t rub there so I walk pain-free. When I reach the proposed campsite though I am underwhelmed. There is no water source and no good tent sites except the floor of an old shelter from which the walls have been removed. I write a note and leave it for the others to find explaining that I have moved on, and I head for a campsite another 3 miles up.
About a mile into the last 3 miles my feet begin to hurt. The idea with these new shoes is to ease yourself into them, wearing them for small chunks at a time. I’m obviously not doing that and my toes are becoming sore from the extra work they are getting. Still I don’t want to stop and I keep going to the campsite. When I arrive I am much happier. There are great tent sites next to a stream under some rhododendron, and Loribob already has a fire going. Real is here having some food before he moves on a bit further for the night. I set up camp and start my dinner. Pretty soon the pain in my feet is gone and I’m sure with a good night’s sleep they’ll be fine in the morning. Over dinner I socialize with Loribob whom I haven’t met before. She is from near Damascus and is nice enough. We have some pleasant conversation until I finish dinner and head to my tent for the night.
I am happy with how the day turned out. I got good miles done, finished at a good time and at a great campsite, didn’t have to rush, and ate some good food. It’s too bad every day can’t be this good on the Appalachian Trail!