17.2 miles, 636.6 overall (Rice Field shelter)
I wake at 6 but nobody else in the bunkhouse seems to be stirring so I go back to sleep. At 7 I wake again and start to get up. I’m quickly joined by several others, some of whose watch alarms are going off and others who simply wake up around 7 as well. I know breakfast should be served around 8 but coffee is supposedly served by 7:15. I do some limited packing now to keep from waking everyone up and then head out to see what’s going on.
By the time I get out the coffee is ready. I grab a cup and sit on the porch with the other hikers while we wait for breakfast. I sit on the porch swing and try to coax a dog into coming over. Instead I get a cat, and in short order it decides to curl up on my lap. It actually feels nice with the cool breeze this morning. I talk to Rolling Stone, a section hiker who has sat beside me, while I pet the cat.
Breakfast turns out to be fruit, yogurt and crisp, and an egg/vegetable concoction with juice. Before we eat we circle up and say something we’re thankful for again. Last night during the campfire when I talked to Neville she mentioned that this is something people often cite as something they didn’t like about the hostel. If that is the worst they can come up with then she’s running a great outfit. This morning I decide to be thankful for dogs.
By the time I have eaten and packed up it is 9:30. I settle my tab with Michael and by 9:50 I am on my way out, back up the gravel road to the trail. I regret not being able to zero here, but I feel the need to push on. I also regret not being able to take part in one of Neville’s yoga or meditation sessions, something I had looked forward to before arriving. And I have to say, the massages they offer we’re tempting. Perhaps I can return in the future.
Today I plan to do a somewhat short 17 miles, but I need to get into town to pick up some supplies I don’t have. I don’t have breakfast foods and I haven’t had cheese in quite some time. Pearisburg is 10 miles from Woods Hole. It has a Food Lion. My goal is to get in, get out, and still get 17 miles in today. It will be tough with the 10am start but it is possible with the easier Virginia terrain.
The first several miles are relatively flat. I reach the first shelter only a few miles in and stop for a few minutes to sign the register. When I get moving again I pass Head-n-out and Tagalong. They camped before Woods Hole last night. I tell them they missed out. I also pass Elijah, a new hiker who started at Mount Rogers. He plans to get to Katahdin and then return to go south to Springer. When I find out he is from Florida I suggest he continue from there all the way to Florida. Apparently others have suggested this already and he is excited about it.
I don’t get to talk to anyone for long. I need to get to town early to run my errands. In the shelter register I saw something about a Dairy Queen in town and have added that to my errand list. There are a few views on the trail and I spend a snack break at one, but Angel’s Rest is coming up and overlooks Pearisburg and the New River. I save my longer snack break for this view.
When I get to Angel’s Rest there are 2 groups of VT students there. A guy and 2 girls are on their way out when I arrive and two guys are on the rock taking in the view. I talk to them for a few minutes while I take pictures and have my snack. They have just finished exams and will graduate this weekend. One plans to attend medical school at WVU, which makes me wonder what came of the VT-WVU rivalry. When I leave I pass Roadside. He had been trying to get someone to slack pack him today. I can’t tell if he succeeded. When I pass him he is on the phone with someone.
On the way down the mountain I quickly catch the group of three that was leaving ahead of me. They let me pass and I explain my speed by the lure of the DQ. I reach Pearisburg at 2:20. Now comes my dilemma: hitch in or hike in? The trail is about a half mile from everywhere I need to go. The road is somewhat busy with no sidewalk. I stand around for a minute thinking about it, half hoping someone will stop and offer me a ride, but no offer comes. I decide to walk it since hitching would probably take longer anyway. 10 minutes later I am at Food Lion. I run into Cow-Tale, the hiker with the parasite, but I don’t talk to him long. It appears he is taking a zero. He has been hiking faster since the shuttle experience and I wonder if he is trying to jump into a new hiker bubble. It would probably be a good idea on his part.
At Food Lion I grab a pack of bagels, some peanut butter, and some pepper jack cheese. I also find a banana, a coke, and a single serving cherry pie. I sit outside on the sidewalk to eat the pie, banana, and coke while I put the rest in my pack.
From here I head to DQ. I order a regular sized fry and onion ring with a small cookie dough Blizzard. My eyes are too big for my stomach. On top of the Food Lion food I am not quite able to finish. Oh well. I’m also sure the greasy food will sit well on the climb out of Pearisburg. I somewhat regret the DQ idea. While forcing the last of the food down I see several new hikers either pass by outside or come in to eat. There must be a whole new bubble of hikers in Pearisburg, some of which probably took a zero here.
I get out of Pearisburg at 4:30, making my whole town visit only 2 hours. I’m happy with that result. I have 7 miles left to the shelter and a large uphill climb. I take it slow, letting the food continue to digest. On the way up the climb I meet a hiker named Q. He is from California and says he started hiking on April 4. If that’s true then he is really moving! I hike with him most of the way to the shelter. He says he hasn’t met many people and when we get to the shelter I can see why. He sets up his tent and I don’t see him for the rest of the night.
At the shelter are all new hikers. I introduce myself and meet Medicine Man, Big Sky, Diesel, Q-tip, Cheeze-It, and Tickle Monster. They’re all in the shelter already so I opt for my tent which I prefer anyway. It takes forever to get ready to cook dinner because water is almost a half mile down a side trail. Once I do get it I’m able to socialize with these hikers for the rest I the night.
Tickle Monster, Cheeze-It, and Q-tip are all very quiet and only tend to talk when I ask them something directly. The other 3 have been hiking together for a few weeks, and Diesel and Big Sky have actually been hiking together since Springer. Medicine Man is the most talkative in the group. By the time I’ve cooked and eaten everyone in the shelter is in their sleeping bags. It is 9:00, a late night for me. I head to my tent and get ready for bed. It is a windy night and I hope the wind dies down by tomorrow. It is supposed to rain tomorrow but it looks like another mid-mileage, easy terrain day on the Appalachian Trail.