21.4 miles, 811.2 overall (Stealth camp 0.1 short of Greasy Spring Rd)
I wake to find myself once again surrounded by mesh and waterproof fabric. This is my home now, and I set about cleaning it up so I can carry it with me once again today. I can hear Tamir stirring nearby. He hung his food on my bear line last night and when I get out of my tent I find him trying to get his food down. Apparently the bear line works on hikers too. We are the first ones up although Runner gets out of camp first. I just beat Tamir out of camp at 7:00 as he goes about some personal hygiene of some sort.
It feels good to get out early again. My goal is to get done with the climb that begins about 10 miles in before it gets too hot. This is actually a tall order. Without breaks it should take almost 4 hours just to get to the climb. I try to keep a fast pace this morning.
The trail is quiet but I don’t see many animals. It takes us downhill to the Lynchburg Reservoir and then around to the other side. I cross a large suspension bridge with lots of honeysuckle at the end of it. About 6 miles in I stop for a snack. While I’m eating I see what I think is a pileated woodpecker fly by into a tree. I’m not able to get a picture of him because he quickly flies to another spot where I can’t see him. Oh well.
Further on a sign on the trail teaches hikers about the Brown Mountain Creek community of former slaves who used to inhabit the area. Old rock walls are still visible and we walk along what could have been their road until we reach the first shelter. The shelter marks 9 miles down and also marks the beginning of the climb which will take us from about 1000 feet to over 4000 feet. I’m not excited about it and somewhat psych myself out over it. Tamir catches up and reminds me it is surely not anything we haven’t seen already. It only helps a little.
Leaving the shelter the uphill isn’t too bad. It winds along a stream until it reaches the road crossing of Rt 60. As I approach I notice a big box of what appears to be trail magic. I am momentarily excited until I notice that it appears to all be gone. When I reach it I open it to find a few sodas and snacks still left at the bottom – score! I take a snack cake and a Coca-Cola and consume them by the road while I take advantage of the cell signal to make a couple calls. Tamir and Runner catch up while I’m finishing but I leave before they do. On the other side of the road I find some less strategically placed sodas on a picnic table getting warm in the sun.
The rest of the climb is as brutal as I thought it would be, although I feel better the further I go. Starting out at the bottom I feel dizzy and wonder if I’m dehydrated. I stop to take a break and Tamir passes me. When I resume I catch up to him and pass him when he takes a break. I’m no longer dizzy but I’m also not feeling like I’m in climbing mode yet and I soon take another break. Once again Tamir passes me, but this time I follow him and neither of us stop. Now I’m feeling good and use Tamir being ahead of me as a challenge to keep up with him. It doesn’t take long for us to reach the top.
It is just before 1:00 now, near the hottest part of the day. I start to look for a place to take my siesta. I find a nicely flat rock and roll out my Thermarest to lay down. Tamir sits nearby and we chat for a bit while we refuel and rehydrate. We discuss our plans for the rest of the day. I plan to rest for a couple hours before moving on to a campsite a few miles further. Tamir is thinking about trying to get to the Dutch Haus, still 13 miles away, today instead of tomorrow. He hasn’t zeroed since Erwin and, if he makes it tonight, he’ll zero tomorrow. He puts off a decision for a few more miles. I wish him luck and stay behind to enjoy my rock while the day gets warmer.
As I lay on my rock Runner and Dakota Dan pass me. They both plan to stay at the campsite ahead. I wait until 3 to get moving again before it cools off too much. Just before I leave a group of 3 young women hikes by me. They are obviously not thru-hikers so I don’t bother introducing myself. I think I will catch them but I take too long and they likely head to the next shelter which I skip since it is a half mile away from the trail.
It is odd how lately the weather has been playing tricks on me. The temperature hasn’t been above 80 the last few days but in my head while I’m hiking it feels like 90. It is especially bad on the uphill pieces where I become drenched in sweat when it is only 75. During my siesta I actually got cold enough that I considered putting on my warm base layer. Tonight I know it will drop down to around 50 and I will have the side of my 15 degree sleeping bag zipped up (although not mummified). I dread the days in Pennsylvania when I know it will be even warmer and the nights will not provide a reprieve.
As I get going again the trail becomes a ridge walk but takes me along an open ridge similar to the balds we had in the south. In Virginia the mountains tend to run in strips from north to south with valleys between them. This ridge treats me to views of the valleys to either side, leaving the part I can’t see as my obvious destination.
Eventually I get to the campsite that Runner and Dakota Dan had been targeting and that I had been considering. It is still 4:30 so there is time left to hike. The problem I need to solve for is which approach makes it easiest to get to the Dutch Haus tomorrow by 11 for the free lunch they offer to thru-hikers? I can stay here but this site leaves 11 miles to hike by 11 tomorrow, meaning I would leave camp around 6, meaning getting up around 5. I am not a big fan of this. Considering I still have time today I choose to hike on.
I have already eaten most of my snacks for today but my energy is low. I stop soon to eat a fish tortilla with the horseradish cheddar cheese I got back in Daleville. Although this might be a low calorie-to-weight ratio meal I still enjoy the flavors, especially the different cheeses I have been trying. With my energy back up I hike until about 6 when I come across a great little campsite. I am a little low on water but I think I have enough to camp so I stop and set up camp. It isn’t until after my tent is set up that I realize my hydration bladder is empty – I have less than I thought. I could get by on what I have and I cook dinner with some of it, leaving a half liter when I’m done. However the data book says there is a spring not too far away so I decide to hike to it sans pack. Luckily it turns out to be even closer than I thought. It only takes 10 minutes to get the water and return, making this an ideal campsite now that I have water. I eat early and hang my food, then get in my tent for the evening.
A while back Nokey gave me a new term. He noted that any day we do 21.8 miles we finish 1% of the trail. If we could keep that pace up the whole trip we would be done in 100 days. Of course that is harder than it sounds, but today I made great time this morning, making it possible for me to do practically 1% of the trail even while taking a couple hours off during the hot part of the day. I think I have found my new way to hike! Tonight I will be asleep earlier than I have been in quite some time, and being only 7 miles away from the free lunch I won’t need to leave until almost 9. Looks like tomorrow I get to sleep in on the Appalachian Trail!