21 miles, 856.5 overall (Waynesboro)
When I wake up I’m confused. It sounds like rain, but I don’t hear any raindrops falling on my rainfly. Perhaps it is just the wind playing tricks as it blows through the trees? I’m not that lucky. When I get out of my tent it is damp and there is a very light sprinkle. Apparently the tree above me is providing good cover though. I am able to pack my tent only damp, not soaked. Tamir has already left and Teflon is taking his time this morning. Einstein is packing up and leaves just before I do. I’m able to catch him in the first few minutes.
We hike on for a while talking intermittently. The rain is perfect, just enough to cool us off but not soak us. We pass through a few meadows and cross the Blue Ridge Parkway a couple times. The grass in the meadows transfers its moisture to my shoes and my socks become wet. As we hike the rain slowly increases to the point that it starts to become uncomfortable.
Eventually we pass a spring and I stop for water. I didn’t get enough from the spring last night and didn’t bother fetching more this morning. Einstein hikes on while I fill up and for the next couple hours I hike alone. The trail is rocky, a bad condition for a wet day. It is also foggy, meaning no views. I’m disappointed because I know there is an overlook coming up. It is a west-facing view only a hundred yards or so from the trail. On my practice hike I had wondered if at this point during my thru-hike I would bother hiking the extra distance for the view. The fog makes it pointless to actually do it now. However as I pass the overlook I think about it and decide that, had there been a view, I would have taken the time to look.
The trail eventually returns again to the BRP and I stop for a snack. I also check the weather to find out if we have any hope of drying out later. To my surprise the radar shows nothing over us. Stupid radar.
Up I go after my break, passing over Humpback Mountain. On my practice hike at this point I was frustrated with my knee pain, I was bonking but didn’t know it yet, and was almost out of water. Today I feel much better. Although it has been raining it has tapered off and I’m starting to dry out. I still have several snacks left to eat today and my energy is good. I have plenty of water to get me to the next shelter and my knees, although sore, are not painful like before. As I pass over Humpback Rocks I am disappointed I don’t have a view. My momentary loss of concentration leads to a bad foot placement and I slip slightly. It is a startling reminder that one wrong step could end my hike and I make myself pay more attention to the wet rocks.
On the way down the other side of the mountain I catch Einstein while he is having a snack. We finish the last couple miles to the shelter together. The trail doesn’t look like how I remember it, but I chalk some of that up to the extremely low energy level I had by the time I arrived before. When we arrive Einstein agrees with my assessment that this is one of the better shelters along the trail. It is a double-decker with plexiglass windows to allow light in, lots of hooks around to hang stuff, a roof over the picnic table, and a huge creek in front. I wish I could stay the night here again but Waynesboro calls and I feel the need to make up some miles after taking it easy the last week or so. I had planned to stay at a church hostel in town but now that idea is sounding less appealing. The description in the data book doesn’t mention any laundry facilities and the basement described doesn’t sound especially comfortable. I start inspecting the other options while we snack. Teflon catches up soon and we wait for him to take a break too. During the break we decide to all split a room at the Quality Inn.
With only 5 miles left and me in the lead we leave the shelter at a fast pace. The rain has long since stopped and as a result i am paying less attention to my foot placements. This turns out to be a bad idea since the rocks are still wet. I place my foot on one particularly wet rock and as I do it I know what is about to happen. The rock looks slick and I know I should step somewhere else but it is already too late. My foot flies out from under me and a split second later I land on the rock. It is a painful one-cheeker but nothing is injured other than my pride. Einstein compliments me on my fall saying that I took it well, meaning I didn’t try to brace myself for the landing and by doing so hurt my wrist or something similar.
Teflon is having trouble with shin splints and doesn’t keep up long but Einstein and I pass the time talking about his plans for after the trail. He has mentioned before that he went to college and I find out his major was in business administration, however if he had it to do over again he’d do something more hands-on and mechanical. For the last year or so he has been living in a house his parents own and has been renovating it for them after some not-so-savory tenants left it torn up. He talks about different business ideas he has had including a car shop or a custom bicycle frame business. Like Teflon it seems Einstein doesn’t suffer from a lack of options but rather a multitude of them.
The time flies and we are soon at Rockfish Gap. Teflon is only minutes behind. A sign provides contact info for local trail angels and we call one named Feather to get a ride into town. We ask her if we can briefly stop by the outfitter and she kindly agrees provided we don’t take long. She and a man soon arrive in a white truck and we pile in the back. Although I rode in the back of a truck to Four Pines Hostel, that truck bed was covered. This one is not and I really enjoy the exhilaration of driving down the highway with the wind in what hair I have left.
At the outfitter I pick up fuel and some new sock liners to replace the ones that are getting holes in them. Teflon and Einstein ask about aqua-blazing. Instead of hiking through Shenandoah they, along with Mac and Snap, want to canoe down the Shenandoah River. The outfitter isn’t very knowledgable on the subject and they leave without much information.
We are dropped off at the Quality Inn and I book a room in the lobby. The man at the desk learns that Einstein smokes and reminds him several times that he can’t smoke in the non-smoking room. The warnings are excessive – one was plenty – and for the rest of the night we joke about it. Showers ensue, followed by a hike to the laundromat. We are hungry and hope to eat dinner soon but clothes need to be washed.
On the way to the laundromat we get two great surprises. First, Nacho is at the Quality Inn. He is stuck in town waiting for a package, but it is good to know he is still hiking. Second, as we approach the laundromat I notice first a Pizza Hut across the street, followed by a Little Caesars next door to the laundromat. Once clothes are in the washer I get a hot-and-ready pepperoni and eat it on the curb, sharing some with the others. While I go to the Dollar General to get a drink and some ice cream they go get another pizza, this time with sausage. We move laundry to the dryer and then the second pizza also gets consumed. With laundry done and our appetites satiated for now, we return to the hotel.
At the trail magic Christy dropped off some permethrin with me. I have heard great reviews about the stuff from other hikers. It is a spray that goes on your clothes and kills any ticks, chiggers, etc that get on you. Having started to see lots of ticks lately and moving into a more Lyme-disease-prone area I am anxious to get this stuff on my clothes. A trip across the street to CVS provides some Junior Mints and a soda but more importantly latex gloves that I can wear while applying the toxin. I return to the hotel and spread my clothes on the bush outside our room where they get sprayed down. While they dry I watch The Simpsons Movie on tv and eat my snacks. Teflon visits with some other hikers he knows who are in town and Einstein tries to find out more about aqua-blazing.
Although I was hoping for a good beer in town I am too tired to go out. Einstein bought some Miller Lites at CVS so I have one of them. It doesn’t really hit the spot though. I bring my clothes inside and spread them on the floor to give them more time to dry and then I get into bed. It was a long day and I still need to resupply tomorrow and then hike out of town on the Appalachian Trail.