Monday, April 29: Rich pulled over his small tan pick-up truck in front of the Troutdale Baptist Church at daylight. I had walked down the hill from the hostel to a spot where Ken and Mary said I shouldn’t have a problem getting a ride. When Rich asked where I was headed, he said he would be happy to drive me to the log store about ten miles up the road and near the entrance to Grayson Highlands State Park. After I told Rich that I hoped to find someone at the store who would drive me to Massie Gap for $20, he said he would. Before heading into the park, he was even nice enough to stop at the store so that I could get a sausage biscuit and coffee.
As we drove I learned much about the man who was raised in the western Virginia mountains, moved away and raised his own family, but had to come home after his children had grown up. A true “salt of the earth” individual, Rich was on his way to a site where he was building a log cabin when he stopped to offer me a ride. After pointing out the cabin as we drove, the conversation turned to fishing. A trout fishing enthusiast, Rich tried to give me two of the mess he had on ice in the back of his truck. I thought about my brother as I listened to the excitement in Rich’s voice while he talked trout. Don would have surely relished talking fishing with Rich.
When we reached the parking lot at Massie Gap, I gratefully thanked Rich before he drove away. I insisted he take the twenty, even though he was reluctant to do so. Then I had to hike probably a mile on an AT blue-blazed spur trail back to the white-blazed AT. With an overcast sky and a gentle trail ahead, I hoped to hike the 18.3 miles to Dickey Gap by 4:00. Other than some light rain, all went well throughout the day.
I arrived at the Wise Shelter, the 500 mile mark on the trail, and took a brief break. Another thru hiker, Long Gone, was packing up to leave. I tried to hike with him, but within about three minutes Long Gone was long gone. I also met Jonathan, a ridge runner who was doing a loop trail. Throughout the day I also ran into the Raisin Bran Kid, who has decided to do some shorter days to allow his injury to heel. He was hiking with a friend from Ohio, Morel. I also encountered Alloy and Sandalwood, the section hikers from Ontario.
When I reached the Old Orchard Shelter I took another short break. Matt, a section hiker from Atlanta, was the only one there. A little later at Fox Creek I met Not Yet and Sunshine, a couple from the DC area. From Fox Creek the trail ascended about 800 feet over two miles; however, the climb involved many switchbacks. Along the way I met Rangeley, a section hiker who was out until late May. Hiking solo throughout the day proved peaceful and afforded me plenty of solitude.
The day passed quickly. I made it to Dickey Gap a little before 4:00. Not Yet and Sunshine were by the road hoping to hitch a ride to the hostel. The three of us tried unsuccessfully for about fifteen minutes before I decided to just walk the 2.6 miles. Shortly after I arrived, Not Yet, Sunshine, Outfitter, and In Progress walked up. They had gotten a ride part of the way. Also at the hostel for the night were Disciple and his black retriever, Coy, and Keyl, another cross country cyclist. Originally from North Carolina, Keyl now lives in California. Coming from a bicycling family, Keyl hopes to at least make Colorado before having to go back to work.
Not having eaten well all day, I broached the subject with the others about trying to get a ride to the log cabin restaurant. Only Not Yet and Sunshine were interested. As fate would have it, about that time a small car drove up toward the hostel. Joss and Jess happily offered us the ride. Both delightful young folks sported colorful tattoos and had great personalities. Again there was enthusiasm in their voices as they discussed the beauty of the western Virginia mountains. When they dropped us at the log cabin, I told them they were true trail angels. With smiles on their faces, they said they’d be back to give us a ride back to the hostel a little later.
After an outstanding supper and ride back to the hostel from Josh and Jess, I spent the rest of the evening chatting with all the others. I especially enjoyed being around Coy. Another very well-behaved dog, he seemed to like everyone. Don would really like all these great trail dogs I’m meeting. Finally darkness interrupted all the socializing, as a bunkhouse full of fatigued hikers retired for the night after another satisfying day of hiking on the Appalachian Trail.