I’m a little tired. As I write this journal entry I’m in my sleeping bag at Chestnut Knob Shelter after a personal best 23.0 mile day. This shelter is made of cinder blocks, and has four sides and a door. Officially I’ve passed the 25% mark of the trail. The section hiker to my right is already snoring and it’s still light outside. I’m comfortable despite the howling wind. Fortunately, my 10 degree bag will keep me warm. I hope to stay awake at least until dark which will give me a better chance of sleeping through the night.
Today’s hike began with a short walk under Interstate 81 near Atkins, VA. After leaving the road, the trail followed a grassy path before moving back into the woods. Like other recent days, I saw no other hikers throughout the morning. Two local ladies, out for a day hike, asked about my thru hike. I also met Dustin who had walked up the trail during his lunch break from a crew he was supervising that was re-marking part of a nearby road.
The trail today again crossed a few cow pastures. Stiles were plentiful. I even sat on one as a I ate my lunch. Several water crossings also dotted the trail. I crossed numerous foot bridges and walked by a couple of creeks. Each time I paused to look for fish, thinking about my brother. Don would definitely have liked all the potential fishing holes. I saw no fish, but I’m sure they were there.
After crossing one stream I discovered some trail magic provided by former thru hikers, Lumbermack and Lab Rat. When I reached the Knot Maul Branch Shelter I stopped for another break. Smiles, a young man from England, who hikes with the Union Jack on his pack, was taking a break. Not feeling great, he had decided to stay the night even though it was only 1:45. I thought about it myself since I had already hiked 13.9; however, I hate to stop that early, so I moved on after about thirty minutes. Even though I knew the last 9.1 would pose a challenge, I liked the idea of putting myself in position to hit Bland and another room tomorrow.
During the next portion of trail, I met a few section hikers including Pat and the Virginia Creepers. They stopped to camp at Lick Creek right before the final five mile climb up Chestnut Knob. Also tenting by the creek was Tonto. I paused for about fifteen minutes to talk with the former Chicago resident who had also coached cross-country and track in the past. Tonto is section hiking southbound from Waynesboro to Damascus. Before moving on I shared some of my jelly beans with him. He said he would check out my web site and wished me well.
After beginning the final climb (and most challenging) of the day, I realized that my energy level was slightly diminishing. So I ate jelly beans and kept drinking as I hiked. The most beautiful views of the day awaited me as I reached the open, grassy field of Chestnut Knob. Had I not needed to get to the shelter before it got too late, I think I would have just sat and enjoyed the view awhile. When I did reach the shelter, I got the last bunk space. Already here were Grand Bob, All The Way, Zag, Owl, and two section hikers. A little later Nick arrived. I hadn’t seen him in about a week.
Now it’s almost dark and I’m the only hiker in the shelter with headlamp on and not settled in to sleep. For me, even though I’m tired, a little music awaits. It’s been another very satisfying day. I hiked big miles, have eaten well, met some more good folks, and like every other day, was treated to some of the most beautiful scenery that the world has to offer. I suppose I best get this edited and posted because, like my fellow sojourners, rest is needed so that more good hiking may be accomplished tomorrow on the northward journey up the Appalachian Trail.