Remembering Animal’s advice from yesterday, I listened to my body. It told me what I needed today was a slack pack and a bed. So with that in mind I made arrangements with Bubba to pick me up at VA 606 at the end of today’s hike. It proved to be a smart decision. With a cool, partly sunny day and gently level to downhill hiking for most of the trail, I cruised. In seven hours, which included two breaks of thirty minutes total, I covered the 18.6 miles feeling great!
The key to the day was a pancake, bacon, and coffee breakfast. A footlong sub also made its way up the trail with me. Food by far played a significantly positive role in today’s hike. With plenty of calories, unlike yesterday, nutrition was not an issue.
The hike today commenced with a 0.9 mile road walk, including an overpass of I-77. Just as I reached the woods, I encountered a southbound section hiker wearing a kilt, a popular piece of hiker attire for a few. Stinkbug asked me to take his picture and also took mine, saying that he would post it at whiteblaze.net. Within the next five minutes I met another German hiker who appeared rather distraught over what he said was a knee injury. Unable to continue, he was headed back to Bland. I didn’t get his trail name.
With a fairly easy trail, at least by AT standards, I hiked steadily from 9:15 until 11:30, when I stopped to eat my first lunch. I again hiked without a break until I reached VA 608, or Lickskillet Hollow, where I took a break by a small footbridge to have my second lunch. Just before taking out my sandwich, I noticed a group of northbound hikers walking toward me. I finally got to meet Hammer, a hiker whose name I had seen in several of the trail registries. With him were Torch, Rango, and Half and Half. Later in the afternoon I would pass Rango and Half and Half, both who were carrying what looked like very heavy packs.
After the second break I continued at a quick pace. I did pause to speak to three southbound section hikers from Tennessee; however, I failed to get their names because my phone rang. The highlight of my day was not a view; it was a call from my daughter, Rachel. We chatted for a few minutes as I walked on up the trail. I’m not sure if it was the call or the terrain, or maybe a combination of both, but I made great time for the last five miles of the day.
As I got to Kimberling Creek, just before VA 606 and the end of today’s hike, I paused to talk with Hammer and Torch, who were going to camp by the creek. When I commented that there had to be fish in the slow moving stream, Hammer got out fishing line to attach to his hiking pole. As I walked over the suspension bridge thinking about my brother, Hammer was preparing to try to catch some supper.
When I reached the road I walked the half mile to Trent’s Grocery, where Bubba was scheduled to pick me up. Shrek was there doing some re-supply, so we dropped him off at the trailhead before driving back to Bland. I really enjoyed the conversation with Bubba over the winding roads. Originally from Virginia Beach, he had settled in the area about five years ago. Once again, listening to a local resident talk about his community enriched my day and hike.
Hiking, like life, comes with its good days and bad days. Oftentimes, however, it’s not what occurs that matters as much as what we learn from our circumstances. With the ability and opportunity to get up each day and simply walk, there should never be any reason for complaint. I hiked well today and I am grateful. But more importantly I am thankful for all those who send up a prayer each day to help me along my way. The folks who are praying for me now are the same ones who prayed for Don during those final difficult fifteen months of his life. For them I am thankful just as I am thankful for each day I can continue my journey on the Appalachian Trail.