One good thing about my restless night’s sleep was that I awoke at dawn ready to hike. Not wanting to disturb my four shelter mates, I remained in my sleeping bag until around 5:20 when I also heard War Cry rustling around. With her first movement, I began my “getting out of camp” routine. As quietly as possible I moved all my belongings to the picnic table in front of the shelter before deflating my sleeping mat. Knowing the sound would likely awaken everyone else, I saved that task for last.
After packing up and drinking as much as possible of my Carnation Instant Breakfast concoction, I was on my way. A little quicker to pack up, War Cry beat me out of camp. With gentle terrain and a heel that hopefully is much better, I anticipated hiking the 14.6 miles to US 501 by 1:00. Early on I took a short break at the Thunder Ridge Overlook where Bill, an AT maintainer, was shooting some early morning photos of the clouds below the mountains. I took a couple of pics as well before moving on up the trail.
When I reached Petites Gap, War Cry was sitting on a rock taking a break. I likewise stopped briefly. She started up the trail ahead of me; however, I would see her again later in the afternoon. When I got to Marble Spring I walked the 100 yards to fill my water bottles. Then at the Gunter Ridge Trail crossing I took another break to call shuttler Ken to let him know that I would be at 501 by 1:00. From there I hiked toward the next shelter on what was becoming a very hot afternoon.
Matt’s Creek Shelter is the only shelter that I’ve seen with a flash flood warning sign attached to its front. Having to hop over wet rocks across the creek to the shelter reinforced my confidence in the stability of my heel. War Cry was taking a break and asked about my shuttle. Having a little knee issue herself, she decided to hike the final 2.2 of the day with me and also ride to Buena Vista. A Wake Forest graduate with two degrees, War Cry has been hiking big miles, having begun her hike on April 6. It was the first time I had hiked with anyone for some time. I enjoyed our conversation as the trail paralleled the James River. The last .2 mile was across the longest foot use-only bridge on the AT.
When we got to US 501 Ken had not arrived. After unsuccessfully trying to reach him, War Cry and I were offered a ride to Buena Vista by Tom Davis, a gentleman from Florida who was on his way to Wisconsin to visit relatives. A retired accountant, Tom and auditor War Cry had a common thread for conversation. Tom was more than happy to become our trail angel for the day as he first dropped War Cry at a hostel before taking me to my motel. Before departing, Tom got both of our web pages’ addresses and said he would check them out. It was a real pleasure getting to meet and chat with Tom.
The highlight of my day, however, occurred after I arrived in Buena Vista. Deidra (Johnson) Dryden, a former Shaw student athlete that I coached in cross-country, had invited me to supper at her home. Meeting her children, Jack, Will, Sophie, and Sadie made the evening even more special. The outstanding home cooked meal more than made up for the diet I have been subjected to the past two nights in shelters. Visiting with Deidra and her family brought to a conclusion another wonderful day on my continuous adventure along thenAppalachian Trail.