Buena Vista, VA

Zambian Squirrel, Weasel, and Skunk Foot departed from Springer together in early March. Today I met the trio from Vermont for the first time. They were doing a southbound slack pack when our paths crossed on the south side of Rice Mountain. Since the three were carrying little, I thought at first that they were day hikers. But after I introduced myself as a thru hiker, they in turn stated that they were as well. So again, after my four days of rest last week, I continue to meet new folks along the trail. They would not be the last hikers I would meet for the first time during the course of my short 11.0 mile day.

The day had begun at the Blue Ridge Parkway mile marker 51.7, a short drive from Buena Vista. Like yesterday, Deidra played trail angel by driving me back to the AT. Today’s hike actually started out pretty level until a brief climb of only about one hundred feet. For the remainder of the day the trail alternated from nearly level to slightly downhill. I easily covered the short distance in 4 hours and 15 minutes. Other than several stream crossings, nothing really stood out.

One of those crossings, however, proved to be my undoing for the day. Not paying attention to where the trail continued on the other side of the stream, I attempted to cross at the wrong place. When I placed my right foot on a small slippery rock, I fell directly on my backside. Fortunately I did not hurt myself other than a slight bruise on the palm of my left hand. Ironically I had just been thinking that I had not fallen for around two weeks. Well, I suppose I can begin a new streak tomorrow.

In addition to the Vermonters, I also met thru hikers Patty-cakes, from Michigan and Puddin’, from Mississippi, who hiked right behind me for about a mile until they stopped for a break at Brown Mountain Creek Shelter. Once again I’ve had the good fortune to meet a personable young couple who seem to be thoroughly enjoying the thru hiking experience. Other than the two, I also passed a lady about my age, K-Fox. She was hiking more slowly, so we merely introduced ourselves before I moved on up the trail.

When I arrived at US 60, Spider and ET were waiting for a shuttle. Without cell service, Spider used my phone to make contact with the shuttler. About twenty minutes later Ken arrived to drive the three of us to Buena Vista. Before we drove away, Patty-cakes and Puddin’ crossed the road to where we had been waiting. They were able to secure a ride from a lady who was dropping two other hikers off at the trailhead. Within fifteen minutes I was back at the good old Budget Inn. Several other hikers are here tonight as well.

After a hot shower, I walked downtown for lunch at the Bluedogart Cafe, an establishment that is known for its hospitality to hikers. My waiter offered a sharpie so that I could sign the “hiker door.” While waiting for my meal, Howard, a motorcyclist from Ontario, asked about my hike. I answered his questions and also asked him some about his trip. He and a friend, after having biked on the Blue Ridge Parkway, were on their way to DC. I continue to enjoy all the non-hiking people I’m meeting.

When I finished my lunch I headed toward a barber shop, figuring it was time for a haircut and shave. It was closed. So I stopped by the Family Dollar for scissors, shaving cream, and razors. Even though I cut much of the beard with scissors before shaving, it still took seven razors to become a clean shaven man again. Sorry Mac! It was just getting too hot and uncomfortable. After the shave I also gave myself a haircut, something I can’t remember doing in a long time. I’ll get a professional one when I get to Waynesboro or Front Royal.

The day again culminated with supper at Deidra’s home. It was good to get the “with beard” and “without beard” pics. There are so many special moments on the trail. During my hike there have been just as many special moments off the trail. Being able to share two meals with Deidra and her family ranks right up there at the top. So tomorrow I have to say goodbye to Deidra and her town. Like Helen, Hiawassee, Hot Springs,
Erwin, Troutdale, Pearisburg, and all the other small towns along the AT, Buena Vista has been special. I’ll miss the faces of those I only met a couple of days ago. But the trail awaits. Tomorrow I’m back to a full pack and a longer day, but I’m ready to see what lies in store next on the hike north, up the Appalachian Trail.

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