Apparently everyone who owns a backpack in central Virginia decided to go for a hike on the AT today. If I had counted the south bound weekenders and day hikers beginning early this morning, the number would have easily exceeded one hundred. From Boy Scout troop 1893 out of Richmond, to Carter and his dad on Carter’s first hike to celebrate his 13th birthday, to “the Shack,” a group of five from DC, I had the opportunity to introduce my brother to many. My spirits were lifted by all the smiling faces.
The day began with one of the top five breakfasts I’ve enjoyed over the past two months. Lois served pancakes with strawberries, an omelet, sausage, juice and coffee to Ranger, Julie, Chrome Dome and me. After breakfast Earl drove me back up a portion of Spy Rock Rd. where he had to drop me off short of the trail. The remaining approximately one mile uphill walk over rocks of various sizes equaled anything I experienced on the AT today in the way of difficulty. It was a relief to finally make the left turn onto the trail.
The first challenge today was a climb up the Priest, with an elevation gain of 700 feet followed by a descent of over 3000 feet to the Tye River. From there the trail again elevated 2500 feet to Three Ridges Mountain. That climb was by far the most taxing of the day. Several beautiful views, however, helped to minimize the toughness of the uphill. Along the way I met another scout troop, 1932 from Williamsburg. For a while I thought I had inherited a dog when the troop’s collie mix followed me up the trail. Bhanzai, a thru hiker I had met earlier in the day, and I both tried to discourage the dog from trailing us to no avail. Finally Bhanzai asked a southbound hiker if he would leash the dog and hike with him back toward the scouts. Bryan was happy to so so.
A little later in the afternoon, the most spectacular view of the day occurred at the Hanging Rock Overlook. At the top I took several pics and chatted with .2, a former thru hiker who was camping there tonight. Bhanzai had also stopped at the overlook. Needing a night out of the woods, he decided to shuttle with me back to the Dutch Haus. We hiked briefly together before he pulled away on a downhill section, telling me that he would wait at the road.
Over the final three miles of my 20.3 mile day, I met Patty-cakes and Puddin’ who were slack packing a 30 mile day south bound. I also met two gentlemen from Alexandria who were out for an overnight trip with their young sons. Several other day hikers were climbing up to the overlook as I made my way toward the Blue Ridge Crossing at the Three Ridges Overlook. Bhanzai and I hiked the final .5 mile together. When we reached the road Earl was waiting. Before heading back to the B & B he drove back to the Tye River to pick up Regina, a ridge runner in the area.
When I arrived back at the Dutch Haus, I discovered that I was sharing a room with Cyclops, a hiker from Orlando that I had met last weekend in Troutville. Also at the B & B, much to my surprise, are Better Man and Smothers. Better Man (my friend Brandon who currently resides in Phenix City) and his wife started from Springer three days ahead of me. Today was the first time that I have seen them. Ranger and Julie are also back for another night.
So tomorrow I will hopefully hike to Rockfish Gap (Waynesboro, VA). It’s from there to Hanover, NH that I have already section hiked over the past decade. I’m actually looking forward to hiking a familiar area again. I already know where all the good restaurants are located near the trail. So if all goes according to plan I’ll begin the Shenandoah’s on Monday which will begin the last stretch of Virginia on the Appalachian Trail.