May 25 - Hello Virginia
I had trouble getting going this morning thanks to a fitful night's sleep. I wasn't sure what I'd be doing today. Had the blisters healed enough to hike? The one thing I had to do was send my bounce box either to the next location up the trail or home to Ottawa. It's the Memorial Day weekend here and the post office was only open a few hours this morning. What I did the rest of the day was dealer's choice.
I headed to the Blue Blaze Cafe when it opened at eight o'clock and just had coffee while I pondered my guide book. I decided, after four cups of coffee, to go and sort out my stuff, take the box to the post office wearing my shoes and new inserts an then begin packing my pack to see how it all felt.
It was all good so I decided to head out, although it was 11:00 a.m. by the time I turned in my room key to Dave at Mt. Rogers Outfitters and thanked him for his hospitality. It was his son Jeff who helped me with my shoe issue.
I hadn't spoken with Julia for about a week and I decided to try to Skype her. It worked! Speaking with her always lifts my spirits. I was smiling for an hour at least. :)
It was a beautiful day with a clear blue sky and the air was still crisp from moderately cold overnight temperatures. I walked the length of the town heading north following the white blazes on East Laurel Avenue, the main street. I got as far as Mojo's coffee shop and decided to drop the pack at the door and go on in for a real cuppa joe. The blackboard said something about breakfast smoothies and I asked about breakfast options. They had a menu and I delayed my departure to enjoy some bacon and eggs with toast and jam.
The A.T. follows the Virginia Creeper Trail for a bit as it leaves town. The VCT is a bike trail that used to be an old railroad used to haul logs down from the mountains. It's 34 miles long and here are 6-7 bike shuttle companies that now haul trailers full of bikes and chubby tourists in vans up to the top where riders can throw a leg over the top tube and then coast all the way back to Damascus.
Pretty soon I was climbing and filtering tasty mountain stream water and dumping Dave's rather vile eau de tap. Some of my blisters had dried up and I taped the ones that were still an issue. I added tape to areas where things were tender and I snugged up the shoes as much as possible. It all worked out great. And the trail cooperated as there was a lot of flattish ground, "soft" in the sense of pine needles or oak leaves to tread upon as opposed to the typical slanted sideways with rocks and roots trail we've been experiencing. It was a pleasure hiking some parts of it today.
There was one detour due to flooding and the trail went down a stream bed full of mini boulders that was hard to walk on. But I took the advice I was given, slowed down and trod carefully.
I got to the blue blaze shelter trail but it was only 4:15 p.m. and way too early to stop. What would I do until it got dark? So I kept hiking, deciding to try for about two more hours if possible.
About 40 minutes later I started meeting little groups of Boy Scouts, each with one or two adults. They all looked in the bag and each group had one person who wanted to know how far the shelter was. As I told them, 40, 45, 50 minutes walk and they'll be there, I could see the disappointment in their young eyes, and I'd quickly add, but you're walking much quicker than I am so you'll be there in no time.
Then there were more and adults, all out for a weekend hike on the long weekend. One poor woman was already carrying her boots and wearing her Crocs and I figured she'd only been walking a couple of miles from the US58 trailhead.
I passed all sorts of campsites adjacent the trail that were full of tents and people. It had been my intention of finding one of these and now, as I got closer to be trailhead, I was worried they'd all be taken. The next shelter was out of reach for me.
But then I found the near perfect site. And it was vacant. I set up and hung my food bag. The ground was covered by pine needles. I realized this is the first time I've been camping all by myself with not even one other tent!
It feels like it will be a chilly night. I can hear occasional traffic somewhere and I thought I heard fireworks being popped once or twice. I'm at 3000 feet and about 1.5 miles from the VCT.
All in all it was a good day and I had a great hike. :)