Day 84 (NFS Walnut Flats Campground to Laurel Creek)

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The Wapiti Shelter trail register. Go Slug Club!

Four entities recognize pooping as just a part of the day — little kids, our dogs, hikers, and ultrarunners. Among this small society of gentle beings is the pooping discussion one of civility and decisiveness.Susan Paraska

I woke up, packed, and ate breakfast before the three young women woke up so I didn’t get to say goodbye. I headed down the forest service road for about a mile and used the Dismal Falls blue trail to get back on the AT. In all I probably walked an extra half mile…..totally worth it!

I passed the 600 miles to go mark today which is really the 500 mark for me since I’ve already completed 100 miles in GA/NC this year. It appears I won’t be finished with my hike by the time I need to go back to work. I’m so glad I did a flip-flop hike so that I have the option to finish up on weekends after I go back to work. I’m hoping to get some trail running friends to join me on the weekends. More on this later in a separate post.

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I only saw one other person on the trail today. He was hiking north bound and said he had not seen anyone in two days. We talked for a few minutes and exchanged information about water sources and trail conditions. I stopped for the day at Laurel Creek. It was a little close to a road but I didn’t hear a single car the whole time I was there.

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Day 83 (Pearisburg, VA to NFS Walnut Flats Campground)

I checked out of the motel and headed to breakfast at Hardees. The same group of older men was there again this morning. I think they meet there every morning. I enjoyed talking with them while I ate.

I walked the 0.8 miles out of town and then started hiking. There was a nice climb to warm up my legs. At the top was Angel’s Rest which was very pretty.

It rained most of the morning so no real views but hiking along the ridge was very pleasant. I only saw 2 other hikers all day long and they were on the ridge. I hiked through a lot of rhododendron tunnels in the afternoon. There were a few blooms but this section would have been totally awesome about a month ago when they were in full bloom.

Late afternoon I used my GPS trail app to see where I might camp. I noticed there was a forest service road running parallel to the trail about 0.2 miles away and that there was a NFS campground on the road. I’m not sure why but I decided I wanted to check it out but I did. So I used the GPS to guide me off trail until I found the road and the campground.

I arrived at the same time as three women in their 20’s. Meg and Sadie are sisters and Kit is Sadie’s old college roommate. They invited me to join them for dinner and campfire chat. We sat around the fire talking and laughing until almost midnight. It was such a fun time. Again, I don’t know why I even thought to get off trail and go there but I’m so glad I did.

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Day 81 (Campsite on ridge to Pearisburg, VA)

I slept well on the ridge with the bunny rabbits. Once I had packed up camp, it started raining. It rained most of the day. The trail still had some pretty views even though it was cloudy.

I’ve been kind of bonking in the afternoons the past couple of days so I decided to head into Pearlisburg for much needed town food and a zero day. I’ll be staying at the Plaza Hotel, eating, resting, and getting cleaned up.

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Day 80 (VA 632 at Johns Creek to campsite on ridge)

Martha headed back to Atlanta this morning so I was on my own again today. My SOBO hike has been pretty lonely since there are no other thru hikers in the area. However, visitors such as my mom, my sister Laura, and my friend Martha have been awesome!

This morning’s weather was very pleasant. I stopped for lunch at the Bailey Gap Shelter. I met two sisters that were camping in the area and doing day hikes. They were very nice and gave me some tangerines, baby carrots and M&Ms. We talked for about 30 minutes.

After lunch, I had planned to hike to the Captain’s place and rest a bit during the heat of the day. However when I got there, there was a closed sign on the zip line over the creek. So I set up my tent by the creek and took an hour nap. I think this is the third time I have done this on the trail. I woke up with more energy and ready to climb up on the ridge.

Once on the ridge, I had cell service for the first time in about 36 hours. I hiked along the ridge until it started raining. Luckily, I was right at a nice campsite so I set up my tent and climbed in. After the 30 minute rain, I made dinner, ate, and hung my food before returning to my tent.

After dark I started hearing animals moving around my tent. I rolled back my tent fly so I could see what it was but they ran away. I decided to sleep with the fly open (mesh still zippered) in case they returned. Sure enough, a few minutes later things started to move again. I turned my headlamp on to see three bunny rabbits enjoying the plants around my tent. Interesting how much noise they make when your ears are on their level. I guess not everything that goes bump in the night has to be scary. smile emoticon Sorry, not too many pictures today. I will do better tomorrow.

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This fawn still has his/her spots. I saw two today that weren’t with their moms.

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One of my night time visitors.

Day 79 (VA 620 to VA 632 at Johns Creek)

We had an interesting night camped near the Audie Murphy monument. Some local hunters were running their coon dogs in the area. They were very nice but the dogs were noisy. I think they finally went home about 2am. Needless to say, I was sleepy tired the next day.

I started the day by running/slack packing from our campsite north for 4.5 miles to the spot I stopped yesterday. Martha met me there and drove me back to were we camped. Then I ran south for 3 miles and met Martha again to reload on snacks and water. The next time we met was on Kelly’s Knob. Not much of a view really. We hiked together back to her car and then I continued 2 more miles.

Keffer Oak - estimated at 300 years old. Second largest tree in the AT.
Keffer Oak – estimated at 300 years old. Second largest tree in the AT.

We camped by Johns Creek. A nice site but there was no cell coverage. The trail in Virginia south of Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Parkway is the worst maintained trail I’ve seen thus far. It is overgrown in so many places. That plus the heat (and the rattlesnake) made it a tough day on the trail for me.

Day 78 (Tinker’s Cliffs to VA 620)

We got up and had breakfast sitting on Tinker’s Cliffs. What a treat! I started hiking first because I wanted to take a few pictures at McAfee Knob. Martha had done this the day before. We met up at her car 10 miles away and ate a snack.

The days are really starting to get hot. A number of the afternoon miles went through pastures that had no shade. Martha meet up with me again to climb to the Dragon Tooth. It was pretty rocky. I continued on South and she hiked back to her car and drove to meet me at VA 620.

Dragon Tooth

In the last mile of the day, I saw a copperhead snake. It is only the second poisonous snake that I have seen on my hike.

We had planned to camp near VA 620 but decided we didn’t feel good about the spot. Instead we drove to the Audie Murphy monument and camped there. I will run north to VA 620 in the morning and then come back here and head south again. We had a nice big campfire. It is only the second campfire I’ve sat by this summer.

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