Sunday, June 7, 2015
Appalachian Trail - Laurel Creek to Pearisburg, VA
Over Memorial Day weekend I decided to get out and take a little trip in Virginia. Originally I had planned on attempting a thru hike of the Foothills Trail, but decided to take a trip that would allow me a better chance of success. Pushing out 77 mile on the FHT over a weekend would have set me up with monster mile days and a sense of necessity rather than enjoyment. I was extremely happy with my decision as the weather and terrain were perfect for hiking in the "Longest State" on the Appalachian Trail.
I drove to Pearisburg, VA after work on Thursday night so I could get a early morning shuttle on Friday. I slept in my van in the church parking lot next to the Holy Family Hostel. I had stayed there once before on a previous hike, but rather than waste needed time for rest and sleep setting up and tearing down camp the van just seemed like the better option.
I was meet at the parking lot bright and early (6am) by my shuttle driver. Don Raines is based out of Pearisburg and is extremely reliable and knowledgeable about the trail in the area. I had used him before on the previously mentioned trip and knew he would be a great choice. (You can find his information in Awol's Guide) The drive to my drop off point was picturesque and filled with promise of great weather.
Arriving at the trail head just after 7am I was ready to put in some miles. The weather was perfect for hiking!!! Mid 50's and breezy!! The grade of the trail in this area is very gradual and made for a good start to what was going to be a longer day on the trail.
Not too long into the morning I was greeted by two fellas who recognized me from my Youtube videos. We had a short, but great conversation and they really set the positive tone for my day. It really makes me feel good to know that the videos I put out there help motivate or inspire others to Get Out and Hike. Little did they know they truly inspired me for the rest of my hike. To see people out enjoying themselves, accomplishing personal goals, staying healthy really is such a positive thing to see. I couldn't help but reflect on that meeting the rest of my journey and just feel good about it.
The weather was perfect and I meandered through the hills lost in thought the remainder of the day. Leapfrogging with 2015 Thru Hikers throughout the day really had me thinking of my attempt in 2012. Reflecting on memories of the past made the day go by relatively quickly and before I knew it I made 19 miles to Jenny Knob Shelter where I would decide to call it a day. I was the only one at the shelter (setup outside in my tent as usual) until around 10pm when I heard a weary hiker trudge in and settle in the shelter for the night.
I woke up with the birds as my alarm clock and hit the trail shortly after 6am on Saturday morning. The weather was once again perfect for hiking and I made great time. The only issue with starting off early in the morning before everyone else is that I get to clear the trail of spider webs for all the late risers. The nickname for people on the trail who do this has been dubbed "The Web Master" and this morning I truly was this.
Shortly after starting my hike I arrived at my first road crossing of the day. I was greeted by a past thru hiker out providing Trail Magic. I stopped to say hello and thank him for his efforts, but decided not to take anything so he could save it for the deserving thru hikes that would shortly be coming through.
For the most part the trail was relatively smooth and flat during the morning. It meandered next to a stream and through a peaceful wooded setting up until I stopped for lunch. Knowing the day would be a high mileage day the easy terrain was very welcome. I made great time and had put in around 14 miles by the time I stopped for lunch.
Stopping to eat right before a gruesome climb was a good decision. Not only did I get a chance to camel up, fill up my water bottles, rest and air out my feet, but I was also able to consume the needed calories I would need for energy to boost me up the mountain. After my usual 45 minute break I pushed on.
After the climb to the top of the hill the remainder of the day wasn't too bad. Originally I contemplated stopping at Wood's Hole Hostel to experience what it had to offer, but as I heard from the thru hikers who I had encountered the place was going to be packed. I decided to stick to my original plan and press on to Doc's Knob Shelter where I would call it a day.
There weren't really any sites at the shelter for tenting and I am not a huge fan of sleeping in shelters. I decided to backtrack the tenth of a mile to an old road bed and setup my tent alone for the evening. Once in my tent I checked to see if I had cell service and was able to get a few texts and a call out to home. Upon doing so I received the bad news that one of my dogs had fallen ill and had to be rushed to the emergency vet. This didn't make my evening a very relaxing one. There was nothing I could do from where I was at and this made me feel quite useless and depressed. There was no way I could make it the 10 extra miles to the car before dark even if I had wanted to and even if I did she was already at the vets.
I awoke before the sun came out and was on the trail in the morning just as enough light was available to see the trail. The morning was another spectacular one which made the stress of getting back to home to see my pupp a little more tolerable. I made it back to the vehicle shortly after 10am and headed home (as I sit here typing this it has been a while since this journey and she is doing well again!!! :) ).
Another great adventure (minus the stressful part at the end) !!!!! Virginia usually gets a bad wrap for being a big green tunnel. It can be a little daunting from a thru hikers perspective if one is counting down the states, but otherwise it is a great place to hike and I encourage everyone to give it a shot.....you will not be disappointed!!!
Until the next adventure......