Day 32: Bedford to Cornelius creek shelter
We were sweating in the hotel room, but no one wanted to cut the heat down. Once you’re warm…
The Super8 was great. One employee, Tammy, couldn’t believe we were going back out hiking. We showed her pictures and she gave us a card and asked us to send her a postcard letting us know we made it safely. We talked to her for a good long while, letting her try on our packs and showing her pictures. It’s fun, making these connections.
Unfortunately, the pictures I have from this morning are all gone. You’ll see later.
We took more showers (it’s so nice to be clean) and then packed up, ready to walk to Walmart and finish resupplying. It was about 4 miles and no one wanted to give us a ride, despite a break to try hitching. It wasn’t a hard walk, though, and I spent some of the time on the phone.
We spent quite a bit of time in walmart and the attached subway. We happened to meet the president of the local ATC, which was a nice coincidence and kind of fun. I wasn’t there when he came back for a picture and contact info, but still cool.
While there, my phone died (like, dead died), so huge thanks to mom for the new iPhone/Christmas present, the Walmart employee who tried to fix it, and the Bedford Verizon employees (hey Bobby!) who got me setup with a new phone super quick. I have nothing though, so don’t expect emails or messages or anything for a week.
I did get Snapchat though, because I’ve maintained a 100 day streak with my little sister throughout this section!
Raingear came and picked us up, killer trail magic again. The drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway was short and easy. He told us that if we road walked 3 miles or so we’d get to a shelter close to where we got off and skip minimal miles, so that’s what we did.
The night hike was gorgeous- the moon reflected off the snow, the below freezing temperatures were warm enough to be comfortable, we were all in a good mood. We didn’t even need headlamps, the moon was so bright.
And best of all, this shelter was one Graybush and Raingear had left a ton of firewood neatly stacked and covered at. We broke trail off a fire road and got a fire going for our first communal feast- sausages, potatoes, onions, boneless ribs, and cheese. Expertly cooked by Rabbit and Sar Tec.
LVP: toe is still definitely broken lol
Day 33: Cornelius creek to Bryant Ridge Shelter
I woke up first. It was daylight outside, and cold, but not so cold that I was lazy about going to pee. I mean, definitely below freezing but I have different standards now.
Also at Walmart I bought a pack of hot hands for $5 and had stuffed some in my socks, and waking up with warm feet just changes everything.
Snapchat said it’s 23F.
We all slept late.
We looked at the plan for the day. We were supposed to do 14 miles, but that put us at a shelter with no water 4 miles before or 6 miles after. That’s ok in warm temps but terrible in cold temps. So we changed to a short day- 5 miles to a huge 20 person shelter with a good water source!
We grubbed, and the boys promptly went back to sleep.
Eventually someone had to leave, and I was getting a little frustrated with the laziness. We get along really well most of the time, but after a week or two of constantly being together, there will be some friction in even the best groups.
I left to break trail. The guys had decided that I should go first, since I was ostensibly the slowest (more on this later), so I set off.
I was pissed. And I started off pissed, and I stayed pissed, and I hiked pissed, but eventually the fun of breaking trail got to me. I chose the deepest drifts to step in. “Jerks think you can’t winter hike in trail runners, huh? Well WATCH ME.”
No matter how ticked off you are, tromping through snow for 5 miles will probably fix you, at least a little. Exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. Right?
“I fee like we owe you an apology. We didn’t think about how hard it would be to break trail, and even coming after you that was rough.” Some of my residual anger disappeared a little more. I deserved that apology. But I admitted to them that I’d actually had a lot of fun doing all that work, so it all worked out.
Popcorn Hat was way behind, so me being the slowest hiker was complete bull. I broke trail with a broken toe and still hiked faster than him. They need to reevaluate.
We settled in and cooked dinner– hot dogs and, for me, the baked potatoes I’d been trying to get since waynesboro. It was everything I’d dreamed of.
The nights are warming up more, and my time on the trail is getting shorter. I know myself, and that means I’m likely to pick fights to make it easier to leave my trail family. I need to keep myself from doing that.
MVP: I loved breaking trail but THAT BAKED POTATO (there were 3 small ones)
LVP: spats and little tiffs
Day 34: Bryant Ridge Shelter to Bobblets Gap Shelter
We meant to leave early. 13.5 in the snow wasn’t going to be easy. But we made coffee and I started looking at the log book (look who I found!) and before we knew it it was 10:30.
I left shortly after that.
And eventually…we ended up at Bobbletts Gap. We were all exhausted and hungry. We didn’t bother with a fire, which is really saying something for us. We just sort of fell into bed and ate there and tried to hydrate. The shelter is an annoying .2 off the trail but it’s so well-set up- the privy is clean and it and the water are close and both on level paths, which is nice. The water has a great flow and it’s nice to listen to. It’s a good shelter, really. It’s no palace like Bryant Ridge but I’d stay here again, for sure.
ALSO- Rabbit, our Tribal Leader, made us all a dessert tonight. He toasted marshmallows over his canister stove, then put those with Nutella in a tortilla and fried it in butter in his flat pan. HEAVEN.
I weirdly have service down here.
Time is getting shorter. I had a dream about work the other day. I’ve been texting school people about responsibilities there. I’m not ready to go back.
I could live in the forest another few months.
MVP: Sar Tec’s lunch. No, there was a long stretch without water today, and I ran out super quick. Rabbit found a small stream and pointed it out and that was the best water I have ever had in my life.
LVP: I ate all of my dessert and it ended.
Day 35: Bobblets Gap Shelter to Wilson Creek Shelter
We hiked the .2 up from the shelter and the boys needed a snack break.
We stopped for snack at a trash can with a nice view. The guys stayed longer and…well, I guess they fell asleep.
I popped out of the woods to a road crossing and met a guy taking my picture. He’s with the Roanoke ATC and we chatted for quite a while. Then I hiked on and found a woman out for a day hike. We stopped and talked for a few minutes, and that was nice too. She was friendly and bright and there was something…maybe cheerful? About her. It put me in a good mood.
The shelter we were supposed to meet at for lunch didn’t have good water (.2 down a steep blue blazed side trail), so I sat at the spring before the shelter for 20 minutes or so, snap chatting my little sister and waiting for the guys to make sure they knew to get water for lunch. They didn’t come.
I walked on to the shelter, another .5, and decided to put some tape on a hotspot where I could feel a blister forming. 15 minutes later, no guys. I started to get a little angry. It was creeping up on 4pm, and we still had 6 more miles to do. I decided I would wait another 15 minutes, until 4pm, and then I would hike on. I was a little slower than Rabbit and Sar Tec, and I didn’t want to night hike that much.
They came in at 3:52. I was angry. “Yeah, we decided to just stay here.”
They’d evidently made that decision and then not told me, or made it after I’d left…poor communication. I tried to let it go. I’d wanted to be at the next shelter so I could get to Daleville sooner and pick up my package as soon as possible. The rest of the group wasn’t on my timeline and they didn’t care. There was some friction, and I began to wonder if I needed to finish my hike without the guys. I decided to wait and see. Oregon Trail choices.
Sar Tec made us an incredible dinner- sausages and chicken and rice with cheese on tortillas. We enjoyed the fire Rabbit made and actually sat around the picnic table to eat, since we weren’t freezing for once. It was nice.
LVP: waiting for the boys
Day 36: Wilson Creek Shelter to Troutville City Shelter
None of us slept well. It was too hot. We didn’t have enough water. The warm weather had kicked up our allergies. The moon was full and shining and it reflected on the ground to look like snow.
At 8 am I headed out, for one because I wanted to get to town to pick up my package that my incredible roommate mailed me and two because I needed water. I was still a little ticked off at the guys, and they didn’t seem to be in any rush to leave, despite the lack of water (all we had was about 12 oz between the 4 of us), so I just got up and left.
It had been the plan Sar tec and I had sort of discussed the day before, when they’d decided (without telling me) to stay at this shelter instead of the next one, so I just went ahead and did it.
Evidently they were ticked that I left without really saying anything. I can see that. Frankly, it’s a lot of togetherness.
It was .5 to the next water source. Once there I downed a liter in a matter of minutes. And I brushed my teeth.
And I ate.
The walk to town was ok…except for this one hill up a pasture. It was so steep and at the top I was just standing in a bunch of cow poop. I was on the phone with my little sister at the time, and stopped the conversation to complain about what a terrible hill it was. And then the poop! So much poop. Ugh.
The best part of the walk was talking on the phone to so many people. Thanks Bent, Kelsey, and Macy for answering your phones!! Those conversations gave me some perspective on my trail family situation, and kept me from stewing too much in my own anger. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in passive-aggressive revenge schemes when you’re hiking. Especially for me.
I got my package at the post office. I actually hitched down there. I decided to time it to see how long it took me to get a ride. 6 minutes. It felt like forever.
The woman at the post office offered to let me take her car if I needed to get to a laundromat. How’s that for faith in humanity?
I walked the 1.4 back to Troutville from Daleville and then another 1.2 to the fire station. On the walk, ANOTHER sobo caught up to me. Happy Pants has been mostly alone his entire thru-hike, and now he’s part of the winter Sobo bubble.
Sar tec caught up to us too, and we all three walked in to Troutville together, where Rabbit and Popcorn Hat were waiting on us. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I felt like I got a little bit of a frosty reception from Rabbit and Popcorn Hat, but I knew why. Sometimes these things happen in families.
A quick stop in to the grocery for a snack, and then we walked across the street to the fire station. Here we could shower and do laundry, and yet again it paid off to be the only girl– the guys have always let me shower first in hotels (they are so hairy and nasty), but this time I had the women’s shower all to myself.
We started laundry and then settled in for phone time, cards, and snacking. Once clean and dry, it was dark, but we grabbed dinner (hot dogs) and then went to the park to set up in the free shelter.
Our group had a nice time together, and we got over the coldness of earlier. Although there was the train that came through town right behind us, a random guy catching Pokémon and listening to hardcore rap at 1am, and what I was convinced were monkeys. We slept.
LVP: bad cough and not great sleep. I may have black lung.
Day 37: Troutville to lamberts meadow shelter
We walked to daleville (for the second time, for me) and all met up at the gas station.
All of us except for Popcorn Hat. We waited and waited, then got worried. Happy pants left his pack with us and ran back to look for him.
Happy Pants didn’t come back. Sar Tec went to look for them both, because what if Popcorn Hat was hurt and Happy Pants was trying to help him and had Popcorn Hat’s huge 70lb pack, too.
Rabbit and I stood and worried. An ambulance came and we panicked. It turned away, and we let out a collective sigh of relief, but where were they all?
I decided to call Popcorn Hat. “Hello?”
“WHERE ARE YOU? ARE YOU OK?!?”
“Uh, yeah, I’m at Kroger…”
I texted Sar Tec. We didn’t have Happy Pants’s number. We worried. Sar Tec came back, but no Happy Pants.
Finally, a cop car drove up, with Happy Pants in the back. He didn’t jump out. We worried again. Did he have pot on him? Did he get picked up for hitching?
The cop let him out with his hands behind his back, and we all surged forward. His face broke into a grin, and the cop couldn’t stop smiling either. We rushed forward, laughing and hugging. We thanked the cop for giving him a ride, told him well played, and set off for Kroger to find Popcorn Hat and give him a talking to for not coming over to the gas station, all the while filling each other in on the details of our panicked time.
We resupplied and then sat at Bojangles, eating and giving each other riddles. Yes, I am very smart and solved them. We were also minor celebrities in the town, since no one had seen hikers in months. We’re pretty hardcore.
It was finally time to hit the trail. Happy Pants was staying behind to meet up with his Lady for the night, so I said goodbye to him. He’ll catch up with the guys in a few days.
I hiked quite a bit with Rabbit. It was good, and I needed it. We talked about a lot of things- religion and the trail and also the other morning, when I’d left the shelter early. It was a good talk, and an important one to have before I left the trail. Not just to clear the air, but to think through some things that I’d been pondering the last few days. We learn things about ourselves when we hike.
The shelter was full, so we had to tent. It rained, but tribal leader and the guys got a fire going anyways, and cooked a feast: sausage and steak and catfish, veggies and spices. I had wine and bread and cheese to eat while it cooked. We passed back extras to the weekenders in the shelter, and impressed them with our culinary skills. Well, the boys did. I just stood around and broke up kindling and passed around the wine. Not a bad gig if you can find men who like to cook and build fires.
LVP: last dinner
Day 38: lamberts meadow shelter to VA 311
I had to say goodbye this morning. I was ready to leave by 8, but I didn’t get out of camp until 8:50. I just couldn’t tear myself away.
Rabbit and I had talked a lot about what I’d learned on this section. I’d set out with an ambitious but doable goal. Food poisoning, weather, a broken toe…things conspired against me to get me to slow down. I should have listened to my body at the beginning when those 20 mile days were so tough, but I pushed anyways. It was good, though, because that’s how I found my trail family.
Without them, I would have pushed through a lot more. I probably wouldn’t have broken my toe. I probably wouldn’t have learned how to slow down and enjoy the trail and throw my schedule out the window.
I’m…reevaluating. I won’t stop hiking by any means, but I’d rather spend time on trail with some of my friends, and their sections may not line up with mine. And that’s ok. I can wait. I don’t have to finish the AT before I start working. I don’t have to finish the AT before I thru-hike the PCT, even.
I made it up to McAfees Knob, then flew down the next few miles. My pack felt so light, and my Altra Lone Peaks were so comfy, and the trail so well switch-backed, I actually ran most of the trail until I found my dad. I immediately regretted it.
We walked the next 2 miles together, chatting. A good way to end a year of hiking. I started with him hiking the first 3 miles of my very first section with me. I ended this section with him hiking with me. I’m so lucky to have parents who are so supportive of my need to find myself in the forest.
So now I’m back, and missing my trail family, and missing the forest. But don’t worry, my dear friends. I’ll be back out soon. The mountains aren’t done teaching me all the things I need to learn.
Trip total: 413.3 miles
LVP: saying goodbye
Final Injury List:
– Bad cold
– Pinched muscle on ribs
– Turned ankle
– One numb toe