I woke feeling surprisingly alert and refreshed after yesterday’s hike. I started packing up, still inside the schoolhouse. I ventured outside to find Moon Boots and Canuck waking up as well.
After a quick trip to the semi-restored, yet fully-functional, boys privy, the three of us set off for town. The trail this morning was stunning – we exited the forest and hiked through grassy farmland on our way to The Barn in Atkins.
The four miles into Atkins went by too quickly. Little did I know we would have even better pasture crossings in the miles ahead.
The three of us walked into The Barn to order breakfast, first grabbing a booth, then a large table as other hikers arrived. The same eight hikers (myself included) that had lunch yesterday in Marion now sat to eat breakfast in Atkins. It’s not always Pasta Sides in the woods.
While I ate, I uploaded my blog and discussed plans moving forward to Pearisburg. I expressed interest in hiking in on Friday night – that would mean hiking 93 miles over the next four days, including today. For me, that seemed a little ambitious, but I think I’m up for the challeng
We departed separately, all heading for the same campsite I’m tenting at tonight. I was at the end of the line. The trail crosses under I-81 after leaving Atkins – and right before the trail left the roadside and entered the woods, two deer ran right in front of me. Little did I know, there’d be weirder animals ahead.
I paused to check my external battery and try to get some music playing through my speaker, when Push caught up to me – she stayed at a trail angel’s home with a few other hikers last night. Despite today’s apparently jagged elevation profile, the trail was well-graded and made for easy miles. We enjoyed intermittent music through the speaker (as cell coverage prohibited) as we hiked.
At the bottom of Little Brushy Mountain, we ran into Moon Boots and Savage relaxing by stream next to the Crawfish Trail. I grabbed some water and sat for a few minutes to rest. I still felt great – it was noon and I’d covered nearly 10 miles.
The four of us set off together to climb Walker Mountain – another nicely graded climb. Moon Boots stayed ahead. When I found him at the top of the mountain, he was sitting next to a sign. I knew at some point today I’d pass the 1/4 mark – and was very pleased someone had hung a sign to commemorate the event. High fives and “hell yeahs” all around.
The four of us descended Walker Mountain and quickly found ourselves exiting the woods and entering one of the most beautiful pastures I’ve ever seen – rolling green hills and big blue skies. The weather was perfect, mid 70’s with a nice breeze.
We hiked through a thin wooded area, fenced in on both sides by private farms. I personally speculated how old this section of trail must be, seeing as how the only reason this bit of land exists is to provide an easement for the AT.
As we approached a road crossing, we ran across Lumbermack, a former thru-hiker, now retired and out providing trail magic for the day. I enjoyed a quick snack and pressed on – through another perfect pasture.
We entered the woods again and started descending towards the Holston River. I was following Moon Boots when, all of the sudden, he jerks his head left, points at a tree and yells, “What the hell is that?”
I didn’t see it at first, but when I did, I was dumbfounded. Something furry was clinging to a tree (and nearly perfectly camouflaged). I got off trail and moved closer to inspect it and snap a picture. It was decided that it was a woodchuck – I had never seen one before and still don’t know if that’s what it was.
Today was going pretty good so far – hot breakfast, beautiful pastures, weird animals and trail magic. But it was getting hot.
Luckily, we soon found ourselves on the banks of the Holston River. The four of us relaxed in the water and cooled off. It was extremely refreshing – just what I needed.
After a quick ascent up Brushy Mountain, we bypassed the Knot Maul Branch Shelter and found Monster, Juan, Sweet Potato and Oriole at Lynn Camp Creek. I set up my tent and made a quick dinner.
We sat around until 8:00 being entertained by Juan and Savage trying to figure out “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on the banjo and ukulele. (It’s good to know other folks have as hard a time getting this song out of their heads as I do).
At sunset, I set out to hang my food – usually an easy task made difficult tonight by a lack of suitable trees. It was tough, but Savage and I managed to hang our bags over the creek – it’s one of my finer hangs. I’m actually proud of it.
I retired soon thereafter and started writing. So if I really want to be in Pearisburg by Friday night, I’ll need to put up some big miles for the next three days – I’ll need 75 miles in all. My goal for tomorrow is to make it 24 miles to Laurel Creek. The elevation looks okay – my only concern is about the eight miles of ridge walking tomorrow. If it’s rocky (as they’re prone to being around here), I’ll be moving slowly.
Trail rumor has a fifty percent chance of rain for the next three days, supposedly starting at some point tonight.
Today was a great day to be hiking the AT – this small section definitely ranks towards the top as far as I’m concerned. So far, Virginia has been great.
Breakfast: The Barn – 8oz sirloin steak, hashbrowns, side of biscuit and gravy, coffee, orange juice $14.25 with $5.75 tip
Snack (trail magic): Cola, Little Debbie Fudge Round
I skipped lunch – just wasn’t hungry
Snack: Almonds, beef jerky, Little Debbie Banana Marshmallow Cake
Dinner: Cheddar Chipotle Pasta Side with chicken spiked with cheddar-bacon flavored instant mashed potatoes, Star Wars fruit snacks, Blueberry Clif Bar