Day 50 – Thursday, April 28: Laurel Creek to Dismal Falls, 27.1 miles, 610.1 total AT miles.

I woke at 5:30am and started packing – I knew I had a long day ahead. I had a little light rain overnight and it threatened to continue as I packed.

I retrieved my bear bag – another awesome hang, but not picture worthy.
Savage left early and first, ascending out of camp at 6:30. I stayed to drink a cup of coffee with Monster and Moon Boots as they ate breakfast.
Yesterday morning, Moon Boots and I met a section hiker (Michael) as we were leaving camp. We saw him periodically through the day and ended up tenting with him last night. Turns out, he’s looking to make big miles and liked the idea of making it to Pearisburg by tomorrow night.
I walked over to his tent and told him of our plan to make it to Trent’s Grocery – a country store and grill located about 25 miles up trail. He said he’d keep up – I offered to grab him a burger if he didn’t make it by the time they closed.
Moon Boots and I started the ascent out of camp at 7:30 at a fairly speedy pace. Push left shortly after Savage – we were playing catch-up as we hiked through Rhododendron tunnels on our way to Trent’s.
I passed two other thru-hikers, Champa and Get Weird, as I crossed the trail boss trail. I was about ten feet behind Champa when I looked down and saw what I thought was a fishing lure – it was actually a bright orange lizard. Champa paused to check it out – apparently, they’re quite frequently seen.

  
Moon Boots and I hiked on, heading towards I-77 when Monster caught up to us. This was totally expected – he’s well over 6 foot tall and carries a 60 lb. pack. He rarely uses his trekking poles. He’s literally a monster.
While the elevation profile called for a relatively easy hike to Trent’s Grocery, water management would be an issue. I left camp with enough to make it the 11 miles to Helveys Mill Shelter – my next viable water source.
With the interstate in sight, the three of us stumbled across some much needed trail magic. In the center of the AT lay a dozen grocery bags, each packed full of Mountain Dew, Coca-Cola and bottles of water. I added water to my Playpus and chugged a Mountain Dew before crossing the interstate.
My first days in Virginia were marked with graded mountains and green valleys. As we crossed the bridge, I noticed the terrain had subtly changed – the climate was drier and the mountains much rockier.

  
After a short, steep push, the three of us arrived at the shelter and paused to eat lunch. I skipped on making a hot lunch in favor of conserving water – the hike down to the spring was steep and fairly long.
I spread my tent on the AT to dry in the sun as the three of us ate heartily. After a nice 30 minute break, we set off. The next nine miles ahead to Jenny Knob Shelter were without a water source as well. I still had two liters in my Platypus – more than enough to make the hike.
As we hiked, I observed an interesting pattern form that I can only attribute to Monster’s military background. He could have easily made the hike alone, burning up miles on the easy terrain and leaving Moon Boots and I (but just mostly me) in the dust. Instead, he liked to frequently re-arrange the hiking order, often suggesting Moon Boots or I lead. In the end, the three of us kept up with and motivated each other to hike fast through what was a pretty boring section.
It was a good thing we stuck together too – before we even realized it, we were crossing the 600 mile mark.
  
At 2:00, we made it Jenny Knob Shelter. The three of us peeled off the AT and headed straight for the spring – I had just run out of water. And I wanted my hot lunch. Even though Trent’s Grocery was only nine miles away, I could feel myself in need of nourishment.
After lunch, I took off my boots to change socks (my feet were pretty sweaty) and noticed that the minor discomfort I had begun feeling on my right heel was actually a blister. It was located in exactly the same spot (just a different foot this time) as the one that plagued me before I got new boots in Damascus. I threw on some Band-Aids and athletic tape before moving on.
Our pace slowed as we made the gradual descent from Jenny Knob to Trent’s Grocery. I told the guys to move on as I wanted to take it easy on my heel – that and I wanted a quick snack. I soon emerged from the woods and entered a small pasture – a sure sign I was getting close to a road crossing.
  
I re-entered the woods and came across Moon Boots and Monster at the beginning of a suspension bridge that spans Kimberling Creek. We paused to take a few photos when I heard a “hey Dad” come from the woods – it was Canuck, racing to catch up. The four of us crossed and immediately turned left onto VA 606 heading for Trent’s.
  
Trent’s Grocery is more like a convenience store with a grill. I went to set my pack down on the bench and saw Savage and Push’s packs leaning against the building. I walked inside and said hi – they had been waiting on us for maybe a half an hour.
I ordered dinner to go (including that promised burger for Michael) and bought a few snacks before sitting down. While they were waiting, Savage and Push scouted out possible camping sites. We had two choices: either pay $7 to camp at Trent’s “Campground” (the property behind the grocery) or hike on Dismal Falls – ranked as one of the prettiest side-trail campsites on the AT.
I knew it was decided before we even began debating. I told Push I’d see them at Dismal Falls and started hiking. Even though it was only two miles away, it was nearing late afternoon.
As I was hiking down VA 606 towards the trailhead, I saw three hikers approaching me. Champa and Get Weird were hiking with Michael, all on their way towards Trent’s. I handed the burger off to Michael who, upon hearing we were headed two miles up trail, turned around to follow suit.
The late afternoon push was well worth it. Dismal Falls is easily one of the nicest campsites I’ve had so far. Moon Boots and I camped on two small grassy areas – only about 20 yards from the falls.

  
After gorging on my to go sandwiches (and a whole bunch of snacks), I went to my tent to write.
Awesome day hiking! I thought it was cool to see seven hikers (now including Michael) hike a literal marathon and only be about an hour apart the whole day – no one let up or stopped short.
Tomorrow calls for rain – in fact, a light rain has been falling while I type. We discussed the weather as a group. If it’s nasty tomorrow, then we’ll all just make the push to Pearisburg. If it’s nice, then we’ll hang out at the falls until noon or so, tenting late at night a few miles outside of town. Either way, I’ve only got 25 miles to go.
I lost one of my North Face camp shoes today. It was stuffed in a side pocket and must have fallen out somewhere along the way. I don’t have high hopes of it being found. It’s the same color grey as most of the boulders and rocks in this area – it’s likely gone for good.

Breakfast: coffee, almonds, beef jerky, Blueberry Crisp Clif Bars
Snack: Mountain Dew
Lunch: 3 beef jerky tortilla roll ups, dried figs

Snack: 4 packs of Star Wars fruit snacks

Dinner (from Trent’s): orange Gatorade, two grilled chicken sandwiches ($8.48) then, two Blueberry Crisp Clif Bars and the rest of my almonds

Author: Chris Kummer

Hey y'all - Cool Dad here. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to thru-hike the AT. It remained a nagging thought for nearly a decade - then it got loud enough to warrant my attention. So I quit my unfulfilling job(s) in Seattle and commenced hiking north from Springer in the spring of 2016. And I'm exceedingly thankful I did. The people I met, the things I saw, the gross foods I ate - not a day goes by without fondly remembering life on the trail. If you've already thru-hiked a long trail, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're thinking about tackling a long-distance hike, do it. Do it now. I'm probably gonna do it again...

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