Day 58 – Friday, May 6: Four Pines Hostel to Angel’s Gap, 20.6 miles, 722.4 total AT miles.

I woke up to a rooster crowing in the distance. Four Pines really is a cool place. I walked outside to grab a Dr. Pepper from the cooler before taking an early morning shower. I quickly packed and got ready to leave.

Monster, Juan, Oriole and Sweet Potato left about a half hour before us. They’re getting off-trail to relax in Roanoke. It’s likely that Monster will resume his 20-plus mile days and catch us soon.

Savage, Shaggy, Black Santa and I left later. Medicine Man stayed behind – Summer’s limping and he’s taking her to the vet. Before we left, he told us he’d be seeing us soon. I didn’t know what he meant, but would find out later in the day.

The four of us made the half mile hike back to the trailhead and hiked north. The AT approaching McAfee Knob is very popular and well graded. I made great time.

After chatting with a guy metal detecting in the parking lot at VA 311, I started making the climb up to McAgee Knob. I soon discovered I had good cell service. I fell behind the pack and enjoyed some private time, talking on the phone with family. It was great hearing their voices – I’ve been in the woods without service for a while now.

I made my way up to McAfee Knob and asked another hiker to snap a few photos of me on the precipice.

I still didn’t know where Savage, Shaggy and Black Santa were at. The same hiker that took my photo told me they were on the other side of the trail having lunch. Sure enough, I found them cooking, shielded from the wind by a clump of bushes.

We ate and quickly hiked on. It was 1:00pm and we still had another six miles to go before hitting the Tinker Cliffs. I hiked strong on the easy grade.

Black Santa and I stopped for a quick break under a rock outcropping before making the ascent up to Tinker Cliffs.

The AT actually travels alongside the cliffs for about half a mile. Savage stopped to make a video and I continued on, pausing every couple of yards to admire the view.

As I left the cliffs for Lambert’s Meadow Shelter, I noticed it was getting late. I stopped at the shelter to collect water and use the privy before moving on. I decided to take my time, knowing camp would only be a few miles away.

At 7:00pm, I caught up with my hiking buddies, who had just made camp. I quickly set up my tent and the four of us sat down to make dinner. I decided to call it an early night and retired to my tent to upload a week’s worth of journal entries.

Tomorrow calls for an early entry into Daleville for a food resupply – we’re only five miles away right now. I’d like to leave town quickly and be back on the trail before noon.

I’m planning on hiking to Waynesboro, VA in 6 days starting tomorrow morning – it’s 135 miles away. Our plan WAS to arrive in Waynesboro on Thursday and rent a car so we could five to Trail Days for the weekend.

But plans change. Medicine Man called today and needs to get off-trail to care for his dog. Summer is a big part of his hike and I’m proud of the guy for sticking with his plan.

He ended up renting an SUV to drive to the vet and do some slack packing over the coming days. Seeing as how he now has wheels, he told us he would pick us up in Waynesboro and take us Trail Days – that was some good news.

He’ll be able to spend some time looking for decent accommodations while he’s off-trail as well. He additionally wants to meet up at a road crossing in the coming days and surprise us with some trail magic.

I told Black Santa so he can help me play a little trick on Savage and Shaggy. I want to keep the trail magic and trip to Trail Days a secret.

Breakfast: 10 gram protein bar, Powerbar 20 gram bar

Snack: Dot’s Pretzels

Lunch: Parmesan Pasta Side with tuna and bacon bits

Snack: beef jerky, Dot’s Pretzels

Dinner: Kraft Mac and Cheese with tuna

Day 57 – Thursday, May 5: Stealth Camp to Four Pines Hostel, 5.0 miles, 701.8 total AT miles.

I woke up early to use the bathroom, again hoping I wouldn’t disturb my camp mates. It was raining and very cold – I raced back to camp and jumped into my sleeping bag to warm up. I put on (I feel like I say this a lot) every piece of clothing I had and started packing up.

Because our “stealth camp” was essentially crammed onto the fringes of the Appalachian Trail itself, the four of us were able to plan for the day without even leaving our tents.

Savage needed to pick up a package from the Four Pines Hostel five miles up trail. We all agreed we’d hop off trail with her and dry out a bit as it was supposed to rain all day.

I ate a dry breakfast from within my tent and had a cup of cold instant coffee – I’m beginning to develop a taste for the “cold brew”.

By 7:30 we were packed and ready to go. The rain was coming down hard – the temp was in the upper 40’s. We quickly ascended the ridge and came upon the Dragon’s Tooth. My hands were numb – I snapped a quick picture before heading down to Newport Road.

The AT descends from the Dragon’s Tooth at a very nice grade. Despite the fact that the trail was flooded, we were making good time. We emerged onto Newport Road at 10:30 and headed for the hostel. I was very cold and wet at this point and seriously reconsidering my plan to hike on.

We made our way up the driveway to the Four Pines and walked in the door. I immediately saw a smiling face – Push had stayed there the night prior. She helped us get oriented.

If we chose to stay, all we needed to do was claim a cot and introduce ourselves to the caretaker. At this point, I was already nearly sold on staying. When I found out a shuttle for Daleville was leaving in an hour, I threw my pack next to a cot and changed into some dry clothes.

I hung my tent on a hook to dry and started unpacking. I pulled my phone out of my hipbelt and plugged it into the wall. While it’s in a Lifeproof case and was sealed in.a Ziploc bag, it got a little wet. I plugged in my exterior battery and let them both charge while I went into Daleville.

The first stop was the post office. Savage, Push and myself received packages. I got a new lens for my digital camera (I broke the original lens right before Damascus) along with some much appreciated protein bars and Dot’s Pretzels.

After that, we stopped by the outfitter – Black Santa had some gear waiting on him. I bought two new pairs of socks as well as a “professional” frisbee and a solar night light – I’ve been burning through batteries typing by headlamp.

Before I knew it, we were back at the hostel. Black Santa organized a laundry drop while I made a list of food I needed to buy once I finally hiked into Daleville.

This stop at the hostel came at the best time. I was able to do laundry and go to the post office – two things that would require serious hitching had I hiked in as planned.

About half an hour before we were to be shuttled to The Homeplace for their country buffet, Medicine Man walked in the door. He had consistently hiked about 4 miles behind us since leaving Pearisburg. Both him and Summer were drenched. As always, he was in great spirits. Summer collapsed on a cot and Medicine Man joined us for dinner.

After dinner, we hung around the hostel waiting for lights out at 10:00pm. I played a game of chess with Black Santa and kept checking on my phone and external battery to make sure both were okay.

Just as we were getting ready for bed, the door opened and Shaggy staggered in. He was drenched and red in the face from the cold rain. I was happy to see him – and extremely proud of him for hiking extra miles each day to catch up. I hadn’t seen Shaggy since I left to hike through the Grayson Highlands.

Medicine Man provided him with some leftover fried chicken and biscuits. We sat and caught up on all that had happened since last we saw each other. Before long, it was lights out and I retired to my cot to write.

Today was a little crazy. The cold rain was certainly unexpected – I’m thankful Savage had a package coming here, otherwise I might have spent the day huddled in my tent.

This is, by far, the nicest hostel I’ve stayed at (of the three so far).

Tomorrow, the weather looks nice – a little cool and cloudy, but with no rain. I’m glad I get to see McAfee Knob and the Tinker Cliffs in decent weather.

Saturday morning, I plan on walking into Daleville and resupplying at the Kroger for a six-day push to Waynesboro, VA.

Breakfast: the last of my peanut butter cup trail mix, protein bar

Snack: Dot’s Pretzels, Dr. Pepper

Dinner (at the Homeplace): fried chicken, BBQ pork, biscuits, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, 3 Arnold Palmers

Day 56 – Wednesday, April 4: Keffer Oak to Stealth Camp, 20.5 miles, 696.8 total AT miles.

I woke at 6:00am and quickly ran outside to find a rock or a log – I needed to go to the bathroom bad. I hoped I was being quiet, my plan was to slip back into my tent and sleep for another half hour.

No dice – I could hear Savage and Black Santa packing as soon as I got back into my sleeping bag. I sat up and drank a cup of cold instant coffee from inside my tent. It was actually really enjoyable.

I put on nice, dry clothes and started throwing things out of my tent. By the time I finally hopped out to start packing in earnest, I saw Savage sitting on a log ready to go. I packed up my tent and ate a quick breakfast before heading out.

Savage headed off first – Black Santa, Monster and I followed suit after a few photos with the Keffer Oak. The AT immediately exits the valley and heads straight up to the ridge. I took this first ascent of the day slowly. I was full of energy, but sweating hard halfway up. I didn’t push it – I wanted to keep a slow, steady pace to the top of Bruisers Knob.

I was pleased to find Black Santa waiting only a few minutes for me at the top. He’s a much faster hiker than I am and he’s only been on the trail since Damascus. We passed Sarver Hollow Shelter and starting making our way along the ridge line.

In about an hour, we caught up with Savage and enjoyed our first proper view in two days. I took a few pictures of the green mountains – I still can’t believe how quickly spring has come to 3,000 feet. I ate a quick snack and pushed on.

We had some easy hiking ahead. The AT leaves the ridge and begins a gradual six-mile descent to Niday Shelter and Craig Creek. We planned to hike along the ridge and down the mountain as fast as possible to gain time. The trail cooperated and we soon found ourselves passing the shelter and nearing Craig Creek.

A lone car was parked next to the creek – a older guy in a shirt and tie was standing by the car, looking up trail at us as we approached. As I got closer, I saw a bag of apples sitting on the hood. He offered us apples and cold drinks as we sat down to cook lunch.

This particular trail angel is a defense attorney taking a break between cases he has today in Pearisburg. He was a fun guy to talk to and really brightened up our lunch. I even gave him a gallon ziplock full of trash to toss out for me.

After lunch, the three of us began our second ascent toward Brush Mountain – also the home of the Audie Murphy monument. I tried the whole “slow, steady” approach that was so successful this morning. I had to stop halfway up. I was sweating and still a little full from lunch.

That hike was a pretty difficult 2.5 miles. You know, there’s this rumor among hikers that Virginia is “flat”. It may lack the high elevations of North Carolina, but I can’t tell much of a difference during these 1,500 foot ascents. It’s still pretty hard work.

I (again) found Black Santa at the top. Savage wasn’t far behind and we hiked just off-trail to take a break by the monument. Audie Murphy was the most-decorated soldier during WWII – his plane crashed in the early 70’s near to where we were taking a break.

I ate a quick snack and changed socks. While we were relaxing, I saw Monster flying up the hill towards us. For the past week, he’s expressed a need to hike 20 plus miles per day – he doesn’t want his Visa to expire before he reaches Katahdin. Juan, Sweet Potato and Oriole hike at a slightly slower pace (we’re talking maybe three or four miles a day slower) and it all adds up in the end.

It’s been a tough saying good bye to trail friends this past week as I’ve decided to hike a little longer each day – Monster’s been hiking with his group since day one. He decided to hike with us – at least for a few days until we reach Daleville so he can then see how far he is ahead.

We began the descent to Trout Creek, all keeping behind Savage at a fairly rapid pace. We were making good time on the day as we approached the creek. It was 4:00 and we were only a few miles shy of Pickle Branch Shelter and the ridge leading up to the Dragon’s Tooth.

We quickly passed the shelter, and an awesome grassy field, for a potential tentspace higher up by ascent. Things quickly got steep and rocky. I didn’t even try to keep up – I trusted that we’d stop at the first place available as soon as we hit the ridge. I hiked on.

There wasn’t anything for quite a while. I was getting frustrated – I wanted nothing more than to sit down and eat dinner. Things still weren’t looking good – to many jagged rocks and steep slopes. But, as luck would have it, I soon found the three of them mulling about on the AT. It wasn’t much – but there was enough space to pitch four tents.

I cleared my tiny area of debris and quickly set up my tent. After a nice hot meal, I joked around with Savage, Black Santa and Monster before going to bed.

I’m tired, but honestly much less than I expected I’d be. Everything is dry – including my tent when I climbed into it this evening. And my feet are finally doing noticeably better.

Another day with zero cell coverage – it’s the second day I’ve been checking whenever I take a break.

Tomorrow promises to be a long day. There’s numerous views starting with the Dragon’s Tooth and ending with the iconic shot from McAfee Knob. At some point, Savage has to quickly hop off-trail to grab a package from a hostel.

I’d like to get as close as I can to Daleville before tenting tomorrow night. I’d like to get into town around mid-morning on Friday and find a coffee shop or restaurant that his wifi so I can finally upload these journals. I’ll also need to charge my external battery as much as I can.

After stopping at the outfitters for new socks, at the post office to pick up my new camera lens, and at Kroger for a food resupply, I’d like to be back on the trail that same night. I just spent two days in town – I’m not quite ready to go back in.

Day 55 – Tuesday, May 3: “The Captain’s” to Keffer Oak, 21.0 miles, 676.3 total AT miles.

I woke up early and immediately started packing. While it rained hard all night, it was quiet now. I wanted to get my tent down as soon as possible. I usually put my rainfly in a gallon ziplock to keep it from saturating my tent once it’s in the dry bag. Today, it didn’t matter. I stayed dry, but my tent and footprint were as wet as the rainfly. Everything went into the dry bag.
I chugged a soda as I finished packing – I was ready to go at 7:00. Had I waited a little while longer before setting up my tent last night, I probably would have tented with everyone else in the front yard. In addition to the four I hiked in with, Monster, Juan and Oriole tenting as well.
I sat my bag on the bench and had another soda as I watched folks pack. In time, the first hiker made her way across the river, her butt just a few inches above the raging waters. As soon as Black Santa was packed up, the two of us went across. I went first and he sent our packs over separately before coming across himself.
We crossed several flooded creeks and streams right off the bat – within 15 minutes, my socks were soaked. In places, the trail was an actually stream. Black Santa and I tried to clean debris from some of the drainage ditches in hopes of diverting water off the trail. After a few minutes we gave up and hiked on.
After crossing Stony Creek, the AT rapidly climbs in elevation – about 1,200 feet in less than a mile. I started my climb at a slow, steady pace. I was feeling very good, despite my wet feet.
We eventually made it to Bailey Gap Shelter about 5 miles up trail from The Captain’s. While it was too early for lunch, and not sunny enough to dry anything out, we ate a quick snack before heading on.
We made our way to the top of a rock ridge and hiked along jagged rocks. While the terrain was substantially drier, my having wet shoes and socks made the goings slow. As I hiked, I noticed the clouds parting and blue skies showing through. I took off my pack cover and hung my wet socks on the outside to start drying.

Debris from yesterday’s hailstorm.

About an hour later, we were hiking in full sun. I had no way of knowing how long it would last. Even though we had only covered nine miles, we stopped to eat a hot lunch and dry out.
I immediately took off my shoes and put on my camp shoes. I put on my last pair of dry socks and spread all four wet pairs (two liners, two Darn Tough hikers) out on a rock to dry.
I pulled out my tent and gave it a good shake before splaying it out over some bushes. I even put on yesterday’s wet t-shirt and shorts knowing that they’d eventually dry if I wore them in the sun.
Even as I cooked lunch, I kept turning my tent, rainfly and footprint to make sure they got dry. About 45 minutes later, our sunny window started to close – more grey clouds were moving in. But it didn’t matter. Worse case scenario, I’d be able to climb into a dry tent at the end of the day. I strapped all four pairs of socks to the outside of my pack and hiked on.
At VA 613, I ran into trail magic. Someone tied a trash bag filled with snacks to a tree. Under a layer of empty Gatorade bottles, I found a honey bun and a small bag of peanuts. Good job!
After the rocky ridgewalk, the AT drops in elevation towards War Spur Shelter. I stopped at John’s Creek to refill water before heading up Kelly Knob. Right away, I knew this was going to be a tough hike. There were no switchbacks – the trail went straight up.
Savage and Black Santa quickly moved ahead. About halfway out, I stopped and sat down. My feet were killing me. It wasn’t the blister on my heel – that had been doing fine all day. It’s like my feet were sore from being wet.
I let them dry in the breeze for about 15 minutes before putting on fresh socks. It made a world of difference – I could tell right away that I was hiking better. I ate a quick snack at the top of Kelly Knob before moving on.
As I did, Oriole caught up to me. He was pressing for the Laurel Creek Shelter to tent for the night. Juan and Sweet Pea were also heading there – I probably won’t see them until I get to Daleville, VA. He also told me Monster wanted to catch up to Savage, Black Santa and myself – he wanted to sleep under the Keffer Oak as well.
It was nice chatting with Oriole – he gave me some good advice should I venture into Washington D.C. when I make it to Harper’s Ferry, WV.
I began the gradual descent towards the Keffer Oak. Near the Laurel Creek Shelter, the AT gets back to the nice grade I’ve become accustomed to. Having checked my AT Guide and app numerous times throughout the day, I knew that if I could make it out of the woods and into the valley, I’d be close to my destination for the evening.
At 5:00pm, I emerged from the woods into a beautiful green pasture. For the second time today, the clouds parted and the sun shined down. I paused for a few minutes to take it all in. I also ate some snacks.
As I slowly made my way up and over several rolling pastures, I kept stopping to admire the mountains on either side of me. It was late afternoon and the light was just right, almost at that amber glow. It was truly stunning.
In time, I found Savage, Black Santa and Monster relaxing in a field at the edge of the woods. As I approached, they stood up and the four of us hiked the mile or so up trail towards the Keffer Oak.
The Keffer Oak is a massive, old tree. It’s over 300 years old and is 18 feet around. I pitched my tent in the setting sun and made a quick dinner.

I was last in my tent tonight and started typing by headlamp.
I’m really glad I made it here – I was hoping for cell coverage, but no dice. It’s my mother’s birthday and I wanted her to know that I chose to celebrate it by sleeping under an ancient tree – I thought she’d like that.
Tomorrow looks tough. I’ve got at least three ascents I’ll need to tackle if I want to keep this 20 mile per day pace going. I hope to tent close to the Dragon’s Tooth – it’ll be cool to see this giant stone monolith in the early morning light.
While it sure looked like rain all day, we only got a few sprinkles. My socks are nearly dry after hanging from my pack all day and my shoes are pretty much dry as well.
Tonight there was talk amongst Savage and I about getting in and out of Daleville quickly rather than staying a night. I really want to go to Trail Days in a week and a half and feel like I need to put in some good miles before taking two days off.
Black Santa is from Colorado and works for a popular gear manufacturer. He’s been to Trail Days and really recommends we attend. There’s free food, free gear, free repairs – plus it’d be a great way to connect with other hikers. Most hikers I’ve met are looking for a means to get there – if I go, I’ll rent a car so I can get in and out (quickly if necessary).
I’m really sore, but noticed a world of difference in my hiking once I changed socks. I need to do this more often. The only gear I’m planning on buying in Daleville is new socks – it’ll be my first trip to a proper outfitter since Damascus.
Oh, I slipped and fell today. It was my first fall. I’ve slipped plenty of times, but my butt, legs or pack never hit the ground. Today I ended up on all three in the mud – my pack took the brunt of it. I was fine.
Breakfast: peanut butter cup trail mix, protein bar, one peach soda, one Mountain Thunder
Snack: beef jerky tortilla roll ups
Lunch: Kraft Mac and Cheese with tuna and Hot Blackening seasoning, 2 LD PB cakes
Snack: Honey bun, small bag of peanuts
Dinner: Creamy Chicken Pasta Side with a can of chicken (much better than the bagged stuff) spiked with nacho cheese instant mashed potatoes

Day 54 – Monday, May 2: Pearisburg, VA to “The Captain’s”, 20.7 miles, 655.3 total AT miles.

I woke up at 6:00 feeling refreshed. My feet were still sore, but they were feeling better – my heel blister had finally toughened up a bit. I shuffled over to the bathroom and took a long, hot shower.
By the time I made it out of the bathroom, Savage and Black Santa were up and packing. I opened the front door to let some fresh air in and laughed – we were completely socked in with fog. I checked the weather one last time as I started to pack.

We were looking at scattered thunderstorms for the next two days. I stayed off the trail yesterday for severe thunderstorms that never happened – unless it started lightning, I was getting on the trail.
I walked down to Moon Boots and Canuck’s room. They were up and still intent on heading off-trail to see a concert in Richmond. By the time they get back, I’ll likely be several days ahead. I’m sure I’ll see them again, but they’ll be missed in the meantime.
I then made my way up to Medicine Man’s room – his drapes were drawn and no one answered. I left the hotel and headed to catch up with Savage and Black Santa who were waiting at the DQ.
We crossed the street and quickly caught a hitch to the trailhead. After crossing the road, the three of us set off for The Captain’s. 

Last night in the room, we noticed we could camp at some pretty awesome spots if we committed to hiking over 20 miles all the way to Daleville. Making it to The Captain’s was our first goal.
The ascent leaving Pearisburg was well-graded. Despite finally getting started at around 9:30, the three of us were making good time.
I was instantly struck with how spring had finally come to the valleys. I’d previously been hiking at 3 to 4,000 feet before my rapid descent into Pearisburg. This morning I was fully able to appreciate that spring had come to the lower elevations.
I stopped at the Rice Field Shelter at noon for a hot lunch – Black Santa was already eating. I was treated to a nice view as I ate. Leaving Rice Field the trail briefly skirts the West Virginia border before heading north along the ridge – that’s five states so far.
Black Santa headed off and Savage and I left shortly thereafter. As we hiked along the ridge, I noticed the skies were getting darker. Through the breaks in the trees, I could see storm clouds on the horizon, presumably already raining on neighboring valleys.
I knew we were going to get hit soon – there really wasn’t much we could do about it. I stopped to take a quick break and Savage headed to catch up with Black Santa. I was nearing Dickenson Gap when the first raindrops started to hit my pack.
I had barely enough time to get my pack cover on before I was in a soaking downpour. I didn’t even bother with the rain jacket – at least it was dry inside my pack. I started hiking again in the rain, listening to intermittent thunder in the distance, when the storm really picked up.
The rain intensified and it started hailing. I hiked quickly up trail, the whole time dime-sized ice chunks were bouncing off my head. I soon found Savage and Black Santa huddled under a grove of trees. I ran over and stood as close as I could to trunk to try to avoid getting hit my hail. It really hurt! I eventually lifted my pack over my head and let it take the hits for me.
As the hail storm was raging, I looked down trail and saw Sweet Potato hurrying our way. She joined the huddle. For the next ten minutes, the four of us said very little. The lightening wasn’t immediately near, but it sure was close.
The storm stopped, just long enough for me to grab my rain jacket, before ramping up again. I had already strayed from the grove of trees and quickly dove under a log that was leaning against a boulder. The log did a better job protecting me from the hail – I crouched down and snacked on almonds.
After the storm, the four of us decided to make the quick ascent to the Allegheny Trail and decent to The Captain’s before another storm struck. Right before the AT intersects the Allegheny, I looked ahead and saw Savage playing with a golden retriever. Sure enough, it was Medicine Man and Summer, drying out from the hail storm.
The whole day, I thought he was still asleep when I left. Turns out, he left the hotel two hours before us. He really wanted to tent at The Captain’s. Awesome! We all started hiking again, the skies were not looking any better and thunder was still rumbling in the distance.
As I was hiking down the ridge towards Pine Swamp Branch Shelter, a second hail storm struck.
I started running down the trail towards the shelter and came across Sweet Potato still hiking on as well. We huddled between two oaks, waiting for the hail to stop. Thankfully, this second storm was brief and we were able to get moving rapidly.
We descended into the valley and soon made it the river crossing at The Captain’s. I sat in the little swing and hooked my pack to the carabiner above my head. The river was a little swollen from the quick thunderstorms, but not too bad. I pushed off and glided about a foot above the river.
Once on the other side, I quickly walked around to the back porch. Several hikers were huddled on the little porch. It was still raining and I wanted to get out of my wet clothes. I set up my tent in the rain, rain fly up first, and quickly hopped in.
It’s now 9:00pm and I haven’t left since.
I got drenched. My shoes and one full set of hiking clothes are soaked. I’m doing my best to dry things out before I go to bed. I’ve rung out and have hung my socks – the other clothes are in a gallon zip lock, waiting to be dried on the trail tomorrow (hopefully).
I didn’t even make a hot dinner – I’m just eating snacks in my tent.
I almost forgot how hard hiking in the rain can be – it really drains the energy out of me. And I’m sure it doesn’t help matters that my pack is heavy with a five-day resupply.
It looks like I’m facing the same forecast tomorrow. Given what happened today, I’ll probably never let rain pin me down again.
Breakfast: the last of the fried sweet peas, a few Quaker granola bars, almonds
Lunch: Broccoli Alfredo Pasta Side with tuna, beef jerky, one tortilla, one Little Debbie Peanut Butter Sandwich
Hail Snack: almonds
Dinner: dried apricots, dried cranberries, 3 Little Deb PB Sandwiches, almonds, peanut butter cup trail mix, beef jerky

Day 53 – Sunday, May 1: Pearisburg, VA, Zero Day, 634.6 total AT miles.

I woke up early. I was stiff and sore after a terrible night sleeping. There’s been one persistent trail rumor that I now accept as fact. Canuck is a snuggler. I woke up several times in the night to find him clinging to me like a lemur monkey.
After a long shower, I dressed. I again carefully taped my heel before slipping on my new camp shoes and shuffling down the DQ for breakfast.
I arrived as they were opening at 8:00 and ordered breakfast. As I sat to eat and update my blog, other hikers joined. The topic was the weather. Juan, Oriole and Sweet Potato were already committed to staying an extra night – Push was planning on moving on today regardless.
I kept checking the weather, noticing that the window for good hiking was closing rapidly – thunderstorms were still supposed to hit by noon. Then, at 8:40, we all got an alert through the Weather Channel app. Pearisburg and the surrounding towns were now under a severe thunderstorm warning, with high winds and 1 to 2 inches of rain in the immediate forecast.
I consulted with Savage and Michael. My feet were doing better, but I wasn’t too keen on rushing out just to get pinned down by severe weather. It was decided that the three of us would book a new room and wait this thing out. I assumed it would be for the best.
I moved my pack to my new room and plopped down on the bed. I was still tired. Savage and Michael moved in as I was falling asleep. I woke at noon feeling a little more refreshed.
The three of us hung out in the hotel room and watched tv. There really isn’t much to do in Pearisburg and I wasn’t quite ready to get schooled in pool at the Mexican restaurant again. I drifted off again.
This time I awoke at 6:00 – I had been napping for almost three hours. I guess I really needed to catch up on my sleep. I walked outside and was surprised to see blue skies. It hadn’t rained a drop. I checked the weather app to find the thunderstorms slated for today had never come – in fact, it was now supposed to be dry for most of the night.
While I was a little disappointed, I was thankful I stayed. My feet, and body, really needed the extra rest. The three of us walked over to the Mexican restaurant for dinner and pool.
After a few quick games, I again left early and headed for the room. I was hungry, but didn’t want Mexican again. I eventually settled on frozen fried chicken from the Food Lion down the street and returned to my room to make dinner.
While I was cooking (microwaving), I got a call from Medicine Man. He was in Bland, VA (about 30 miles away) and wanted to catch up. Before long, I found him hopping out of a shuttle and booking a room at our hotel. It was great to see him again. I knew he was pushing hard to catch up, but had no idea how far behind he was due to the limited cell service I’d had the past 100 miles or so.
After he checked in, he brought a surprise over to our room – a new pair of hair clippers. Moon Boots shaved off his mohawk – Medicine Man decided to keep his, opting for a quick touch up.
By 9:00, the hair party was over, everyone returning to their rooms to sleep.
A few things: Leaving Pearisburg tomorrow will likely mean saying goodbye to Moon Boots and Canuck for a while. They want to see a show in Richmond, VA on Wednesday and won’t be making the push to Daleville, VA with me.
Savage and Michael (now Black Santa – Monster threw this one out and it stuck) will be hiking out with me. Medicine Man (and Summer) is also keen on leaving early tomorrow.
It’s my hope to make it the 20 miles tomorrow to The Captain’s – a private home located just off the AT. The Captain installed a zip line so hikers could cross the river and tent on his property.
We actually have some cool hiking ahead. I’ll pass the Keffer Oak, the largest on the southern AT, on Tuesday and should be having lunch at McAfee Knob on Wednesday. It’s my plan to hike the 90-plus miles to Daleville, VA by Thursday evening or Friday morning.
I’ll be ready to go first thing tomorrow. I bought some new Band-Aids from the Rite-Aid that are specifically for heel blisters. We’ll see how they work out.
Breakfast: 3 pancakes, sausage biscuit, hashbrowns, coffee
Lunch: I slept through lunch.
Dinner: Tyson frozen fried chicken, Frank’s Red Hot, Lance chips, crispy sweet peas, Klondike s’mores ice cream bar 

Day 52 – Saturday, April 30: Pearisburg, VA, Zero Day, 634.6 total AT miles

I woke up relatively early considering my late arrival into town. I shuffled over to the leftover pizza and ate a few breadsticks before hopping in the shower – it felt great.

Having lost my camp shoes, I thoroughly retaped my heel before getting dressed and slipping on my trail runners. Canuck and Moon Boots were waking – Savage was already doing laundry for the team.
I moved slowly as I started organizing my pack for my resupply – a task made easy considering I ate every bit of food on my way in Pearisburg.
By 10:00am, Monster, Michael and Push arrived in town. They stopped three miles short of town and tented on the ridge the night prior. They booked rooms at the hotel next door. I walked over to the post office to pick up a package and mail some more winter gear items home. Out of an abundance of caution, I kept my light weight puffy jacket just in case.
I returned to the hotel and started getting ready to make the two mile walk to Walmart when Moon Boots came in with good news. A shuttle driver, Skeeter, lived in the extended stay portion of our hotel and was willing to give us a ride.
Monster, Savage, Michael and myself all climbed into his car and made the short trip through Pearisburg. At Walmart, I bought plenty of food for the 4 to 5 days of hiking ahead. I also purchased a new pair of camp shoes and some new gym shorts. Skeeter was kind enough to wait for us and, before long, I was back at the hotel organizing my purchases.

View from the Pearisburg Wal-Mart parking lot.
While I had already finished the two main tasks associated with a zero day (laundry and food resupply), I was far from ready to return to the trail. My heel was pretty raw and my feet were very sore. I relaxed in the room and watched tv for most of the afternoon.
At 4:00pm, Canuck and I were getting hungry. I was already snacking on the trail food I had just purchased. We walked across the street to the Mexican restaurant for an early dinner. Most of the group eventually joined – I enjoyed chicken fajitas before playing a few games of pool. I didn’t embarrass myself, but still lost every game.
As the afternoon turned to evening, the restaurant started filling up. I quickly paid my bill and left. On my way back to the hotel, I could hear my stomach growling again. Even though I had just eaten, I stopped at the Dairy Queen and bought a few sandwiches to go.
By 6:00, I was in my room for the night. I was beat, but finally full. I sat down at the desk and started typing.
I want to be up early tomorrow. It’s my goal to have an early breakfast before departing for the trail. The forecast (not trail rumor, but actual Weather Channel forecast) calls for severe thunderstorms starting by noon tomorrow. I’m not in flavor of hiking out in the rain, but we’ll see.
Yesterday, Savage, Moon Boots, Canuck and I got some sad news. Clutch had decided he was getting off the trail and returning home to Switzerland. He sent us a very nice email, thanking us for sharing this experience and wishing us the best of luck.
I was a little surprised – Clutch is a very strong hiker. But he got a really good job offer back home.

I’m proud of Clutch. He hiked over 500 miles on the world’s oldest, longest hiking trail. He should be proud – and he’ll be missed.
While Pearisburg is very close to the AT, it’s far from a trail town. I was a little shocked to find that this town lacks a proper outfitter.
When I rebooked the room this morning, I was given the option to stay a second day if the weather turns foul.
It’s only 10:00, but I’m beat. I think I’ll have to upload my journals tomorrow over breakfast.
Breakfast: 3 leftover breadsticks from Pizza Hut
Snacks: gourmet popcorn, freeze dried strawberries, salmon jerky
Late Lunch: chicken fajitas, sweet tea, lemonade
Dinner: double cheeseburger and a fried fish sandwich from Dairy Queen