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