I woke up several times during the night to the sound of a bird screaming from a tree directly overhead. I planned on getting an early start, but was already awake (and had been for a while) when my alarm went off at 5:00. I drifted back asleep, still tired from my restless night. By the time my alarm went off again at 6:00, the sun was rising and the bird had finally stopped singing. I immediately started packing.
I stepped out of my tent to find Savage and Black Santa packing up as well. I finished packing as they ate breakfast and the three of us set off for Jennings Creek at 7:00am.
The elevation profile called for an easy day. I was excited – today, the AT would cross the Blue Ridge Parkway numerous times. I figured, it being Mother’s Day and all, I should run across trail magic all day.
I started hiking at a steady pace, taking advantage of the flat(ish) terrain. I waited until 8:00 to check my phone for service – I was excited to talk to the mothers in my life. I was able to make calls to both my grandmother and mom before reaching the Wilson Creek Shelter five miles up trail.
After a quick snack, I started hiking again. The weather was perfect for hiking – the temps stayed in the low 60’s with overcast skies. I barely broke a sweat all day long.
But I wasn’t passing any day hikers like I assumed I would. I quickened my pace as I approached the first (of many) Blue Ridge Parkway road crossing. Something was wrong. I emerged from the woods and out onto the road to find absolutely nothing – no cars, no day hikers, no trail magic. I stood at the Taylor’s Mountain Overlook (which was nearly totally obscured by a thick haze) when Savage walked up.
As we hiked across the BRP and back into the woods, I noticed that piles of leaves had drifted onto the road and remained untouched by passing cars – it looked like no one had driven by in some time.
By 11:00, I was getting hungry – at 11:30, Savage and I stopped at the Harvey’s Knob overlook for a hot lunch. I made a quick call to Medicine Man to confirm today’s trail magic. He gave me some disappointing news – he was driving back home to Massachusetts to drop Summer off at his parents house. He wanted to do bigger miles than she could handle.
No worries though – we’d see him Thursday near Waynesboro. I broke the news to Savage who still thought we were heading to Jenning’s Creek to camp in a gazebo. She had been studying the AT Guide and her food bag simultaneously.
Savage realized she was running low on food and needed a quick mini-resupply before hitting Waynesboro. Jenning’s Creek offered a road crossing into the tiny town of Buchanon, VA. She finished lunch and set off in a hurry to make it to the road crossing. I followed at a much slower pace.
I still had another 13 miles to go and it was already past noon. I tried calling my sister, but lost cell service as I passed Bobblets Gap Shelter. I crossed the BRP twice more before making the descent into Bearwallow Gap.
I was moving slowly – I had a lot on my mind today. I emerged from the woods to find a couple standing next to their pickup that was pulled off to the side of the road. They were waiting for their son (Tortilla) who had been hiking behind me all day. Before I knew it, they pulled out a cold soda and a donut, insisting I take them.
The quick snack was just what I needed. I thanked them and got moving at a quicker pace. I knew I didn’t have a shot catching Black Santa or Savage, but I was starting to feel a little better about making miles.
After the quick ascent of Cove Mountain, the AT gradually descends to Jenning’s Creek. I made the six mile stretch in about 2 hours. The trail was very nice in parts – there’s some awesome hiking in Virginia.
I made it to Jenning’s Creek at 6:00pm and looked for Savage and Black Santa. I explored the surrounding campsites and was about to set up camp on the banks of the creek, when I turned and saw a path leading under the VA 614 bridge. I climbed over the guardrail and down the rocky embankment to check it out.
It was perfect – there was a concrete ledge to sleep on, a sandy beach area with a fire ring, and lots of graffiti. I set my pack down on the ledge and walked back up to the road.
I found Savage and Black Santa as they were exiting an SUV, their hands full of bags. I took them under the bridge (they thought the campsite was awesome) and watched them unpack. Black Santa handed me a yellow bag – they bought burgers.
What a treat – I ended up getting trail magic at Jenning’s Creek after all. In addition to her small resupply, Savage also bought hot dogs to cook over the fire.
Black Santa quickly got one started and the three of us sat down to eat. I eventually spread my sleeping pad and bag along the ledge.
Over dinner, I looked at the elevation profile for the coming days and realized we woudn’t make it Waynesboro by Thursday afternoon as hoped – there’s too many rough miles ahead.
I hope to regain cell reception tomorrow as I’ll be ascending over 3,000 feet and staying at 4,000 feet for most of the day – I need to get in touch with Medicine Man and see if he can grab us from a road crossing shy of Waynesboro.
I’m really tired and a little sore tonight. My feet are finally better – I think I’ve gotten used to the trail runners.
Breakfast: 18 gram store brand protein bar, 20 gram Powerbar protein bar (peanut butter flavored – pretty tasty), Little Debbie Raisin Creme Pie
Snack: I mixed the rest of the peanut butter cup trail mix with a bag of walnut/cranberry mix – a few handfuls of that.
Lunch: Creamy Spinach Dip Pasta Side with canned chicken and instant mashed potatoes. About half a bag of beef jerky, one LD Raisin CP.
Snack: about half a bag of gummy worms
Dinner: Bacon Double Cheeseburger from Burger King, two hotdogs on tortillas, one LD Raisin CP.