I woke up at 2:00am again, shielding and cold. I could feel a frigid draft rising from between the planks of the shelter floor. I curled up in a ball, trying to fall back asleep. It didn’t happen. At 3:30, I started silently packing, trying not to wake Savage and McDoubles.
It was still dark when I put on my pack at 4:30 – McDoubles asked where I was going. I told him I was hiking into Waynesboro tonight and started hiking.
I slowly started making the 2,000 foot ascent of Three Ridges Mountain in the dark. The trail crossed numerous rock slides – this made staying on the right path very difficult. I learned a quick trick while navigating the rock slides. Even though there weren’t any white blazes, I stayed on track by looking for stones that had the moss worn off the tops (by hikers) – they stood out in contrast to the stones still covered in green or white moss.
I was making terrible time for the first hour – by 5:30, the sun started to peek out over the horizon. I was nearing the summit at 6:00 when I was finally able to turn off my headlamp. The trail was still very rocky, but ruggedly beautiful in the early dawn light.
The rising sun also brought fog and rain. The temps were in the high 50s when a light rain began to fall. I took off my cotton sweatpants and put on my rain jacket. The wind picked up and the temp dropped noticeably. Thankfully, I had already crossed the summit and started booking it downhill towards Maupin Field Shelter.
I made it to the shelter by 7:30 and took off my pack to have a quick snack. Just as I was beginning to stuff my face, Black Santa turned the corner. I was genuinely surprised to see him. He rented there the night prior and was getting ready to leave.
He also spent another night in the cold – and he got pretty wet before he could break camp. It was decided (rather quickly) that camping at the YMCA in Waynesboro just wouldn’t cut it tonight. We decided to get a hotel room in town, just 20 miles away. We hit the trail at 8:00.
Hiking in the cold rain stinks. It’s not fun – I have to keep moving at a fast rate just to stay warm. We said little as we hiked. Thankfully, the trail ahead was flat until hitting the gradual ascent of Humpback Mountain.
We stopped for a quick snack and water at 10:00. The fog was really starting to roll in and the rain kept coming down. It reminded of Seattle.
We kept hiking. The trail up and over Humpback was rocky and wet, but we pressed on, summiting at noon. After another quick snack (under a rock ledge), we started making the gradual descent to the Paul C. Wolf shelter seven miles away.
The rain was driving hard by now. I was getting very hungry – I had been hiking for almost eight hours without a hot meal. The problem was there just wasn’t anywhere to stop and cook. We looked for another ledge or maybe a forest service info sign to cook under. I eventually quit looking and just focused on making the remaining to the shelter.
We arrived at 3:00 and started making a hot lunch. I had eaten the last of my snacks – I was down to two dinners (plus and emergency meal). I ate a huge pot of food and changed socks. We started hiking again at 3:30.
The last five miles were extremely difficult. Not sleeping well for two nights in a row was taking its toll. I was moving sluggishly and my brain wasn’t working right. I felt foggy – like I couldn’t keep a linear thought going in my head. I wasn’t paying attention to time or speed like usual. I guess that’s why I was kind of surprised when I looked up to find Black Santa standing at a road crossing with his thumb out. I made it to Rockfish Gap from the shelter in just over two hours – I was ready to get to town.
After a quick hitch, we were dropped off at the Quality Inn. I immediately took a hot shower – it was one of the best I have ever had. We left the hotel room headed to the laundromat to do laundry. While we were waiting, we were able to resupply at the Dollar General next door. I ended up buying a pair of women’s yoga pants to act as a base layer – I cut off the pretty tassels that were attached at the ankles.
We made our way over to Ciro’s and ordered some pizzas to take back to the room. I had been texting Savage, inquiring when she would get into town. She texted back – her and McDoubles were staying at the Paul C. Wolfe shelter five miles from town.
After stuffing my face, I made my way over to the desk to write.
* * *
I’m beat – my muscles hurt. I can’t wait to fall asleep. The plan is to meet up with Savage and McDoubles at the post office or Kroger tomorrow morning before heading to the trailhead.
Push is in town and will be leaving first thing tomorrow. While I won’t catch her tomorrow, we should be seeing her in the coming days.
I’ve had a few folks ask if they can send me food. The answer is absolutely. I’ll be in Harper’s Ferry, WV in about ten days and will need a major resupply. The address is: