We only reunited with family for 2 days to attend Grammie’s funeral. We knew the longer we stayed, the harder it would be to return to the trail. My hopes for the pain shooting from my lower back into my right leg to dull out were crushed, but I decided to tough it out anyway. I spent my nights on the floor since any movement from the mattress I shared with my husband resulted in paralyzing pain. Our friend John drove us back to Newport, but we made a stop at the Four Pines Hostel on the way to pick up the nozzle and repair kit for my sleep pad (which was no longer necessary since REI replaced my old one).
We were back on the trail for less than a quarter of a mile when we re-entered the woods and were reunited with an old friend. Wokman, one of the hikers who we started with and who left the trail on a couple occasions for various reasons, was setting up a fire and greeted us upon entry. He tried desperately to convince us to stay there for the night, but failed. After missing so many days on the trail and taking so many zeroes in between, I couldn’t accept walking any less than 3 miles.
Wok was moaning and groaning the entire hike (he had been away from the trail for over a week), but we drug him along and stopped at Sarver Hollow Shelter right as we started hearing thunder.
The shelter was located pretty far off trail and all downhill (my guide claimed 0.4 miles, but I call bullshit), but once we got there, it was worth it! It was one of the nicer shelters we stayed at and there were things to explore. There was rumored to be an old cemetery nearby, but we never found it. We did find the ruins of an old cabin and a large chimney near the water source and many rock mounds.
The night was spent eating a lot, watching Wok harass a poor bird that was staying in the shelter (which gave us quite the wake-up call the next morning in retaliation), and Wok playing with all the toys his kids had sent him back to the trail with (foam darts with a slingshot and a whoopee cushion just to name two).
The next day, we passed the Audie Murphy Monument. Audie Murphy was the most decorated U.S. soldier of WWII (24 decorations including, the Medal of Honor, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Service Cross, and 3 Purple Hearts). He unfortunately met his end in a plane crash in 1971 nearby the site of the monument a little before his 47th birthday.
We also met a section hiker who we “adopted” and would later call, “Little Big Craig”. We stayed the night at Pickle Branch Shelter (another shelter that I think is further from the trail than it claims to measure). Wok drove people crazy by shooting them with foam darts, there was rumored to be a black rat snake living in the privy (never saw it), and I swore I heard a baby bear crying overnight which made me a little nervous (black bears tend to be pretty mellow, unless a cub is involved).
The next day, we were excited to start the Virginia Triple Crown; a hike including some of Virginia’s most scenic places (Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs). We stopped at a rocky area with a gorgeous view thinking that we had reached Dragon’s Tooth, then later were surrounded by day hikers and realized we were mistaken.
The hike down from Dragon’s Tooth was really steep. I was moving cautiously, since I would get shooting pain down my leg if I landed on my right foot a certain way. We were told a rattlesnake was on the trail ahead, and I ended up being the one leading the way since Frisbee (my husband) has a minor snake phobia and Little Big Craig apparently did too. It must have slithered away by the time we passed through, since I didn’t see it.
We reached our 700-mile mark (“unofficial” since we had to skip 14.4 miles to go around the wildfires in Hot Springs), then said goodbye again to Wok. He had a package being delivered to Four Pines Hostel (the place we stopped on our drive back to the trail), and needed to wait for it. We hiked on and passed many more day hikers on the way towards McAfee Knob. I rolled my eyes when I was told by a day hiker that I was carrying a lot of stuff (he apparently didn’t realize that I was thru hiking and not walking from the nearby parking lot).
The view of McAfee Knob was amazing! We stayed there a little bit before heading to Campbell Shelter. We ran into some old friends and met some new ones as well. Someone had left watermelon and peaches for the hikers staying there and they were nice enough to share the wealth (fresh produce is always wonderful, since it generally gets smushed in your pack)! It rained overnight and the wind was blowing water into the shelter, so we all got a little damp.
The next day brought the amazing views of Tinker Cliffs. The third great view included in Virginia’s “Triple Crown”, and my favorite out of the three!
The next day we hiked into the town of Daleville, with some nice scenery along the way.
The trail literally travels through town, and we planned to stay for only one night, but given the pain I was experiencing, we stayed for two instead. More on our adventures in Daleville next time!
Total AT Mileage: 675.1 miles
Number of Hiking Days: 54
Number of Zero Days: 16
Average Mileage per Day Total: 12.5 miles
Average Mileage this Chapter: 13.1 miles (4 days)
Longest Hiking Day: 26.2 miles (Groundhog Creek Shelter, NC/TN to Hot Springs, NC)
Shortest Hiking Day: 4.3 miles (Erwin, TN to Curly Maple Gap Shelter, TN)