September 23rd, 2018
As you’re working your way uphill from the campground, there’s a side trail that takes you to a boulder field that many weekenders tend to visit. Given I’ve been hiking on boulders and jagged rocks since I returned to the AT, this didn’t seem enticing enough for me to pay it a visit. Instead, I continued climbing up until I got to the overlook. I was happy to get to see some scenery for a change. It’s nice to have some sort of reward when your body is doing so much work. Views have been scarce since the weather had been mostly rainy, cloudy and foggy.
After a little less than 6 miles in, we took a break at the 501 Shelter. This was yet another nice shelter with a caretaker. There was also a shower, a port-o-pot, and board games. It was even close enough to the road to get pizza delivered there. Sadly, it was too early in the day to get pizza. I shivered as I looked down morosely at what little food I had left to eat. In the town nearby, I recalled there was a McDonald’s. I was now on a mission for a Big Mac and chicken nuggets. Frisbee wasn’t on board with the idea at first thinking it would waste too much of our daylight, but eventually his cravings kicked in as well.
Before going on our quest for food, we chatted with a couple of older female section hikers who had stayed overnight, and then briefly met two guys who were just dropped off to start their short multi-day hike. They were ill-prepared in my opinion. Neither of them had a tent or hammock with them, and one of them found it wiser to bring along a heavy axe. Frisbee teased him, “Jesus! You’re going to scare all the hikers out there carrying around that thing!”
We hiked two more miles to get to the proper roadway to hitch into Pine Grove, passing two adult men having an RC truck race, and an elderly hiker with his pants down preparing to poop right on the trail until we snuck up behind him. Frisbee warned me that last year, he had difficulty getting a hitch from there, but we ended up getting picked up by the first vehicle that drove by! He wasn’t able to take us all the way there, but he was able to get us down the mountain.
Now it was round two of hitching. Many cars passed us by and we were starting to regret our decision, but then a Saab 900 Turbo pulled over. Frisbee was ecstatic! He had seen the guy pass by the first time hoping to get to ride in it before he did a U-turn to pick us up. That sucker was fast too!
After getting our McDonald’s fix, it was time to find our way back. We once again anticipated a long time to pass until we made it back, but only about 15 minutes passed before a kind Mennonite family heading home from church pulled over to take us back. It was just after noon, so we put the pedal to the metal and tried to cover some decent mileage.
We ate dinner once we got to the parking area passed the I-81 overpass. There was a very pretty iron bridge there that we’d be crossing.
We chatted with two female section hikers named Private Benjamin and Cookie Monster who had just come from the shelter that we were planning to stay at. They warned us that we might have to ford a large stream unless we wanted to balance our way across fallen trees, and that further down the way, a beaver dam had the trail flooded.
Our feet remained dry until we saw the beaver dam that they had warned us about. It was pretty much unavoidable and smelled awful. I tried to avoid submerging my feet as much as possible before finally giving up.
We’d rinse our feet off under the bridge before arriving at Rausch Gap Shelter. We would have two shelter mates, a SOBOer by the name of Hot Rocks from Oregon, and a guy named Mark, who went by the trail name Orange Turtle, from Switzerland. We chatted briefly by their fire before tucking in. It had been a long day.
Distance Hiked: 23.1 miles (37.2 km)
Start from the Beginning at Part 1