Day 57 (June 2): We woke early with a mission to reach Partnership Shelter with enough time to resupply in town before bed. Nadine and I were the first on the trail and were covered in spider webs within a few minutes. I felt as if I was wearing an invisible cloak with the webs trailing behind me as I hiked. I imagined the webs spanning the trail as if they were rubber bands trying to pull us back as we hiked through them. Our first climb of the day took us up and over a ridge that looked like an enormous rock wall that reminded me of the wall from Game of Thrones. Reaching the Trimpi Shelter before noon, we ate our second breakfast but somehow lost all motivation to continue hiking toward our goal. The rest of the day we trudged up and down hills without any energy in our step. Unfortunately, as we crossed a field we spotted more grey clouds following us and enthusiastically picked up our pace to race the weather to the shelter. After a few miles of heads down power hiking, we decided it was time to stop for lunch to hopefully refuel our already spent energy reserves.
We gorged on ramen with spam, summer sausage with cheese in a tortilla wrap, and Combos. Even with the larger than average lunch, we struggled to get ourselves up the last hill of the day. I reached the Partnership Shelter (mile 532.2) first after lunch finally reached my legs and I nearly ran the last two miles. Dead Weight and the rest of the crew were there waiting for us. Nadine wasn’t so lucky and got a little dousing of rain before reaching the shelter, suited up in her rain gear. Not wanting to waste anytime, I unloaded my pack in the shelter and prepared to head into town for laundry and resupplying. Nadine took her time, limping due to her blisters, and seemingly had a rain cloud of her own over her head, bring her mood down. She was not happy. We were lucky and quickly caught a hitch to town from an employee of the Mount Rogers Visitor Center, which was situated next to the shelter. After a quick resupplied at Walmart for five more days on the trail we headed to Sonic and Taco Bell for dinner. Last up, we headed to the laundromat in the rain, but picked up a six pack to enjoy while we waited for our clothes to wash and dry. Hitching back out of town was not as easy and it took us a good half hour before a mother and daughter took pity in us. They talked our ears off and shared some true Jerry Springer style family drama with us on the ride back to the shelter. At the shelter, Nadine decide to brave out a cold shower, which only seemed to make her mood that much worse. I enjoyed the last few beers of the six pack with Iron Butterfly, Eagle Eye, and Deets before heading to bed. That Taco Bell did a number on my stomach that night and was up by 5:00am to head to the privy.
Random trail thought of the day: The weather man is even more often wrong in the mountains than in town. Don’t let a weather prediction negatively influence your hike.
Day 58 (June 3): We are doing pretty well with getting up early, but need to work on hitting the trail early as well. After eating the plums, nectarines, and bananas we bought for breakfast we headed to the visitor center to brush our teeth and procrastinate hiking. To our surprise there was some trail magic already waiting for us in the form of grapes, peanuts, chocolate, fruit snacks, and drinks. I also shedded the weight of the leftover quarters from laundry to buy me a Mountain Dew. We had learned that Marion, the town we had resupplied in, was where Mountain Dew was invented, so drinking one for breakfast just felt right. Nadine’s morale was at an all time low due to her blisters and I did my best to lighten the mood. The trail certainly wanted to help when we found rhododendron flowers laid out for us along the trail. I also tried to help Nadine see the beauty in some of the normal mundane aspects of the trail scenery. Climbing over some fence stiles we heard the loudest buzzing coming from some nearby power lines. Passing under them, we could only think about the brain damage we were getting and noticed a house in the distance that was perfectly placed for producing brain tumors.
Our first highlight of the day came when we emerged from the woods in front of the historic Lindamood School. The school house was part of the nearby Settlers Museum and was filled with trail magic. It was a perfect spot to get out of the sun for a break and sip on a cold soda that was provided.
The next few miles took us through several long stretches of grassy pastures, some with cows mooing off in the distance. We eventually reached the outskirts of Atkins where we dined at The Barn restaurant for an early dinner. They featured an amazing half pound burger that cost only five dollars. I consider getting a second burger but instead opted for their lemon pie for dessert. Leaving town through more fields we made a visit to Davis Cemetery where we ran into another thru hiker, Raiden, who turned out to be a descendant of the Davis family.
With afternoon thunder in the distance, we called it a day just a few miles from town at the Davis Hallow campsites (mile 545.9). Again, we were lucky because it began to rain soon after our tents we up. Wrong Way was already setup at the campsite in a hammock and played us some music from his melodica. After the rain stopped, Dead Weight and I were able to start a campfire to pass the time before bed. It was one of our favorite days on the trail so far and just what Nadine needed to boost her morale. Also, her blister is finally starting to heal.
Random trail thought of the day: I had originally thought that as I became stronger the trail would feel less physically demanding. I’ve come to find, instead, that as I’ve become stronger my body is just able to endure more of the pain and struggle of the trail. In other words, each hill is still just as difficult to climb, I’m just able to climb more if them.
Day 59 (June 4): We began the day with some much needed coffee and slowly packed up camp, which took nearly two hours. Once we finally started hiking, I could already tell that I needed more sleep as I dragged my feet down the trail. We stopped at Davis Path Campsite so that I could enjoy the privy and get some pep back in our step. As we hiked onward, Nadine almost keeled over after swallowing a fly. Somewhere along the way we stumbled across the unofficial quarter way marker of the Appalachian Trail.
We eventually caught up with section hikers, Tyler and Logan, who were taking a break near Crawfish Trail where Eagle Eye was breaking down camp. We chatted for a while and rested our bunions. Climbing out of the rhododendron lined campsite, Eagle Eye led the way and made us all gag on his morning gas. We had a steady climb up Walker Mountain and the high humidity tried to keep us from the top. As we climbed, the flies would not leave us alone, flying around our heads like fighter planes circling and dive bombing their target. We eventually prevailed, but only after Nadine nearly tripped over a snake crossing her path.
Stumbling out of the woods, we took shelter under a nearby pavilion to enjoy lunch and some relaxation. The section hikers, Logan and Tyler, ended up offering us lots of extra food to eat and carry with us since they would be getting off in a few miles. The last few miles of the day took us up and over one more mountain where Nadine scared a bear almost half to death. When we reached Lick Creek (mile 562.2) we immediately decided to settle in at a campsite on the banks of the creek. With storm clouds rolling in, we quickly setup our tents and climbed in before the rain broke, which came down in buckets. After about an hour, the rain subsided and Dead Weight took advantage of the break to take a dip in the creek. It continued to rain, off and on, all night but we were able to stay cozy and dry.
Day 60 (June 5): With the rain still dripping off the trees, it took us until 9:30 am to finally crawl out of our tents. Somehow we managed to pack up and take down our tent with the rain fly still standing and keeping us dry. After breakfast we had a slow climb up to Chestnut Ridge, which was covered in fog. We stopped to fill up on water at a trickling spring that filled a small pond filled with chirping frogs. Climbing further up the ridge, we eventually reached Chestnut Knob Shelter where Legs, Wrong Way, Teddy, Skittles, Pish and other thru hikers were hunkered down, avoiding the rain. While waiting on Dead Weight to catch up, we prepared our lunch of hot dogs, ramen, Asiago cheese, and pepperoni, while Legs had an impromptu jam session on his ukulele. It was pouring down rain when we finally decided to venture back out on the trail and Dead Weight almost ran down the wrong side of the mountain due to the poor visibility conditions. We ended our day at Jenkins Shelter (mile 578.6) and spent the night with a giggly group of hikers. Being a true Leave No Trace hiker, Nadine ran back a mile on the trail to retrieve some trash she left on a rock. More hot dogs and ramen for dinner.