We entered the heart of Virginia on a cool misty morning. It was a beautiful 20 mile hike. We crossed thru quiet pastures and sleepy farms. I felt a lack of energy and realized I didn't have adequate fuel to make it to Pearisburg as planned. Cold rain dripped on us all day. It took everything I had to make it to Chestnut Knob shelter where we happily met up with TMac, Hatchet Jack, Sticker, and Stretchmullet. There was talk of subs and ice cream; a trip to Bland was in order. The patter of rain on the tin roof drowned out the sounds of snoring and farting in the shelter. Dreams of DQ blizzards materialized.
The cold rain broke by morning and we finally got a view of Burkes Garden. For nearly 10 miles, the trail follows the rim of this sunken oval valley, also known as "God's Thumbprint." Uwharrie and I made good time along this stretch. We fixed ourselves a liberal lunch as it was my hope that we'd be able to hitch into Bland, buy food, hitch out and hike two more miles to the next shelter before dusk: a 25 mile day.
It's such an odd feeling coming down from the wooded ridges to the drone of civilization. Like an airplane descending, we slowly entered into another plane of existence: the I-77 corridor. The sidehill approach actually made for enjoyable and easy hiking. We again made good time. Part of the reason why: I got "cracked out" on gatorade left as trail magic in a cooler by a local church shortly after our lunch.
The first car we spotted along the road into Bland picked us up. We got dropped off at the DQ near I-77. The rush of humanity was enough to cause indigestion, but Uwharrie and I did enjoy our ice cream treat. We crossed over I-77 to snarf a foot-long veggie patty subway sandwich. Then it was into Dollar General for a disturbing grocery shopping experience.
It's depressing enough living on Little Debbie snacks when on the trail. But then I see poor families routinely consuming such filth and I get very upset. There's an unnecessary dietary crisis in this country!
The hitch out of town was longer in coming. A young woman took pity on us and went out of her way to get us back on the trail. Thanks! My 12-pack of miller mysteriously turned into a 10-pack on the steep climb to Helveys Mill. There was still some left for Tmac, Diablo and Carefree who joined Uwharrie and I in the shelter. A wild mountain wind blew all night reassuring me all would be right in the world.
Uwharrie and I slept in, everyone else got going early in the chill of the morning. The dog and I had no intention of pushing it so hard into town. The day was sunny, but breezy and cool. We made the most of it and rolled into camp near Dismal Creek Falls after a steady day of hiking. I enjoyed a nice long therapeutic soak in the icy water. My right achilles has developed tendonitus. The dog's paws are fine, seems she was born to hike.
The next day was a drizzler. We tend to make good time in such weather, although getting slapped by cold wet rhodo leaves is never much fun. We climbed out of a wide undulating valley beautifully forested in pine and hemlock. Uwharrie and I took lunch at Doc's Knob shelter. We then pushed on another five miles to camp with Carefree near a spring just three miles outside of town.
In the morning, we faced a cold and rainy descent into Pearisburg. The lightening struck all around, and I was a drenched fool completely deaf, dumb and blind to everything but the beauty of creation. What a glorious life! And now, another 11-day streak without a shower has come to an end at the hiker-friendly Rendezvous Motel.