Wednesday, June 14, 2017 (Day 42)
As I packed up this morning I noticed that I was sharing my tent with many spiders. I guided out to safety the one that I could. The others, unfortunately got rolled up in my tent. I was late to rise already, I did not have the time to fuss with them. At least that is what I told myself. I think in reality I am still conditioned to be slightly fearful of arachnids that exceeded a certain size threshold; at least to the point of not wanting to grab them with my hands.
Though I did not need to, I walked the .5 mile west of the trail on VA 606 to Trent’s Grocery. I was curious. It was your run of the mill gas station and deli near a lumber yard. I got a hot coffee and chatted with a hiker and the employees. They were very friendly. They talked of the large crowds of hikers that came through. They were not a fan of the party crowd that would buy large packs of beer and drink not far from the store. They asked if I had heard of the “24 Challenge”. This is when a hiker attempts to drink 24 beers and hike 24 miles within 24 hours; unfortunately, I had. They said there was a fairly large group a couple of days ahead. A fellow hiker mentioned that there was a well hydrated group stumbling behind us as well.
I made it back to the trail and stopped by a stream 5 miles out. With an 11 am start, I would most certainly be night hiking.
As I passed the Wapiti Shelter, a lady called out to me. She wanted to know if I had water. She suggested I collected water there, as it was a dry and rocky climb that I was approaching. She said she had just come from that direction. I heeded her warning and filled up. As I continued, I did pass a stream that was flowing well, but further up, despite the recent rains, all the springs were dry.
I reached a view point at the top of the climb just as the sun was setting. It was stunning. The clouds in the distance suggested rain.
Oh boy, did it rain. Just after 9 pm it came down in torrents. I hesitated to remove my pack and put on my rain gear. In that brief moments hesitation, it became too late–I was drenched. It started raining harder. My pants were plastered to my legs and the beam of my headlamp was fractured in the heavy rain. My visibility was greatly impaired. Removing my glasses helped, but not enough to see the listed campsite just two miles out that I must have passed. After about 20 minutes the rain stopped. I was already soaking wet, I decided that I may as well keep going to make it worth it. At least it was warm.
I stopped at a forest service road crossing to change out if my wet clothes, drink some coffee, and rally up some self-motivation. The clouds dissapated and revealed the shining starlight. The fireflies danced. I heard an animal in the distance. Its yells were loud and painful, like it was in a fight or suffering attack. It sounded large and unfamiliar. I glanced at my trekking poles; they give me a sense of security.
Sugar Run Road was only two miles away. There would surely be a flat place to sleep, and it was only 11 miles or so to Pearisburg from there. It was a steep and rocky descent. I moved slowly to ensure solid footing; at times opting for roots and rocks rather than trekking poles to stable myself. When I arrived I could see a campsite just after the road. There were two tents and a hammock there. I did not wish to start another climb so late. I trusted that the rain would not come, and I liked the idea of sleeping beneath the stars free of tree cover. I positioned myself as far from the center of the road as possible, and propped my trekking poles up forming a large “x” behind my head. I did this to deter any running over of my body by an unsuspecting vehicle. The chances were slim, but it made me feel better none the less. I gazed at the stars peacefully, and drifted in to sleep.