Doc’s Knob Shelter to Pearisburg, VA
Porch Water Camp to Angel’s Rest Hostel Camp
AT miles: 9.3
Total miles: 645.2
Elevation change: 1434ft gain, 3153ft loss
The main focus of today was food. A wet nine miles slipped and slid me into town, where I almost immediately, and then continuously, ate all the things that had been haunting my desires for days. And I couldn’t finish it all. I’m not even sure if I’m close to the bottom. By the time darkness prodded me inside and my drooping eyes forced me to bed, my stomach was filled to bursting and I wondered how I would be able to sleep. I’ll have my work cut out for me tomorrow, but needing to eat ice cream for breakfast is a good problem to have out here. I’m sure that I’m up to the challenge.
The timid beginnings of the coming rainstorm rustled me awake in the night. Robotically, I closed half of the outer door of my tent to keep my pack dry. The canopy of rhododendron took care of the rest, smoothing out and consolidating the bombardment to the occasional, smacking drop. I rested peacefully again until my alarm pulled me back awake.
I finished off my bags of dates, trail mix, and granola for breakfast, then packed up in the intensifying rain. My tent was soaked, dribbling water over my hands as I rolled it up, but the rest of my gear was dry. I said goodbye to Posi back at the shelter who was just finishing breakfast, visited the privy, then hiked out at 8:45am.
I was wearing my rain jacket, not too concerned with the warm rain that drifted intermittently on the breeze. If I got a little wet, that was fine. I’d dry out in town later. The first three miles were an easy and slick descent to a saddle between to ridgetop humps that were invisible through the trees and mist. Slippery rhododendron leaves and soapy limestone boulders had me grateful for both of my poles and my quick reflexes. With both of those working in my favor, I managed to stay on my feet while making great time.
I got a little wet after removing my rain jacket for the short uphill section. Deep in the cloud now, I couldn’t see the rain, and it snuck up on me, slowly drenching my right side as the wind blew from the empty space below. My umbrella was no help here, so I put my jacket on again to cut the wind chill and stay warm. I wasn’t going to sweat anymore, my damp sleeves would keep me cool.
As I walked along the smooth ridge, past a few viewless overlooks, I tired to remember the last time I had needed to hike in the rain. I dodged the last big deluge in Damascus, and before that it was the day I decided to push up and over the Roan Highlands before the big snowstorm froze the trail. That was some time ago indeed. Even as rain water mixed with my dried sweat dripped from the bill of my hat, I was grateful for the run of dry weather that I had enjoyed for the past two weeks. I was grateful to be getting to town today too.
The final few miles to Pearisburg were all downhill, and I took full advantage of the smooth switchbacks on the lower portion. I flew down below the clouds on a wide, but empty trail. As I approached VA100 where I’d arranged to meet my ride to the hostel, I was awestruck by the delicate new green that was springing forth from every surface. There were no big leaves or overbearing concentrations, but it was like a greenish tint had been cast across the forest. A million tiny green things combined to make the scene glow with a shared freshness.
Just before noon, I loaded my wet pack into the back of Hot Tamale’s Taurus station wagon, and she quickly delivered me to Angel’s Rest Hostel, a widely-spaced mixture of sheds, vans, and garages on an open plot of grassy hilltop. It was perfect for hikers. She checked me in and showed me to the garage-turned-bunkhouse. I was the first hiker in for the day, so I had my pick of the twin beds. I chose one in the far corner, next to the refrigerator. I figured that the soothing white noise from the compressor would smooth out any snoring of potential roommates, while also helping me keep my farts to myself.
I started my period of relaxation and recuperation with a load of laundry and wonderful shower. I took my time, letting the hot water strip the layers of sunscreen and salt from my tan face and pale everything else. I stepped out rejuvenated and hungry.
Food Lion was just a five minute walk away, so I put on some loaner clothes and headed on over to resupply for the next section to Daleville in 93 miles, and to provision my less-than-24-hours in Pearisburg. I had no self control as I rolled my cart up and down the glorious isles. My first mistake was using a cart at all. For those of us carrying all of our food on our backs, it is smart to carry that food in the store with a shopping basket. Doing that helps regulate the food frenzy that so often takes over and leads to overbuying. So I knew better, but rolled my ever growing pile around on wheels anyway.
When I got back to the hostel, I made a huge sandwich and settled in for an afternoon of phone calls home. I FaceTimed with SpiceRack (now on the road, slowly making her way South, then East) and her grandma for a few hours. I sat under the covered porch in front of the laundry room, watching the rain fall and clouds blow. After both of our phones died, I grabbed some more provisions and my charger, then called my mom for another good catch-up.
Two other hikers were hanging out at this point, Posi and TBA, and they invited me to dinner at the nearby Mexican joint. I regretfully declined after carefully considering how much food I still needed to eat. It may go down as one of my major AT regrets, buying too much food to allow me to go buy more Mexican food. I died a little inside as I watched them walk away.
However, it worked out. I sat outside eating a yummy salad, talking with my dad about “brand” and “brand new” while being treated to a sunshow. The clouds were finally breaking up, and the last rays of the sun flamed the ragged edges of the dynamic stratus a brilliant orange. West was not where I expected it to be at all. After the show, I headed inside to organize my resupply and sew some repairs on my umbrella.
For third dinner, I cooked up some vegan mac n cheese, adding in a few handfuls of spinach and a packet of microwaved Madras lentils. Combined, I think that pot of food alone accounted for about 1100 calories. I forked it down, enjoying every gooey bite until the last.
I staggered back to the bunkhouse where I hung out with the others, slowly scooping some ice cream, one small bite at a time. Eventually I reached my hard limit, and put it back in the freezer. I would pick up where I left off in the morning. When I lamented about how full I was, I was confused, then touched, when Posi asked with full sincerity how someone gets full from eating vegan food. Without going full evangelist on him, I explained my thoughts on the subject and assured him that there is a plant-based alternative to pretty much anything, even cheese. He seemed skeptical when I showed him my cheddar.
Final phone noodling while lying in bed stole the rest of the evening hours, and some of my good sleep hours too. My stomach gurgled, sounding overwhelmed. It did good work today, and would need to be ready to go again in just a few short hours. Who knows, maybe if I play my cards right, I can grab a Mexican meal for lunch on the way out of town. I can dream, can’t I?