Devils Marbleyard to James River
Quiet Camp to Cow Fart Glasgow Camp
AT miles: 5.4
Total miles: 795.5
Elevation change: 197ft gain, 2192ft loss
What was supposed to be an easy day into town, turned out to be just that. I may have gone uphill once, but I can’t even remember it. By mid-morning, I was on the side of the road, thumb out, asking for the universe to provide a ride. Even that was easy. Honestly, the hardest part of the day was figuring out what to eat. Between the two stores in town, I wasn’t blown away by the options, but I made it work. Other than eating, I did some hand laundry, pulled off some light, electrician work, showered, relaxed, and got mostly caught up on phone chores. Those are the ingredients of a good day, and it was, even if it did and does smell like cow farts.
The morning was significantly warmer than the last, and I again woke up to the most peaceful quiet I could envision. Not a breath of wind. Not a rustle of leaves. Just rustlings of my own as I rolled to my back and started the pre-hike checklist. The sun rose into a hazy sky, one without definition, just a lightly patterned veil of cirrus. With town food on the mind, I moved with a little bit more purpose than usual and was packed, pooped, and hiking by 8:30am. My start time had been slipping a little bit recently, but I was back on track today.
I sped downhill with a pack so light that it felt more a part of me than a burden to bear. It’s all relative, of course. My load still probably weighed 15 or 16 pounds before I filled my bottles at the next Creek. However, I was used to carrying more, so this was a treat. Lost in thoughts about the lightness of my pack, I was startled when I encountered a hiker coming the other way. Or rather, she had been coming the other way before stepping off trail behind a tree to make way for my mindless steaming. I apologised for my absentmindedness, and we discussed hiker conversation staples, gear and weather. Feeling good about both today, I was a positive participant, and we both agreed that 35 pounds is a heavy load.
I continued down the easy trail, ogling at the James River far below, the steep mountains ahead, and the budding trees. My mind drifted to my upcoming birthday. I’d turn 32 in a few weeks and wondered if I could pull off a 32-mile day to celebrate, or if I could run 32 miles after this whole AT/ECT business was done and I’d recovered a bit. That sounded hard to me, but I didn’t write it off. I never bet against my body.
It felt like the day was still just getting started when I reached the bank of the mighty James, wide and serene. I enjoyed the pleasant stroll a mile down river, then enjoyed the crossing on a long footbridge even more. I laughed when I read the dedication plaque before stepping aboard. Dubbed the James River Foot Bridge, it was named in honor of a dude with the last name Foot. What are the odds?
On the opposite shore, I changed into my nicest jacket and friendliest smile, and posted on the side of the highway, thumb out, looking for a free ride into town. And luck was on my side. Although the traffic was light, the fourth car that passed returned a few minutes later after turning around and coming back for me. Ronnie and I had our experiences living in San Diego to bond over, and I enjoyed the ride not just for the comfy seat, but the conversation as well. In just a few miles, he dropped me off next to the Grocery Express in Glasgow, VA. A fist bump and a wave goodbye. I had survived my first hitchhike of the AT. Thanks, Ronnie!
The town didn’t impress me at first, but it supposedly provided everything a hiker could need. I made it my mission to find out. My first stop was the Dollar General next door to gather provisions for the next 77 miles to Waynesboro. I wandered the isles, cluttered with restocking carts, a small army of employees, and now a smelly hiker with a strange backpack. I was able to find most of what I needed, but not much of what I wanted. I packed the haul away on the adjacent lawn, then tootled back to Grocery Express for the finishing touches and hopefully some fresh produce.
Again, I wasn’t let down, but wasn’t thrilled either. The eclectic store carried everything from tools to home furnishings, tape to tinsel. The live bait section boasted more variety than the vegetables. However, I pieced it together, adding a handful of Clif bars to my food bag, and picking up two apples, a banana, juice, iced tea, chips, salsa, and the only can of beans that didn’t require a can opener. Living large.
I hauled my bounty across the street to the town’s very own AT shelter. Built as an Eagle Scout project in 2010, it offers free accommodation to AT hikers passing through. I was the only resident, maybe the first of the season, and so made myself comfortable on the sunniest picnic bench. I rinsed my socks in the cold shower and hung them to dry on the clothes line. Then I got to eating. It was lunchtime after all. Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me, and I fiddled around with the water heater, kind of desperate for a hot shower. My experience building out a van and some light googling got me what I wanted without any shocks. I connected black to red, and white to black, flipped the circuit breaker, and the thing clicked to life. Most excellent.
While the water warmed up, I headed to the library for some time behind a keyboard. I worked there until closing, conscious of my stinkiness and grateful that this library was like so many others, empty. After getting kicked out at 5pm, I walked the few short blocks back to the shelter into a rising wind. Glancing down the side streets (all carrying Scottish names, Mc this, Mc that), I started to appreciate the charm of this town. Quaint homes, some modern, some antiques, peppered the green spaces in between. Bushes blossomed and clouds scooted by, above the surrounding hills. It was a small town, and had a nice small-town vibe once you got off the main highway. I wondered about the history. Glasgow was well over 100 years old and clearly had some Scottish influence. The local accent had faded, but the names were a dead giveaway.
Back at the shelter, I enjoyed the fruits of my curiosity. The hot shower was glorious, even though I hadn’t thought to buy any soap. Feeling the hot water run down my back as I worked loose my Pearisburg braids, imagining how horrifyingly frigid it would have been using cold water instead, was my favorite moment of the day, easily. Satisfied, and a little bit cleaner, I joined my socks to blow dry in the warm breeze.
Phone calls and eating took me to, and beyond sunset. My butt remained planted on the bench seat the entire time. With a shift in the wind, I started smelling the livestock that must be kept nearby. Still, they smelled better than a lot of my clothes, so I wasn’t bothered. The aroma actually made me kind of nostalgic for my spring days playing little league next to the town sewage treatment plant. Good times.
After tidying up my sprawl, I chose one of the twelve bunks, inflated my mattress, and climbed aboard. With rain and thunderstorms in the forecast tomorrow, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I woke up. However, I didn’t need to worry about that just yet. I knew that I could handle the weather even if I was camping, so with a roof overhead, I was confident that it would work out even better. Everybody knows that Eagle Scouts build the best roofs. No stress, just sleep.