Waynesboro to Daleville
In my previous post, I mentioned what a hard time I had in the Shenandoah National Park because of the rain. In Waynesboro, I decided to do something about that. I mailed my rain jacket home and went to an outfitters to get a new one. I got a nice compact down jacket while I was at it.
There is a diner in town that has all-you-can-eat pancakes, so breakfast and lunch were taken care of. I couldn't walk very fast with so much food in my stomach, though, so I didn't go far past Waynesboro. At the shelter, I met Farm-a-sea, whose trail name had a double meaning. He was training to become a fish farmer when he wasn't hiking, and he also had a sizable cache of medicinal herbs. He was an interesting guy though. He would pack a dozen eggs and a large hunk of bacon out of town. He had a skillet for frying them in, and would build a fire at every shelter and cook his supper in the skillet. Really old-school stuff.
The terrain in Virginia became hilly once again. After the flatness of Pennsylvania, this took some getting used to. Also, since Southern Pennsylvania, the leaves had been falling, and by Central Virginia, they were falling in earnest.
It was in this section that I realized that I had not packed enough food for the number of days that I would need if I was going to continue at the same average speed. Thus, I needed to pick up my average mileage considerably. I did two 30-mile days and two 25-mile days into Daleville. There was some interesting scenery on the way, including this rock formation, rather ominously named "The Guillotine":
By the time I got to Daleville, I was in a pretty serious calorie deficit. I went and had a big supper at a crappy Mexican restaurant, followed by two beers from the store in my motel room. I could tell midway through the second beer that it wasn't a good idea.
Daleville to Damascus
I was hung over all the next day. However, following my experience from the previous week, I tried to make miles and not allow it to slow me down. I didn't want to be stuck without food once again. Hiking with a hangover is really terrible, though, and it seemed like every 10 minutes I needed to sit down or bend over and try to vomit. I didn't get anything out all day, but I didn't eat anything either, so by the end of the day I was getting hungry. I took this as a good sign and ate some Teriyaki Noodles. I couldn't keep them down through the night, but after I had gone into the woods to deposit them on the ground, I finally felt better. However, the memory of that day has been enough to keep me from drinking alcohol ever since.
The next days were better, though marred by bad trail maintenance and ragweed. One highlight was the second-largest oak tree on the trail:
The day after that picture was taken, I ended up at The Captain's place, a small hostel with tenting in the yard. The really interesting feature of it was that you needed to take a cable car across the creek to get there.
The following day, I ended up at Pearisburg. It is another spread-out town, and I had to walk a couple of miles to get to the store. However, I had had a sleeping bag sent there because mine had been leaking feathers for quite a while, and I was able to pick it up, so that was nice.
I went to the Woods Hole hostel the next day, which was a greatly relaxing day. One of the hostel-keepers teaches yoga and the other is a masseur (though the massages weren't free, and I didn't feel like getting one).
After Woods Hole, I really started rolling. I did a 20-mile day the next day and a 34-mile day the day after that. This took me to the Chestnut Knob shelter, which is a completely enclosed shelter on the top of a mountain. It was windy all night, but I slept fairly comfortably after my long day.
The next two days weren't too special. I stayed in a motel near the interstate and a shelter that was reportedly haunted (though I saw no evidence of a haunting). The day after that, though I entered the Grayson Highlands State Park. This is a park that is famous for the wild ponies that roam it.
I got a picture with me near them that shows how small they really are.
I had heard that they will come up to you and lick or chew your pack in order to get the salt from your sweat, but that didn't happen to me.
Just before I got to the Grayson Highlands, I met up with another group of hikers: Skittles, Flora, Abear, and Coyote. I had been following most of them in the shelter logs for months, so it was like meeting old friends. Flora in particular signed her name with a large flower (her hiking partner Fauna had left near Washington, DC), so her entries were hard to miss. We hiked together off and on for a few days, and it was nice to be hiking with people once again.
We all stopped together in Damascus, VA and found cheap accommodation in a building run by a local church. It was empty, but it had strict rules (no cooking in the rooms was the one they seemed most concerned with) and a person came during the night to make sure that we were following them. I found a new pair of shoes on sale in Damascus, so I got them and got rid of my previous pair which were falling apart. They had only lasted about 500 miles.
I left Damascus early the next day, leaving the group behind. Skittles would catch up with me and we would hike together a bit longer, but I didn't see the rest again. Just past Damascus, I left Virginia for Tennessee.
Tennessee and North Carolina. A run of four straight hostels, and the weather finally turning cold.