Day 50: Unnamed Campsite

Day 50. Well, yesterday was a gorgeous and hot sunny day, so you know what that means … rain and cold today! It would obviously be too much to give us multiple warm days in a row, but can I at least have 2 in a row?! Nope, rain in the morning and a high of 45 degrees. I’ve heard this irregularly long cold season has ended many people’s thruhikes early, a sad reality to the impact weather has on a long-distance hike.

But I’m still here. And hey, today marks my 50th day hiking the Appalachian Trail! That’s pretty neat! I celebrated my milestone by eating an extra snickers bar at lunch. 🙂

I left Woods Hole Hostel around 9:30, after a great communal breakfast and a communal clean up of the bunkhouse. Everyone pitched in again and some even stayed to help out with more odd jobs around the house to decrease their bill total. I liked the idea of helping out Neville, as she was such a great hostess, but need to make up lost miles, so I got a hiking. And on cold days like today, there’s really only one thing to do. Keep hiking as long as possible.

I meant to stop in the town of Pearisburg after 12 miles, but I had no desire to hike the 1 mile down the road and back in this cold. The best thing in that tiny truck stop town anyways is a Dairy Queen … which, oddly, just didn’t motivate me today.

Before I realized it, I hiked 18 miles to the shelter I planned for this evening’s rest, but it was only 5pm, so I kept going. I didn’t really know my destination, but knew a few hikers were still ahead of me and plenty of campsites were coming up on the trail. About 8 miles later, I saw a familiar tent at a random unnamed campsite and joined Dragon for the night. The campsite is in the guidebook, but is nothing more than a clearing for 1 or 2 tents and a fire pit right next to the trail. By now it was after 7pm, and he was in bed, but we both appreciated having company nearby for the night. I know he’s an early riser, so probably won’t see him when I eventually crawl out of this hammock. And if it’s this cold tomorrow, that will be long after 8am I’m sure.

I passed by an interesting area today. For about a mile after Pocahontas Rd (mile 640), there were blue signs lining the trail talking of a protest against a new pipeline being planned along the AT. I eventually saw these “tree-sitting” a few miles later in visible protest against the Mountain Valley Pipeline that is planned a mile west in West Virginia. I didn’t really know much about it, and they were too far off trail to warrant a cold side trip to discuss, but I did some google searching and found this article which helped clarify.

If it were earlier or warmer when I saw them, I probably would have stopped to hear their story and learn more. But I was cold and exhausted, so I’ll leave that for tomorrow’s hikers to do.

I’m going to try to keep up my momentum of 25 mile days while this terrain stays relatively flat. I am about 100 miles behind schedule and think I can catch up by Harpers Ferry if the weather cooperates. Which I somehow doubt it will.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start Mile: 624.8
  • Start Time: 09:30
  • End Mile: 650.1
  • End Time: 19:15
  • Miles Hiked: 25.3
  • Miles to Go: 1540.8
  • Lodging: Unnamed Campsite

Day 49: Woods Hole Hostel

Day 49. Today was a great, leisurely Nero Day. It was only 7.5 miles to a Hostel in Pearisburg from last night’s shelter, and I contemplated skipping it because of my impromptu stay at one a couple days ago, but breakfast quickly changed my mind.

As I ate my morning pop-tart, I noticed a magazine was placed in the shelter and opened it to read. It was a 2010 edition of AT Journal with a feature article on Woods Hole Hostel, that recently came under new management. I’ll let you read it for yourself at the link above, as it’s a beautiful story and easily convinced me that this historic AT landmark up ahead was too good to pass up.

It was a beautiful day, and I took my sweet time hiking those 7.5 miles to really absorb it. I stopped at every creek, I visited every side trail and vista, I took numerous photos and videos, I walked a slow 2 mph, and I soaked in the sun. If I had the time, patience and finances to hike this trail in 9 months, I’d do every day like this.

When I finally came to the Sugar Run Road intersection, I turned right and hiked the half mile down to the scenic cabin on a farm. I’ve stayed at some great hostels, but this one may top them all. When you walk in, the animals literally come out to greet you and welcome you in … Dogs, cats, goats, and even a goofy looking pig. They all came to say hello.

Then you see an immaculate log cabin home, a large garden, a hiker bunkhouse, platform tents and more. Everything is clean and open and ready to be shared, and everything is decorated with cute and friendly painted information/instruction signs.

One of the best things about this hostel is how it is an instant community of helping hands. I saw 3 thruhikers setting up the platform tents, another folding laundry, and 2 more preparing lunch. You just feel at home here and want to be a part of it. No one was doing a “work for free stay” … they were just helping out. An optional “job jar” is in the bunkhouse with suggested chores to take on if you feel willing.

The owner, Neville, is a wonderful and spiritual person as well, which feeds the peaceful culture here. She leads yoga in the afternoons, meditation at night, and gives licensed massages in between. A neighbor will drive you into town for resupply, the staff welcome you with fruit smoothies, homemade cookies and cold sodas, and there are countless games and activities to do while you unwind. I mean, doesn’t this sound amazing?? Am I thruhiking or at a spa retreat?

I grabbed my resupply box that was mailed here, then picked up a guitar and played music by the fire pit in the sun. It was the rest for body and soul I needed. After a while, I offered to help cook dinner and assisted in the kitchen to prepare our communal meal. Stir fry with beef and vegetables, salad, bread, egg salad, and more. All homemade and fresh, with most ingredients grown right here. Talk about farm to table!

When dinner was ready, Neville led everyone in a quick round of thanks and sat with us to talk about her life, her family, the world, and more. She is an amazing woman who runs this place all on her own (with some temporary support staff), continuing the great tradition her grandparents started 30+ years ago.

There are a lot of people here. My current hiking mates of Ridge, Autopilot and Dragon are all here, and a dozen more I mostly know. RTK is also here, so he and I had a chance to chat a bit more. Our passing on the trail a couple days ago was brief, so this time we got a better chance to get to know each other. I am not sure if we’ll meet again, but it’s been great connecting with him after so many email exchanges pre-trip.

I got in a few calls to family back home when the phone service cooperated and then called it a night. I’m headed out first thing after breakfast tomorrow, but feel completely revamped for another week on the trail.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start Mile: 617.6
  • Start Time: 09:00
  • End Mile: 624.8
  • End Time: 12:10
  • Miles Hiked: 7.2
  • Miles to Go: 1566.1
  • Lodging: Woods Hole Hostel