Day 53: Campbell Shelter

Day 53. It was all worth it. Yesterday’s long day and late night setup the most amazing views today for McAfee Knob. The weather forecast updated today, showing rain as early as 9am tomorrow, meaning anything other than seeing this today would have failed. I am very content as I sit here watching the sun set over the Knob.

When we arrived, we met 4 funny day hikers who were up here trying (and succeeding) to build a small fire on the cliff. We had a nice photo shoot while chatting with them, and learned one of them recently finished a section hike from Damascus to Pearisburg (the section I just finished). It was a great fun group to enjoy this milestone with, and it was a perfect afternoon in general.

But McAfee Knob wasn’t the only great view today. It is one of 3 elite views on the AT that day-hikers call the triple crown of Virginia: McAfee Knob, Dragon’s Tooth, and Tinker Cliffs. We did the first 2 today and will get the 3rd tomorrow on our way into Daleville. Here’s a photo from Dragon’s Tooth…

Between the two views, we took a quick side trip into the town of Catawba for a one-day resupply. Remy and I were both out of food and needed one more day before Daleville (where I have a box waiting). After a short shopping trip at the gas station grocery, we were offered a lift to a famous restaurant in town called The Home Place. This restaurant is one of a kind! We had an incredible lunch there of all-you-can-eat family-style southern home cooking. Two monstrous plates each of fried chicken, roast beef, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, green beans, sliced apples, beans and biscuits. YUM! And at only $15 a person, such a treat! Climbing back up the mountain again was rough after that meal, but it was a small price to pay for such great food.

I did feel bad though. This was clearly THE place to go in the area for everyone after church. The place was PACKED with families weating their Sunday best … and we were two dirty smelly hikers in the corner. We looked very out of place, but the staff didn’t mind and were very sweet. It’s a popular stop for thruhikers … perhaps not as much so on a Sunday though. Oh well.

After watching the sunset at McAfee Knob, Remy and I hiked a quick 0.7 miles to Campbell Shelter and setup camp in the dark for the 2nd straight night. I’m getting pretty good at it, though it typically means a late morning. Oh well, tomorrow is only 16 miles, so nothing to worry about.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait!)

  • Start Mile: 695.6
  • Start Time: 09:30
  • End Mile: 713.8
  • End Time: 20:20
  • Miles Hiked: 18.2
  • Miles to Go: 1477.1
  • Lodging: Campbell Shelter

Day 52: Trout Creek Campsite

Day 52. I’m writing this very late, as I only got to camp a half hour ago and am utterly exhausted from today’s (and tonight’s) hike. Since the day was absolutely gorgeous, I took full advantage and hiked a comfortably long 26 miles into the night.

I realized from the comments that I may have sounded a bit gloomy in last night’s post. I’ll admit I was frustrated on that particular day, but the spirits are still ever high and the thruhike is in no danger of ending early! I appreciate all the kind words and motivation nonetheless, it was a nice reminder to turn my attitude around.

Today was fantastic though. Even with my pre-8am start time, I was still the last one out of bed at War Spur shelter. But I quickly caught 3 of the 4 other hikers that shared camp there last night by the time I reached Laurel Creek shelter 7 miles later.

While stopping for a snack at this shelter, I met a young man named Remy. Oddly, Remy and I have never met, even though we both started on March 1st. We exchanged pleasantries and asked about other hikers we may know, then decided to hike together. Our end goal for the day was the same and it’s always nice to hike with someone else.

While we hiked, I got to know more about Remy (named for the character in the movie Ratatouille). He is a recent college grad from Atlanta doing some soul searching before starting grad school in the fall. I’ve heard this story from many other hikers out here, but it’s still unique and interesting each time. It sounds like he has made some good progress already and is feeling good about his future life decisions.

Around midday, we passed a very very very large tree. This was the famous Keffer Oak, the largest oak tree in the southern half of the AT. Dover Oak, in NY, is slightly bigger … but this was no small fry. This tree was monstrous, and made for a great lunch break and photo op (see above).

After lunch, as I was just getting up to leave, I saw the smallest of red dots move on my arm. Looking closely, I was disgusted to learn I just spied my first tick on the trail. Well, no, not on the trail. On me! And what is worse … it was a deer tick. Ack! I’ve never seen a deer tick before, but I’m very familiar with them and was not pleased at all to find him invading my personal space. The good news, however, is that he was moving along my arm, and had not come close to biting me yet. I pulled out my camera for a photo and then my knife for a swift beheading. It was a clean kill, and I left the headless body on the ground as a warning to all his friends. Any other tick that comes near me will suffer the same gruesome fate.

The rest of the day was a really scenic and incredible ridge walk along the Eastern Continental Divide. Water on one side supposedly flows to the Mississippi River, while the other eventually leads to the James River/Atlantic Ocean. The view during this 5 mile stretch was just breathtaking. Almost good enough to justify the awful rock stepping. Almost.

When we reached Niday shelter, we found a Girl Scout group had taken the whole area over. Even if I wanted to stop at 18 miles, I would have been forced to go on. A dozen 12 year old girls giggling all night would be hard to sleep through. We chatted with the scout masters a bit and then headed out. By now it was 5pm, and any good stopping place was at least 6 miles away up and over Brush Mountain.

I got to the top of Brush just as the sun was going down. There was a bench at the top that served as a great place to rest my weary feet and watch a beautiful sunset. So I did … in Hello Neiman style. 🙂

The last 4 miles of the day were hiked at night. I am not normally a fan of night hiking, but this was short and all downhill. It was actually quite beautiful. With just a headlamp to light the way, I made my way down to the road in about an hour and a half and setup camp at a makeshift campsite next to the parking lot. I arrived around 9:30 and was surprised to see 3 or 4 tents already setup there. I quietly hung my hammock and ate a cold/dry dinner before crawling into bed.

I’ll probably sleep in a bit late tomorrow, as my feet and legs are beyond exhausted, but it was worth it. Today was one of those days I’ll remember fondly years from now, when I think back on this hike.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait!)

  • Start Mile: 668.5
  • Start Time: 07:50
  • End Mile: 695.6
  • End Time: 21:30
  • Miles Hiked: 27.1
  • Miles to Go: 1495.3
  • Lodging: Trout Creek (VA Road 620)