Day 57. Hiking is weird sometimes. I’m nearly 2 months into this trip and have not had a single blister. Then today, I wake up, start hiking, and instantly realize I have 3 at once. Arg! I know it is likely due to the continuous rain and wet feet since Daleville, but it’s extremely annoying nonetheless. All 3 are on little toes, spread between both feet, so it was pretty uncomfortable hiking throughout the day.
Time wise, I could have made the 25 mile option for today, but when I reached the shelter at 16 miles, my little piggies told me they were done. I tried treating the toes at lunch, to cover the hot spot before it turned blister, but it was already too late for that, so they just continued to pain me all afternoon.
I got to Johns Hollow Shelter around 2pm, and instantly soaked my feet in the nearby stream. That felt fantastic! Then after some careful cleaning, I did my best to treat the blisters fully (pop, drain, bandage, etc.) and pray it will heal up by morning. I have 20 miles to do by 5pm, so I can’t be limping on sore toes the whole way!
Besides that though, It was a gorgeous day. A full day of blue skies and sun while hiking in the James River Face Wilderness. Many stream crossings and just a couple big elevation changes meant it was a fairly simple day of hiking. One nice view came at Thunder Ridge Overlook, where I snapped the photo above. Even with foot pain, today’s hike was a good one. And it finally emptied out on the massive James River. Not the prettiest of waterways, with its murky brown water, but a big river and big landmark. After crossing the HUGE foot bridge, I was nearly done for the day.
Oddly, I didn’t see too many others today. I only shared last night’s shelter with one other person, and he left before me in the morning. I had a short chat with one of the local Ridge Runners (trail maintenance volunteers), and another with a day hiker sitting by a stream, but that was it. Looking at the registries in all 3 shelters I passed today, I realized I don’t have many people within a day or 2 of me … and of those that are ahead, I have no idea who they are. Up until now, I’ve always recognized names in the registries from earlier days on the trail together, but I seem to have passed just about every name I know, and am now chasing the hikers who started weeks before me or after. It’s an odd feeling for some reason, makes me feel just a bit more alone. But that’s alright of course, it just means there are new people to meet.
I saw a lot of cold blooded wild life today, which was pretty neat. There are these tiny orange salamanders, about 2-3 inches long, that have been out the past couple days. They are incredibly beautiful but strange out here against the constant green/brown backdrop. I also saw countless lizards, each about 6 inches long and more of a prototypical looking mini reptile. I saw a giant bullfrog hop along the trail in front of me … and I saw my first real snake. Not the tiny garter snakes that scurry into the brush as you approach, this one was the real deal. It was about 4-5 feet long, and all black. It hissed peacefully at me while slithering around Matt’s Creek Shelter, clearly letting me know this home was his … and I was welcome to visit it, as long as I kept my distance. I don’t know much about snakes, but in doing some research on the snakes of this region, it appears to have been a Black Kingsnake. Harmless to humans, but big compared to others, and it has an awesome name. If I wasn’t already Sharkbait, I’d like to be called Kingsnake.
After crossing the James River Bridge, it was a brief 1.5 mile hike uphill to the shelter. I laid out my pad and quilt in the shelter one more time because rain is coming tonight. I’m getting more comfortable sleeping in these things, especially if it means my gear stays dry. It appears I’ll be alone here for the night … a first for me on the trail. Tomorrow I’ll tackle the 2,000 ft climb of Bluff Mountain before heading back down to meet my family. It should clear up by late morning, and if the toes have heeled a bit, should be a great hike with epic views.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait!)
- Start Mile: 771.4
- Start Time: 08:30
- End Mile: 787.7
- End Time: 14:10
- Miles Hiked: 16.3
- Miles to Go: 1403.2
- Lodging: Johns Hollow Shelter