Day 59. Between last night’s late movie, hangout time with the family, and being pretty far away from the trail, today got off to a slow start and late finish. Not a bad day, not in the least, but I did learn some very valuable lessons during today’s slackpack hike.
First of all, I am not at all faster hiking without a backpack. All I carried today was a tiny kids daypack with food and water, and my hiking sticks. I was ready to run up and down mountains and assured my family it would take me no more than 6 hours to cover today’s 25 mile plan without my typical gear, and that I’d meet them at the rendezvous point at 4pm.
Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.
Today’s hike was difficult, with a steep 3 mile climb up Cole Mountain to start it off, than 15 miles of up and downs with rock laden trails, before climbing back down 5 miles to the parking lot. I made good timing at first, getting up the steep mountain in an hour … but I never got above 2.5 miles an hour after that. I was slow going with the rocks, stopped fo my usual breaks, and didn’t get to the start of the climb down until 6pm. It took me 8 hours to hike 20 miles, which is pretty much the same speed as any other day with a full pack. I felt horrible for keeping everyone waiting and waisting much of the night.
But second, my family is awesome. Ok fine, I knew that already, but they proved it today again. Not only did they stay in touch with updates throughout the day, but after hiking uphill 3 miles to meet me … they waited happily for almost 2 hours until I showed up. They played games, went exploring, whittled sticks, and enjoyed the trail and views. It was definitely not time wasted after all and we had a great time climbing back down together slowly as well.
My nephews were eager to show off their stream crossing skills, made up rules for peeing in the woods (“Rule #3, always pee on a tree”), and general trail know-how. We also talked about Star Wars and Spaceballs for about an hour … because they are awesome boys.
We finally got down to the VA Road 56 parking lot around 8pm and headed out to dinner. At Reeds Gap, the AWOL guide talks about a brewery called Devil’s Backbone Brewpub. We happened to drive by it on the way to our lodging for the night, so stopped in to to check it out.
This was not a brew pub, this was a brew city! When you pull in, you are met with huge buildings, patios, fields, houses and more that make up this gigantic complex. A brewery, a distillery, an indoor bar, an outdoor bar, a restaurant, a fire pit, a cigar lounge, a wash room, a merch store, a pavilion and stage, a picnic area, a camping area … it went on and on and on. And it was packed. Hundreds of people milled around the different venues on this Saturday evening late in to the night. And the food and drink was as good as the atmosphere … needless to say, dinner was amazing.
Side note, Devil’s Backbone will pick up hikers on the trail at Reeds Gap (mile 843.9) and let you camp on site for free, so pretty much EVERY hiker should visit here.
We then checked in at the Wintergreen Green ski resort where we had a condo for the night. It’s not a very convenient place for typical hikers, but was perfect for a family’s weekend stay. It’s about 30 minutes back to the trail in the morning and not really accessible without your own car.
The kids were pretty tired at this point, but we stayed up for a bit while I did laundry and organized my gear. I decided I am in no rush to overdo it tomorrow, as today’s hike was a lot tougher than expected. It’s 35 miles to Waynesboro, so I’ll do somewhere between 15 and 20 miles tomorrow. Plus, I’d like to soak up another morning with everyone before they head back home!
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait!)
- Start Mile: 807.8
- Start Time: 10:15
- End Mile: 833.2
- End Time: 20:00
- Miles Hiked: 25.4
- Miles to Go: 1368.7
- Lodging: Wintergreen Resort