We woke up to bright blue skies and a valley engulfed by fog. It was interesting to see such an incredible view change so drastically. The hike for the day was relatively uneventful. We followed ridge lines which made it rocky but relatively easy terrain. There wasn't very much water for the day so we had to camel up and carry an extra liter. Our campsite for the night was next to a nice rolling creek. I always like falling asleep to the sound of water.
Laurel Creek to Helveys Mill Shelter
Trail Mom and I headed out of camp early to beat the heat. The morning hike was really overcast and humid. An hour into our hike we stumbled upon a wild turkey walking the trail. When it spotted us it hightailed it the other direction down the trail. Right after Cyclops caught up. We made our way to Bland and got a ride to Subway from past thru hiker Comfortably Numb. We sat at Subway for about 4 hours charging and gorging ourselves. After a quick trip to Dollar General, we hitched back to the trail and hiked onto the shelter. At the shelter we found Frosty! We have been hiking together since day 3 and had gotten separated for a few days. His birthday was the day prior so it was good to see him.
Helveys Mill Shelter to Dismal Falls
Not much to say about the day of hiking. The highlight of the day was stumbling upon a very small fawn that was nestled in the brush. The poor thing was so frightened by us that its only movements were to lift its tiny head up to see if we had left yet. From there we hiked on a little farther to Trent's Grocery for a delicious burger and milkshake. After dinner we continued on a few more miles to our campsite at Dismal Falls. The guidebook notes this as a great swimming hole but unfortunately for us it was far too cold.
The mornings terrain was nice and flat for about 7 miles. We had multiple footbridge crossings in a short period of time, and it was a nice break from the constant up and down. After the nice flat bit, we shot up into the sky 1000 feet. The climb was pretty tough and the heat of the day didn't make it any easier. Once on top of the ridge, we had some amazing views of the surrounding valleys. We could hear the cows mooing off in the distance. From the ridge we hikes on to check out Woods Hole Hostel which is an amazing hostel on an organic farm. If I wasn't leaving to go to Trail Days the next morning I definitely would have stayed. After checking out the hostel we headed back to the trailhead and set up camp where the next morning Trail Mom's parents would meet us to take us to Trail Days.
Trail Days is the largest hiker festival in the world and is held in Damascus, Va the weekend after Mothers Day. All of the major outdoor vendors attend and are on hand to fix thru hikers gear, and give out free stuff. Thousands of people descend on this little town and it is absolutely amazing. We arrived Friday afternoon and headed straight for Tent City which is where current and past thru hikers set up camp for the weekend. It is literally a city in the woods with different camps set up like Billville, Wonderland, Riff Raff, and Camp Mellow. Any open space within the trees had a tent set up in it. The ministry across the street offered free haircuts, showers, laundry, and food. I was able to get my mowhawk cleaned up and take a shower for the first time in 14 days. At night Tent City really comes alive with a massive bonfire and drum circle. They threw a special powder into the fire to turn the flames green and blue. It was definitely a unique experience dancing in the circle around the fire. During the day, we walked around town to all the vendor booths. Later in the day, we walked in the annual hiker parade. The onlookers of the parade dowsed us with water balloons and super soakers, I guess because we smell so bad. Trail Days was yet another life changing experience out on the trail. I will definitely be returning in the future.
Sugar Run Gap to Pearisburg, Va
The hike into Pearisburg was really easy. We stayed up on the ridge all morning and then hiked down into Pearisburg. We immediately went to the AYCE Chinese buffet and got our monies worth plus some. After lunch we did laundry, and once that was done Frosty rolled up in his rental car and easily convinced us all to drive to Blacksburg to go bowling. It was pretty interesting going to town in all of our hiker trash clothing. It was a really fun night doing normal life things.
The trail coming out of Pearisburg is not how you usually picture the A.T. We walked through people's backyards, along a busy highway and bridge, by an industrial factory, and then around a smelly landfill. Quite the contrast from the days prior. Once we climbed to the top of the ridge we were rewarded with an unexpected view of West Virginia. I didn't realize that we were so close. After hanging around at the view for awhile we continued on across the ridge. It was relatively flat but rocky. As we hiked in the hiker train Chesepeake suddenly stopped. A bear was just hanging out about 30 yards in front of us. When it realized we were there it did a double take and bolted into the woods. After settling down from our first bear encounter, we continued to hike on. I made a mistake in reading the guidebook and we accidently missed our campsite causing us to hike into the dark for a little bit until we were able to find a spot that wasn't covered in rocks.
Ridge Campsite to Footbridge Stream Campsite
I hiked out of camp alone and cruised along the trail to some music. It was a nice morning and the sun was shining. The trail dipped down into a valley and I ate lunch on some rocks in the middle of Stony Creek. From there I continued on along the creek to The Captains place. He has a zip line across the creek and offers free tenting and sodas in his property. I checked it out from across the creek and it didn't look like anyone was home so I didn't go across. From The Captains there was a steep climb up to Bailey Gap Shelter where I took a nice long nap to wait on everyone else. When everyone arrived they informed me that their plan was to night hike over the next ridge and down to the shelter. Luckily I took a nap. We set off and were able to catch the sunset at Wind Rock. No civilization in sight. We strapped on the headlamps and continued on. It was our first night hiking experience, and we saw a lot more wildlife than we were expecting. Deer were everywhere and we even saw another bear who bolted in the opposite direction. We made it to the campsite around midnight.