After spending a weekend in The Real World attending a wedding reception, I made my way back to Marion, VA to pick up the trail. I was exhausted from the festivities and the long drive, so when I spoke to Lentil on the phone and he suggested zeroing to wait out the impending rain, I didn’t think twice.
Lentil’d gotten 12 miles up the trail from me to Atkins, so I picked him up in my fancy schmancy rental car and drove to a motel in Marion. Techie showed up several hours later, which was an awesome surprise. And we three hikers spent the evening hours joy riding the one-mile strip of town (ie to the Walmart and gas station). I know it’s lazy and a waste of gas, but I don’t think I can accurately convey the pleasure in driving less than a quarter mile to a store (and a Walmart at that!) when one has been reliant on one’s own two feet for seven weeks. We were legitimately giddy.
The following day we returned the car, and Enterprise was good enough not only to drop Lentil back in Atkins at the Relax Inn, but also to drop Techie and me back to Partnership Shelter 12 trail miles back. Hey, wait, I have a great idea, Techie. Why don’t we drop our packs at the Relax Inn and slack pack the 12 miles north from Partnership Shelter to there? Genius, Jor, genius!
Note: Slackpacking is when a thru-hiker gets a ride to a point on the trail and only carries a day pack to hike to a destination further up the trail. Yes, hiking without 40 pounds on one’s back is easier.
And that’s exactly what we ended up doing. Once the driver from Enterprise dropped us off, I started hiking with only the lid from my pack to serve as a shoulder pack. In it were a few snacks, ID, and water. I was feeling pumped. Twelve miles? Heck, I can run 12 miles in two hours. This is going to be easy as pie.
Almost immediately I got a shin cramp in my left leg. Dang it, I should’ve waited on these new insoles. I stopped, rested, massaged and kept moving when Techie caught up with me. After another little bit, as I was struggling up a steep incline – not typical of the terrain in Virginia, I heard Techie say, ” What is this, Georgia?” I just about lost it laughing because he had interrupted my own little moment of internal grumbling.
Ok, Ok, this isn’t as easy of a hike as I thought if would be, but can you imagine how much more strenuous it would be with a loaded pack? After another mile or two, the trail leveled out, although there was a significant collection of rocks scattered around. But I was planning on booking it back to Atkins, so jogging along the trail sounded like a pretty great idea to me. Doesn’t it sound like a great idea to you?
Yeah, we’ll then I tripped. Right. And without a heavy pack to balance my center of gravity, my body projected forward without a backstop, and I broke my fall with my hand. Oops. Keeping in mind that I didn’t have my life on my back (including my first aid kit), I rifled in my day pack for anything to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. And, to the rescue, my rental car receipt. I spent the next 7 or so miles gripping my hand hard against the trekking pole.
En route, I spent a few minutes checking out an old schoolhouse, complete with both a list of rules for teachers and a list of punishment for students.
When I finally made it to the Relax Inn to grab my pack, I spent a few minutes cleaning out the wound and bandaging it up. Don’t worry; it’s not as bad as it looks. It’s slightly smaller than a dime, and who needs all that skin on her palm anyway? It’s overkill, really….I just put that picture in above to make myself look tougher than I am, I assure you. And, I mean, I look pretty tough, right?
Anyway, I then donned my pack and hiked 14 miles to the first shelter beyond. Lentil had said he’d planned to do a relatively short day, which gave me the opportunity to catch up.
I spent that evening and the next day trying to secure the dangling skin, first with super glue (with Lentil’s help), then with duct tape, and finally with Steri Strips. (And here’s a good place to mention that I lost my first toenail. Boo.) When I tripped (again) in the middle of. the following day and the dangling skin tore off to expose the raw flesh underneath, I decided to let it air out hoping it would help in the drying and healing process.
Bur, hey, enough of the gore. I want to tell you more about my hike from Atkins to Pearisburg. It was truly awesome. Over the course of those several days, I got my first hint of the Green Tunnel. Unfortunately, pictures don’t do justice, but Spring is definitely in the air and on the trail. In the foreground, trees are budding with leaves, but one can still peak through the branches to catch glimpses of vibrant light and deep greens blanketed the distant hills and valleys.
Also, the weather was generally overcast and cool, which is my favorite as I get overheated pretty quickly. Every once in a while, the sun peaked through the clouds, but more often than not I would be shaded under a canopy of trees or rhododendron bushes.
And let me not forget to mention how the terrain has become more forgiving. I’ve been awash with easy rolling hills as far as the eye can see. No longer is it rare to average 2.5 or 3 mph. It’s awes
On my fourth night out from Marion, I stopped in at the Woods Hole Hostel, which is a welcoming functioning organic farm a half mile off the trail. When I arrived, I was informed that a former thru-hiker had anonymously paid for my stay, including breakfast and dinner. Can you believe that? I was so surprised and excited. If you happen to be that anonymous trail angel, I want to let you know how grateful I am. Thank you so much!
I stayed the night in the bunkhouse, spent a slow morning eating a monster breakfast and watching the chickens pluck the ground, and finally hiked the last ten miles into Pearisburg.
To be clear, for those of you that have negative impressions, the Green Tunnel still has its awe inspiring views. During that last hike into Pearisburg, at least three significant ones held my attention. See?
In case there were any doubt, Virginia is still toward the top of my list of favorite states.