26 March 2021. Day 6. 17.7 Miles + 62.7 Miles = 80.4 Miles. A New and Better Day

With the Morning Came the Sun

The night was wicked. Rain and wind pounded the campsite all night. I could hear Jim and Chris’s tents flapping in the 25-30 mph gusts. I was more than comfortable in the shelter tucked away in a corner out of the force of the air flow. About 6 am I was beginning to cook breakfast when I heard this massive crash just below their tents but below my sight line. A huge tree had given up on appearing to be strong and had finally been brought to earth. Another 100 + year old tree gone. Chris almost immediately came out of his tent. “I was sound asleep and dreamed that I heard a large noise.” Yes he did. As you can see above the upcoming day had the promise of better times.

Jim of Greensboro North Carolina and Chris of Richmond, Virginia

These are the middle school friends who have stayed connected and hike 3 or 4 times a year. They had heard of the Foothills Trail at home so I may see them again. Jim says that his wife harasses him about not having more friends. He tells her he doesn’t need any more friends…. he has Chris.

Black Rock Overlook Climbing Apple Orchard Mountain

I was on the trail by 0812 having said our goodbyes. Now wearing shorts (although wet) it was as different as night and day from the previous day. The day began with a 1,200 foot 4 mile climb up the side of Apple Orchard Mountain. I’m surely not going to tell you that I didn’t stop to catch my breath because I did. It’s just that it was manageable. Maybe it was just the fact that the sun was out or the morning granola had gone down easier or maybe even….. hopefully…..that my hiking legs were beginning to kick in. 600 feet below the summit there was a sign that read “Blackrock Overlook 200 Feet”. I turned onto the spur and the picture above was my reward.

Apple Orchard Mountain and the Federal Aviation Administration Tower

I knew the day was better when I crested the knoll onto the meadow at the top and didn’t feel like I needed to locate a casket for my upcoming demise. The tower is, of course, unmanned so I slowly hiked past the massive structure and found some temporary shelter to call Jan. The wind was cool enough that I put my puffy vest back on. I had found a groove and felt that I could hopefully make up for some of yesterday’s loss of mileage.

Entrance Into the Thunder Ridge Wilderness

It was a sign that promised six miles of mostly downhill hiking. It also provided the place where I experienced my first…..

fall! It happened in a flash. My hiking companion Vert T. Go had nothing to do with it. The steps above were wet from the previous night’s rain and they were just waiting for someone like me who was feeling good about his hike to innocently come along. My left foot slipped on a wet step and the weight of my pack caused a backwards spin to the left. If it had been a dance contest I would have won for most original move. I don’t know how my dance partner would have been able to follow because I sure didn’t know where the heck I was going. I remember thinking don’t break your wrists when you break your fall and then someone grunted. Oh…..: it was me. It may have been more of an “umphhh”. I laid there a moment…. assessed my body….tested my moving parts…. got up…. adjusted my gear…. and hiked on.

The Guillotine

It didn’t take long for my mind to be off of the fall. I came upon an AT landmark… the Guillotine. You’re supposed to have your picture taken under this thing but…. you know… there was no one to push the picture button.

This is My “I Have No Idea Where I Am Picture/Video

It’s hard to believe but at some point you actually stop looking at the views.

Scott and his Cousin Lou of Arlington, Virginia

At 5.3 miles I stopped to chow down on some really great Spam for lunch. I had arrived at Thunder Hill Shelter. Scott and Lou were just packing up after spending the night there. They told me that Smooth Chain had just left an hour before. Somehow I was keeping up with him. Scott and Lou were on a week long backpack which they do together once a year. Well actually Scott had been hiking since Sunday. “I forgot that I was supposed to hike,” said Lou. He had joined Scott only the day before. They were going to hike to Matt’s Creek Shelter more then 13 miles away. I knew that was out of reach for me. They soon moved on with me following moments later.

Thunder Ridge Overlook at 772.8

It turned out that they and I ended up leapfrogging each other several times. They were concerned that they may slow me up! Ha!!! If it hadn’t been for Grambo I’d be dead last on this non race and she remained my inspirational hero.

A Gift From Texas. More Than Likely From John Douglas Garland

I guess you all remember the wicked cold spell Texas had about a month back. For several days the temperatures there were lower than those in Alaska. Well that storm came through this area and for some reason it picked the valley called Petites Gap to wreck havoc on the forest. The temperature dropped the tops of every tree froze and then the winds hit. I had never seen anything like it. Just about every tree had the tops sheared off. I couldn’t get a good picture of it but you can see the damage on the ground. The trail down to the gap had been cleared but on the other side was a 700 foot climb to the peak of Highcock Knob. It hadn’t been cleared and I spent the next 1.2 miles struggling through the wreckage. Trapped legs and added twisting exertion reminded me that my hiking companion Vert was still with me. I spent quite a bit of time sitting and waiting. I loved seeing that next peak.

Apple Orchard Mountain

From the top of Highcock Knob I could see my days progress.

The Added Strength of Seeing the James River

I turned a corner and there it was….. the James River. Long before it meanders through Richmond. The river that I had read so much about in the history of Virginia. I immediately flipped a switch…. I was going to attempt to hike the 6.5 miles to Matt’s Creek Shelter. It was mostly down and I had eaten all but one meal. My water was down to under a liter so my pack was going to be as light as it was going to ever be. I set a pace, my feet felt great and I willed Vert to be as gone as possible. As darkness set in I rock hopped into the shelter. Scott and Lou were there and invited me to set up my tent with theirs up the creek a few hundred feet away. We cooked supper together, swapped war stories of the day and each retired to our respective abodes. It had been a 17.7 miles day… and I felt good! Tomorrow would be a NERO and see a chance to resupply. I couldn’t wait to hike on!

2 thoughts on “26 March 2021. Day 6. 17.7 Miles + 62.7 Miles = 80.4 Miles. A New and Better Day

  1. Your hike sounds like a partial repeat…the rock fall from Carvers to 19E and the magical downed limb fun on Junaluska. You’re building new memories but reliving some old too. 😊


  2. The Blackrock Overlook photo is breathtaking!
    I once again look forward to your daily journaling and photos. The detail, descriptions and humor transport your readers to the trail right along with you.
    Your perseverance on this AT journey is an inspiration to many! (Especially to this soon to be empty nester contemplating filling the voids with a pair of hiking boots and self health)
    Thank you for sharing and Godspeed.


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