Knot Maul Branch Shelter [mile 556.1; mpd 8.18]
Fourteen miles, thanks to… Pathfinder and Blackhawk Bob!
But I’m ahead of myself. Let’s start with the wonderful: a rainbow last night in front of the dive motel!
After I snapped a picture of it, I was lying there in bed when all of a sudden I heard Australian accents. Could it be? I slipped on my jacket and dashed outside, and yes! It was Oz Jacko and his son, Invisible Man. I knew Jacko from White Blaze, and I’d been anxious to meet the two of them. Great people who traveled a lot farther than Pennsylvania to hike this monster.
Now, the motel. It’s all the rage on the HGN today. Legendarily bad. People are calling it the Bates Motel. Blackhawk, who flew military helicopters for 22 years, said he’s slept in burned out buildings that were cleaner. I was walking around in bare feet this morning, on the carpet, and I noticed my feet were black with filth! From the rug! I didn’t really sleep, but I think that’s because the room reeked of old cigarette smoke. Apparently, Zen Master and Canadian Bacon had heard from a 2012 hiker how disgusting the place was, so they walked 4 miles to the Comfort Inn. Also, there’s a hostel a few miles up the road that’s clean and beautiful and not in the book. The owner picked up a bunch of people at the quote-unquote restaurant, which was really like a VFW clubhouse, with folding chairs. But they made a great burger. So future hikers: Stay at the Relax Inn at your own risk! But eat at the Barn.
The day started cold and cloudy. At the restaurant, I and a bunch of other hikers waited an hour just to get menus. But while we were waiting, 2007 hiker Backyard Boogie stopped in and sat with us and shared a lot of stories about his hike—then picked up the breakfast tab for every hiker in the place. Trail magic! Thanks, BB!
Outside it was finally sunny, and it stayed that way all day long. Sun and puffy white clouds, although the temperature stayed in the forties with a very cold wind. And the terrain! Gorgeous farmlands, grassy fields. I talked with so many hikers today! All of them had pony stories. So far, they’re saying I’m the only hiker who had a day of no ponies. LOL.
So I hiked a while, maybe an hour, and who should I run into but Jacko and the Invisible Man! We chatted a bit, then the miracle of the day happened: Blackhawk and Pathfinder walked up the trail.
I followed them for a while and realized… Ohmygods, I can keep up with them! Pathfinder’s pace is just a hair, a tiny hair, faster than mine! So I shadowed her all day long, even up some mighty hills. I wanted to see how they do it. So when they took a break, I took a break. I just glued myself to them.
It was the first time in two months that I’ve actually hiked with other people. And it’s magic! I can see why people like it. I just watched Pathfinder’s purple socks and pretended I was following in her wake. If she got ten feet ahead of me, I jogged a little. I didn’t stop on the uphills. I didn’t stop to take pictures or read the trail guide or pee. And I learned a lot about how they move. I’m going to try to stick with them again tomorrow, if I can. They’re great people. Who knew that what I needed was a pacecar?
I found out there’s no outfitter in Pearisburg. That’s bad! I’m almost out of Aqua Mira. Hrm. Somebody there must sell that sort of thing; there’s too much of a market for there not to be any camping supplies available.
We’re at the shelter now, hunkering down for a night in the thirties with potential frost. Frozen shoes! And I finally feel like I’m back in a bit of a bubble. Sticks and Gus are here, and Blackhawk and Pathfinder obviously, and Sparky and two hikers whose names I can’t remember. I call them Dr. Who and the Companion. Oh, and Little Sass and her friend Sandy and Bluebird. All people I’ve met, and only one stranger, a section hiker.
Today’s milestone: We hit the mathematical 25% mark! One quarter of the trail, done!
What a great, great, totally rainless day.
And before I forget, happy Mother’s Day to all you moms and aunts and grandmoms! I miss and love my mom so much, even though she’s gone where I can’t follow. She would have thought I was totally out of my mind for doing this. And she’d have been right. 🙂
Thank you, Robert Stutts, for the trail magic! He’s a great writer and a great teacher, and I love reading his Magpie Mondays when I’m home. Hey, Robert, I’ve been having weird dreams about you. Is somehing leaking in your bathroom?
One last bit of gossip from the HGN: More news on that Mt. Rogers rescue. Remember the day I spent in the tent? Well, right around that time, apparently a couple of groups of hikers hit freezing temps and winds gusting to 80 mph (some people say 70) on Mt. Rogers and Whitetop. They were actually on their hands and knees for a while because the wind was so fierce. And they eventually got far enough down the mountain that they could call for a ride to Damascus. True story. I’m glad I stayed in my tent.
A cold night tonight, and more sunshine tomorrow. Perfect!