Hotdogging in (I think) Lost Spectacles Gap [mile 696.1]
Lost Spectacles Gap! I swore all day I’d avoid that one, just because of the name! Yet here I am. It’s uncanny how little control I have over the trail and the hiking when all’s said and done.
This was a lovely, lovely day. The mountain laurels were blooming, and I saw wild lilies-of-the-valley—my mother’s favorite flower.
I wanted to push and do 14—not that it matters, because the next two days are going to be short anyway, but I wanted to put it out there as my intention. And I ended up doing a little more than that, so yay! And some of that was steep climbing, and some of it was rocky ridgewalking, and the end of it… holy crap, you’re not going to believe me when I tell you what I just climbed down. I can’t quite believe it myself.
Anyway. Got an early start, which felt great. It was cold this morning, but I actually think it was colder yesterday up on that mountain in the wind. I still needed my fleece and gloves when I got rolling. Again, thank gods I didn’t dump that stuff in Pearisburg!
And the trail rewarded me with easy terrain! At least until 2 in the afternoon. That’s when things got a little rocky. Literally.
In the morning, the trail meandered through the Brush Mountain Wilderness—and what a great place that would be to visit if I were local. Good paths, lots of little creeks and bridges, and plenty of campsites and potential campsites. Just good forest.
There was a decent climb in there that took me by surprise: Brush Mountain (duh!), about 1500 feet elevation gain over a couple of miles. But at the top, a bench! Random. Then the trail followed a flat grassy path for a mile or so to the Audie Murphy monument. Murphy was the most decorated American soldier of World War II. At first that seemed random, too—to have this memorial out on a mountain in the middle of nowhere. But apparently he died there in a plane crash. Hikers have piled rocks all around the monument in respect, along with other items: dogtags, flags. Towers of them. So powerful! And how appropriate for Memorial Day Saturday. I left my own rock silently, then went back to the trail.
The terrain stayed blessedly, blissfully easy down to Trout Creek, where I bumped into Planet and Rig and some other hikers (who graciously took a picture of me). Guess what! After I told Planet and Rig about the rattlesnake, they ran into this macho survivalist dude who’d just killed one with a machete and cooked it. A machete? Really? That fascinates me! Out here people don’t even want to carry an extra TicTac. Snakewise, I like to think that the snake I saw is healthy and menacing as ever, and the one this guy killed was a different one, old and sickly, and he did it a favor by killing it quickly. Namaste!
After that the trail changed. The soil got sandier (pale gray sand from rock) and the forest low and shrubby. After a mile, though, the rocks I’d been dreading all day finally made their appearance. It was a ridgewalk at first, under a blue sky but with a chill blustery wind, but eventually it started climbing. And climbing. And climbing.
Even though my feet were sore, it was fun! Like an uphill boilder obstacle course. There were places where I had to toss my poles over a boulder and scramble over the top. So many boulders! I lost the trail a couple of times, but found it again. Obviously.
Then I passed my 14-mile mark at a place called Dragon’s Cove. Planet and Rig were having a rest there. I figured I’d just mosey down and find a spot to stealth camp… but ohmygod, the downhill was a giant rock wall that went on for half a mile! I mean a wall! There were places where they’ve driven steel hand- and foot-holds right into the rock! And it was a long way down!
My fear of heights and the traction issue should have had me quaking. But it was exhilerating! I think the difference was that I could grab onto the rocks like handholds. That, and for most of it I just crawled down on my rear end.
As soon as I got to the bottom, after mentally kissing the ground in gratitude for not letting me plummet to my death, I started looking for a place to camp. And here I am, the only hotdog in the forest.
Tomorrow’s Memorial Day Sunday, but there’s another little grocery store and grill a half-mile from the trail. Since the next two days are short anyway, I might go down there and get breakfast. Or at least a breakfast sandwich and some snacks. I crave Oreos.