Some days just don’t turn out as planned. The morning was thick with fog as I rolled up my wet tent and got underway. Shortly after leaving Lick Creek, I began the 2,000 foot climb to Chestnut Knob through the mist. The climb is stretched out over five miles, so as climbs go, it really wasn’t that bad. But with the warm, sticky wetness that clung to everything, I was soon drenched with sweat.
About halfway through the climb, the trail exited the woods and continued along the Chestnut Ridge. By this time, I had climbed above the clouds, and the transition to open meadow was breathtaking. There was even a little breeze, and the trail was as smooth as silk. I’m guessing that this area was once a farm that had been cleared to make pasture land, and I even passed the remnants of an apple orchard.
As I continued to climb along the ridge, the lack of trees allowed gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. It is a rare treat to get to get pictures above the clouds, so naturally I had to stop every 15 feet to take a picture.
At the end of the climb stands the Chestnut Knob Shelter, which sits in the middle of a large grassy field. This is the most unique shelter that I have seen on the trail. The shelter is fully enclosed, covered with lovely stonework, and features wooden bunk beds and a picnic table inside. After eating lunch here, I decided to visit the privy and discovered that it is equipped with a plunger, complements of Nav and Pyro. They must have carried that thing from Marion, and it made me laugh out loud.
Fully refueled, it now was time to crush some miles in order to make my goal of arriving in Pearisburg, VA, on Saturday. If the elevation profile in the A.T. Guide for the next seven miles had been an EKG, the doctors would have called for a priest. Furthermore, there was a awesome view from the shelter of the ridge line, and it looked as smooth as a knife blade. I thought I could knock out this section in a couple of hours. Wrong!
The reality on the ground is that this seven mile section of trail is a boulder field punctuated by constant 75-100 foot climbs and descents. Furthermore, the temperature had climbed to the 80’s, and there was no water to be found on the ridge. It took me nearly five hours to negotiate this obstacle course, and by the end I was a whipped puppy. At the intersection of the trail to the Davis Farm Campsite, I called my sister to discuss alternatives, since it was now clear that reaching Pearisburg by Saturday was not in the cards.
Finally, the trail left the ridge and descended to the Jenkins Shelter, where I decided to call it quits (four miles short of my goal). When I arrived, there was a section hiker named Razorback there, but within the hour the place filled up with a dozen other hikers. No one here intended to stay here tonight, but the boulder Olympics had taken its toll on everyone’s desire (and/or ability) to continue further. I’m going to rest my weary legs and feet, and figure out a plan for tomorrow.