Last night, as I was about to fall asleep, I heard a noise in camp. At first, I thought (hoped) it might be a bear, but when I realized that most bears don’t wear headlamps, I went back to falling asleep. This morning, I discovered that a hammock had been hung near me and that its owner was Princess Mudhips (he didn’t offer an explanation, and I didn’t ask). He has been hiking late in order to log big miles, because he has a finite date to reach Mount Katahdin. I doubt I will ever see him again.
After packing up and crossing the newly repaired Johns Creek Bridge, I proceeded to start my morning workout. This time, it was a 1,400 foot climb to the summit of Johns Creek Mountain. And, true to the past, the trail soon turned into a rocky obstacle course. It took me all morning to make this climb, but I was rewarded with a pretty nice view at the summit called Kelly Knob.
During my descent, I once again entered a forest that was exploding with spring flowers. I’m not certain, but I believe that these are wild azaleas. What I am certain of is that they were putting on a dazzling display! After a quick lunch at the Laurel Creek Shelter, I came across these cool looking fungi specimens while crossing a creek.
I love it when the trail goes through pastures, and today it delivered a really nice one. This is the Virginia I was longing to see, and I hope that the A.T. is routed through more pastures like this. At the bottom of the hill, near VA 42, there is a very unique bridge, made out of split logs, that crosses Sinking Creek.
After crossing VA 42, I was treated to a little more pasture time until the trail descended and crossed VA 630. Just a short walk from that crossing, you walk by the Keffer Oak. This oak is often described, erroneously, as the largest oak tree on the A.T., but it it not. I have a few more miles to hike to see the largest oak, which is the Dover Oak in New York. It is, however, an impressive specimen, but it is not as large as the oak tree I have in my driveway at home. Yawn. If you look closely in the picture, you can see my backpack, placed for scale reference, at the base of the tree.
The climb up to the summit of Bruisers Knob was steep, but at least I was rewarded with a nice view where the power line crossed the trail. I don’t have Photoshop available on the trail, so just pretend that the actual power lines don’t exist in the picture. At the summit of Bruisers Knob I encountered one of the great mysteries of the A.T. (other than why the trail go up more than down). For about a mile, there are dozens of huge stone cairns along the trail. The A.T. Guide suggests that they were built by early farmers, but no one knows for sure. There certainly didn’t seem to be any tillable land up there that had been cleared. Due to the lack of evidence to the contrary, I decided that they must be markers for moonshine caches.
When I arrived at the blue blazed trail to the Sarver Hollow Shelter, I had already decided that I was going to actually sleep in the shelter (my second time on the trail). The weather was turning nasty and the weather forecast was predicting 1-2 inches of rain overnight. Besides, I figured that I would have the shelter to myself because not only was it located 0.4 miles downhill (thru-hikers don’t do 0.4 blue blazes), but I hadn’t seen another hiker all day long. The shelter was perfect for weathering a storm because the picnic table was on a covered porch (the only time I have ever seen this).
As I was unpacking my gear and getting ready to begin my nightly chores, I heard voices from the trail. In walked Train Wreck with another hiker! Somehow, Train Wreck had managed to walk from Pearisburg in two days, while it took me three days! We had a great time catching up over dinner. The other hiker (a young guy I had never seen before and I can’t remember his name) is going stoveless, and was eating Ramen dry and taking lots of multivitamins. I don’t know how he is going to get to Katahdin on a diet like that, but HYOH.
The temperature is dropping and we are listening to the rain pelting the roof of the shelter. The shelter is fairly new and clean, so I’m happy with my decision to stay inside tonight. No wet tent to carry tomorrow.