Did you know that new privies being built on the A.T. have to be ADA compliant? It doesn’t matter that to get to this privy at Matts Creek Shelters you have to boulder hop over a wide stream and climb a really steep hill. But once you get there, you have an extra wide privy to accommodate a wheelchair along with hand rails. Sleep well America, because your government bureaucracy is hard at work on the A.T.
The day broke with cool temperatures and a beautiful clear blue sky. After breaking camp, I continued down the trail which soon started following the banks of the James River. After a few miles, I arrived at a destination I had been eagerly anticipating for several days, the James River Foot Bridge. At nearly 1,000 feet in length, the James River Foot Bridge is the longest pedestrian bridge on the A.T. Although it is indeed a foot bridge, it is named after William T. Foot, a former A.T. thru-hiker and past president of the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club. It took his wife, Laurie “The Happy Feet” Foot, years to raise the funding and get the permits and easements necessary to get the bridge built in her husband’s honor. The bridge is a very impressive legacy to a lover of the trail.
After crossing the James River on the Foot Bridge, the trail passed through a beautiful valley along the Lower Rocky Row Run. That was another one of those sections of trail that would have fit into a National or State Park. The trail was mostly level and smooth, and it was quite nice to stroll along beside the stream.
Just before crossing the James River, I was passed by a hiker named Daddy Longlegs. I joked with him that he could now take over the cobweb removal duties, and he was tall enough to do an outstanding job. When I pulled into the Johns Hollow Shelter for a break, Daddy Longlegs was there, and I got to chat with him a bit. He started his thru-hike three weeks after I started, so he is doing some big mileage days. Once again, I had a chance meeting with an interesting and friendly hiker that I will probably never see again.
The rest of the day was all about the 2,000 foot climb to get back on the ridge line of the mountains. As I was making the first climb to the summit of Big Rocky Row, Scar caught up with me. He had accepted a random ride offer to Glasgow, VA, and had stayed in a motel to dry out his gear from all the rain. His trail angel had even returned in the morning to give him a ride back to the trailhead! We continued the climb together, and I was rewarded with that view of the James River Valley that I had hoped to get yesterday.
Once we made it to the ridge line, it was pretty easy going. There were a few rocky places, but, for the most part, it was a lovely walk in the woods while being surrounded by flowers of every description. We were both very thankful the the weather had finally improved.
On our final summit, Bluff Mountain, there is a memorial to Ottie Cline Powell. Apparently, Ottie wandered away from his schoolhouse while looking for firewood. After an exhaustive manhunt (boyhunt) failed to find him, they found his body on top of this mountain seven months later. I can’t help but think that there is a little more to this story. I don’t know where his schoolhouse was located, but it seems like seven miles is a little far for a four year old to wander looking for firewood.
After a short descent, we arrived at Punchbowl Shelter where we are spending the night. The Punchbowl Shelter is in a very picturesque location, and even features a pond (I wonder how that works out during mosquito season). The house is full in the tenting area, and I met a new group of hikers including Craig, Solomon, and Naps. The best cell phone coverage was up the hill near the privy, so I climbed up there to call my mother and my wife to wish them Happy Mother’s Day!