It appears that I made a poor tactical decision to sleep in my tent overnight. Late in the evening, a strong storm came through with high winds and torrential rain. Luckily, the tent pad was oriented so that the tent was pitched correctly against the wind, but the wind was so bad that quite a bit of water found its way inside of the tent anyway. I was most concerned that one of the trees on this steep hillside would topple over, but thankfully they held firm.
After stowing my damp gear and rolling up my wet tent, I got a late start out of camp. By then, Boo Boo and Batman were well ahead of me on the trail. The trail soon entered a very rocky section. I had wondered where all of the water was going that fell last night, and I soon had my answer. The Appalachian Trail had become the Appalachian River overnight, complete with its own waterfalls.
Around noon, I reached the Skyland Resort and Restaurant. The boys and I had discussed whether we were going to stop here to eat, but I was so far behind schedule at this time that I decided to press on. I found out later that Boo and Batman did stop here and enjoyed an all you can eat breakfast. I was heartbroken by the news.
On a positive note, the clouds broke and the sun was able to assert that it really did exist. The timing was perfect and I enjoyed some excellent views at Little Stony Man Cliffs. Later in the afternoon, I stopped at the Jewell Hollow Overlook for lunch and enjoyed one last beautiful view before the clouds once again rolled over the mountains.
Just prior to reaching Mary’s Rock Overlook, I came upon a woman who had spent two of the last three nights at the same shelters where we had stayed, and I stopped to chat with her. I’m really sorry that I can’t remember her name but she is a clinical nurse who has used her vacation time for the past 14 years to section hike the A.T. This is her last section to complete the trail and I congratulated her on her achievement which, in my opinion, is much more difficult than doing a thru-hike. She also shared a picture with me that she took last evening at the Birds Nest #3 Hut of a bear that approached the hut and stood up on its hind legs. It was a wonderful classic shot.
I had been in contact all day with the lady (Allison) that owns the Open Arms Hostel regarding my arrival time at Thornton Gap, where she was going to pick me up to give me a ride to her hostel in Luray, VA. At Mary’s Rock, the rain rolled in (and obliterated the view) as I began the descent to the gap. The trail here is part of an old trail built by the CCC back in the 1930’s, where they built the stone retaining walls and filled it in with boulders. So it was not only rocky but very steep and, now, treacherously wet. I kept sending Allison text messages to push back my arrival time, and she assured me that it was not a problem.
At 5:30 (30 minutes later than my original estimate), I arrived at our predetermined meeting place, the restrooms at the Panorama parking area. The moment that my soaking wet self got there, a car pulled up and Allison rolled down the window and said, “Need a ride to town?” I responded, “Indeed I do!” Once in the car, I was introduced to a remarkable 65 year old lady named Elizabeth, who is hiking a long section of the trail solo.
As soon as I entered the hostel, I knew it was going to be special because it smelled like a home. Allison gave me the grand tour showing me where the free soda and fruit were located, where I could hang my stuff in the basement (equipped with a dehumidifier) to dry, where the loaner clothes were located, my bed (Boo Boo and Batman were already in the room), the shower, and where the towels were stored.
Once I had showered and put on the dry loaner clothes (cotton feels so good), Allison gave us a ride into town to a restaurant and told us to contact her when we were ready to return. We went to an Irish Pub type place where I had my usual cheeseburger with all the fixings and a couple of draft beers. Batman sent Allison a text that we were finished and ten minutes later she arrived to give us a ride to a convenience store and then back to the hostel. Arriving back at our room, we found that all of our freshly washed clothes had been delivered.
This evening, we sat enjoying hiker talk with Allison on her back porch until way past hiker midnight (9:00 pm). When we returned to our room, Batman commented about what a special person Allison was and that he had never been treated with such kindness on the trail. He didn’t stay at the Greasy Creek Friendly and missed the opportunity to met Connie, but she may have to share the hospitality crown with Allison. She is a true Trail Angel.