I awoke in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Which meant I had to get up and out of my warm sleeping bag. I felt my body temperature drop almost immediately when I exited my tent. When I returned, my tent and bag were both cold. It’s amazing how much of your body heat is contained within a super thin walled tent. I tossed and turned a bit throughout the night afterwards. I just couldn’t seem to get warm again.

I stayed bundled up in my sleeping bag as long as I could in the morning. As usual, I took care of some work items, before emerging out of my bag. I ate cold oatmeal and a protein bar. Sure, cooking my oatmeal, and then eating it, probably would have helped warm me up. But who has time for that, right? I packed up my stuff and crawled out of my tent. Saunter said his neck was hurting pretty bad. When this happened before he saw a chiropractor who got everything worked out for him. So he was heading out early to take the first road back into town to see a chiropractor. He said he’d hopefully link back up with us soon.

The Colonel was getting an early start as well. Either that or Mulligan and I were just getting a late start 🙂 That very well might have been the case. We did have a big day ahead of us so we needed to get a move on it as well. I finished packing up my tent and refilled my water. Mulligan was eating breakfast still. We had a brief chat about our plans for the day. Anytime there were big views and something iconic to see, whomever got there first, would wait for the other. Though it’s not something we discussed, there’s something about experiencing things with other people, that makes it that much better of an experience. So we tried to share as many of these experiences together as possible.

I hit the trail and started a steady climb. It wasn’t too bad though. I decided to listen to a podcast. Its pretty much the only podcast I was able to listen to while on the trail– Mighty Blue on the Appalachian Trail. He hiked the AT in 2014 and is hiking it again this year. You may recall I met him in Irwin, TN earlier this year. He’s not too far ahead of me. So listening to his podcast lets me know what places to check out, places to stay away from, who he’s meeting, etc. In this episode he talked about his day on the AT– which is what he typically does. He met a guy by the name of Jason. Down by a creek. The guy offered him a place to stay for the night and cooked him a feast as well. He said his cooking was amazing too. I wondered, could that have been the same “Jason” I met yesterday late in the afternoon???

I turned the corner and up ahead of me was Crouton and his dad. I ran into them yesterday as well. I greeted them and asked where they stayed last night. They were planning on staying at the shelter we stayed at. So I wondered why they never showed up. He said, “you know that guy by the creek we met last night by the bridge? Me “yeah”. Crouton “he invited us over to stay at his house and cooked us a Thanksgiving size meal and even offered us beer.” Me “you’re kidding me?” Crouton “nope, it was amazing”. I couldn’t believe it. Had I not been in such a rush to meet up with my crew, he very well may have invited me over as well. Looks like I missed out a great meal, good company, and a roof over my head. How funny is that? Had I listened to Mighty Blue’s podcast a day earlier, I would have known about Jason, and possibly brought up him meeting Mighty Blue, and thus got an invite to his house. But then again, my crew was waiting on me. To just not show up at the shelter wouldn’t have been right. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. I was supposed to eat my Ramen Bomb (instant mashed potatoes and ramen noodles) and spam for dinner and freeze in my tent all night, right? 🙂

I made my way to the 1st of the 3 peaks in Virginia known as the Virginia Triple Crown. The 1st was Dragons Tooth. The 2nd is McAfee Knob. The third is Tinker Cliffs. Dragon’s Tooth is a jagged rock formation jetting straight up in the air. I got there first but Mulligan caught up quickly as he wasn’t too far behind me. We climbed to the top together. There were quite a few people there. Some older folks and some college kids as well. The views were pretty amazing. We both took several photos and some video as well before climbing back down the rocks. We met some older ladies that were there day hiking. They were really nice. We started hiking down the other side of the mountain together. The hike down was really, really steep. We lost the older ladies at some point.

As we continued our climb down we came across some beautiful pink Rhododendron flowers growing in bushes alongside the trail. They were everywhere. We decided to get off the AT to head to a nearby convenient store for some snacks and drinks. It was a mile or so from the parking lot to the convenient store. As luck would have it, the older ladies we spoke to and hiked with for a bit, were there getting into their SUV. They must have taken a short cut down. We tried out our puppy dog helpless hiker looks to see if they would offer us a ride. There’s actually a name for this its so common:) Its called “Yogi’ing”. I have no idea why its called that. Maybe Yogi the bear begged humans for things in his cartoons? Anyway, it worked. They offered us a ride. We hopped in and were off.

We arrived at the convenient store. There were two hikers, or so we thought, hanging outside on park benches. We said hello and walked in. We got pizzas and some Gatorades, paid, and went back outside to join the others and eat. The two guys seemed to be together but sitting at two different tables with their stuff all over each table. Essentially there wasn’t any room for Mulligan or I to sit down (at least not together anyway). We made a little room at each of the tables. As we scarfed down our food a truck pulled up and parked. An older gentlemen was driving. On the side of the truck it read “Four Pines Hostel”. I had heard of this place and the owner…Joe. Mixed reviews, some good, some bad.

The gentlemen introduced himself as Joe. He asked if any of us needed a ride anywhere. Or a place to stay. He said he had a hostel not too far down the road. We told him “no thank you”. One of the hikers replied “yes I’ll take a ride to your place” and piled into the passenger seat of his truck. Mulligan and I thought, maybe he could give us a ride back to the trail? So I walked up to his truck and asked him, “could you give us a ride back to the trail?” He replied “you don’t want to stay at my hostel?” I replied, “no thank you, just looking for a ride.” He said, “if you’re hurting for money its donation only.” ? My response, “um, no I’ve got money. Do you have any private rooms?” (I like private rooms so I can have privacy to work.) He looked over at the other hiker in his passenger seat and looked back at me, and started laughing at loud. Like I just told him a joke or what I just asked him was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard.? Needless to say we didn’t stay at Joe’s hostel…

A van pulled in and asked us if we were looking for a ride. We said we were, and told him where too. He said “$5”. “That’s fine” we replied. As we climbed in Mulligan snagged his shoe on a rusty screw sticking up from the floor. It ripped his gator (gators are thin coverings for your shoes to keep dirt / rocks out of them while hiking). He wasn’t happy about it and let the driver know. The driver said, “I guess this ride is on me”. I laughed, Mulligan didn’t, but we thanked him. A few minutes later we were back at the trail head. We traveled another 6 miles or so and came to another parking lot. Would you believe it, trail magic?! A big white van was parked there with hikers all around it. The person giving the trail magic was Rowdy. Her and her dog Steve. She had hamburgers, soft drinks, beer, chips, fruit, you name it, it was there. All of this food and we just ate! We nibbled on what we could and packed some to go.

Rowdy is a thru hiker from a previous year but is here this year giving back. She took time off from work to drive back to the AT and help other hikers. The AT has that effect on people:) While getting some food out of the back of the van I noticed some people sitting inside the van. One appeared to be Rabbit. I could tell by his tropical shirt. Where there was Rabbit, there was most likely his father Ketch-Up and Step Daddy. I went around to the side of the van and slid open the door. There they all were! I smiled and said hello and asked what they were doing inside the van. They were sitting in there out of the wind. It was pretty cold actually. They were headed to Damascus, VA for Trail Days. We chatted for a bit longer, told them we’d most likely see them there, and Rowdy and Steve (her dog) hopped back in the van and were off.

We stood there for a few minutes just hanging out. A few more cars pulled in. An older lady and her husband walked up to us. They asked if we were thru hiking. We said we were. They said would you like a beer? Mulligan and I smiled at each other (knowing we just had a few beers from Rowdy) and said “absolutely!” They went and got us a few beers, we hung out and talked to them for a bit. Back to back trail magic, how about that, we thought. A few thru hikers walked up. We told them they just missed trail magic twice! They were a bit bummed so we gave them some of our extra food and drink items we just got. They were Peanut, Fatty B, and an older gentlemen, I didn’t get his name. Fatty B said his name was a slightly different version of his original name… Fat Bastard LOL. He was not fat at all. That’s why it was funny. He just ate a lot. He said he couldn’t tell his parents his name was Fat Bastard so he came up with Fatty B, it didn’t sound as bad. We agreed.

They left and 4 Virginia Tech college kids walked by looking a bit lost. We asked them if we could help them find their way (as if we’d been there or something before– which we hadn’t). They said they were looking to climb up to see McAfee Knob. We pointed to the trail across the road heading north up the mountain. They smiled and thanked us. We told them we’d probably see them up there. They asked us where we started. Mulligan and I looked at each other, then back at them, and simultaneously said “Georgia”. They said, “like Atlanta, GA”. We replied, “you got it”. They asked how long we’d been out on the trail. We said “a few months”. One girl’s draw dropped. It was so exaggerated it looked like something you’d see in a cartoon. We laughed. We told them about the AT and our 2200 mile journey to reach Maine. One guy said, “OMG you guys must be starving?! I have some Pop Tarts in my car” and turned to go get them. It was hilarious. We said we were fine, but thanked him. That would have made trail magic 3 times in the same spot within an hour. Pretty amazing.

We hiked with them for a bit. One of the girls had no idea what she was getting into. Hiking, sweating, walking on rocks and roots, climbing a mountain. The rest of them must have left all of those details out when inviting her to join them. They walked in front of us and had a portable speaker playing music. This is a “no no” on the trail but we didn’t say anything. They were all about to graduate, obtaining degrees in Engineering. They had lived in the area going to college there for 4 years and never hiked to see McAfee Knob. They wanted to do so before moving back to their homes in other states. They all smelled really good. Shampoos, perfumes, cologne, deodorant, etc. It’s amazing how strong these smells are after being out in the woods for so long.

We decided to stop at a shelter just shy of McAfee Knob. Our plan was to get our tents setup, then hike up to watch the sunset, then hike back down. Well, we got our tents setup, hiked up there, but it was still a few hours before the sun was going to set. It was cold and windy so we snapped a few photos and videos and decided we’d come back in the morning and watch the sun rise instead. McAfee Knob was beautiful though. I’ve seen some photos of people who reach this place and can’t see anything. So again, we took photos and videos then and there, as there’s no telling what tomorrow morning would bring weather and visibility wise.

We climbed back down the mountain, cooked and ate our dinners, crawled into our tents, and hit the sack! What a long and eventful day… (05/14/19)

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