Now is where the interesting part of Virginia begins. For the next few days the Appalachian Trail will zigzag across the Blue Ridge Parkway. I have already crossed it three times and come to five overlooks but I have many more in the days to come.
I slept in this morning till 7:00 and ate breakfast at the hotel. I checked Uber to see if I could get a ride to the grocery store and got a driver to accept within seconds. I was in Kroger for over 30 minutes trying to find all the things I needed for the next 4 days. And as usually happens there were some impulse buys to eat at the hotel, in this case chicken wings and sushi.
I got back to the hotel shortly after 9:00 got everything packed up and was able to head out on trail by 10:00 a.m. The packing of the food was no easy chore. I made sure I was not hungry when I went to the grocery store but I still bought too much food. I have hard boiled eggs to eat every morning along with apple pastries. I packed out a small package of fake crab meat to have with my Thai peanut noodles, a deli sandwich to have either today or tomorrow, and a fresh salad bag mix. All that is in addition to the four days of food I intended to buy in the first place. So I guess I really bought 5 days worth of food.
The trail out of town was actually pretty nice considering it was between an interstate and a highway. It was noisy but pretty. It started out through a grove of black locust, wondered by some houses and then went over a few meadows, and then finally headed into the woods. The first shelter was about 6 mi out of town and I hit that about 12:30 so I stopped to have lunch. Oh yeah, lunch was a chicken biscuit I bought at the gas station on the way to the trail.
Between drinking all the caffeine over the last 2 days, or maybe a little dehydration, or maybe the beer I had with dinner last night, something was giving me a headache that lasted almost all day. I took two aspirin at the hotel before I left but I knew that wasn’t going to do anything if this was from caffeine withdrawals. If you play with fire you’re bound to get burned. I’ll have to go easy on the caffeine for a while and by go easy I mean drink only half of the coke I also bought at the gas station on the way to the trail.
After the shelter the trail kept going up and down as it went over small ridges sneaking its way over towards the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was probably 3:30 or 4:00 by the time I hit the first crossing of the Blue Ridge. For the next few days I will hear cars almost constantly as they drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway and I will either see the road or cross the road about every 20 to 30 minutes. It sounds annoying but it’s actually fun because they do actually clear the trees down the slopes from the road to ensure that the motorists have good views. They don’t normally do that for hikers but we get the benefit of having lots of great views. The bad part about that is that the trail usually goes right through these clear-cut areas so it’s a jumble of dead trees and little saplings biding their time before they too get chopped down. But if you’re not looking at the ground the view is wonderful.
From the map I had identified a little area where the trail snuck away from the road a few tenths of a mile out on a piece of the ridge. When I got there it was still about 6:00 p.m. and it was too early to stop so I kept hiking onward. Just before 6:45 I found another little area that look like it might be far enough away from the road so I walked out on that little bridge and it stayed pretty flat for a while and found a good place to pitch the hammock and also to hang the bear bag.
I made camp and started cooking my Thai peanut dish. I ate the crab meat while the noodles cooled. After eating I had a dessert of a fried apple pie. It’s basically an apple turnover. Oh yeah, that’s one more thing I bought at the gas station on the way to the trail. It was really heavy but it made an awesome dessert. I could hear deer snorting around me as I was eating and by the time I was ready to get in the hammock I could see their eyes just a hundred feet from my campsite. Let’s hope they don’t have any bigger furrier friends. I have a lot of food in my bear bag.