Another brief hiatus to visit family plops us in Charlottesville, VA for two days this week. After another 5-day stint of big miles and big climbs, we find ourselves plucked off the trail and whisked to Blenheim Vineyards, home to Caroline and Andrew. Pretty sure we're the only thru-hikers in our bunch who've been treated to wine tastings, tours of UVA, and dinners at the outdoor mall. Feeling extremely lucky yet again.
The past few hiking days have been a recoup period for us: temps a little cooler, regaining our pre-beach stamina, etc. We managed to average around 19 miles a day for this outing thanks to a strategy of early rising and getting our big climbs over with in the morning. Overall, we're feeling good and are very much looking forward to hitting the Shenandoahs and (dare I say it) the end of Virginia within the next two weeks. 814.8 miles down!
Here's the day-by-day:
Daleville to Bobblets Gap Shelter (18.5 miles)
Fairly normal day--cool and dry--but abnormal for the same reasons. Our hike was easy enough, following the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) for a large section, traversing it several times. Had a struggle getting our bear hang up, but it's all comical in retrospect. Met a new friend today named Bruce from Honolulu who told us all about shrimp farming, working for JPMorgan's International Division and lobbying for Common Cause. Everyone's got their story out here.
Bobblet's Gap Shelter to Cornelius Creek Shelter (18.6 miles)
We were lucky enough to encounter not one but two instances of Trail Magic today. The first, a cooler left for us on the trail, contained sodas, candy and delicious, home-made zucchini bread. Happily munching our new-found snacks, we decided to postpone our usual morning snack until later in the day. Little did we know, just around the corner from our delayed food break sat Johnny Cash and Flatbread, two past thru-hikers who had brought a veritable cornucopia for all passing hikers into the woods near Jennings Creek. "We'd received so much trail magic during our hikes," said Johnny, "we just had to repay it." And repay it they did. These folks went above and beyond our expectations, making us pancakes on the spot, loading us up with fresh fruit, chocolate, and sodas, and even offering to replace our headlamp batteries. Admittedly, we walked away with upset stomachs. Still worth it.
Cornelius Creek Shelter to Johns Hollow Shelter (21.6 miles)
Began the day with a scaling of Apple Orchard Mountain. The summit, at 4,225 ft. is the highest point we'll reach until New Hampshire. The bald-top is home to an airforce radar facility that gives off a serious Dharma Initiative vibe (and, I guess, the views are worth noting too). On the back side of the mountain near Thunder Ridge we braved the Guillotine, a large boulder suspended directly above the trail and, later, crossed the James River via footbridge (the longest foot-traffic only bridge on the AT).
Johns Hollow Shelter to Brown Mountain Creek Shelter (18.3)
Steep climb this morning up Bluff Mountain and the Punchbowl, but we tackled it no sweat. It seems the heat wave might be making a comeback, so we're sticking to our early-rise mantra for the next few days. Got into camp around 2:30, so we enjoyed a lazy afternoon dipping in a nearby swimming hole and reading aloud. Evening rain doused the area, but we managed to stay dry thanks to the rain fly.
Brown Mountain Creek Shelter to Spy Rock Rd./Charlottesville, VA (19.3)
A foggy morning, the likes of which we haven't seen since Tennessee. Started out the day with a 3,000 foot climb up to a few balds (Cold Mountain, Tar Jacket Ridge) but, alas, they were viewless. It's a strange feeling looking out into the void and knowing that, on a sunny day, you could see for miles and miles. On top of one of the balds, Lara gained cell phone reception for long enough to coordinate our pick-up with Caroline. Excited by the prospect of a family dinner that evening, we bounded over the ridge, making great time. Met cousin Caroline in Montebello, VA around 3:30 and made it to C'ville by 5:00.
Missing you all as we creep closer to the half-way point. Pray for good weather, and drop us a line sometime!
Zack (and Lara)