Day 50: Mile 483- Mile 497, 15 miles
I woke up about 6am and went out to find a place to relieve myself and saw a guy fly fishing in the river. It was really cool and I wished I could have joined him, but it also left me in eyeshot of him to do my business, no matter where I went. I shouted to Shelley that I was going to have to pack up and go so I could find a semi-private place to pee.
We camped just before Grayson Highlands and got to see our first ponies while we were hiking! We camped on a beautiful Bald and had breathtaking views- but we found ourselves in a little of a mess when an insane lightning storm started. It was really scary; I sat in my tent googling how to survive a lightning storm in the open, only to learn that I needed to head for shelter. Thanks a lot google- definitely not helpful!
My new shoes caused my feet a lot of pain, but I hoped they would feel better in the morning.
Day 51: Mile 497-Hurricaine Mountain Shelter
Grayson Highlands! Ponies!!
I made it 1 Mile in my new shoes before they became unbearable. I had bleeding heels again and decided to wear my crocs. The terrain was very rocky and hard on my trusty crocs. I had a pretty tough day, and after the ponies it was a pretty boring walk. I went through the Fat Man Squeeze with my pack on and slipped right on through!
Due to the foot pain I decided to take a Tylenol PM and sleep in the shelter (ick)- it was supposed to rain and there weren’t any flat tent spots, so I thought it would be best to save myself any additional strife.
There were two couples already in the shelter and one guy that decided to set up his hammock in the middle of the shelter (not cool). I squeezed in and read a little and started to doze when I heard my friend 4G arrive a little after dark.
Day 52: Hurricaine Mountain Shelter-Mt. Rogers, 19 miles
My feet did not magically heal overnight and I woke to them in shreds. Since I knew I would have to wear my crocs again I didn’t expect to make it very far, but I was shooting for Partnership shelter, which is famous because it has a shower AND you can have pizza delivered to it!! I was low on food and left without breakfast to try and stretch out what I had left in case of any more delays due to my feet.
4G caught up to me at Corners Falls and I tried to keep up to his pace a bit (he is super fast!). We came to a road crossing where there was wonderful trail magic from a triple-crowner named “Curly”. A triple crown is a person that has completed all three long trails; the AT, the PCT, and the CDT- so basically an amazing being!
We enjoyed watermelon, cookies, soda, celery, and eggs courtesy of Curly. While we were snacking, Gin Gin and her friend Gadget arrived. They were slackpacking and when she saw my feet she offered to carry my pack for me- isn’t she the best?! Of course I would never ruin her slackpacking day like that, so she made me a second offer- if I could get to Mt Rogers by the time she got there, she would give me a ride into town so I could get shoes. She didn’t have to offer twice- I took off and practically ran to try and stay ahead of her.
There was a big part of me that thought it would be impossible, but I wasn’t going to stop trying until my feet completely fell off. I actually got to meet Curly while hiking, and she gave me some sage blister advice. She said she had suffered the same malady through all of her hikes.
4G caught up to me quickly and offered to pace me at 3mph to help me get to Mt Rogers in time. I felt like I was running the entire time, but it was nice to have a distraction from “Ow, Ow, Ow” that had been going through my head before.
We beat Gin Gin and Gadget to the meeting location despite a lot of slips, mud, and rocks. Gadget had previously worked at an outfitter and recommended some specific shoes for me to try next. They dropped us off at Sonic in town and we grabbed some delicious Sonic shakes before we hit Walmart. I ordered the Gadget-recommended shoes from REI (and even caught them on the last day of the sale!) and I bought some sandals from Walmart to hike in until they arrived at the next town.
Day 53: Mt Rogers- Chatfield Shelter, 7 miles
I had to take a really long walk (2 miles each way) to the post office for my resupply box, so it was a long morning and I got a late start.
I didn’t make it far before the skies opened up with rain to welcome me and my new sandals back to the trail. I thought I would try my luck staying in another shelter, but when I arrived there were some people arguing so I decided I’d be better off in my home-sweet-home tent.
Day 54: Chatfield Shelter-VA683-Marion, 5 miles
It was a beautiful day and there was trail magic in the air! I walked past a Settlers Museum and Old School House that was full of trail magic snacks from the local church group. The trail also took me straight past a homestyle restaurant where I stopped for a coffee and salad. As I sat enjoying my coffee I saw a sign for a winery/distillery less than 1 mile off trail. I started thinking “Gee, how often can there be a winery that close to the trail? I probably better go and check it out!” But of course didn’t want to go alone- you wouldn’t believe my luck as just a few seconds later I saw my old pal Grill walking down the road.
We went to the winery and had samples of wine and Moonshine. It was a beautiful place and the owner, Rusty, offered us a ride back to Marion and then back to the trail in the AM if we wanted to stay longer- it was an offer we couldn’t refuse, so we split a bottle of apple pie and had a great time! Unfortunately, I didn’t get the big miles in that I had planned, but it was fun to be a little spontaneous and get to know other people.
Day 55: VA683-Chestnut Knob, 23 miles
I grabbed a Mc Donald’s coffee and a Sonic breakfast burrito before Rusty picked us up at 6:15 AM. It was nice to have an early start and I decided to push hard to Chestnut Knob in hopes of catching some good views, and I was definitely not disappointed! I enjoyed an amazing sunset, moon, and sunrise. Unfortunately there were also a lot of other hikers there partying pretty had and blasting music late into the night.
Day 56: Chestnut Knob-VA608, 15 miles
The party animals started playing loud music shortly after I woke up to catch the sunrise. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful and I called for a shuttle to take me to the hostel where my new shoes awaited.