We are at the Howard Johnson Express in Daleville, VA taking a rest day. Mile 724.
It has been a long time since we updated the blog and much has happened since then.
When we last posted we were in Erwin and wrote about taking Minty to the vet for shots and dewormer. We did that and he got a clean bill of health. Minty didnt like getting in cars so Greta had to wrestle him into our shuttlers car. It made quite a scene outside Uncle Johnny's hostel. However he did great at the vet, even met a nice cat, and came into the return shuttle with zero snarling and just a little resistance. We got him a doggy backpack and were on our way that night.
Erwin, TN to Hampton, TN
We woke up at the shelter five miles north of Erwin. The forecast called for rain and cold temperatures, even snow possibly? We had 80 degree temps the day prior so I wasnt really sure what to expect. The weather in the mountains is very localized and unpredictable. Anyways it rained hard the night prior but was just misty in the morning. We headed out early hoping to do about 17 miles. The rain quickly returned but wasnt too cold. Temperatures continued to drop as the morning progressed and our hands started getting useless from the cold and soggyness. After a few hours we came across a nice man, named BT, I believe, who was providing trail magic at a road crossing. He gave us hot coffee and some well timed food under a big umbrella pitched off the back of his pickup truck. He even put plastic bags over our hands and cinched them down since it was too difficult to do it at this point. The rain turned to sleet as we got back on the trail. We carried on for another few hours and the weather worsened. Minty's wet coat was turning to iceicles and the snow kept falling! Minty pulled us to the shelter, which was jam packed. We pitched our tent behind it, got inside, wrapped Minty in Greta's sleeping bag, and the two of us shared mine that night. Minty's coat melted fast in the tent. We were worried about him and ended our day earlier than we may have otherwise for his sake. In retrospect, he probably wasnt cold. We stayed in our tent from about 2pm that day and didnt leave the next day till 1pm. By that point, it was 70 and all the snow was gone! I couldnt believe this was mid-april in Tennessee!
We got a late start that morning but still wanted to hike 17 miles to the top of Roan Mountain. This would be our longest day yet. Roan High Knob shelter there is the highest shelter on the AT (over 5000ft) and I heard someone say Roan Mtn is know as the coldest spot on the AT. We ended up hiking the last five miles (mostly all uphill) in the dark. This was our first true night hike. Not all the snow was melted here and there were points we wished we had foot spikes. None the less we made it to the top for another freezing night.
The next day we hiked Hump Mtn and the Roan Highlands. These were beautiful grassy balds but the false summits tried us and gale force cross winds threatened to blow us far away.
Over the next few days... Greta saw a bird she had been hoping for for a long time. The black-throated blue warbler! We also did a new longest day... about 19.7 miles on relatively easy terrain.
Next day we had a short walk into Black Bear Resort in Hampton, TN to spend a night with our friends Harry and Fran. We had an awesome zero here the next day where we watched movies and played hide and seek with Minty.
Hampton, TN to Damascus, VA
This section was only a few days. Gentle rollng terrain mostly. Highlights included walking along a beautiful lake created by the USA's largest earthen dam, and a short section of trail through farmland that was built to be wheelchair accessible. Here we let Minty hike off leash for the first time.
When we got into Damascus we met up with some friends for pizza and beer. We resupplied, stayed at a hostel, and were out the next morning after coffee.
Damascus, VA to Atkins, VA
Our first night we were excided to camp by what our guidebook referred to as "pond". When we were getting close, we saw a nice looking one off in the distance. It even had a roped off swimming area. Then the trail took a sharp turn. Our pond was a small mucky green turtle pond. We hiked a few more miles and camped near the shelter.
Next day the rain was supposed to be over by noon. It wasnt raining in the morning so we thought luck was on our side. The sun came out hot so we put on suncreen. 20 minutes later a massive storm system rolls in. A thunderstorm starts and dice size hail starts hitting us. We ate wearing t shirts and short shorts. The summit is close so we decide to hunker down until it passes. Thankfully it does within the 10 minutes as we are soaked, freezing, and beaten from the hail. The top is a bald. The vegetation is freshly charred. We hike fast to get off this mountain. This is the first time I have been scared out here. The rain and wind continues without lighting for the rest of the day. We stop early at the first shelter near the summit of Mt Rogers, highest peak in VA. Its full again so we tent. 12 miles was enough. Felt terrible that day. The storm really caught us off guard. Someday we should go back to summit Mt Rogers, I think.
The next day was beautiful as we walked through the Grayson Highlands. This area looks very much like the wild west and there were wild ponies! They were hanging out right with us at our lunch stop! We had a great campsite with a fire that night by ourselves near a gravel mountain road.
On our last day of this section we hiked into Atkins via the Mt Rogers Visitor Center, where we got pizza delivered and a shower in the adjacent Partnership Shelter! There was a cool one room schoolhouse museum on this day which signs on the trail directed us too. Inside was the best trail magic ever! Shared a motel room that night with some hikers we met there. Minty loved the beds!
More has happened but we will have to write about it later including....
Atkins, VA to Highway 42.
Boston trip to bring Minty home (he is safe and in good hands but we needed to get him off the trail do to a leg tendon issue he deleloped... more later)
Pearisburg, VA to Daleville, VA