WhiteBlaze Pages
A Complete Appalachian Trail Guidebook.
$10 for printed copy(paperback). $6 for interactive PDF. $2 for printable PDF.
Read more here WhiteBlaze Pages Store

View RSS Feed


It FINALLY stopped raining in Pearisburg!

Rate this Entry
As I noted in my previous blog post,
my original hope was to do a lot of hiking in the Pearisburg area in the spring, and then hit The Whites in the summer. That blog also noted that there has been not one week where the weather in that region was rain-free enough for my tastes. Thus, when I saw that there was going to be an entire week with very minimal chance for rain, I jumped at the chance.

Because I’ve done over 1100 miles of the AT so far – including all of Pennsylvania, and about 504 miles north of it and 377 miles south – it’s pretty much a ten hour drive from my home to any trail head I could get to. Thus, there’s always a day of driving to The Trail and another day driving home. Given community and family responsibilities, it’s difficult for me to be gone for even a full week. Thus, my ongoing plans have me driving to near a trail head, spending a night there, getting a shuttle to a few days hike away, and then returning to my car. This was my plan again this time, with my “place to stay” being the Wood’s Hole Hostel.
In addition, I decided to do a one-day slack-pack, in which a Wood’s Hole shuttle would take me to near the New River Bridge at the start of the day, after which I would simply walk back to the hostel. I figured 7am would be a good time to depart, leaving me plenty of time to return.
Some may note that I’m referring to the bridge used by U.S. Highway 460 as the “New River” Bridge instead of the Shumate Bridge. I THOUGHT the locals used the latter name for that bridge, and asked how to pronounce the name. Michael at Wood’s Hole told me he had no idea how to pronounce that senator’s name, as he always called the bridge in the former manner. Thus, I decided that must be the bridge’s “correct” name. I should mention that not even an internet search can tell me how to pronounce the senator’s name.
I got to Pearisburg with a few hours of sunshine still available, so I decided to make my slack-pack the next day even more of a “slack” by hiking between Cross Avenue and The Bridge. Can you believe it?: it started pouring rain the minute I arrived there!! I thus got a fast-food dinner, as well as a hoagie for tomorrow’s dinner, while I waited for things to dry out a bit on this route. This 1.2 miles walk (each way) was a bit more trouble than I anticipated, even without rain or mud, simply because it was both steeper and more over-grown with high plants than I would have guessed. To help those who will follow me in walking this little jaunt, I’ve noted some landmarks to watch for as you walk along the paved roads on the outskirts of town.

Because the mob of thru-hikers in this area thins out after mid-July, on my first night there I was (literally) the only hiker there. This led to a good night’s sleep – possibly TOO good, as I didn’t awake till 6:45a! Fortunately, I always try to organize my stuff before I hit the sack on a night before a hike, so as to minimize the time I need to prepare the next day. Because of that, I was actually ready to go by 6:55a (okay, I didn’t shower as planned, but who was going to care how badly I smelled?). The shuttle quickly got me to Cross Avenue, and I had no problem ascending to Angel’s Rest. I got some great views there,
and at other overlooks along the way. Unfortunately, photos from overlooks tend to end up as a bunch of green with a smattering of blue at the top, so the only one I conclude is worth posting has the town factory in it.
Got back to Wood’s Hole by mid-afternoon, ate the meal I had stored in my car’s cooler the day before, FINALLY took a shower, enjoyed some banter with Popeye & Deadline, washed my shirt using a hand wringer, arranged my shuttle to Mountain Lake, settled my account, and got another good night’s sleep.
Woke up at the more decent 6:30a, and was easily ready for my 7am shuttle departure after a free cup of coffee. I drove my car to a multi-day parking area
and then got driven to Mountain Lake Road (VA Highway 613). Because this is a relatively high point of The Trail, at least where there’s a road crossing, it was quite easy going (pretty much) downhill to Pine Swamp Branch Shelter. The creek there is flowing quite well, so water was not a concern. Indeed, I was able to (again) wash myself and my shirt, have all my water ready for the next day, and still have a full bladder container as I ended my day at about 7pm. I also met my first fellow hiker at the shelter: he simply gathered some water, and let me know about the bears he had seen near the intersection of the AT and the Allegheny Trail, before heading on to Captain’s camping area.
I must admit that, when I saw a sign that simply pointed to “Captains,” my only thought was, “What should I do if I’m only a lieutenant?”

Started my next day’s hike at 6:30a, which I have found is about the latest I should expect to leave and make any kind of progress along The Trail. The simple fact is that I’m too slow and out of shape to even hope to walk more than ten miles in a day without some major exertion. Thus, early starts are a must for me. This approach did allow me to get to the ridge at which the AT meets the Allegheny Trail well before there was any heat. And MAYBE it allowed me to see the bear that my fellow hiker had reported. This was the fifth bear I’ve seen while hiking The Trail – and, for the fifth time, the bear was gone before I even got my camera out of the pouch.
I’m not sure why, but this day was another time in 2015 that I made significantly better time than what I am used to. Maybe I’ve learned the proper rest times (five minutes MAX every hour, then no LESS than twenty minutes every few hours), maybe I’m in better shape, maybe the parts I’m walking on are just easier – I don’t know. But I got to the FIRST water in ten miles (note the marker)
with plenty of time, strength, and water to spare. The only downside to this speed was that I got to the open fields along this ridge while the sun was still pretty strong. *IF* I had just brought my sun hat on this hike, this would have been no problem. But NOOO – I just HAD to save the weight because the AT never has anything but wooded areas.
Once again, I got to the shelter (Rice Field, to be exact)
– after a hike of MUCH better than average twelve miles – with plenty of sun to spare. I figured I could just set up in there after dinner, and begin to relax, but an unexpected problem arose. Specifically, bugs. After a few days of (literally) not ONE bug bite, the noise of these insects would not allow me to relax. Apparently, the inside of the shelter is out of the wind, so these noise-makers just gather inside it. After about thirty minutes of trying to ignore them, I just set up my tent. One loud insect annoyed me EVEN IN THE TENT – but I admit it was nice to swat at it with no fear of it attacking back.
Woke up at 5am the next morning, and headed down towards Pearisburg. This blog
describes this part of The Trail far better than I could, so I’ll just mention I got back to my vehicle just after 10am. The ten-hour drive home was no problem, so I just enjoyed a good meal, a soft bed, air conditioning, and sleeping next to Shuttle.

In my 3.5 days of hiking I never fell once, never forgot my walking stick, never felt any major pain, and never got a significant insect bite. I also saw a wild turkey and three snakes, in addition to the bear I noted earlier. One of my better experiences, no doubt, and my hope is to return to the area in August.