Day #103-Best friends and even better sports; Miles hiked: 19.6

Even though my birthday is tomorrow, the on-trail celebration started today. My first present? Alan and Mary Ashworth hand delivering my best friend Double Dip to hike with me for the next few days. She was an amazing sport through a longish day. Thanks Emily!

The boys were also great sports and helped pack out the fixings for a cookout.

After hauling it up to Angel’s Rest, we enjoyed a day of relatively easy terrain and a beautiful ridge that is quickly growing golden with the colors of fall.The cookout was a success!

Day #102-Oh the things that entertain thru hikers; Miles hiked: 20.9

Today started with a delicious breakfast with the Pearisburg UMC men’s prayer group. My companions and I truly appreciate the hospitality and I especially enjoy getting to meet members of the conference that has sent me on this pilgrimage.

Right after breakfast it was off to the trail to shake things up. Per my request, we did our slackpack headed northbound instead of southbound. Why, you ask? To both trick and bless all of my friends!

On the way out of town, I picked up some Gatorade and fresh fruit to pass out to the 8 or so hikers I knew were behind me. However, they only received their treats after BamBam, Ollie, and I convinced them all they were headed the wrong direction on the trail. What fun!We also passed a unique treat on trail-an apple orchard. All three of us were sure to stuff our faces with nature’s candy.On our northbound hike, we invited all the hikers behind us to a small feast at Pastor Brian’s house. I even got a surprise birthday cake from the Queen of Dairy (also known as DQ).I couldn’t be happier to be home in Holston!

Day #101-Welcome to Holston; Miles hiked: 28.6

I made an AT bucket list in Harpers Ferry to keep things exciting as I finished the trail. In addition to tasks like hiking in a Halloween costume and taking a zero day on trail, my list includes hiking a 30 mile day. Today was a solid attempt!

BamBam and I set out well before dawn and caught a great sunrise from the ridge.By mid morning, we passed one of the oldest and the largest oak tree on the AT: Keffer Oak. This thing is absolutely massive!We didn’t actually hit the big 3-0 because something far better than miles occurred! Pastor Brian of Pearisburg UMC answered my call and offered a trailside rescue to me and my friends!

Even though it was late, we got whisked away and taken to eat Mexican and sleep inside! The best news yet? We get to slackpack (hike without full backpacks) tomorrow. My friends and I are floored by the generosity of his church and family. What a wonderful welcome into Holston Conference!

Day #100-Sharp teeth and milestones; Miles hiked: 16.4

Today, the boys and I left Four Pines Hostel and headed up to the third and final feature of Virginia’s “Triple Crown,” Dragon’s Tooth. It’s a huge stone monolith that looks like well, a dragon’s tooth. Check out the size of this thing compared to me!The majority of my day was spent hoping and praying I didn’t step on a yellow jacket nest. It’s their most aggressive time of year right now and I’ve passed three in the middle of the trail so far. Thankfully, so far so good with spotting the cloud of bees and going around their home.

In addition to befriending a new thru hiker, Pocket, this afternoon brought a huge milestone-mile 1500!!!

I know that every day on trail is forward progress, but this one has a special significance as it means I have just over a quarter of the trail left.My heart is nowhere near ready to quit, but my legs are looking forward to Springer a bit more. We’ll be there soon enough!

BamBam and I decided to celebrate 1500 by stopping short of our goal today in hopes of a big day tomorrow.

Day #99-Knobs and mashed potatoes and bonfires; Miles hiked: 10.4

Today was supposed to be another 20. It didn’t become one, but it was definitely a blast! This morning, Spork and I set out for a sunrise at McAfee Knob-the most photographed spot on the AT.We were hoping the fog would clear off, but it didn’t…so we took naps on the rock instead. After the knob, we went down to an AT classic–The Homeplace. It’s an all you can eat southern gem.

I also got the privilege of hanging out with Pastor Scott of Catawba UMC. Thanks for the ride and the tour of town! After the Homeplace, all I could manage was 6 more miles to Four Pines Hostel. They even let me borrow their van for a snack run. It’s even blue!

Day #98-Life in a day; Miles hiked: 26.6

Today seemed to include a little bit of every bit of life on the trail. I woke up early, forded a creek in the dark, and hiked into the sunrise.

At mile 11, about 5 other hikers and I made a quick stop in Daleville to resupply, eat 2,000 calories worth of Wendy’s, and charge our devices.

From there, we were nowhere near done hiking and continued on towards the most famous section of the trail in Virginia. Check out this lake we passed along the way: The highlight of the day was cooking dinner on Tinker Cliffs…pictures really can’t do it justice.

Day #97-Why are we walking again?; Miles hiked: 20.8

The sun came out! The sun came out! The sun came out! I know I sound dramatic on this blog, but I can think of few things more discouraging and uncomfortable than days and days and weeks of rainfall. Virginia is ahead by 10 inches.

With the sun came lifted spirits and my first views since Maine. We spent almost the entire day criss crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway-a famous roadway. When you walk on a hilly, rocky trail within sight of a flat, smooth road it gets a little bit tempting to just grab a hitch. However, all of the hikers (to my knowledge) resisted the urge for today.

One of my favorite parts of these sections of trail is reading signs for tourists explaining what I’m doing.If you look carefully, the trail is about 150 miles longer than it was when this sign was placed now. Bonus points!

Day #96-The sun will come out tomorrow; Miles hiked:24.8

The conditions today were perfect for hypothermia. It was in the 50s, windy, and pouring down rain. Nonetheless, I made some miles (mainly because I was too cold to stop walking!).

My friend Spork and I were the only souls brave enough to leave the hostel this morning, but we trust sloshing for one more day will pay off when the sun returns to the AT.

This morning we crossed the James River on the longest footbridge on the AT.

I don’t have much to report other than slightly better feet, cold rain, and a foggy ridge. However, I did pass the Guillotine-this cool rock formation. Glad I didn’t get smashed!

Day #95-Feet don’t fail me now; Miles hiked: 0.0

I put on my shoes this morning with the intention of hiking. I made it as far as the local gas station to get a hitch before I knew my feet wouldn’t take another step.

Instead of venturing back up the mountain, I called up the local hostel and declared it a zero day.

A shower and trip to the Dollar Store for junk food later, I knew it was a good choice. The sun even came out for an hour or two so I could dry out my stuff!

As with most zero days, all I did was eat and watch Netflix, but sometimes that’s what you need to do!

By the afternoon, a dozen more hikers had rolled in ready to wait out one last round of bad weather tomorrow. One of them, Frogger is becoming a fast friend. She’s 17 and doing the AT with her dad in between high school semesters. I vividly remember what the year of college apps is like and enjoyed giving her essay (about the AT, of course!) a look. A large pizza for 6.95 was a perfect end to the day! The rain is going to come down hard again tomorrow, but I’m hiking on.

Day #94-All I needed was a peek; Miles hiked: 20.0

I woke up to that familiar pitter patter on the shelter roof this morning. I’m writing from a dry tent under a currently not-leaking sky.

My feet are in pretty rough shape, so the boys and I decided it would be good to go back to the valley where it’s of course not raining. After twenty pretty painful miles, we made it to Glasgow, VA. There isn’t much here besides a dinosaur statue, a Dollar General, and a town-sponsored trail shelter. However, that’s all we need!

However, exciting news!Though it was brief, I saw the sun today!!! On the way down to town, we got a little clearing that made a world of difference in spirits.The best metaphor we could come up with is that last 30 minutes of a long haul international flight when you’ve been crammed in the middle seat and miserable for 14 hours and then you open the shade and see the Sydney Opera House below. Everything still hurts, but there really is a sun up there!

Once in town, it was time for a DG resupply and all you can eat pasta for $5.50. That’s a deal I can get onboard with any day! Back to the trail with an 80-100% chance of rain for the next several days. Please pray for my disintegrating feet. Goodnight!