Day 77 - US 60/Buena Vista, VA to Hog Camp Gap
Today is Sunday. Usually I forget details like days of the week but since we were in town I was reminded with a closed post office and church gatherings. There is no Sunday vibe for us, in town or on the trail, it's all the same. This morning I finished the laundry, @toesalad did computer work and we repaired some gear.
We left town at 2pm, getting a ride back to the trail with Loon. I was sad to leave Buena Vista. This seems like a nice community to live in, lots of potential and a great location (close to mountains). Of course I'm just hiking through, but I liked it. When I visit new towns I often ask myself the question, "could I live here?" And I felt a yes answer to Buena Vista. But maybe I'm just missing home, wherever that it.
Getting back on the trail was a let down. Hiking up Bald Knob I was overcome with homesickness, a longing for domesticity, and a life where you drive cars and visit friends on a Sunday afternoon, not hike out of town.
And then I was overcome by hunger, ravenous. I didn't tank up enough in town, making sure instead that the kids ate a lot of food. The hostel was far enough from the grocery store that we only made one run there even though I could have easily scarfed down more snacks.
I was sobbing with homesickness and hunger. Or maybe it was just hunger. Who can tell? And I had to climb 2,000 feet. I was miserable, so I sat down and ate a bunch of food from my food bag, and there was plenty in there to choose from because we just re-supplied. @toesalad and @celine went ahead to filter water and I caught up with them at the next junction.
Our hiking day ended at Hog Camp Gap. It was a short hiking day but we didn't start till after 2pm.
I love this camp spot. It's a beautiful meadow with wild strawberries. There is a wilderness school camped out here tonight, over in the trees by the water source.
We're camping tonight with Casper and Padawan is in her new tent.
Where is home? And how can I miss something so much that I can't even define?
Padawan @celine new single person Tarp Tent.
Padawan is a 15 year old introvert hiking the Appalachian Trail with her family, spending all day, every day, together. At the end of a long challenging day she'd like her own personal space, a tent that is her own responsibility and her own domain. We hope this change will resolve some of Padawan's hiking stresses, providing the reprieve she needs to recharge in relative solitude.
Day 76 - Salt Log Gap to US 60/Buena Vista, VA
14.4 miles (9.3 miles shuttle into Buena Vista)
After our dry camp experience last night and fitful sleep, we were out of camp at 6:30 this morning, our earliest ever. We reached Punchbowl Shelter by 8 am, filtered and drank lots of water and ate a leisurely hot breakfast, which was actually last night's planned supper. We met a couple who are hiking the AT and have already hiked the PCT.
We left Punchbowl Shelter at 9:30, well fed, rested, and watered. Easy hiking this morning, small climbs and steady progress, we actually felt like a happy family, everyone chatty and in good spirits after surviving our adventure last night.
We took our last break at 2:15 at Brown Mountain Creek Shelter. We were surprised by all the water here, as the trail followed a creek for what felt like miles. Plenty of foot bridges and more interestingly, the ruins of a freedman’s village from the late 1800’s.
After our break we hustled on the trail to reach VA 60 where our ride was meeting us at 3:30. We arrived at the road just in time and caught the shuttle into town where we're staying tonight at the Blue Dog Art Cafe Hostel, which is a hostel located in an old apartment on 21st street, above the cafe. The hostel is a little rough around the edges but meets our needs adequately. I wish we could afford more privacy for these town stops, and more air conditioning. But then I suppose we'd miss out on the good company. Staying at the hostel tonight are Loon, Rockin' Robin and Bruiser.
We've been tackling our usual town stop chores - grocery, laundry, and some internet work.
Padawan's new single person tarp tent was delivered here and she and @toesalad seam-sealed it this afternoon in the green space across the street from the cafe.
We ate grocery store pizza and beer for supper and I shared a Kozyshack Rice Pudding with Loon for dessert. Kozyshack is my favorite town comfort. I may have mentioned that already.
I'm going to sleep tonight in a 2nd story bedroom in quiet downtown Buena Vista, overlooking the globe shaped streetlights below. Quite a change from last night.
View from Bluff Mountain, more Virginia ridges.
We got up this morning at 5:30 so we could get to water as soon as possible. @toesalad had a fitful sleep and suffered a panic attack around midnight. He came over to the Hilleberg, where I was sleeping with the girls. He was pretty anxious and wasn't thinking straight (who does when they wake up alarmed in the middle of the night?) and I reassured him we did in fact make the right decision, everything would be ok. That was a little unnerving for me as he is usually the solid, stable, and steady one.
But morning came, we got up, packed up and now we're on our way to eat breakfast and drink lots of water.
And it never did rain last night.
Getting picked up at US 60 for a ride into Buena Vista. @toesalad and Loon are in the back.
Day 75 - Petites Gap to Saltlog Gap
Left camp at 7:30, ready to hike.
It was a pleasant morning, no rain, but coolish.
Ate breakfast at Marble Spring, the trail ran along the side of the mountain with a view back to Apple Orchard Mountain, which we hiked yesterday. Took a late lunch break at Matts Creek Shelter, took some good video footage on the way there. Saw Strawberry again.
The entire family was fairly cheery through the morning and early afternoon. Walked along James River and then across the James River footbridge. Met a thru-hiker "jumper" on the bridge, going for a swim in a warm afternoon.
The climb after Johns Hollow Shelter was hard. It was mid-afternoon and we still had 2,300 feet elevation to climb before our plans to make camp at Saltlog Gap. (What a name.)
There were some beautiful views back to the James River after we climbed Big Rocky Row mountain.
Saw a new purple, bell-shaped flower today and lots of wild roses on the top of Big Rocky Row, the warm air was heady with their fragrance.
We arrived at Saltlog Gap, which is a swath of 2 foot high nettle, at 6:00pm tired and thirsty as we had finished most of our water by this time. The AT Guide shows water being .5 miles west of the trail, so while Damien started getting supper stuff unpacked I went to get water. Except that I couldn't find water. The trail leading west was overgrown with nettles and I couldn't find a water source anywhere.
I came back to camp a little frazzled and @toesalad set out looking for water. While he looked we finished setting up camp. He spent about an hour looking, both east and west from the gap.
No water. After a day of hiking over 17 miles, and climbing 2,300 feet late in the day, we arrived at camp with only 1/2 litre left between the five of us.
At this point it was past 7:30. One option was to take down camp and hike another 3.1 miles up and over Bluff Mountain to the next water source at Punchbowl Shelter, another 1.5 hours or so of hiking. But we're already really tired and we've experienced three nights of thunderstorms now. We do not want to be on the summit of a mountain in anything like the evening weather we've experienced the past few days.
So, we've decided to stay. But without water we can't cook, which means we can't eat supper, our food bags are getting low on snacks, we'll need those for tomorrow and we don't want to eat any salty snacks, it will only make us more thirsty. For supper, we ate the only non-salty food in our bag, Lindt chocolate balls.
Tonight we go to bed hungry and thirsty and we'll hike out first thing in the morning. With no cooking and no cleaning we were in bed by 8pm, the sweat of the day's exertion dried to our skin.
We are expecting rain tonight after the weather of the past few nights so we've set out all our cooking pots and titanium mugs to catch anything that falls. If it doesn't rain we'll be fine. We're only 3.1 miles from water.
The kids are in remarkable spirits considering they're going to bed hungry. Padawan is singing in our tent and sharing a video game with Tenacious Bling, the most connecting she's done with Tenacious Bling for days. Coming together in adversity?