I just got into Waynesboro after a short 5 mile hike that took me just over an hour. I flew from the shelter with Ming Garden buffet and cold soda on my mind. I'm sitting in the air conditioned public library now, as my plate upon plate of Chinese food is doing its best to digest, although that's probably not happening for awhile.
I've been hiking with Mtn Dew, a kid from Massachusetts, pretty much since getting back on trail a couple weeks ago. He's been really great company, hiking a similar pace and talking lots of sports - he's a big Pats/Red Sox fan. A couple days ago we heard that the Dutch Haus, a B&B about 2.5 miles off the trail, was doing a free lunch from 11 to 1. We couldn't pass up the free food, so we walked about a mile and half down a steep mountain road. We got a hitch the last mile or so to the Haus, and lunch was great! Lois, the owner, brought out chicken salad sandwiches, potato salad and watermelon, with a big glass of iced lemonade. She was so generous, driving us to a store to get ice creams and back to a parking lot about a mile from the trail head. It was hot though, and the climb back up to the trail was tough, so when we got back up to the trail we both shed our packs and took another break. I joked that I was more miserable and tired then than I was when we were there two hours earlier before the free lunch. Oh well, it was worth it, if only for the adventure.
Yesterday was my longest mileage day yet, as Mountain Dew and I did 24.7 miles to make in to town early today. Mtn Dew, Milo (a kid I've met in the last couple of days, who a bunch of Boy Scouts told him he looks like Abe Lincoln), and I camped down by the Tye River two nights ago. We had planned to go further, but the long descent down from The Priest Shelter, where I made my "confession" to The Priest in the log book, was long and hard and the river was way too inviting at the bottom. The swim was a refreshingly perfect end to the day. The only problem with camping at the Tye, was that it left a long 3,000 ft. climb up Three Ridges to do the next morning. So, my 25-mile day began with a slow climb that was "rock-scramble" steep in some parts. I took my time, taking lots of breaks, and made it up eventually, encouraged by an entry in an earlier log book that this was going to be the last "big" climb for 700 miles. I don't believe that for a second, but I'll use any positive outlooks like that to my advantage.
I caught up to Mtn Dew at the shelter past Three Ridges and we hiked together for the rest of the day. I came across a trail magic cooler full of ice cold Yuenglings, so we took a long break and drank three a piece. We broke again at the Blue Ridge Parkway crossing at Dripping rock for close to two hours. We had it in our heads that we'd get lucky with some more magic, so I took a nap there and cooked some broccoli cheddar pasta. Hundreds of cars past us, slowing down to look at us like we were some road-side attraction and then speeding up again. I felt like a zoo animal, just part of the Blue Ridge Pkwy experience for these tourists. "Ooh look honey, it's one of those 'thru-hikers' in their natural habitat, doing thru-hiker things", I imagined the old couples were saying to each other as they past. Two hours and no yogi luck. It was about 7pm when we finally got moving again up to the Humpback Rocks and we still had close to 10 miles to do to the shelter, so night hiking was in our agenda.
The hike up Humpback was easy enough and I started coming down as the sun was setting. Everything was wonderful until I heard a distant rumble of thunder and before I knew it the sky was dark with storm clouds - night hiking was going to be tough. My contacts were bothering me earlier in the day, so I had taken them out to wear my glasses. As it was getting dark, my headlamp didn't help much to see the trail and my glasses aren't the right prescription, so I felt pretty blind in the pitch blackness. I fell on my face twice, nearly took a wrong trail, and got a little wet from the rain, but I finally made it down to Paul C. Wolfe shelter by about 10pm.
I'm here in Waynesboro, hoping to stay at the Grace Lutheran Church hostel, mostly because they have a big screen tv, but if not I may be camping out over at the YMCA campground. I may take a zero tomorrow, I just have to work out a plan to get through the Shenandoah's and to Harper's Ferry by the 16th - Pauline's coming! I'm excited to get through the Shenie's and out of VA, and see my girlfriend! I probably will stop over in Front Royal before hitting Harper's Ferry so see yall then. I tried to upload some pictures, but these library computers aren't letting me do anything, so I'll have to get some up soon!