Hostels and Horses (The Trail in Southern Virginia): Days 119 – 128

Note: I’m currently stuck in Cheyenne, Wyoming, as I try to get to Idaho and a job there. While the interstate is closed from ice, snow, and wind, I figured I might as well use my time productively and write instead of staring at idiotic tv shows like I’ve been doing.

Miles 1555.0 – 1721.0

10/4/19 – 10/13/19

Day 119: 11.7 miles
VA Rt. 100 (Pearisburg) to Sugar Run Gap (Woods Hole Hostel)

All of us staying at Angels Rest got a shuttle from the hostel around 9:30 or so. TinCup knew he was going to be pressing on for a long day, but Salty, Go Girl, Blue Skies, and I were all strongly considering staying at Woods Hole Hostel. I don’t know exactly what the others were thinking, but for me personally, I was weighing the need to do big miles with the fact that Woods Hole is one of those hostels that many say is a can’t-miss on the AT. Salty and I decided we would figure out what we were gonna do when we got to the turn-off for the hostel. It was an easy 11ish miles so we definitely could have gone further, but when I got to Sugar Run Gap and saw Salty waiting for me, I knew that we would be heading to the hostel. Hostels have a magnetic pull sometimes. As we were walking the half-mile or so down the dirt road, we heard some snuffling in the woods. When we looked over, we saw a pig just hanging out. For a second I thought it might be one of those wild hogs I’d heard they have in the South, but upon closer inspection I realized it was probably a domesticated one. We weren’t really sure what to do about it, so we continued on to the hostel.

When we got to the hostel, Blue Skies and Go Girl were already there, along with another SOBO, Slick. They told us the hostel owner, Neville, was doing her daily meditation and would be around soon. We set up in the loft in the really cool hiker barn/bunkroom. I have to tell you, Woods Hole is just as much of a legend as everyone says. When we finally met Neville, she informed us the pigs we had seen were hers and would be back, they “knew where they slept.” We also had some free yoga with Neville, who’s a certified massage therapist and yoga instructor. That night I had one of the best meals I had on trail. It was all homemade, and everyone, including the more regular B&B guests, us hikers, and Neville ate together around a table. It really felt like coming to a family dinner, except I didn’t really know anyone (except Salty, of course). Plus the bed was really comfy.

Day 120: 15.2 miles
Sugar Run Gap to VA 606 (Trent’s Grocery)

We had a breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls, cheesy grits, and coffee that was just as delicious as dinner had been. We got a late start on trail, around 10. Salty, Blue Skies, Go Girl, and I all decided to only do 15 miles to Trent’s Grocery, a little county store that lets you camp for just $6. Slick wanted to go further. All of us hiked together for a while in the fog, making the miles go by really quick. It was cold and misty in the morning, and through the mist left, it stayed cool, for the first time in the season. Or at least that’s how it felt.

Trent’s was…. kind of a weird place. It’s nice that they let you camp for pretty cheap, and it’s an option for resupply (I got a few things) but the hot food is not that good and the camping is eh. My recommendations to future hikers: if you don’t need a resupply, don’t stop. There was the ability to charge my stuff, which I am always a fan of. I just wouldn’t go out of my way to go there again.

Day 121: 16.2 miles
VA 606 to Helveys Mill Shelter

Left in the dark, but it’s a longish road walk back to the trail from Trent’s, so Salty and I got to the trail just as it was getting light. There was a stealth campsite option that was 22ish miles that Go Girl and Blue Skies were aiming for, but Salty and I weren’t really sure what we were planning. We had lunch at a dirt road crossing where someone had left a water cache.

It started to threaten rain as it got later in the afternoon. I got to the shelter around 3:30, where Salty was waiting so we could decide what to do. It was supposed to rain more both today and tomorrow, so neither of us really wanted to hike more today. We looked at the guidebook and saw we could go 18 miles the next day to a hostel and then 18 miles the next day to another hostel, so we decided to do that since hostel hopping sounded fun.

Day 122: 18.0 miles
Hevleys Mill Shelter to VA 623

Got a late start, which seems to be a theme in my hiking sometimes. It was cool and misty. We got to a little country store right next to the trail around 10, where I got a coffee and a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit. After spending like an hour there, we hiked on.

I started feeling a little sick to my stomach in the afternoon (I’m not blaming the sandwich, but it probably didn’t help), so I was hiking pretty slow. At around 4 miles to go to the shuttle pick-up point, it started pouring. And I mean pouring. It was absolutely dumping buckets. I kept going and got to the road crossing where Salty was waiting. We had to wait a while for the hostel shuttle to come get us and it was freezing, and still raining. If I hadn’t had a hot shower and dry clothes waiting for me I would have been worried about hypothermia.

The hostel itself (Mountain Garden Hostel) was a little weird, with a pretty nice but very eccentric guy working there. Dinner was very late since he had to go pick up some other hikers from another road crossing, but it was a very tasty burger.

Day 123: 17.6 miles
VA 623 to VA 42

Pet the hostel cat in the morning and then got on trail a bit before 10. The trail was really nice hiking, pretty much along the ridge. Then it was a very gradual uphill in the mist to Chestnut Knob and the shelter on top there, a fully enclosed one where we had lunch.

Then it was a long downhill and a few little ups and downs to the next road crossing. Bear Garden Hostel was just a little ways down the road from where the trail crossed the road. After the rain and mist all day, it was great to dry out and shower for the second day in a row!

Day 124: 17.3 miles
VA 42 to Chatfield Shelter

On the trail around 8:30. Lots of cool pastures in the beginning, with lots of cow pies to look out for.

Crossed the 3/4 way point and then the trail crossed over some interstate, forget which one. We had a great lunch at a Mexican restaurant attached to a gas station, where I got an expensive and not great resupply. We passed by the Linda Mood School, an old one-room schoolhouse that was part of a museum, and got to the shelter only to find there was no privy.

Day 125: 16.8 miles
Chatfield Shelter to Trimpi Shelter

I got on trail before Salty, around 8 or so. Got to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area visitor center at 11, where I bought some postcards and a soda and waited for Salty. He came at like 11:40 and we called and ordered some pizza. It came over an hour later, so we probably should have just eaten food from our food bag, but where’s the fun in that? It was tasty, but it meant we still had 10 miles to go at like 2. They were pretty easy miles though.

Day 126: 20.1 miles
Trimpi Shelter to Wise Shelter

It was nice hiking to start the day, up to a ridge and then along it for a while. There was a long trail reroute due to a bridge being out, so there was long road walk. I had a break/early lunch at the first shelter (or actually the stairs to the shelter since I was too lazy to walk all the way to the shelter). Then hiked some more. Stopped at another shelter for lunch #2.

After the second shelter there was a long but easy climb up to Pine Mtn, after which we got into highland country, not technically part of Grayson Highlands State Park but similar to it. There were lots of colorful trees and cows. When I got to the shelter there were so many weekenders there, but they were all camping so it was just Salty and I in the shelter.

Day 127: 17.5 miles
Wise Shelter to Lost Mountain Shelter

After getting on trail, we quickly officially entered Grayson Highlands State Park. A weekender told us the only way we’d see the ponies is if we took a side trail for a bit, so we did. We did see some nice ponies there, but when we got back on the AT, we ended up seeing even more ponies on trail. There were so many hikers around, since both the Grayson Highlands and Mt. Rogers, which comes right after, are really popular for dayhikers. That was kind of annoying, but there were really nice views too. And the ponies. Had lunch at a shelter, then it was into the woods for the rest of the hike. It was a chilly night.

Day 128: 15.8 miles
Lost Mountain Shelter to Damascus, VA

I got on trail at like 7:30. I hiked really quickly, like I always do when I’m heading to town. I think it’s a combination of having a lighter pack from being low on food and the excitement of non-trail food in my future. I got to a bridge and then followed the Viriginia Creeper Trail for a bit and then back to some ups and downs in the woods, with the Creeper almost always within view. Finally met up with the Creeper again and followed it into Damascus! There were so many people around biking. I hung out at an outfitters while I waited for Salty. We ended up at the Broken Fiddle Hostel for the night, which was a pretty cool place. At dinner at a chicken place in town, we ran into Slick, who we last saw at Woods Hold Hostel!

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