AT Day 035: Friday May 12, 2023

Mile 530.5 + 3.5 miles / 5.5 km

Total Distance Hiked: 534  miles /858 km

Camp – Mt Rodgers Recreation Area – Route 16/ Sugar Grove Highway – Marion

A: 275 ft / 85 m   D: 240 ft/ 73 m 

We both woke early this morning.  It was still dark outside.  Late last night a couple arrived and asked to camp near us.  We had seen them earlier in the afternoon. They camped right  alongside us as  the site wasn’t very big.  I was feeling awful about disturbing them this morning but didn’t want to wake them to apologize so we packed up as quiet as  possible and broke camp around 6am,  just as the first bird started to sing.  It’s getting noticably lighter earlier in the morning. 

lt was a beautiful morning,  cool not cold just lovely hiking conditions.  We had about three and a half miles to get to a road and then hitch a ride into Marion.  The first ten minutes I walked by torch light. It was magical to see insect eyes reflecting the light,  like blue sparkling diamonds flickering at me in some kind of communication.  In the daytime it looks like boring leaf litter carpeting the forest floor.   But in the torch light it is transformed into something quite special. 

We got to the the shelter at the Mt Rodgers Recreational Area in what felt like a very short time. We were surprised to see lots of tents surrounding it. It was probably one of  the most perfect campsite we have come across so far. Clearly the ‘no tenting’ rule is advisory only. 

We got to the road and within 10 minutes got a ride into town with a local man,  Paul. He was on his way to supervise the building of a roof on a property he owned in town. He has lived in this area all his life working as psychiatric nurse for the past 55 years.  He loves this area very much and appreciates the natural beauty on his doorstep. He mentioned that thunderstorms are expected this afternoon and he hoped to get the roof finished before it arrives.  The weather prediction helped us to decide to stay in town overnight and head out tomorrow morning. Although checking the weather later, it looks like we will have a few warm but rainy days coming up. 

Paul dropped us off at the Econolodge and recommended the nearby Mexican Restaurant for dinner. By 8.30 am we were checked into a room by a super friendly desk clerk. So happy to be able to check in so early.

After another cup of coffee, we walked over to the nearby Walmart and Ingles supermarkets and shopped for resupply.  It is great to be able to get this done and be back to our room, showered and laundry done by lunchtime. 

Hammers is getting ideas for his next adventure, cycle across America

We spent the afternoon relaxing and catching up on correspondence from home.  Such a lazy day by comparison to the usual on trail day. Although my feet are still buzzing from yesterdays rock pounding. 

Late afternoon we walked over to the Mexican and had a very, very filling and delicious feast. Full as a goog we were waddling  back to our room when we bumped into three hikers we’ve met over the past two weeks, Jeager, Guru and Tommy. They had a very scary bear encounter at Trimpi Shelter last night. In the middle of the night, the Guru was woken by a bear sniffing around his tent and the bear came only inches away from his face. Hoolly doolly….that sounds like a nightmare. So only Jeager is returning to trail tomorrow, Tommy and the Guru are quitting the trail here. Slowly the numbers are diminishing. 

The bear came ‘this close’

The predicted thunderstorm had not arrived by the time we returned to our room. Looked like a fine hiking day out there. Although I’m sure our feet will thank us for taking a break today.