AT Day 036: Saturday May 13, 2023

Mile 534 + 18.5 miles / 30 km

Total Distance Hiked: 552.5  miles /889 km

Marion –  Glade Mt Rd- Chatfield Shelter  – VA Route 79 – Railroad – US Route 11 – Interstate 81 – Davis Valley Rd – Davis Path Shelter- Crawfish Campsite

Hammer was woken at 3.45 by loud voices and car headlights shining straight into our room. It was probably a very tired late arrival. The disruption was not long but it was long enough to disrupt his sleep. I suppose better then being woken up by a bear. He went back to sleep and did not wake till much later. We had arranged to be picked up by a local trail angel at 9am. So this gave us plenty of time for a leisurely start to the day. 

It had rained heavily overnight but this morning dawned with grey skies, no rain and warm and very humid conditions. The prediction for today is for warm weather with rain throughout the day. 

Our driver Belinda arrived right on the appointed time.  We shared the ride with Jaeger and another hiker we’ve not met before, an Irishman with a trail name Bittersweet. We joked that we were the survivors heading back out. 

I sat in the front and was able to chat to Belinda who was very sweet and had the most beautiful gentle voice.  Her family has lived in this area for many generations. Her family roots go back to Cherokee, German and British heritage. Amazing when you think about it. It was only a short 6 mile ride back to the Mt Rodgers Recreation Centre and our conversation was cut short. There were hikers everywhere when we arrived. We thanked Belinda and made a donation for gas and her time. 

We were back on trail by 9.30. We hiked briefly with Bittersweet – who had a heart attack about 15 years ago so was very careful not to push the uphills but he flew on the downhill. It wasn’t long before we were left behind and could just hike our own hike. 

The trail had a lot of steep ups and downs. So that all  morning we were on a rollercoaster hiking  inside a green tunnel.  Massive stands of rhododendron, an occasional wild magnolia and the forest floor was carpeted in freshly unfurled ferns of the most iridescent green colour.   We were surrounded by so many shades of green the intensity of which was more pronounced because of the grey sky above.

There was one bright patch in the endless green sea which made my heart skip a beat. We passed a rather big patch of Pink Lady slipper orchids. Each time I see one I think it could be a last time on this trail and feel like I need to photograph each one. So beautiful hard to pick just one. Seeing them still fills me with giddy joy. 

We stopped for an early lunch wanting to eat in case rain arrived. By the time we finished lunch the grey clouds were breaking up and  blue patches of sky had started to appear.  We had phone service here so we were able to check the weather. The rain was no longer a threat and we could relax and enjoy the descent towards Interstate 81. We could hear the traffic noise hours before we could actually see the road. It was quite surreal to have this noise emanating from what looked like countryside with gentle rolling hills.  

As we got closer it was a typical busy highway with several gas stations. We met up with Jearger and Bittersweet at a gas station where we took a break and had a cold drink. 

It was nice to leave the traffic noise behind and descended back into the silence of the woods. Beautiful afternoon of relatively easy but not terribly inspiring hiking. Bittersweet stopped for the day at the abandoned Davis Path shelter. We stopped for dinner with him and then continued for another 4 miles to Crawfish campsite.  

We got to the Crawfish Campsite with Jearger and Golden Calves just after 6pm. We hiked with Golden Calves for a bit approaching our campsite. It was good to see he was feeling better and was able to get back on trail He saw a Dr in Marion and was able to sort out whatever was troubling him a day ago.  Nice to see his hike goes on. 

Crawfish Campsite had two tents up already when we arrived and plenty of room to spread out. 

A nice site with birds singing and the sounds of a flowing creek as darkness starts to fall.