AT Day 040: Wednesday May 17,  2023

Mile 616 + 21 miles /33.8  km

Total Distance Hiked: 637 miles / 1025 km

Dismal Creek – Wapiti Shelter – Wilburn Valley View – Big Horse Gap – Sugar Run Road – Doc’s Knob Shelter – Pearis Ledges – Angels Rest – Cross Ave – Narrows Road – Angels Rest Hikers Haven, Pearisburg, Virginia 

A: 3530 ft/ 1077 m  D: 3975 ft/ 1212 m

The day did not get off to a good start. All night long the trees dripped fat drops of water on the tent and the frogs sang. I had a nightmare about being attacked by a dog and in my dream I was trying to  scream for help, but nothing came out. Hammer woke me from the dream as I was obviously being quite loud. I hope Hollywood, who had camped nearby,  did not get disturbed.

I woke early and was about to make my coffee before we got busy breaking camp. This did not work out. The problem with the gas canister to stove connection was actually not the fuel canister but the thread on the stove. It’s  completely gone so the MSR Pocket Rocket stove after performing twice a day for around 500 trail days has finally given up.  What a time to fail.

After the horrible weather day yesterday,  having a cold coffee in a swampy wet campsite did nothing to set me up for the day ahead.  Hammer empathized, even though he is not a coffee drinker. Our immediate surrounds were dry but everything else was soaking wet  and muddy.  To say I was unhappy is an understatement.  

So our plan originally was to hike 10 miles to Woods Hole Hostel and stay there for the night and have one of their legendary breakfasts and dinners and then the next day hike 11 miles into Pearisburg.  But since the stove failed we decided  that we will try and head into Pearisburg  today. A friend we met on the CDT, who lives nearby, has offered to help if we needed anything but she was away 19 to 21 May. So we had to make it to Pearisburg to see if we can get a replacement stove or else ask our friend to help out before she leaves for the weekend.  To bypass Woods Hole Hostel is a huge disappointment.  

The first couple of miles out of camp were along swampy ground with so much water draining from almost every surface.  Steam was rising for our bodies where our body heat was drying the wet clothes we were wearing.  Although the temperature was not unpleasant for hiking.  About 3 miles from camp we started to ascend up towards a crest of a ridge and I think we were finally leaving the Dismal Creek  valley behind and heading to higher ground. The sun is trying to break through the clouds hopefully with some success. 

I was in a real funk today. The last few days have taken a toll. I really just wanted to get to town, replace our stove if possible,  dry everything, get cleaned up and rest our battered bodies. I need to get over the Woods Hole Hostel disappointment, Hammer was not so fussed about this.  It didn’t help that a couple of southbound hikers we passed, were raving about their Woods Hole experience.

By midday the sun was out and hiking was becoming pleasant again. I was scanning the trailside for some sparkle to lift me out if my funk. And the Pink Lady slipper orchid once again came to my rescue. Only two specimens but my goodness the effect on me was almost instant. That such beauty can exist in such a tough environment is amazing.   Their delicate form, illuminated by the sun was really quite beautiful. 

As we only had granola bars to eat we hiked pretty much continually without taking a break until we reached the ridge of Pearis Mountain.  We stopped to take a break at a rocky outlook. The sun was shining and the views of Wilburn Valley below and Sugar Run Mountain were sensational. We watched eagles at almost eye level riding the thermals above the valley. The memories of the hardship of the last few days were melting away. I took my shoes off to find pickled feet inside, the wet socks and shoes the last reminder of the preceding wet dismal days.  By the time we left the overlook, my socks were dry and my feet  were not too badly damaged. Although Hammer had a spare pair of dry socks to put on in the morning and was somewhat spared having totally pickled feet.

As we hiked along the ridge there were a couple of other overlooks and ledges offering similar elevated views of the valley below. The trail descending towards Pearisburg was flower lined with rhododendron and azalea in pinks and oranges. The flowers looked almost translucent. 

Pearisburg township is about a mile east of the trail. We walked along the relatively busy road with little shoulder and made it to town just after 5pm. We hoped that the Pearis Mercentile store was open beyond its advertised 5pm closing time. Happy days, the lovely store owner opened the hiking store next door and presto we are the owners of a new camp stove. She was so nice, she even gave us a discount on the listed price.  The one good hotel in town was booked out tonight so we made a reservation for tomorrow night. Tonight we are staying in the tent at the Angels Rest Hikers Haven. Nice to get the tent up while the sun was still shining and dry everything before settling for the day. Tomorrow is a full zero in town, resting our bodies and our  battered feet. 

This trail  has been tough and unrewarding at times and completely glorious at other times. So on balance we hang in there on the tough days and know that something good could be around the corner tomorrow.