Paying the price for the big day yesterday I started off exhausted and went downhill from there, taking 10 hours to hike 17.8 miles into Daleville, VA.
The tent site at 706.2 was already a mile into an uphill leading to McAfee Knob at mile 708.0, the most photographed view of the whole Appalachian Trail. (To be picky it is actually 20 yards OFF the trail. Just saying.) Every hiker who makes it this far, which is only about 50% by now, makes sure to get a dramatic picture on the rocky overlook. Here is a virtual tour of what it’s like to go out onto McAfee Knob.
I have hiked alone. I have camped alone. And now I had to take the famous picture alone. I knew nobody would come northbound for a long time because the last two shelters were empty last night and there is no water for miles before then. That’s why I had to pull a 25 yesterday. Someone could always come southbound but it was raining and I wasn’t going to wait for ages on that chance.
My camera only has a 12 second timer so I had to some pretty sharp sprinting along the sheer cliff edge to make it into shot in time. I would have done the ‘dangling legs’ thing but there was no time. Since it was raining and overcast and the pictures I did get didn’t turn out great but it is what it is.
Moving north I soon arrived at the nearby shelter which was deserted and signed the register so people behind me might know where I was and when. It was about 9am by then but my phone was out of juice so I am guessing.
Lunch was taken at Lamberts Meadow shelter at mile 714.6. By now I was down to 2 slim jims, several carb bars and a hot chocolate made with cold water. Not to worry, real food in Daleville was now only 9.4 miles away and I had heard several reports that it was a real easy cruise so maybe it would take just 3 hours or so instead of the usual 4.5. The weather was now hot and humid, but a few degrees down on yesterday.
Setting off I felt better from the rest but still very much in 2nd gear. The trail seemed to go uphill and over rocks and granite boulders interminably and I didn’t see any of ‘gentle cruise’ I had been looking forward to. Likely it was just the way my body was by then.
It was annoying not having the time to check, which allows you to guess distance travelled, or the Guthook GPS app to know my exact location. I couldn’t disappear into ‘hiker reverie’ today, every minute was experienced at length and I was heartily sick of every track on my MP3 player. Advice to future thru-hikers: load up a HUGE music collection or don’t bother with any. 300 tracks gets old quick, relatively speaking.
Eventually I reached a powerline landmark which meant it was 2 miles to town. Judging by my shadow it was about 4pm (which turned out to be dead on, I impressed myself) and the last miles were certainly easy.
Here is the final blaze I would encounter on the hike before emerging onto busy US220 at mile 724.0.
I was happy to see the Super 8 motel was just 200 yards down the road, albeit this was a 4-lane highway that I had to hop across pretty sharply.
It must annoy and distract drivers in these situations who must think I’m a bit of a nutter but I have no choice, pedestrians are hardly even taken into consideration in US town planning. Here in Daleville, a town of just 2557 people, there are two entirely separate halves with stores, lodging, businesses and restaurant on both sides of Interstate 81, what we in the UK would call a motorway. There is no remotely safe way of walking from the half near the AT to the other half of town, yet they are less than 500 yards apart. Incredible.
I checked into Super 8 for two nights, Wednesday and Thursday as I knew I was taking a zero tomorrow, Thursday. For the first time my motel had in-house guest laundry (1 washer and 1 dryer) so I got that started right away and showered while it ran. These two tasks leave you feeling more human and suitable of being seen in public.
Then it was out to the Pizza Hut next to the motel for a large pie and a cold beer. Surprised to see no hikers in there since there are only two places to eat within 500 hundred yards of the two motels by the AT. A lonely end to a lonely day.