Hiking a final 6 miles to take me to 730 miles (1175km), just over one-third of the total trail.
Saturday June 14th. I had hiked into Daleville on Wednesday the 11th and then had two days off to see the doctor and rest. Now I wanted to take the total trip up to one-third of the whole trail, around 730 miles, which left me 6 more miles to do. I only expected the 12 mile round trip to take about 6 hours so slept in until 7:15am and left the Super 8 motel at 8:15, stopping by the Sunoco gas station to pick up a couple of sandwiches for lunch. I carried nearly a full pack, but it wasn’t heavy as I only had 1 day of food.
There is about flat 1.5 miles in a mix of woods and roads from Daleville until crossing the railway tracks at nearby tiny town Troutville. Then it is all uphill, first through farmland and cow pastures before entering the usual forest.
With all that variety in the early going I reached the junction to the first shelter, Fullhardt Knob, at mile 729 after what seemed less time than the actual 2 hours. This left just the final mile down a gentle downhill.
I took my time but soon reached the official end of my hike on the AT.
Here is the final blaze.
After a few minutes contemplation I turned around and went south. I took the 0.1m side trail to the shelter and signed the register, briefly explaining my situation for anyone coming behind.
As I finished that and prepared for an early lunch I was joined by Heike, the German woman I have overlapped with several times on trail, last time about 180 miles ago. She is going well but was sporting a decent bruise on her arm from a fall caused by tiredness at the end of a day with little water, rocky treadway and being forced to hike more miles than desired. I could recognise that situation!
And then up the tail to the shelter came Ray, The Major, who told me he had certainly got sick that night a couple of weeks back and had to go home to recover from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a tick-borne disease, his case fortunately being classified by his doctor as “low grade”. He also had an infected leg from callouses on wet feet becoming cracked and letting in bacterial infection. Phew! So he has recovered now and skipped ahead for now to be able start again today with his bubble, ie John, Big Cheese, Shawn, etc. He said that, despite battling a serious illness, he gained 5lb by being off trail.
After lunch I said goodbye and wished them both luck and headed back the 5 miles towards Daleville. I was kind of hoping not to see anyone I knew on the way so I didn’t have to explain myself again but it didn’t work out that way. Among others I met Engineer, Shawn, John, St Rick, Long John and Bart and explained why I was headed the wrong way. Actually it was probably good to have the closure of literally saying goodbye rather than just skulking off quietly. Everyone was very nice and sympathetic and Engineer even gave me a beer!
With so many conversations it took me about 4 hours to cover the final 5 miles and it was 3:30pm when I got back to my motel room.
Only time then for a short rest and shower before heading out to the nearby shopping center to pick up a final package I no longer needed plus some well-liked US groceries for dinner and to take home, including Boston baked beans. I was greeted by Gizmo in Outdoor Trails and told my story for the final time. In the evening I just packed for my journey home.