AT 2017: Days 47-49, Doc's Knob Shelter to Pearisburg and Roanoke

She brings me 'bout every darn thing except the jailhouse key

Sleeping last night in a closed-in space surrounded by rhododendrons made for a quiet night. It was like being in a sound-proof chamber, though a damp one. With such a dense cover of leaves, the area was dark and dank, even after the sun came up.

Stick and I tiptoed around when we pulled down our food bags and ate breakfast. Sun, Crayola and Scout had not yet roused from their sleeping bags in the shelter, so we tried to be kind and not awaken them.

DateSaturday, May 27, 2017
WeatherPartly sunny, turning cloudy, but no rain; high temperature near 80
Trail ConditionsMud made traction very poor as the trail neared Pearisburg
Today's Miles9.4
Trip Miles635.4

We were back on the trail at 7:45. Our destination for today was a trailhead near Pearisburg, where my wife Kim would be picking me up.

Before she dropped me at the trail last Sunday we had worked out a plan for her to meet me today between noon and 1:00. Everything was going as planned.

Stick’s plan was to stay at a hostel near Pearisburg, then continue hiking tomorrow. He intends to leave the trail on Thursday to attend a historical railroad conference in Johnson City, Tenn.

I’ll spend the remainder of today and the next two days with Kim. She has an extra day off besides the Memorial Day holiday, so I will not return to the trail until Tuesday.

If things work out as we expect, Stick and I will meet up again after he returns from his conference and we'll continue hiking together.

We hadn’t gotten far down the trail when Stick’s plans changed slightly. He received a text message from Juan Gone, who had reserved a motel room in Pearisburg and offered to share it with Stick. I told him Kim and I could drive him to the motel, once we meet her.

The trail made a 500-foot climb up a ridge, but it wasn’t strenuous at all.

When we reached Pearis Ledges, an overlook at the edge of a steep cliff, we got a view of the town where we were headed.

Some interesting history happened down in that valley during the Civil War. A major skirmish known as the Battle of Giles Court House took place on May 10, 1862.

The commander of the Union forces was Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes, who later became our 19th president. One of the men in his unit was William McKinley, who became the 25th U.S. president.

We next passed through a mix of large rhododendrons and even larger boulders.

More views were available from a spot called Angel's Rest Rock, a large rock perched at the side of a ledge.

By climbing on the rock, we could see the Celanese factory on the outskirts of Pearisburg on the New River.

Just downstream from there in the small town of Narrows is the location of Camp Success. Today it’s a town park, but from 1862 to 1865 it was a Confederate Army encampment to guard the narrows of the river. Confederate soldiers held off Lt. Col. Hayes’ retreating unit and Hayes was wounded in the battle.

From Angel's Rest Rock the trail headed steeply down the ridge. There were switchbacks along the way to make the trail less steep, but it was so muddy it was a slippery mess. We tried to take care of where we stepped, but I fell once.

Near the bottom of the descent we passed a small waterfall, which my Guthook’s trail app said is often dry. That was obviously not the case lately.

A short time later we met Yard Sale. She was hiking up the trail and was slackpacking.

The trail then went over a section of new trail. It had been open only since last spring after more than 15 years of planning and construction.

The new section eliminated walking on a narrow road and near private homes. The reason the work took so long is crews had to cut into a rocky bluff in some spots and elevate the trail in others with stone cribbing.

Thanks largely to the muddiness of the trail, the hike down to where Kim was meeting us was taking a little longer than expected. When we reached a large meadow, though, I knew we were almost there.

Kim was in the parking lot when we arrived.

When we dropped off Stick at the motel in Pearisburg I got a chance to say hello to Juan Gone, then Kim and I left to begin our long weekend together.

I had made reservations at a hotel near Roanoke, with a large room so I could spread out my stuff to dry. The driving distance from Pearisburg to the hotel was nearly an hour, but it was worth the trip to get a nice place to stay and be near lots of restaurants and such.

Among the “and such” were some breweries we visited. That is something we like to do when we travel. Friday night we went to Parkway Brewing. Then Sunday we made a road trip to four breweries, Blue Mountain’s Barrel House, Devil’s Backbone, Three Notch’d, and Hardywood’s new Charlottesville pilot brewery.

It was a fun day, a mini-vacation.

The following day was more trail focused. Although the hotel had guest laundry facilities, we went to a nearby laundromat and used a large, front-end loading washer to wash my sleeping bag. Because of all the recent rain and dampness, it had lost some of its loft, so this was a good time to take care of that.

We also did some shopping so that I could be resupplied for the next section of the trail.

Kim brought with her two pairs of hiking boots I had ordered and sent to our house. I ordered one pair in the same size I had been wearing and another in a wide width. I tried them on and decided the wide width would be better because of a little more room in the toe box.

It was definitely time to replace my boots. I had worn the same pair since Springer Mountain, plus all of the training hikes I made in the six months leading up to the start. Large gashes had formed in the flex points. I’m convinced this was due to being saturated with water every day for the last week.

This weekend was a wonderful, much-needed time away from the trail. Yes, I could have stayed in a rundown motel and eaten at a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet with the other smelly hikers. But given the choice, staying in a large, comfortable hotel, eating at nice restaurants and visiting breweries with my wife is an option I’ll take every time.

I confess the weekend was so nice, and it was so good to be with Kim, that I had a few moments of regret as I prepared to go back to the trail. It was only a momentary reticence, and I’m sure memories of last week's miserable weather had a lot to do with it.

Kim, on the other hand, was not going to be an enabler in that pity party. She knew, as I did, that this hike was something we planned for years to do, and we were going to see it through to the end.

She brings me coffee
You know she brings me tea
She brings me 'bout every darn thing
Except the jailhouse key

Don't ease, don't ease
Don't ease me in
I've been all night long coming home
Don't ease me in

From “Don’t Ease Me In” (Traditional)

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