Currently sitting on the sofa...
I woke up to a crystal clear, sunny and cool morning. The shelter was situated on the side of the climb up to McAfee's Knob, so it got a lot better light than a lot of shelters that are situated in gaps. Nonetheless, I had my sleeping bag hood pulled over my head and didn't wake up until 7. Woops, sorry to my dad, who had been up since 6. The thought had stirred in my head to check out the sunrise from one of the best spots on the AT, but then I slept instead. Jim rolled out a little earlier than we did, but we got to enjoy coffee and a leisurely breakfast. A steady climb brought us to the top of the mountain, where I saw a rock outcropping and scurried up to it. This must be McAfee's Knob, I thought. Turns out I was a little eager and this wasn't it at all. The view was nonetheless spectacular. If I hadn't seen the view from Tinker Cliffs last night, my head would have exploded. A little farther down the trail was a short a blue-blazed trail to the Knob. I immediately saw the iconic image that I have seen so many times in AT blogs and stories. My dad and I took turns taking pictures of one another, dangling our feet off the hundred-foot-high ledge. I can't believe how perfect the weather was. This is a spot that I've heard good things about since I started researching the AT, and it totally lived up to all the hype. I hiked happily for miles.
We stopped for a snack at Catawba Mountain Shelter before continuing on, the thought of a hostel visit sitting in my mind. My dad was still feeling the effects of our long day yesterday, but he was a trooper and the good views kept us both in high spirits. For about four miles, we walked along the ridge, with little ups and downs over some annoying slanted rocks that hearkened back to the challenges of the north. We finally came down some switchbacks and out into a field. After crossing 4000 different fence stiles, which are wooden sets of ladders up and over fences. One last bump, and we made it to VA 624, where we walked three tenths of a mile to Four Pines Hostel. A kid riding a small tractor gave us a ride up the driveway.
The kid introduced us to his dad, Joe, who was drinking beer and riding a lawnmower. I recognized Lost'n'Found's trekking poles outside, and Joe confirmed my observation. He already knew we might be coming and that we were headed south, that I was hiking with my dad, and that I was a vegetarian. All the major facts, I guess. Joe is like many hostel owners I have met: warm, friendly, and quick to make you feel at home. We took turns in the shower then debated when to go to the store and to The Homeplace, which is a family-style, all-you-can-eat restaurant. More on that in a second. I played with the cat, the dog, and the hens. The hens were markedly the least appreciative of my attempts to pet them. What is a rooster to do? I watched Lost'n'Found lose to Joe in a game of cornhole, followed by my dad narrowly losing to him. Anyone who beats Joe is guaranteed a free batch of laundry. Only one hiker has ever won. I was proud of my dad, but it was time to go to The Homeplace. Joe gave us a ride and we pulled up to what looked like a historic country house. We put in our names and took a seat on the porch to wait. Right before we got in, the group in front of us was called. A group of 59. This restaurant must have had a large capacity. We sat down soon after, our party of three. Mohican and Lost'n'Found picked out two meats to eat, and the party started. There were unlimited biscuits, green beans, mashed potatoes, cooked apples, cole slaw, and pinto beans. I ate without abandon, except for carving out a small space in my stomach for dessert. When dessert finally came, I downed the ice cream and cherry cobbler. It was gone before I knew it, and I looked back fondly on my time eating it. Like an angel, the waitress came back and asked if anyone wanted seconds on dessert. Before she could finish asking, I blurted out, "Would that be possible?" It was possible to get it, and in fact I did. Maybe that was a mistake. I had trouble standing up straight after dinner, and now I write this journal in a doubled-over position on the couch. I've been here often enough to know it will be passing soon. See you tomorrow!