Day 88: Laurel Creek Shelter to VA 635 parking area

Sep 8, 2013
Apr 14, 2021
5805 ft
6206 ft
18.2 mi

Currently sitting at the picnic table a Pine Swamp Branch Shelter... OK, so I am not technically at my end point for today yet, but I thought it would be more fun to hang out at a shelter than in a parking lot. Thus, I hiked a little past where my mom is going to pick me up and am journaling at the luxurious Pine Swamp Branch Shelter. Actually, this shelter is one of the most run-down that I've seen. But it has a roof. This morning, Brightside and DD got up early to attempt a 31-mile day. I knew my day would be much shorter, but I woke soon after them and began to get ready. I remembered hearing something in the forecast about rain today, so I figured I might as well try to beat the afternoon storms. Even after a cup of hot coffee, I was out hiking by 7. I was greeted by a steep thousand-foot climb. In typical Virginia fashion, it was nicely graded and ended before I expected it to. Somehow the other states haven't figured out how to achieve such feats of trail maintenance. I walked on the smooth ridge for only a little bit before dropping down 1700 feet. As soon as I crossed a creek, my climbing began again. I stopped after a mile at the War Spur Shelter to fuel up on peanut butter mixed with instant coffee on a tortilla. It's weird but it gets the job done, that's for sure. I magically flew up the next 1700 vertical feet, going about as fast as I typically do on flat ground. It really looked like it was going to rain, so I ran along the ridge like Chicken Little, hunched over and looking fearfully at the sky. I finally got reception on my phone and used it to check in with my mom before scooting along. The ridge walk started out nice and smooth with only a few rocks but turned in to a rock hop. I was forced to slow down and concentrate to avoid stubbing my toe, an action which rarely fails to send pain radiating through my bad shin. I did a good job of paying attention and was rewarded with a painless hike. I stopped at Bailey Gap Shelter, where I consumed a good portion of my remaining food just because I had a resupply coming up tonight. Down went an apple pastry, a peanut butter tortilla, a Snickers bar, and a Clif Bar for good measure. I left myself some rations for my waiting time tonight. I signed the register and walked out into the sun, wondering if the rainy forecast had changed since I looked at it last. The rocks abated, and I had a really easy descent to Stony Creek. The trail followed the creek for the time being, making my walk an easy one and me a happy guy. Even though I had nowhere to be, I cranked it up and sped along the bank. I passed the Captain's Place, something I had read about in my trail guide but hadn't really understood. I suspected, however, that Brightside and DD had stopped there, based on the number of spider webs that I started to meet with my face. Within a half hour, I came upon my resting spot, Pine Swamp Branch Shelter. Like I said, it's really beat-up. I'm kind of glad I'm not staying here. Anyways, my suspicion was correct: I just said hi to Brightside and DD as they passed the shelter. Apparently, The Captain had given them each two sodas and a slice of blueberry pie. Ughhhhh. I need to do more exploring.