Day 89: VA 635 to Symms Gap Campsite

Sep 9, 2013
Apr 14, 2021
2659 ft
1733 ft
7.7 mi

Currently sitting in the tent... Today was the beginning of another celebrity hike. My mom picked me up off the trail late last night, which of course meant a late-night trip to Wendy's drive-thru. We finally got to bed around 1:30, so I ruled out any kind of early start. I figured the ten miles we would cover could be done in five hours, but I always underestimate the effect that the trail has on newcomers. We took our time getting ready, even stopping at a diner for breakfast after picking up some quick-drying shorts for my mom. No cotton allowed on my hike! Finally, we called Don Raines, the local shuttle guy, to get a ride up to where I was picked up last night. The plan was to walk from there back to Pearisburg, where we stayed. Don was a really nice guy and informed us of a sketchy water situation up on the ridge. With a heavy heart, I accepted that I would have to carry extra water in addition to the heavy tent that would be our home for the night. Don met us in the parking lot where we left our van, and we threw our packs in his trunk before taking off. On the way, Don told us about his promise to be available anytime and anywhere. He really delivers. Speaking of which, he was a UPS delivery driver in his previous life. In his retirement, he now delivers people instead of packages. He's one of those people who seem so happy to be doing just what he's doing. He even went so far as to tell me about the trail up ahead, giving me pointers for resupply opportunities. I dream that I will be as cool a retired person as he is. Don snapped our picture at the start of our hike and we took off. As with most road crossings, the AT started climbing right away. It was an unfortunate shock for my mom, and I started to reconsider the mileage I had planned out, which now seemed a little aggressive. The problem was that we couldn't bank on cell phone coverage (we would be walking on the West Virginia state line) and that we would be up on the same ridge for the entire two days. We would have to either go up and over, or up and back. I started to get pretty stressed, so we stopped to reassess. We decided to keep pushing, but by that point it was 2 PM. The uphill to the ridge walk killed our pace, but once we got to the top, the terrain flattened out and the mountain breeze kept us comfortable. Between picking up the pace and the sunshine falling between the trees, my mood improved really quickly. Finally, towards the end of the day, I heard a jet in the distance. That's normal. What isn't normal is for that sound to rise to a deafening roar before the plane screams overhead. This kept happening for the next half hour or so. I don't know what was going on, but I felt like a little kid at an air show. We found an awesome camping spot near a meadow. There's a fire ring (not that I'll use it), some logs to sit on, a cushy grassy spot, a comfortable breeze, and a view of the sunset. This might be my favorite camp spot yet! After cooking dinner, the light faded and the breeze became chilly. We hopped in to the tent to eat and instantly warmed up. It's so nice to instantly feel so much more comfortable. Now that I'm not carrying it, I really like this giant tent. I'm sitting up and my headlamp is hanging from the apex of the tent like a disco ball as an area light. You can either be comfortable with a light load while hiking, or have a bomb-diggity camp site. It's nice to have the latter for a change. I'm tired after a short night of sleep. Time for bed!