Currently sitting at a table in Trent's Grocery...
I'm on the loose again! After much anticipation to see how I would handle trail life truly on my lonesome, I was released into the wild today. As usual in a hotel, I had stayed up late watching TV, but this time I got up early because I had an ambitious plan for the day. My mom got up soon after, eager to feed me breakfast like always. We went to Hardees and ordered an assortment of breakfast sandwiches without meat, something that always confuses the employees. I checked a few of the sandwiches to make sure, and they looked good. Unfortunately, my mom's sandwich somehow became just bread and cheese. Woops. We packed up the rest of our stuff and threw it into the van, which is incredibly spacious with no back seats in it. I picked up the trail where I had left off, waving to my mom from the other side of the road. The homesickness was there, but not as bad as last time. It's gotten to the point where the finish is in sight (kind of), so I wouldn't want to abandon this undertaking. The trail welcomed me back with open arms. By that, I mean that it was impossible to follow it through the thick bushes and vines everywhere. I was surprised at how badly maintained this little section was, since it was bookended by roads no more than a half-mile apart. I screamed at the non-existent trail maintainers and felt a little better. Without delay, it started to sprinkle. I pulled my pack cover on, but the rain persisted. Leaving town meant a 1600-foot climb that was pretty steep by Virginia standards. The light rain cooled me off during the climb but picked up once I got to the ridge. Without the exertion of climbing, I quickly grew cold and put on my raincoat, which got me to the exact right temperature. I knew I would be on the ridge for a while, so I used the hood like blinders and put the pedal to the metal.
Ridge walking is nice. I was at Doc's Knob Shelter before I knew it, relaxing and eating a brownie. I flipped open the shelter register and found entries from Brightside and DD dated from the day before. They were planning to stay at Trent's Grocery the next night, putting them exactly one day ahead of me (assuming I made it to the grocery tonight). What they also said was that someone had left sodas in the nearby spring. I crossed my fingers and took a look, and voila! A Mountain Dew for Rooster. I drank it as I continued along the trail, listening to a playlist I made last night. It includes the theme to the A-Team, if that gives you an idea what it's like. I really like my taste in music, personally. That powered me over what was left of my climbing for the day. Unfortunately, I had to pass on Woods Hole Hostel, one of the more renowned ones on the trail. I thought it would be silly to complain about low mileage, and then immediately take a short day. The ridge flattened out and the rocks disappeared, giving me a runway to take off on. The miles melted away as I cruised along the ridge, descended, and found even more easy walking in the valley. I walked through tunnels off rhododendron that made it so dark that I wasn't sure if the clouds were coming back or if I was just in an intense green tunnel. It turned out to be a mixture of both for the whole day. The clouds and sun competed for my attention, with neither one really gaining any ground. No matter; I was more focused on miles than on the scenery, not that there was much to speak of. Don't be mistaken though. I had a fun day!
After hitting my head on about 10 rhododendron branches, I stopped at Wapiti Shelter. A quick perusal of the shelter log revealed that this was the infamous shelter from a pair of murders in the '70s. Don't worry! Should I have even mentioned this? Too late to turn back now. I didn't linger there, eager to get to Trent's Grocery in time to enjoy some hot food. Luckily, the trail was still very cooperative and I made great time. Trent's offers convenience store food, pizza, tenting, and showers, all a half-mile from the trail. It was a good spot to aim for, and I made it! I've still got it. I'm going to try and set up my tent before another ripple of rain blows through.