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Hot and Buggy in Virginia

Day 108: Glasgow, VA to Cornelius Creek Shelter (20 mi)

We got a bit of a later start than we would have liked because we needed to go to the post office to mail back our old tent and my old rain jacket to get warranties. Moonbeam (a section hiker doing “work-for-stay” at the hostel) dropped us off at the trail head at about 8:40 am.

We started the day crossing the James River footbridge and the valley was absolutely gorgeous! There were neat spider webs on the bridge and the clouds lingered over the river. Virginia has beautiful valleys as well as mountains. Sometimes in the north I felt like the valleys were usually meh trail -swampy or road walks connecting mountain ranges. But in VA, the valleys are filled with beautiful brooks and very pretty trail.

This morning was a LOT of climbing. We climbed from 650 feet above sea level to 4,200 feet in one go! The trail was all very smooth and easy grade with switchbacks or little rocky staircases.

We stopped for lunch smoothies at a waterfall in the middle of the climb. It was pretty buggy though so we didn’t hang out. The mosquitoes are back full force.

I listened to some music in the later part of the day and reminded myself to enjoy the views and take breaks. Sometimes I hike anxiously because I’m worried I won’t make it to the destination before dark or that the longer my day, the hungrier I’ll be and I’ll run out of food. When the distance is above like 17 miles I start to lose confidence and I feel like I don’t have time to take in the sights (a luxury for the fast folks). Anyway, I gave myself permission to finish in the dark if necessary so that I could relax and stop and take in the sights more. I finished well before dark and it was no big deal!

Our new tent is spacious! Woohoo!

Rain in the forecast tomorrow afternoon so we will get an early start to try and avoid the rain.

Day 109: Cornelius Creek Shelter to Bobblets Gap Shelter (18.4 mi)

Today was a tough day for both of us. The distance and elevation was totally manageable but it was warm and very humid. The humidity today just zapped me. I felt tired and sluggish all day. I thought maybe I wasn’t getting enough calories and that I was dehydrated so I drank 3 soylent smoothies today instead of the usual 2 (we had some extra soylent from the last section). That helped a little, but I was still just drained and wiped out. I think I needed electrolytes, but we didn’t have any more (will get some in our next box!)

We’ve been hiking along the blue ridge parkway a lot today and yesterday.

Heard hunting dogs all night and early morning saw two hunters and dogs. Eerie. It made me feel uncomfortable.

It rained a little and I heard thunder, but not enough to actually get me or the ground wet. Luckily, the storm dissipated, and only spat a little.

We got to the shelter early, like 4:45 pm, had an early dinner and set up the tent in the shelter since there was no one else! How unusual to have a shelter to ourselves lately!

Day 110: Bobblets Gap Shelter to Daleville, VA (18.5 mi)

Hot day! It was mentally tough. I listened to some podcasts. We crossed the blue ridge pkwy many times. We took a short break at a shelter and then took lunch at Curry Creek. The mosquitos were bad but the incense helped right away. With all of the rain and ground saturation the east coast has been getting, North Carolina reportedly has 50 times the amount of mosquitoes as usual and the size of the mosquitos is 3-4 times larger than normal! I can’t believe it is October and we are still dealing with mosquitoes in the mountains.

We had the tiniest bit of rain as we headed downhill into Daleville. Checked in to the Howard Johnson 0.1 mi off trail. Showered and took a Lyft to a vegan restaurant which was AMAZING! We had a vegan panini and savory vegan crepes. I had a superfood hot chocolate with coconut milk (twice) and got a vegan brownie to go for the next day (I was too full to eat dessert from double dinner).

I am really starting to get more hungry these days. I think the hiker hunger is starting to hit both of us as we are ramping up miles and exerting ourselves more aerobically since the terrain is easier. We are sweating more and hiking faster.

Day 111: Daleville, VA to Lambert’s Meadow Tent site (9.3 mi)

Late start, hot day. GORGEOUS Virginia views and ridge walking. Stopped early at a cute grassy tent area with a bear box, picnic table and stream. Fresh Feet kept himself busy by collecting firewood and building a fire (helped keep the bugs away) and then we got to reunite with some friends! Veto stopped by but then pushed on for a few more miles and Highwater stayed here with us. He was so relieved to be reunited with friends as he had spent a week totally alone (he had gotten off trail to meet up with his girlfriend and fell behind our little crew a bit). We also met an older guy, named 59er (75 years old!) who is section hiking the whole AT over his lifetime. He started when he was 16 years old in 1959 in New York, took 40 years off in the middle, and is now chipping away at it for a few weeks each year. He was such an interesting, progressive and nice man to chat with.

Day 112: Lambert’s Meadow Tent site to Roanoke, VA (10 mi)

We started the morning with some absolutely gorgeous ledges called Tinker Cliffs. The views were absolutely spectacular and it was early enough in the morning that there were clouds still hanging over the valley.

We then reached McAfee Knob (the most photographed feature on the AT) at mid morning and the person we asked to take our pictures is a photographer. She was there awaiting some day hikers who were going to get engaged. We then hiked with Highwater down to the valley and chatted about yoga, women and endurance, and music. We would be parting ways and maybe not catch him again because we planned to spend the weekend with my relatives in Roanoke. We talked about giving hugs when we said bye to him because he said he had basically been without human contact for 4 months, which is so bizarre. No one wants to touch or hug a dirty smelly hiker, and for many of the solo hikers out here they go for way too long without the human touch. It made me sad to think about and glad that I am hiking with a partner and not experiencing the deprivation of the human touch, which can be so needed out here. We got to the parking lot where my two aunts picked us up and I gave Highwater the rest of my water, we hugged him and we were off - into a totally different sphere.

Tia Chila and tia Bertha picked us up at the trail head parking lot and we immediately sorted out errands we needed to take care of. We wanted to get as much done before my cousins all arrived to maximize cousin hanging out time.

We first went to casa Alami to shower and eat some avocado toast with fresh farmer’s market tomatoes. Fresh Feet was absolutely ravenous. I then called a nearby chiropractor who was able to squeeze me in that same afternoon. The four of us went to the chiro, I got adjusted, and then we went to downtown Roanoke where Fresh Feet was able to exchange his pack (the mesh on the back had started to really tear). He worked with Osprey and was able to get a sturdier pack (Atmos 50L) and was also gifted an Osprey pack cover. I bought a new Z rest sleeping pad because I thought (and the chiro agreed) that maybe the air mattress I had switched to since our Flip was aggravating my back and shoulder issues. Probably not the cause, but I prefer a very firm sleeping surface and the NeoAir pad was feeling a bit too soft. We then went to the grocery store and bought so many vegan treats for the weekend! Yum!

We went home, ate dinner with my tias and uncle Nabil and then stayed up chatting for a while. Fresh Feet and I are pretty bound by the sun and are used to getting about 10 hours of sleep each night, so when 9:00, then 10:00 rolled around, we were beyond tired and figured we would just stay up until a few of my cousins arrived. Prima Yasmin arrived at 11:45 pm and I went with Chila and Bertha to pick her up at the Roanoke airport. I had flashbacks from when I was much younger and we would wait at the windows to see other relatives arrive. Nothing has changed and we were able to wave fanatically to Yas who was on the tarmac waiting for her bag outside the airplane.

Jamie and Nabil had some pretty intense conversation while we were away, and we stayed up and waited for Sarita and Phillip (and precious Louie Harris, their dog) to arrive around midnight.

We stayed up until 3:45 am laughing and reconnecting and had to actually force ourselves to pull the plug and go to sleep!

We reminisced about our AT trek 15 years ago when Sarita and I were 16, Shelley was 14 and Yas was 21. We shared memories and it was so fun to remember things I hadn’t remembered prior.

Days 113, 114, & 115: triple zero w Alami family & cousins in Roanoke, VA

Wow! What a retreat from everything that is trail life. I ate SO much, guffawed laughing SO HARD, and relaxed so well during our respite at casa Alami. We were originally planning on a double zero, but we weren’t ready to leave yet and decided last minute to stay an extra day.

The days we were off trail were ridiculously hot and humid, so I wasn’t sad to be missing that.

The stimulus of being surrounded by family and all the cross conversations and pace of conversation was such a contrast to the solitude and stimulation deprivation I had been experiencing for so long. I found myself listening and observing so much, which isn’t usually my role in social settings, but I loved not feeling like I needed to be the one talking or telling stories.

Our time with the Alamis was so special and impossible to appropriately recount as we have such a familial connection with them. It was so serendipitous that our hike aligned perfectly with their visit to Roanoke.

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