Hello friends! I am writing this morning from the Howard Johnson motel in Daleville, VA. I arrived here around 6:30 PM yesterday, after hiking 26 miles from Four Pines Hostel in Catawba, VA. It was my longest day yet, and also my first slackpack. For those who aren’t familiar, slackpacking is when someone drives the majority of your gear ahead of the trail, and then meets you at an agreed upon spot to deliver your backpack. This way you can hike while carrying only water and snacks, which allows for bigger days and faster hiking. My backpack was waiting for me in the lobby here when I showed up last night. Some people might call it cheating, but it sure was nice!
The day started with an early morning at Four Pines Hostel. This is a super cool hostel located just .3 miles off of the trail in Catawba, VA. It’s on a small farm, and the views of the surrounding valley are stunning. The hostel building is a large garage, filled with couches and cots for sleeping, a large table for eating and playing games, and a makeshift kitchen. There is also a barn with wooden platforms for sleeping, and tons of grass to set up your tent if you choose. The place has a really laid back vibe, and it is donation based so you pay what you can afford. I had a really nice night there, and the next morning a friend and I paid their shuttle driver Eddie $6 each to drive our packs ahead to Daleville, where we would be stopping that evening. He let us borrow some small drawstring sacks, which we used to carry our water bottles and some snacks. We took off towards McAfee Knob around 8:00 AM, with 26 miles to cover.
McAfee Knob is one of the most photographed spots on the trail; if you’ve ever googled Appalachian Trail then you’ve definitely seen a photo of it. We would cross the knob about 7 miles into our day, and we knew that it would likely be the most exciting part of the hoke. Unfortunately since we were there on Memorial Day Weekend there was quite a crowd at the top, but the view was still spectacular. A small cliff juts out from the mountainside, over what seems to be an endless drop below (think Lion King). Incredible mountain views stretch out in front of the Knob, which makes standing atop it a really special feeling. Since there was a crowd at the top and we still had a lot of ground to cover, we only hung out for a few minutes before pushing on. Hiking down from McAfees Knob, we saw a HUGE rattle snake hanging out just beside the trail. It was about three and a half feet long, and it’s definitely the biggest snake I’ve seen in the wild. Pretty neat!
From Mcafee Knob the trail follows a ridge line six or eight miles north, and then curls around to the east and offers views back towards the Knob. It’s always cool to look back after a morning of hiking and see exactly where you’ve come from and the route you traveled. The next 1/2 mile of trail north of here is known as Tinker Cliffs, where the trail parallels the edge of a steep cliff. Only a foot or two to your left, the ground drops off into nothingness and dozens of tiny farms can be seen in the valley below. Looking at the ridge line directly across the valley, we could just barely make out the knob we had been standing on earlier that morning. This little stretch was really exciting hiking, and I enjoyed it almost as much McAfees Knob itself.
When we rolled into town yesterday evening, we headed directly to the local barbecue restaurant. For dinner I had chips and guacamole, a buffalo chicken wrap, and peach cobbler a la mode. Everything was delicious! By the time we got the hotel, I could barely move. Everything hurt, especially my feet. I made it onto the bed just as Step Brothers was starting on Comedy Central, and I knew I wouldn’t be moving for the rest of the night…
I’m taking the morning off in town to rest my feet and take care of some things. I’ll hike out of here around noon and will probably only cover 10 or 15 miles today. I think that will put my at the 1/3 mark. Time flies!