Friday Sept 24th, 2021, 0615-1810 WV/VA border to Rod Hollow Shelter, SOBO AT mm 1197.4
5800 gain, 6000 loss
The crickets lost their edge by the morning, so I was able to hear a bit too much highway noise. I hoped the trail would become more remote soon. It was pretty chilly when I started in the morning. I wore my fleece for awhile. I stopped at the first shelter to use the privy and who should I find still asleep there? Honeydew! He just woke up as I was whispering greetings to another SOBO, Sweet Tea. It was nice to meet up with the both of them. I thought Honeydew would be way far ahead but he’d taken 3 zeros at HP, too.
I shortly came to a 14 mile stretch of trail known as the “rollercoaster.” Comments warned of lots of PUDs and rocky tread but that it was overated as being hard. I found all this to pretty much be the case. If it hadn’t been on my map or posted with signs, I doubt I would have noticed it as being much different from other stretches. The ups and down were pretty relentless but I’m in good shape for that kind of stuff. All the rocks did get to me, putting a real hurting on my feet. I finished the rollercoaster at the end of the day, which I’ll admit was a relief.
The trail was very quiet right up until 1000 am, at which time the flood gates seemed to open. Heaps of day hikers were out. I’d read that some of these stretches are the most heavily used parts of the AT. With the weather being nearly perfect, this certainly seemed to be the case today. I stopped for lunch at the Bears Den hostel, which looked like a castle on top a hill. The caretaker at first told me they were closed until 5 pm, but then let me in to buy a coke and some candy…what a nice guy. I guess I looked too pathetic eating my meager lunch of pretzels and almonds.
In the afternoon, I passed the 1000 mile point to Springer. I’m in the triple digits of miles left now. I estimated that it would take me 6 weeks or less to finish the trail from this point. That’s assuming no injuries, hurricanes, and all the other unforseens. At least wildfires are unlikely out here…much of the PCT through California was closed this summer due to the terrible fires.
I also found something I only recently became aware of while listening to a podcast about foraging. There’s a type of magnolia tree that bears fruits called pawpaws. It’s one of the few native fruit trees in North America and hardly anyone knows about it. The fruit is described as a cross between a mango and banana. Another hiker had mentioned finding some on trail in this area, so I’d been on the lookout. Sure enough, I noticed something squished in the trail and looked up to see a whole bunch of fruits. In fact, I was in a grove of trees.
Swift, the SOBO I met just before Harpers Ferry, happened to come along at that point, so we discovered this tasty fruit together. It was fun to spend a little time resupplying in the wilderness. Later, I added some of the pulp to my dinner of rice and beans but couldn’t really taste it mixed in. Alone, it was a nice dessert.
I had hoped to go a little farther than the shelter but between the pawpaw foraging and washing in a stream, I had run out of time and daylight. Light was much more of a limiting factor than stamina these days. It wasn’t getting light enough to see until about 0645 am and was dark once again by 0730 pm. I arrived to find the shelter empty but Sweet Tea shortly joined me. Honeydew rolled in well after dark when I was already asleep… he’s definitely on a different schedule than I am.