Twig Adventures

AT Day 69: Open & Lexington

Friday Oct 1st 2021, 0605-1200
Spy Rock Junction to Rt 60 then Lexington VA, SOBO AT mm 1384
16.7 miles
3100 gain, 4800 loss

I hated to leave my perfect campsite so early in the morning but I had places to be. I was meeting my friend Open, who I met on the CDT. He lives in Lexington and had reached out to me before I started my hike, offering help if needed. I sent a box of excess food to his house from Duncannon. But mainly I just wanted to see him again. I first met him at trail days in Silver City and while departing the Gila River. We camped together that night, after a long and lonesome road walk in NM, then again at the Davilla Ranch, Pie Town, and TLC Ranch. Doubledown and Smackdown, the brother sister duo that I’d earlier run into hiking the AT, had overlapped with us many of those nights. Open had also helped them as they made their way through VA. I had last run into Open somewhere in Yellowstone, after I had flipped and was going south. I was excited to see him again.

Morning on the trail was spent following ridgelines, thus lots of short ups and downs of about 500 feet. I was getting my leg muscles back in shape. Cole Mountain had a large bald area that was a joy to walk through. A high pressure system had been in place for over a week, so the background was of wispy mares tails. The foreground was a delight of early fall colors. I passed one maple that was a stunning red against its green cohorts. It’s interesting to see how all the trees are on slightly different schedules.

Priest Mountain to the left of center, tallest peak.
Cole Mountain

I gave Open a pretty optimistic ETA of noon, so I didn’t have time to linger on the mountain tops. I did get in some peak finding, with a nice view of the Priest and surrounding buddies, the Frier and Cardinal…no kidding, they went all out with the naming scheme. To the south were more big mountains, which I was sure I’d be going over soon. The descent from Bald Knob, 4035′, was a long one at some 2000′. These elevation profiles are really stating to add up once again….it may be too hard to do 30 mile days much longer.

I hit the road crossing and my target of noon spot on, which I was pretty proud of. I found 4 hikers there, all lined up with their thumbs out. They were Half Pint, Mini, Birddog, and Tator. I told them they could probably all get a ride with Open when he arrived, which was just 5 minutes later. Sure enough, he was driving a Toyota Tacoma truck (just like I used to own) and could fit 4 in the back. I loved that his truck had his Triple Crown stickers on the back and was filled to the brim with hikertrash. I was also happy that I could help in getting these hikers a ride to town…they’d been trying to hitch for over an hour!

Hikertrash mobile, complete with pink flamingo.
Open & me

As the Queen of ride-getting, I sat in the passenger seat and chatted with Open. We had to stop to go back once to retrieve Mini’s hat that blew off. We dropped the 4 at the grocery, then proceeded to historic downtown Lexington for lunch. Open suggested Thai and my heart skipped a beat. It was some of the best pad thai I’ve ever had, plus a delicious green papaya salad. I sorely needed some veggies and fruit. I followed this up with a donut sundae…you betcha.

It was parents weekend for VMI and Washington & Lewis, 2 very historic southern schools. The downtown was crawling with preppies and cadets in uniform. Our scruffy hiker appearance sure didn’t fit the scene. So we blew the joint to head into the county where Open’s house lies. There I was introduced to 2 dogs, a cat, and chickens! All were super friendly, even the giant German shepherd. Open later had to go to work, leaving me alone to hold down the fort. I was convinced that the big dog might try to eat me once we were alone together but he remained friendly. I’m just super wary of shepherds after some not so nice encounters. The cat took up residence on my lap while I worked on my phone and the chickens chased me around the yard while I pillaged the garden. I felt like I was right at home in this new place.

Open’s parents, Tasha and David, arrived late evening after a 3 day bike trip on the Allegheny. David runs a bike store in town and Tasha is the executive director of the local hospice organization. Cool folks. David cooked a bunch of hamburgers, the meat sourced locally from the adjacent farm so that I had no qualms about eating it. I’ve been trying to give up beef based on my travels out west. I’ve seen first hand how ranching there has become unsustainable, due to ongoing drought and overgrazing. But the cows raised in these parts have plenty to eat, as water is plentiful.

Open came home from work around 9 pm and we hung out a bit more. It was a late night and I crashed hard. It was so nice to spend some quality time in a home and I’m very grateful to Open and his family for their hospitality. I hope I can visit again, exploring some of the local trails.

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