Twig Adventures

AT Day 72: Blue Ridge Bliss & Lettuce Club

Monday Oct 4th 2021, 0625-1610
Cove Mountain Shelter to Daleville, SOBO AT mm 1462.8
25 miles
4700 gain, 5300 loss

I slept amazingly well in the shelter. Something about the knowing I’d stay dry no matter what made me feel that much more relaxed. I woke to partly cloudy skies and an improved weather forecast for the day. I was excited to walk.

Several miles passed as the light grew. I love such transitions. Then I found a tree full of chicken of the woods mushrooms. I was 95 percent sure these were the same I had seen at Open’s house. He’d collected them recently but unfortunately I didn’t stick around long enough to try them. Tasha showed me how to identify them and was going to fry them in garlic and butter. They sounded delicious. Now here were several pounds growing right off the trail. I took a picture but let them be. I gave the location to Open in case he wanted to collect more. The foraging opportunities on this trail are pretty awesome…way better than any other trail I’d done.

Chicken of the woods, an edible mushroom despite the scary orange color.

I came to a road crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway just as it got light and to my delight, noted that the trail very closely paralleled it for miles. What did this mean? An early morning road waking session! There was immediately a breathtaking overlook. The ragged clouds of the rain storm made for the most dramatic effects. There were so many layers of mountains and clouds, I couldn’t tell where land and sky began or ended. I felt like the Little Mermaid, emerging from the green dark depths into a whole new world of light and layers.

The road followed along the spine of the ridge with views on either side… spectacular blissful walking. With hardly any cars, I felt like it had been crafted solely for my enjoyment. I couldn’t stop taking pictures, almost having a double rainbow moment meltdown. And then of course there was a rainbow. Blue blazing on yellow blazes has never been so good. I drifted in and out of the mist and rain all morning, above and within the clouds. Before I knew it, 10 miles had passed without me even noticing any effort.

The road had a white blaze along it too, so I guess I was meant to walk it.

I rejoined the trail finally, which was nice in its own way. It was well graded and maintained, a pleasure to walk. I visited a shelter on top a hill when an old fire tower used to sit. A man was there, looking pretty well established with his hammock hanging inside. I collected some water from the cistern, which had been replenished after all the rain. Then it was a quick 5 miles downhill to town. I’d anticipated needing a 3rd night on trail when I’d set out from Lexington but this section flew by. 78 miles in 2.5 days. I’d just finished the first half of Virginia, some 290 miles in 11 days. Whew! I also passed the 2/3rds done sign just before town.

I made it into Daleville by 3 pm and splurged on a room at the most popular hiker hotel, the Super 8. It had been since Connecticut since I’d paid for a hotel or hostel, so I decided I could afford it. I immediately ran into 3 hikers in the lobby: Roadkill and her friend Kate, plus a guy named Atlas. The 2 ladies were heading for the Mexican restaurant next door, inviting me to join them. I ran up to my room to drop my stuff and get a few things cleaned before heading out to eat. I found the women along with 2 guys, Wizard and Shades. Of the 4, Wizard was the only full SOBO, the others flip-floppers, but none of that matters really. We were all just thru-hikers at this point. Kate was doing a short section with Roadkill, so she didn’t have a trail name. We had a great time telling stories.

Later, we all joined in the hotel lobby for ‘lettuce club.’ I had no idea what this meant but quickly learned that we were to each eat an entire head of iceberg lettuce in under an hour. It was the worst version of a hiker eating contest that I’d ever heard of but… I’ll just refrain from passing any more judgement. I was also eating a plate of sushi, so I wrapped the rolls in lettuce and enjoyed some fiber. I was the only one of 5 that didn’t eat the whole head. I maybe finished 1/3rd… pretty pathetic. I was not inducted into the Lettuce Club but I was also not fearful of my bathroom needs the next morning. If nothing else, it was an entertaining finish to a nice day and fun to meet new hikers.

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