Tuesday Oct 5th 2021, 0800-1820
Daleville to Four Pines Hostel, SOBO AT mm 1488.6
5900 gain, 5200 loss
I didn’t get as early of a start as I would have liked but I did get most of my chores done. I watched some morning news while I foam rolled…that was enough to get me going, just to escape all the bad news. Crossing a highway with the rush hour traffic was perilous. After that, the trail went up to the ridgelines and things were pretty peaceful. The fog was thick, so I couldn’t see down below but could hear lots of traffic noise and even a construction site. Sound seems to carry well in the fog. Or maybe I just notice it more when I’m deprived of most of my vision.
I caught up to Roadkill, Kate, Shades, and Wizard. I hiked with them for a bit, then carried on alone when they stopped for a break at the first shelter. Given my later start and planned distance, I knew I needed to be moving. I’d be taking a lot of breaks at some of the scenic attractions.
First I came to Tinker Cliffs, which was an area where the AT runs alongside rock cliffs for a stretch. It was nothing all that special, view-less in the fog. It reminded me of a local hike I do in Colorado that’s just as nice, if not better. These cliffs were one of 3 trail attractions that draws tons of people to this section. The other 2 are McAfee Knob and Dragon’s Tooth. Collectively they’ve been titled ‘the Triple Crown of VA.’ More of a marketing scheme, it sounded pretty silly to me when I first heard it but it floats a lot of peoples’ boats. It’s one of the most heavily used sections on the AT.
There were a lot more day and section hikers than usual, especially given the fog, but I wouldn’t call it crowded. For long stretches, I didn’t see anyone, instead spooking lots of deer and even a huge black snake on trail. While admiring the snake, a day walker came up and almost stepped on it, even while I was pointing at it and yelling snake! He had airpods in and was oblivious. It slithered away unharmed.
I got to McAfee Knob around 2 pm, just in time for the fog to have cleared. The views were actually quite good. I was also surprised to find the place deserted. I had it all to myself for a bit, until a day hiker arrived. He was nice and quiet too. We both watched 2 towhees peck about for awhile and I took lots of pictures. But something about the rocks seemed off from what I’d seen in all the pictures. Then I realized I was in the wrong spot altogether.
Finally I found the correct rocks and took more ‘contemplative hiker’ pictures. It’s a classic look, probably the most photographed spot on the AT. It’s definitely Insta -famous. There’s a relatively short (couple miles) side trail that leads up so almost anyone can visit. I was just glad to be visiting on a weekday when the weather wasn’t ideal. In fact, I heard some thunder and then it started raining…just lightly, the kind that’s pleasant.
I kept moving along more ridges the rest of the day. Things really quieted down after the knob. I saw more cows than people once I started passing through some fields. I made it to a road leading to a farm hostel just in time for dinner. It was a donation-based, no-frills kind of place, occupying what used to be a large garage. It was filled with old sofas and recliners…like a flop house just for hikers. I really liked the rustic and laid-back vibe.
There was only one other hiker when I arrived. I dumped my stuff on a bunk and took off after Donna to watch her collect eggs from a large hen house. She keeps chickens, guineas, and ducks…I was in heaven. But out of respect for her property, I didn’t try to catch any. The hostel had an adorable kitten to play with anyway, so that satisfied my animal cuddling needs.
There were two helpers at the hostel, Sprocket and Leaf Fairy. Sprocket was one of those serial long distance hikers…he said he’d hiked the AT 6-8 times! They drove us to the nearby gas station for food and resupply items. It wasn’t the best food but it was hot and filling. Roadkill and Wizard arrived after dark. Roadkill was bearing a clump of chicken of the woods that she sauteed for all of us to try. As I suspected, it was delicious! It did even taste like chicken a little bit, and was definitely edible…I suffered no ill effects afterwards. Another fantastic day in VA!