The Longest State on the AT complete!

(Note:  This post is written by Marie but I have added some captions to go with the photos.  Also the pictures are a mix of hers and mine, but mostly hers with more to come from the last part of the state.  I will update the post with those pictures.  Can you believe Springer Mountain is only three states away!?!  -Jeff)

The view from Blackburn Trail Center

I’m happy to report that I’m walking out of VA and into TN tomorrow! This is the longest mileage state on the trail at 550 miles. There is so much to mention, as it has also been one of my favorite states, next to Maine.  We sobos really have the timing right for the fall colors, it was amazing. And now they have all blown off the trees and it truly looks like winter. So far, the weather has been surprisingly warm. Yesterday we were sweating climbing  Whitetop Mountain. We were worried about staying on top of Mt. Rogers (VA’s highest peak at 5,729 ft) and were planning on not staying at the shelter up there, but decided to anyway because we knew the forecast was warm! Once again, I’ve really lucked out with the weather. Not meaning to brag or anything, but I’ve had good weather for all the renowned bad weather spots: Katahdin, Mt. Washington, Franconia Ridge, Mt. Rogers. Now, we do have a few more high peaks to go, so here’s to our winning streak!

Jake, Sophie, Mark, Christian and Bobwhite

My journey into VA began with a nice 3 night stay with Powder’s and my friends Redwing and Hopeful at Bears Den. This was the longest continuous stay I’ve had anywhere, it was nice to have the same bunk for 3 nights in a row! Our friends are the caretakers at this hostel, one of the nicest on the Trail. We enjoyed spending some time with them and going to their church on Sunday morning! They are very encouraging and some of my prayer warriors for the trip! During my stay there, I was still hiking during the day without my heavy pack: “slacking packing.” My good friends from Baltimore:  Jake (and Sophie the Great Dane), Mark and Christian came to visit and hiked 8 miles with us! Thanks Redwing, Hopeful, Jake, Sophie, Mark and Christian for an uplifting weekend to start off VA right!!!!

1,000 miles left!

The official sign for Virginia

The view from Bears Den Rocks. Sadly, we didn't get any pictures of Redwing and Hopeful or even Bears Den! My apologies to you both. We will just have to go back!

From there I hiked through the well-talked-about section the Shenandoah National Park. It was very nice. I saw no bears sadly. My friends saw 6 at once. Oh well. We especially enjoyed all the pit-stops for food throughout the park. It is a big tourist attraction, especially during the fall, and there are many opportunities to get “human food” as I like to say. Meaning: food that didn’t come out of a foil package, just-add-water.

My friends T-mello, Coach, Tag and Bogart (formally Effect/Dylan) had a running joke that we were just as much an attraction in the Park as the black bears. It’s true, there are lots of car pull-offs for views. Often, the AT is routed right down the hill from these over-looks. It’s very disorienting because you can hear the voices but it takes a second to figure out they are above us. We look up. They look down. “Oh! there’s a thru-hiker! Look at him/her go!” It doesn’t help that there are signs everywhere “Don’t feed the wild animals.”

My mom was longing for those VA mountains and came up to see us at Loft Mountain and fed us all. Thanks Mom!

Then we entered my favorite spot on the trail, where I’ve done all my hiking: Humpback Mountain, Three Ridges, The Priest to Hogback Gap. Good times. I asked the boys to get a traditional Reeds Gap shot (I plan to put all the past years Reeds Gap shots on Facebook). My hiker friend from Maine and Vermont, Valerie, came to meet me at Hogback Gap. She is now officially my hiking partner! (Trailname Teenie) It’s been amazing to always have someone with you! So I think this superwoman is one of the biggest reasons I keep goin day after day. I have had my moments of realizing how crazy this is, and why am I still walking? But, yes, it really helps to have a friend. My sobo buddies had some grand plans to hike 25mi days everyday (So I said “bye” to them at McAfee Knob). But they had some troubles and Val and I have been ahead of them for nearly 2 weeks. The boys just walked into this library where I’m typing! Yay for friends! Friends make this trip.

The James River Bridge

WEIGHT OF WINTER

The trees are preparing for winter

Rush, rush, rush- we skid through the fallen leaves

All day long- swoosh, swoosh, rush, rush, rush, rush

They will stand naked once again this year to bear the cold

By the labor of my hands 

I earned these green leaves of paper that now prepare me for winter

The search for the very best feathers and fur has long since begun

The leaves fly off their branches and layer the path

I’m weighted down more than ever 

With these layers of warmth in my pack

And so we groundbirds march on

Hundreds of miles slip by on our epic journey south

South for winter

For now we’re in Virginia

The bears all around scrounge and root

To increase their weight for the cold

March, march, march

Rush, rush, rush

Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh

The ever-more naked trees

Stand to watch the progress

All the woodland creatures search

High and low to increase their weight for winter

And yes, we found the very best feathers and fur

And then, the first snowstorm!

Tag had a hole in his shoe

And with good timing, we all converged for Halloween weekend! Hilary and Susan

And Happy Camper in her Happy Camper costume!

Funny, this photo gives me a flashback all the way back to Maine...

Ah, yes! The Butterfly Moment, waaaaaaaay back at mile number 30

It's officially a party!

The girls cooked us all pancakes for breakfast.

An important lesson was learned about making pancakes in the woods. That is, don't mix the pancake mix with already hot water

Marie definitely won the Halloween costume contest! The rest of us kind of let her down, as Margot was the only other one to dress up. Marie is the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

"I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date! No time for hello, goodbye! I'm late! I'm late!" Click for the video!

Pizza party on the Blue Ridge Parkway with the Peaks of Otter in the background

A northbounder and a southbounder

The girls! Teenie and Bobwhite

I nearly forgot, T-Mello had a costume too, as the "King." It's really a match! Click the picture for the video!

The iconic McAfee Knob

Having some cAffee

And yay for my amazing boyfriend who continues to shower us with trail magic. We’ll be seeing him the rest of the way to Springer. It’s a plus that he’s really into winter hiking.

Oh, yes! And I must mention the food has gotten better and cheaper since we’ve come into southwestern VA!!! When I came into town today, I got a mess of bacon, 2 fried eggs and a biscuit for $3. Whoohoo for the South!!!!

We have managed to stay in warm places on cold nights. Including my relatives near the Trail: the Twarks (my aunt and uncle Tom and Deb and cousins Emilee, Jessica and Taylor) and the Weavers (my cousin Tracy and husband Robie and their kids: Madison, Erin, Christian, Daniel and Matthew). I wanted to mention everyone’s names because you all were such a big help and encouragement! Teenie and I thank you for the beds and good food!

We also stayed at “The Captain’s.” It’s true, you take a zipline across the creek to get to his house. He actually let us stay in his house and watch Foodnetwork on his bigscreen TV. We ended up running into him and his friends a week later on the trail. They were out for the weekend! Great guy! He really loves Trail Days in the Spring in Damascus and feeds a bunch of hikers at his place every year.

Ah yes, and we really enjoyed the Grayson Highlands and Mt. Rogers. There are wild ponies all over those meadow top mountains. We pet them and Teenie gave them some potato chips and shrieked “THE PONIES!!!!” When we saw them.

So, Virginia was great. I moved on average the fastest I’ve moved yet. Everyone is picking up the pace, because honestly we are so close to being done and so ready to not carry 30lb packs everyday up and down 1,000ft mountains.

SPRINGER HERE WE COME!!!

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5 responses to “The Longest State on the AT complete!

  1. So proud we contributed to the white rabbit costume 🙂

    You go girl! So enjoyed your stay with us (and Val!),

    Pictures are beautiful, watching for you to complete your journey. Deb

  2. Woohoo! You’re nearly there and what a beautiful past several weeks! Your faces are lovely to see surrounded by the Virginia vistas. As the sign says, “Keep on Keepin’ on”

  3. Hey Bobwhite! Dacks here! I just came across your blog – we should get in touch! I know I have your contact info in our trip journal, so if I don’t hear from you via this, I’ll try to get ahold of you that way. Love love love the photos! 🙂

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