June 16th 2018
Sarver Hollow Shelter – VA route 624 / Four Pines Hostel (mile 703.4)
22.7 miles + 0.4 from Shelter + 1.6 bonus miles + + 0.2 to Dragons Tooth + 0.5 to the hostel
Total miles: 719.8

Well, sleeping past 4:30am wasn’t much of an option. There was one exceptionally noisy bird that didn’t even draw a breath for about an hour. By 5:30am it shut up but of course we were all wide awake by then. We moaned a bit before not being able to suffer the tiny flies landing on our faces any longer and we all got up. I’ve never shot anything, but I would have quite happily had a crack at that bird. 


We all packed up and left. Short Shorts first, then Salty and Pi and then me. That’s the way of things. First there was the horribly steep climb up from the shelter back to the trail. 0.4 bonus miles which I could have done without! It was 6:10am and it was so hot already. It was about 22°C I reckon. 

Back on the trail it was a bit of a ridge walk which was fairly flat. As I was doing a little piece to camera I noticed that I had a bunch of bug bites on my forehead. I took off my hat and held it in my hand and carried on walking. I was hiking and tripping and I remember getting really frustrated, not wanting a repeat of yesterday where I was tripping every 5 minutes. After a while I noticed I didn’t have my hat anymore. Great. 

So I dropped my pack and walked back on myself. I was close to giving up and just hoping that someone found it and gave it back to me, but I carried on and eventually saw it on the side of the trail. It was easier walking without my pack on but it was still a 1.6 mile round trip that I could have also done without! I walked past a couple of tents set up on the ridge but there was little sign of movement. 


The ridge continued and I was looking at my app to see where the next water was and I completely stacked it. The brunt of the fall was on my knees and hands and it was on rocks which wasn’t great, but there wasn’t too much damage done. No broken skin. I think I jarred my shoulder a bit though. Today really hadn’t started very well. 

Next came the rocky part of the ridge. I was walking on a rocky shelf which was at a severe angle. All I could be grateful for was that it wasn’t wet. It would have been deadly in the wet. My shoes are still holding up fine apart from the grip, or lack of grip, on the bottom. So I was conscious about slipping the whole time. These rocks carried on for a lot longer than I thought they would and it made progress slow going. A bit of a theme for the day. 


I was running low on water and I made it down to the shelter where there was a little stream just off the trail. I also passed the eastern continental divide, where water flows down one side of the mountain and ends up in the Atlantic Ocean and the other side of the mountain it ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. That was quite cool. 


I had a little rest at the bottom of the descent and ate the rest of my cheese and crisps. I had technically only done 8 miles of trail but I had walked over 10 miles already. Another big climb went by in a blur of rocks and sweat and again I didn’t have enough water. 3 miles of uphill and 3 miles of downhill brought me out to a road crossing and a creek with a bridge over. I sat by the bridge and drank some water which was recommended to avoid because of the run off from the road. But I was too thirsty to not get a drink. My knees, specifically my left one was so sore today. I can feel discomfort in it every day but it was heightened today. 


There is some swelling on the left side.

I prepared myself for another climb and this time the rocks were insane. The trail was blazed on the rocks and it involved a lot of scrambling and climbing and using my hands to get over the big ones. At one point I twisted my knee awkwardly and I thought I was done for. My knee hurt to bend it which made getting up and over the bigs rocks rather difficult. I was hobbling along and I was trying to pretend it didn’t hurt that much. I was worried that this was some serious damage. I pushed on through the discomfort not knowing if I was just going to do more damage, but one way or another I had to get off this stupid rocky mountain! 


I carried on my scramble – the rocks never let up – until I got to the Dragons Tooth which is a little side trail which I had thought about just skipping past but it sounded kinda cool so I went to check it out. There are some big pointy rocks and views over lots of trees and some buildings and some clear cuts. You are supposed to be able to see McAfee Knob but I wasn’t really sure where I was supposed to be looking! 

A guy called Scratch came by and climbed to the top of the rocks. My knee had started to feel a bit better and pushing on seemed to be the right thing to do. It was back to hurting the same as it did every day as opposed to being extra sore. Scratch asked me to take his picture and then I hung around while he climbed down from the rocks to make sure he got down ok. 


We still had 2.2 miles to go to get to the road. But it was downhill so we were hopeful it would go quickly. Not so. The rocks became even more intense and we had to launch our poles ahead in places so we could hold on to the rocks with both hands. It was very slow going. Especially with Scratch leading, he was clearly nervous of the rocks. I was happy going slowly because I didn’t want to do anything stupid that may affect my knee any further, but I also just really wanted to get down off this mountain and be at the hostel drinking soda. 


Again I was glad it wasn’t wet on the trail, I would have been going half the pace if it was and I would be at a big risk of a broken ankle! As it was I managed to bash my knee cap hard onto a rock. I braced myself for the bad pain in my knee to come back but it just hurt a bit. 

It was nice to chat with someone new for a bit but I was getting a bit frustrated with the pace so when he stopped to look at a view I slipped past and sped up. I was single minded now about getting to the hostel. I managed to bash my knee again on a tree stump. It’s a wonder I can still walk at all after today, and when the rocks finally gave way to reasonable trail I picked up a bit of pace, and I had to leap over a snake on the trail that I only just saw but the momentum I had going was too much to stop. 

I finally made it to the road and then there was just the small matter of a 0.5 mile road walk to the hostel. Just as I made it to the turning a truck load of people – including all my friends – came by and scooped me up so I didn’t have to walk up the big hill to the house. Short Shorts handed me his soda which was so good. 


I dumped my pack. Told them the stories of my day. Ate 4 of those ice pole things, which felt so good. That icy sugary syrupy fruity goodness after a long day which ended up being 25.4 miles long with all the bonus miles. Someone had made a big dish of spaghetti with meat sauce so I got a big plate of that too. 

There were some really odd people at this hostel. It’s a donation only hostel and it basically a huge garage which has been converted into a bunkhouse. The rules are lax and it is half really well set up and half a total mess. There is the option of a shower but you have to have your own towel and there aren’t many hikers that carry the weight of a towel. I didn’t bother with a shower. It was already 6:45pm by the time I arrived. Most of the people here had been here all day drinking, and most of them will probably be here tomorrow drinking too. 

Not really my scene. I realise I sound really boring and like a massive party pooper, but for me hiking and drinking just are not compatible. Plus the culture that develops around the drinking is a culture that I’m kinda bored of. 

I managed to get together enough people for another shuttle to the store and I picked up a 32oz cup of Mountain Dew, which is basically a litre, I drank half of it while I was perusing the store and then filled it up again. I got a pizza quarter and some stuff to supplement my resupply for the next couple of days to get to Daleville. Mostly chocolate and candy. 


Back at the hostel I got another fill of spaghetti and we all pitched our tents outside. It was a lovely clear night with no chance of rain so we got a rare chance to sleep with the fly off the tent and look up at the stars because we aren’t in the trees. Short Shorts is cowboying but I am grateful to be in my little oasis zipped up away from the bugs, especially after last night, and all day long the bugs were all over me. They were flying into my ears and into my eyelashes where they would get squished immediately which was the only thing stopping me going totally insane. The fact that they had died made it just about tolerable. 

All that food and Mountain Dew basically passed straight through me and I had to run to the toilet. It wasn’t quite liquid but it couldn’t be described as solid either. My body is not coping very well with overloads of food. 

The temperature outside is so nice tonight, and as it got dark all the fireflies started lifting up from the grass and glowing. I don’t think I will every tire of watching the fireflies. They are so cool. The temperature in the bunk house is hot and I was pleased with my decision to camp. 

We look at the sky and I get my stars app out and Short Shorts, Pi and I spend a while looking at the sky and chatting about conspiracy theories. As a result it is now 11pm as I’m finishing this up. I had planned to ice my knee but I never got around to that. There are still some very loud voices around the camp fire. Hopefully I am tired enough from today to fall asleep quickly. 

Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 39