What a beautiful day we had to see some of the best sights the Appalachian Trail has to offer! Whiskers, Rocket and I started from the parking lot at Catawba Mountain at about 8:30 wearing only shorts and t-shirts and carrying very light packs. We almost flew through the first 3.7 miles to McAfee Knob and got there in a little over an hour. The sun was still pretty low so it was hard to get a great photo but at least we got this silhouette shot thanks to a friendly day hiker who had arrived just before us.
We had a snack and enjoyed the view, then got back on the trail…next stop Tinker Cliffs. The trail was in terrific condition even after several days of hard rain and lots of running water so we continued to hike at well over three miles per hour. Homer Witcher, who gave us a ride yesterday, mentioned that he had recently completed work on a small retaining structure on the trail and he was worried that the rain may have caused a lot of erosion. Homer, if you’re reading this, your structure is in great shape, just a little soggy from the rain.
There were many great views along the way and when we got to Tinker Cliffs, one of my favorite spots on the trail, we took another break to enjoy the views and watch buzzards soaring close by the cliffs. We saw a number of other thru-hikers, some slackpacking like us, and also some day hikers who were taking advantage of the great weather. I stopped briefly to talk to B-Rocket who I have seen off and on since Erwin, Tennessee and is now hiking with Chin Music. They are staying in Daleville for a few days and slackpacking thanks to the shuttle services of Hiker Mom, who lives in the Roanoke area.
Later in the day it really warmed up but never got hot in the mountains thanks to the elevation, a nice steady breeze, and the cover of the trees that now have leaves on them except at the highest elevations. We were able to hike so fast thanks to the good conditions that both Rocket and I had to stop briefly to put duct tape on hot spots on our feet. Hot spots are precursors to blisters and duct tape is a quick and easy prevention measure. After more than 700 miles on the AT I have not had a blister and I certainly don’t want to get one now!
We finished our hike at 3:15 and headed back to Lexington. When we got home the Princess had made some delicious salsa for us so we enjoyed that, got cleaned up and headed to Staunton for some of the best pizza I’ve ever had at Shenandoah Pizza. We topped that off with gelato from a shop down the street then headed home to prepare for the next day and get some sleep. The weather forecast for tomorrow and the following days includes rain but at least we’ll have great memories of what has been, according to Rocket, the best day on the AT so far.
Here’s my new Facebook cover photo from our stop at McAfee Knob. I’m not sure to what to call this pose – it looks like a cross between The Thinker, Running Man and a Tebo…