I got an early start yesterday morning, leaving the Paul C. Wolfe shelter at 7:00. The rain had stopped, or at least slowed to a sprinkle, but I was still in the clouds and visibility was about seventy-five yards.
At about 8:30 I saw a hiker coming up the trail in front of me and called out a greeting. He stopped and as I got a little closer I saw that it was my friend Doug, who lives in the nearby town of Staunton. Doug and his wife Frances had visited me when I was in Atkins, VA and I wrote about that in a previous blog. Doug and I had talked about him joining me for a hike when I got close to his home. A week ago he e-mailed to tell me that he and Frances would been vacationing at the beach in South Carolina, so it was not going to work out to hike together. As it turned out, though, they had returned from the beach just in time for Doug to surprise me on the trail. And it was a great surprise! He had been following my blog and he knows the trails in this area very well, so he knew where he could find me.
We walked and talked for two hours and I enjoyed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a big cinnamon bun that he had brought me. We entered Shenandoah National Park and I filled out a form that backpackers are required to carry with them. The trail was slick from the rain and we had to be especially careful on the rocky sections. At about 10:30 Doug had to turn around and head back to his car so we said goodbye and gave each other a big hug. It was great to see him and I really appreciate him coming out to meet me on such a wet and foggy day.
I continued hiking north on the trail and did not see many other hikers, which wasn’t surprising considering the weather. I know that I missed a lot of beautiful views because of the low visibility.
My destination was Turk Gap where I would take a side trail to visit my brother-in-law Buzzy and his wife Charlene, who live just west of the park boundary. Shortly after 2:00 I got off the AT and headed down the Turk Gap Trail. A little over a mile down the trail I met Buzzy and Charlene who had hiked up from the road to meet me. It was great to see them and we talked a lot as we walked back to where their ATV was parked. We hopped in the ATV and zoomed back to their house.
At the house I met Charlene’s mother, Lee, and their granddaughter Mariah. We had a great time catching up and just talking about various things. They had some questions about the AT and I enjoyed telling them about my experiences on the trail. Charlene fixed a great dinner and I had big servings of everything, then went back for seconds. One great advantage of being an AT thru-hiker is that people forgive you for eating so much.
After dinner Buzzy and I road around their property in the ATV while Cooper, their Chocolate Labrador, ran along to get his daily exercise. We went back to the house and talked some more then I went to bed early, as usual.
What a great day! It was terrific to see Doug and to hike with him and then to be able to spend the afternoon and evening with family.
Here’s a photo of a stone cairn marking the peak of Big Calf Mountain.