Location: Econolodge, Daleville, Virginia
I woke to the patter of raindrops on the tin roof of the shelter this morning. A couple of the five section hikers had woken earlier and were hard at work on menthol cigarettes and coffee. The air was warmer this morning than many recently, but still there was a chill in the air. I packed quickly and hit the trail early, but not before having a few photos snapped by the five men from Chicago. They wished me luck as I left the shelter in the cold rain.
Today was pretty uneventful. It rained from start to finish. The sky poured rain occasionally, but often I suffered a cold constant drizzle. When I left the shelter, I even put off getting water from the creek because I needed to keep moving to warm my limbs. Shortly my clothes were soaked from head to toe, but I was warm because I kept moving. For twenty miles, I rested as little as possible. I arrived at a shelter, my intended destination, at about 21 miles. It was only about 3:30pm, so after a snack I decided I would press on to the shelter at 26 miles.
There were no views today. The fog, mist, and clouds cancelled every panoramic view that the guidebook promised. I wasn’t slowed by short breaks of cliffs to take in the Virginia countryside. There were no spectacular vistas, though I read many information plaques that told of the peaks in the distance, the valley below, and the majestic sunrises and sunsets of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I saw none of these. I simply walked through the eerie mountains blanketed in the cold mist.
When I reached the 26 mile shelter, I stopped to eat all of my remaining snacks. I had decided long before that I would hike all the way to town today, 32 miles. I ate the food for energy and to get rid of some weight. My light pack allowed me to jog some of the trail between the shelter and town. I used the thoughts of cold beer, hot pizza, a shower and a bed to motivate through the last miles.
I reached the highway into town right at dark. I had hiked 32 miles in just under 12 hours. The Daleville area was as hectic an area as I’ve seen on the trail. Maybe more so that Washington, DC. Mack trucks and trailers packed parking lots and intersections. The assortment and magnitude of flashing lights in town drove me mad. Crossing the street proved rather traumatic. Cars moving at only 55 mph seem to be racing at one hundred when I stand on the side of the road, trying to cross the street. Everything seems to move so fast these days when I come into the city. After some anxiety, I finally figured out how to cross beneath the interstate and reach the dimly lit Econolodge.
I got a room, my first hotel room all to myself. I doubt there will be another. I ordered a pizza, bought beer and snacks, took a long, long hot shower and situated myself on the double bed to watch baseball and Sportscenter. The room was all my own. For once I didn’t have to share. I got my money’s worth, watching television until late at night and showering several times. It felt great to be lazy and alone. I cranked the heater in the room and thanked heaven that I wasn’t sleeping in the cold rain tonight.