Location: Unknown Shelter
I left Pearisburg, VA with around 30 pounds of food. I didn’t eat all of the snacks I had purchased of the motel room, so I packed them out. I carried a full loaf of baked sourdough bread, a block of Monterey Jack cheese, a couple bags of chips and lots of candy. I had come into Pearisburg hungry. The experience was unpleasant, so I wanted to make sure it doesn’t happen again by overloading with food.
The snow was still falling when I left the room to check my email this morning. I noticed that the Bear Mafia had already checked out early as they said they were going to do. Druid and I watched Sportscenter a couple times this morning until the 1:00pm checkout time. I’ve never been at a motel or hotel that has a 1:00 checkout time. We left the room with only moments to spare.
We dreaded retuning to the trail in the blustery weather. Flurries swirled in the winds that seemed unable to decide from which direction to blow. We grabbed a quick lunch and hot coffee at the Dairy Queen and reluctantly returned to the AT. As we talked about the cold before leaving the heated restaurant, often we could only smile and laugh. What else could we do?
With so much weight on my back, the climb out of the gap at Pearisburg nearly defeated me. My hips ached as though they had been placed in a vice and a person pressed their weight on the turning crank. I tightened my belt strap so tightly to hold the weight centered and close to my back that my skin pinched in several places. Eventually we climbed onto the ridgeline at 3500 ft where we were glad to find flatter trail, but we were shocked to find that the snow had accumulated overnight and was not melting in the 3:00pm sunshine.
The ground was a patchwork of white ice and brown leaves. Few leaves remained on tree branches at this altitude except those of the stubby rhododendrons. Druid and I crunched the ground with our feet as we followed the ridgeline to the shelter. The shelter was dusted with ice pellets, as was the ground. Ice cycles had formed on the front overhand of the tin roof.
In the shelter, Druid and I found the Bear Mafia. They had told us last night that they would be hiking 20 miles today as they attempted to make Damascus by Halloween, yet here, at 8 miles, they had stopped. The four members of the Bear Mafia huddled in their sleeping bags in the corner of the shelter. All complained of the cold. Druid and I stayed outside the shelter for a good while cooking and preparing for nightfall. The air was cold, but it did not feel as cold as many of the morning I’ve had recently. Droplets of water that I spilled on the picnic table froze in minutes, though the sun still shined on it.
I crawled into my cold sleeping bag around 7:00pm and wrote in my journal until game 3 of the World Series came on the radio. Temperatures continued to fall as darkness extended its stay. I fell asleep after the baseball game.