April 17, 2018
Destination: Woods Hole Hostel Mile 624.8 Today's Miles: 7.20
Start Location: Wapiti Shelter Trip Miles: 624.80
I woke first just before 6am. I could see Colonel sitting up on the edge of the shelter smoking a small cigar.
I wondered what he was thinking about there in the dark and cold. I burrowed back into my sleeping bag and dozed a bit. At 6:30 I got up to go to the bathroom and Colonel was back in his bag. I climbed back into mine afterward to get warm. The good news was that it was no longer snowing. I laid there as the first hints of light spread into the sky, slowly dissolving away the darkness. The other gentlemen in the shelter were sleeping heads facing out. I like to have my head away from the elements, so my head was facing in. When I propped myself up, I had a cool view looking out from the shelter at first light, with the silhouettes of our packs hanging from the edge of the roof of the shelter in the foreground. I took a quick picture from my bag. The other guys started stirring to life, so I hopped up eager to get about my morning and head on to Woods Hole. I wanted to get there early enough to get laundry done, relax, and enjoy the hostel. I also wanted to try to postpone my morning business, skip the privy and go at Woods Hole. It was too cold and, truth be told, bathrooms are a luxury for us!
I took down my and Sourkraut’s food bags (we hung them on one line), packed up my sleeping pad and bag, and set about boiling water for breakfast. In Marion there was no outfitter and the only kind of gas I could find for my stove was Coleman brand at Walmart. I had never used it before. Some hikers have had no issues, but this canister was giving me problems. I think the blend just wasn’t blended well. It worked a little better if I kept it in my pocket for 20 minutes and then shook it vigorously, but I still had to grab the stove while it was lit, lift my pot off, and shake the stove and gas canister at intervals to perk up the flame. You can imagine what a safe activity that is! Just picture me holding blowtorch and shaking it vigorously back and forth. I planned to ditch this canister at Woods Hole and get a new one in Pearisburg the next day. Luckily for me there is an outfitter right next to the Pearisburg post office.
My coffee and oatmeal helped to warm me up. I was waiting until the last minute to do what I had to do to head out, which was put on my frozen shoes. I had opened them nice and wide last night to make it easier. Not surprisingly, it was a LOT easier to get frozen trail runners on than frozen boots. It also didn’t feel nearly as uncomfortable; my feet thawed them quickly. I was excited by this small relief, remembering the pain I experienced with my frozen boots at Carver’s Gap in the Roan Highlands. Now I just needed to get moving to get warm! I said bye to my shelter mates, Apollo, Skutch and Sourkraut. MacGyver was off doing something, and Wallace and Redbird had already departed earlier.
It was only 7.2 miles to the road trail to Woods Hole, but the trail had a few morning surprises for us. I encountered about three more swollen creek crossings where I had to get creative and go off trail to find a way over them. I really didn’t want to get my already wet feet any wetter. This morning I had left my dry socks that I slept in on. My others were completely frozen and I would do laundry at the hostel anyway, so while my frozen shoes were making them wet, they weren’t soaking wet. I really wanted to keep it that way. I managed to navigate the creek crossings, but then passed through a few sections of trail where the trail itself had formed into a creek with runoff and snow melt flowing down the mountain. I stepped in several water pockets that went over my feet. Oh well - wet feet for 7 miles isn’t a biggie when the laundry machine awaits! I marched on. I got a cell phone signal at some point and checked in with Gillian. I knew I wouldn’t have one at Woods Hole. When I was about 2 miles out, Sourkraut caught up to me. We walked into Woods Hole together.
The hostel is down a gravel road less than a mile off the AT. The main house and bunkhouse were originally built in the 1800s (not as a hostel, but as a farmhouse and barn. They were converted in the 1980s to a hostel by the current owner’s grandparents. The property definitely feels like a farm with goats, pigs, dogs and cats around. Two work-for-stay people greeted us and helped us get settled in. They make smoothies from all natural ingredients, so I got a smoothie, and they had cookie bars and sodas at the bunkhouse. Everything was on the honor system, so we just tallied as we ate and then settled up at the end of our stay. The bunk room was cool. It had two floors and a common room downstairs with a fireplace. Unfortunately, the shower and bathroom either weren’t working or were closed due to freezing concerns. We were allowed to shower in the main house, but had to use an outhouse otherwise and didn’t have a sink to wash our hands in. Also, the outhouse was a mouldering privy and you’re not supposed to pee in those, so we just had to pee outside. There was, however, a water pump outside with potable water. I used that when brushing my teeth, for drinking water, and to try and rinse my hands. It seemed strange that those of us in the bunkhouse weren’t allowed to use the bathroom that the inside guests could use given none of the facilities advertised for the bunkhouse actually worked. I actually later asked the owner where we could pee (the bunkhouse was in the yard) and she said to pee in the woods, not the yard. The woods was up a very steep hill.
I got my laundry done and took a shower. As I went upstairs in the main house to shower, Bear Meat popped his head out of one of the rooms and said “I recognize that voice.” I was surprised as I didn’t expect to see them there - I thought they were days ahead of me! Turns out that he was a bit under the weather and had taken a zero day there to recover. I felt bad for him - feeling ill on the trail has got to be tough. I know I have been grateful that for my health so far.
Back at the bunkhouse MacGyver had shown up. Wallace was there, and Apollo and Skutch had stopped by for a snack and to warm up, but then left to keep hiking. The owner Neville came in and made a kind of snippy remark at some food supply items on the common table. MacGyver had left them there and I guess that didn’t work for her world order. I put boots on one of the hiker boxes to elevate them in front of the fire to get them all dry. I wanted to use this wooden bench seat, but it was nailed to the floor. MacGyver and I improvised to get all of our shoes as directly in front of the wood pellet stove as possible, and the work-for-stay guy, Golden, helped us crank the stove. Golden then told me that some other hikers had used the wooden bench to dry shoes. I told him that was a great idea and I wanted to, but it was nailed to the floor and that the hiker box was working fine as a prop. He then got a funny look on his face and said “it wasn’t nailed to the floor before!” He kicked at it and realized I was right. Golden was funny though - he went and got a drill and freed the bench from the floor. I didn’t use it or move it, but it was cool of him to do that. I suspected that the owner nailed it down so that it couldn’t be moved for such purposes.
Some other folks showed up at the bunkhouse and I saw that Redbird was staying in the main house. He was sharing a room with another hiker - a big guy named Super Mario. Why? He looked just like Super Mario! He had a blue shirt and red suspenders and a mustache. He just needed the hat! He let us take a picture of him. One of the other things at Woods Hole is that you can participate by helping out with various chores and helping cook dinner. I decided to go help cook, so I headed to the main house. Wallace and Clooney were in the kitchen. It was a bit of chaos, but the work-for-stay girl (I can’t remember her name but she was really awesome!) gave me some tasks. I dried dishes, I washed dishes. Super Mario was helping Neville cook. Wallace helped make salad. Then, the work-for-stay girl told me I should get some cat time and she brought one of the four cats over for me to cuddle! His name was Blue and he had been napping. She handed him to me and he just lay there and fell asleep in my arms. I took him into the sitting room where Bear Meat and Wallace were chatting. Clooney took a picture of me with him. I then passed him off to Wallace, and he seamlessly fell asleep in his lap as well. Cats really know how to chill out!
At dinner we all held hands or linked arms and said our trail names, where we were from, and one thing we were grateful for. We then sat down and ate family style. We had homemade burritos which were awesome. The cheese for them was also homemade, as was some delicious bread. Dessert was homemade ice cream.
I went back to the bunkhouse pretty full! I did some journaling but it wasn’t long before it was time to go to sleep. I had also purchased breakfast in the morning, so I was looking forward to that. I was so grateful to be warm and dry and well fed! I was also grateful for that lovely pellet stove to dry all of our shoes, and the great camaraderie in the bunkhouse and at dinner. It was also awesome to see Bear Meat and Clooney again, though I was sorry he was feeling a bit yucky.