Adventures in Marion

April 11, 2018

Destination: Partnership Shelter Today's Miles: 12.30

Start Location: Campsite at mile 521.2 Trip Miles: 533.50

I woke up right at six and tried to motivate myself to get moving. It was cold, probably just above freezing.

Sauerkraut and I both wanted to get an early start so that we could catch up with Dimples. We were really hoping to figure out a way into and out of Marion that afternoon. Dimples had gotten an offer from a trail angel she had met yesterday afternoon at a shelter, and so the plan was to give that person a call. There is a shuttle you can take, but you have to call to book it in advance and we wouldn’t be able to make that schedule work until tomorrow. Ideally we could knock out resupply today. 

I had oatmeal for breakfast and the last of the Jif Maple. Remember all those times that Michael Myers kept coming back from the dead in the Halloween movies? You thought he was gone but then he came back to haunt your dreams! Now imagine that but in a good way. Jif Maple.

I had some coffee and finished breaking down camp. Wallace and Hot Tang were stirring. Sauerkraut headed out while I put the finishing touches on my camp tidying and bag readying, namely taking my dirty wet tarp and affixing it to the back of my bag so it could at least dry a little while I walked.

The morning was beautiful! I warmed up quickly walking once the sun was up and out. I hiked alone for a good while. I passed through a beautiful, long meadow, and saw a random lone Daffodil, defending the Alamo amidst a sea of green grasses. I climbed over a cattle gate  bridge, and then up to a road crossing. I was about 2.5 to 3 miles in and had already passed the side trail to Trimpi Shelter. I stopped to take my outer layers off and to have a snack. Dimples passed me. She said she was the last out of the shelter and everyone else had left before she was awake. Apparently GerMan had spent the night there and taken off super early. He probably wanted to get into town early on a shuttle and back the same day. He told me he was trying to stay on the trail so that he could finish and still have time to do more sightseeing in the US before his visa expired. 

I started the long climb up the hill. It wasn’t so bad. I kept going as the terrain flattened out into what looked like the remains of an old forest road. Up ahead I saw Sauerkraut, my first sighting since leaving camp. As I walked up it was clear he had spotted something, so I moved slowly and deliberately forward. Sure enough, there were two deer in the woods just up the hill. It appeared to be a doe and her young fawn. Looking closer, there was a wound on the back of the mama deer’s leg, and what looked like battle scars on her side. It made us wonder if maybe a coyote had tried to ambush her, or if maybe she got hung up badly in barbed wire somewhere. 

We pushed on and Sauerkraut pulled ahead. I got mobile signal again finally so stopped a few times to text Gillian and a few others, as well as upload some photos to my journal. It really was a glorious day. I say an interesting piece of trail art hanging from a tree. It was barbed wire in the shape of the AT symbol with a green shotgun shell at the bottom. I took a picture. The trail was much less technical and really quite easy going at this juncture, so I trekked on.

After a bit, I came upon Sauerkraut airing out his hammock gear in the sun. I kept going as the shelter was only a few miles away. I was hoping to dry my gear out there and rest a spell. When I got to the shelter. It was reminiscent of the Fontana Hilton. It was large with two levels. It had an adjacent shower and a sink out back, but they weren’t working yet as they don’t turn the water on until the risk of pipes freezing is gone. There was a privy, fire pit, and clothesline. We could see the visitor center for Mt. Rogers from the shelter. This was pretty awesome! I laid out my tent gear and got my food back out to have some tuna for lunch. There was a clothesline at the shelter and I tried to use that for my tarp, but there were a bunch of briars behind the line. The wind immediately blew my tarp into the briars and their little fangs sunk into my tarp, making small piercings in a few places. Yikes! I quickly, but carefully, pulled it off the briars and the line.

Dimples and then Sauerkraut rolled in. They went to check out the visitor center, and I did the same once I got my tuna down the hatch. On the way I dumped my trash in the dumpster, including my poor left trekking pole. You will be missed! There were a ton of pizza boxes in the dumpster. It is possible to have pizza delivered from town to the visitor center! The visitor center was quite nice. There were lots of displays, including an animal scat ID chart, and a hellbender. Hellbenders are fairly large and can only exist in unpolluted, pristine waters. They had vending machines at the center. I purchased a Dr. Pepper and a snickers. 

I went back to the shelter to gather my things. We decided to take our packs to town given the proximity of the road and parking lot, versus leaving them unattended in the shelter. I got my stuff, headed back, and the others had called our ride, Jim Sparks. Another gentleman showed up just as Jim pulled in and offered a ride. We thanked him and told him our ride had arrived. He was wearing and Outer Banks hat. I complimented him on it - I love OBX! 

Turns out Jim Sparks is retired and his some hiked the trail years ago. He regularly gives hikers rides. He was super, super nice and spun Dimples over to a local motel to pick up a mail drop before dropping us all off at Walmart in Marion. There was an Ingles right next to Walmart, so we had what we needed. He told us to call him when we needed to get back to the shelter. The three of us made a plan to rendezvous at a pizza place about a half mile away at 5, and then went about our separate errands. I found almost all I needed, including canister fuel, at Walmart. It was pretty cheap too! I squatted in the shopping cart return area. There was an empty wall socket where they charge the sit-in carts, so I moved my stuff over there and plugged in my battery bank to charge it while I broke down my purchases. I took everything out of its boxes and poured it into my food bag. Not everything fit so I kept some items in a plastic bag. I picked up a few more things at Ingles, as well as I coconut water and an orange juice. I also saw a pimiento cheese sandwich at the deli and purchased that, promptly scarfing it down outside. I drank my coconut water while I marched the half mile towards the pizza place, Pizza Perfect. Next to Pizza Perfect was a Taco Bell. I had planned to eat a few tacos. I gave my parents a ring along the way to see how things were going and let them know I was alive. Inside I ordered three soft tacos and a root beer. I stashed away some hot sauce to use to flavor my rice sides. I then found the only seat with an outlet and continued charging my electronics while I ate. It was about four o’clock. I called Gillian to catch up as Sauerkraut waltzed in. It was good catching up with Gillian. We tried to FaceTime, but the free WiFi at The Bell isn’t the best, so I think I saw more of her than she did of me! I also got to see Lucy the Cat, who now adores Gillian and doesn’t remember her daddy at all. While we were talking a lady ran up to me inside Taco Bell and asked if we needed a shuttle and handed me a card. It was Jim Sparks’ card! It was Jim Sparks’ wife! She said she saw us sitting there with our packs and wanted to make sure we had a ride. I told her Jim was already on it - amazing!

When Gillian and I were done chatting, I quickly back posted a few journal entries. Dimples came in and chatted with Sauerkraut while I cleaned up in the bathroom a bit and got change to give Jim Sparks some gas money. We asked if he would accept it and he said he would, so we all agree to pitch in. It was the least we could do.  We were in excellent spirits as we headed out to Pizza Perfect next door. We plugged in again there and then ordered food. I ordered a small stromboli, a small Greek pizza, and a side salad. It was a crazy amount of food.... We got the food to go. Funny enough, one of the girls working there mentioned that she hadhiked the Great Walk in Beijing when she taught in China for a summer and loved it and wanted to go back with her husband. I told her that I had lived in Beijing for a good handful of years. I never would have thought that interesting connection would surface in the little town of Marion! Also, today I learned that, while from Virginia Beach, Dimples is starting school at Georgia Tech in Atlanta in the fall. Small world!

We called Jim and he appeared in mere minutes, like Batman. He gave us a lift back and we thanked him profusely and gave him the gas money. He had a hiker logbook that we all signed. We saw a few other hikers who I did not know in the visitor center parking lot. One guy goes by the name MacGyver. There was a couple from Brooklyn. The girl’s name was Roomy. I can’t remember the guy’s name. We ate our food and I polished off all of mine, miraculously. I organized my resupply and could barely hang my food bag it was so heavy. It was sooooooo heavy!! I think I went overboard. I got Jif Maple and Jif Cinnamon to try. We had a fire at night, which was nice because it was warm enough to stay outside and enjoy it. There is a section hiker staying at the shelter. I didn’t catch his name, but he was pretty interesting. He’s a herpetologist, so he knows a lot about reptiles and amphibians.

We sat out later than usual (until a bit after 9!) and turned in, utterly stuffed! I was basically grateful for everything today - getting signal and being able to talk with Gillian and my family, the weather, the good company, Jim and trail angels, the nice shelter, getting food, finding canister fuel other than the huge Coleman canisters at Walmart, and for a fire to end the night. Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be nice! Hungry Cat out!

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