April 18, 2018
Destination: Rice Field Shelter Today's Miles: 18.40
Start Location: Woods Hole Hostel Mile 624.8 Trip Miles: 643.20
I slept well at Woods Hole and woke up pretty early, so I journaled for a little bit. Coffee was at 7:30 on the front porch of the main house, and breakfast was at 8.
Today was already much warmer, and supposed to warm up throughout the day, so I put on my clean shorts and t-shirt and headed over for coffee. It was lovely having good coffee outside and chatting with everyone. Breakfast was good too, it was basically the same format - gratitude circle and then sit down to eat. There was sausage, grits with cheese, peach bread, orange juice, and leftover bread from last night. Breakfast was plated, unlike dinner where we all made our own burritos with the common ingredients. After breakfast, we were asked to strip our sheets off the bed and put them in a laundry basket, get new sheets and put them on the bed. This is part of the Woods Hole “culture” - you pitch in and help clean a bit. There was also a jar with little chores in it we were encouraged to pick from. I tidied up the game area in the bunkhouse. Others were still getting ready, but I settled up with Neville, said my “see you down the trails” to everyone, and hiked out. I know a lot of people love Woods Hole. In my opinion, it doesn’t even come close to being as nice as Mountain Harbour, just to compare it to places I’ve stayed so far. I also felt like some of the remarks and behavior of the owner were at odds with the culture that it was supposed to have. It kind of just felt like there was some weird tension there. Without going into more detail since this journal is just to document my experiences on the trail and not some kind of hostel review system, I probably wouldn’t stay there again, but given so many people like it I would say if someone was ready for a break from the trail the. Give it a try. Some people who were there with me loved it; others had similarly mixed feelings. In the end, I think the hostel proprietors really make the hostels what they are, which can be magical, mundane, or something in between. For me, Woods Hole was something in between and sometimes I didn’t like the proprietor's tone towards other guests (not towards me). Overall I’m glad I went if for no reason than it was more interesting an experience than a hotel in Pearisburg probably would have been!
The morning was beautiful and warm! I hiked up the road and passed Redbird. After a while I arrived at Docs Knob Shelter. I went down to sign the log book and have a look. It had a really large deck built onto it. It would be a really nice shelter, albeit a small one, to stay at for anyone not going to Woods Hole. I carried on and hiked up to a ridge line with stunning views of the valley below. I followed this ridge line as it worked towards Pearisburg, and got views of the town as well. I saw a red-headed woodpecker swoop off of the ridge to a tree far below. Just before the descent from the ridge, there was a blue blaze trail to Angel’s Rest viewing rock, I walked down that and was rewarded with a fabulous view over Pearisburg. Someone had hung little Tibetan prayer flags at Angel’s Rest rock.
I cruised down off the mountain and the scenery began to get greener. All the snow had melted and little woodland creatures, squirrels and chipmunks, were scurrying about. One chipmunk stopped mid trail to examine me - odd behavior for a chipmunk! When I got about 4 feet away he decided I was scary after all and ran to my left and hid behind a rock. As I walked past, I turned my head around to look just as he popped up to take a look at me. His little eyes got wide and her shot his head back down out of site. I have a fondness for chipmunks, though not for the ones that produce annoyingly pitched Christmas albums....
I made it to the point where the trail hits Cross Avenue, the road that arrives in town after 0.7 miles. The hike into Pearisburg had been about 11 miles and it was just about 12:30 - not bad! As I climbed the last little bit of trail down to the road, the nearby neighbor was shooting guns in his yard. Awesome.... I got down to the road, pointed myself to town and started walking. I hadn’t made it 10 feet and a lady sprung out of a parked van on the side of the road and said “hello hiker! I’ll give you a ride into town!” Wow! The trail really does provide. This lady was known as Zerolicious and represented Angel’s Rest hostel in Pearisburg. Even though I wasn’t staying at her hostel, she still gave me a ride into town to the post office and was super friendly. I have heard really good things about Angel’s Rest, and Zerolicious really helped me out by saving me time and my feet from almost a mile walk! Just amazing....
I had things to do in Pearisburg. First, I needed to pick up a few boxes at the post office, then get a new fuel canister from the Pearis Mercantile next door, then resupply with enough food to get me to Daleville, and lastly, EAT! I had three packages at the post office. One was my new trekking poles. Another was a new sleeping pad, the thermarest neo Air xlite, as well as a few mountain house meals I used a gift card to purchase (thanks to my Infor team!!!!). The last was a new pack from Zpacks. I love my Osprey pack, but had been toying with switching it out before I started this journey. There are a few things I don’t love about the Osprey. It holds water when it rains, and the pack cover never covers everything. The harness system makes a lot of noise. It creaks often as I hike and that distracts from the sounds of nature. Weight - I will shave 3 lbs or more moving away from the osprey, and while that doesn’t sound like much, at this point in my trek I can confirm that it is a noticeable amount of weight over a long day! I also love trying out new gear, so for all of these reasons I invested in the new pack.
The post office worker was super nice and didn’t mind me opening my boxes and spreading my gear all over the floor like the hiker trash I have become! I had to transfer everything to the new pack, and then I mailed home my osprey, as well as my old sleeping pad, my fleece, thermal tights, and a pair of underwear. It was sad mailing home the osprey. It really is a good pack and we have been through so much together on this trip. I still have clothes for cold weather, but felt I could live without a few things now that most of my hiking is at lower elevations than the Smokeys and areas of North Carolina and Tennessee. I have no doubt there is still more winter weather to come!
It took me a while to do all of this at the post office. Wallace came in and we discussed meeting up later for Mexican food at a nearby restaurant. I went next door, purchased a gas canister at Pearis Mercantile, and walked up the street to Food Lion to get the remaining food I needed. As I arrived at the store I saw Eddie Steady and another hiker I recognized piling into a shuttle. I said hello and found out they were staying at Woods Hole and had gotten a shuttle into town. I asked them if they would take my old trekking pole and hiking stick back to Woods Hole and put them in the free hiker box area. I originally planned to drop them at Angel’s Rest, but it was getting late and this would save me a trip. Woods Hole was probably a better spot for them anyway, though I had needed them to make the trek into town. It was sad to see my hiking stick go! It really was a great stick, and somehow it got even clumsy me safely here in one piece all the way from the Grayson Highlands. Mr. Stick, I thank you for your service and I do hope that you can continue your magic in the hands of another good soul on the trail. Godspeed!
Eddie mentioned that Sourkraut had decided to stay at Woods Hole another day. That explained why Wallace and I hadn’t seen him in town. I did my best to shop quickly at Food Lion and I was very well behaved with the snacks, getting only some peanut butter M&Ms and a dark chocolate bar (good Beaker tip for the warmer days!). I got some fruit to eat. I’ve been really into tangelos lately. I also bought a mini blueberry pie and a smoothie drink.
Wallace was outside eating some chicken fingers. We packed up our stuff and headed up the parking lot hill to the Mexican restaurant. It was about 4pm, so the restaurant was almost empty. We got a nice table in the back with an outlet so I could charge my phone and power bank. I had three enchiladas with beans and rice, chips and salsa, and Dr. Pepper. Sourkraut called me and said he had decided to stay another night at Woods Hole, but was now considering maybe hiking out. He was still mulling it over so we said our “see you down the trails” and I let Wallace know what was going on. The waiter was really nice and filled our water bottles before we left.
It was hot outside! We left the restaurant at about 4:30 and our plan was to walk to the first campsite we saw out of town and settle in for the evening. Roughly 4.5 hours later we arrived at Rice Field Shelter 7 miles out of town.... We had walked and walked and walked and there just weren’t any good places to pitch two tents. Our walk out of Pearisburg took us past a huge chemical/polymer manufacturing campus right on the river. The campus was just as big as Pearisburg! Looking at the setup and the proximity to the town, not to mention the proximity to beautiful natural resources upon which such a facility would have a very detrimental impact, I have no doubt that company has Pearisburg nestled snugly in its wallet....
It was dark when Wallace and I finally made it to the shelter. Rice Field sits on top of a partial meadowy bald. A storm was coming in, so the winds were gusting quite high. It started raining shortly after I got my tent set up. I stayed up late organizing my food and my new pack a bit. I was grateful to finally be at camp, and grateful for Wallace’s good company today. I was also very excited to have a new sleeping pad and hoped it would work better for my hips. Time to find out! Zzzzzzzzzzz........