April 26, 2018
Destination: Glasgow Shelter (US 501 at mile 786) Today's Miles: 19.90
Start Location: Cornelius Creek Shelter Trip Miles: 786
I woke before the sunrise at about 6. Zia Fox was up getting his food bag down.
I got up to pee and do the same. It was a little chillier this morning than the forecast seemed to call for. I retrieved my food bag and noticed another tent behind the shelter. There were three tents when I went to bed and now there were four. Someone must have come into camp really late, but I wasn’t sure who it was. I knew that the original three were Diablo. Finger Food, and Sprinkles (previously Nightmare - she changed it). I bustled about making breakfast and getting my gear together as the shelter came alive. The birds were chorusing nicely, and as light filled the sky I could see that it was indeed going to be a beautiful day!
There is something about that first full day of sunshine after a period of rain that is really special. Not only does it feel like a gift, but the forest looks, feels, and sounds more vibrant and alive. The greens are brighter - the undergrowth on the forest floor, the moss growing on stones and tree stumps, and the new leaves coming in all radiated a kind of magical aura, as if I were living in an emerald hamlet. There was still a crispness to the morning air, but a slight stickiness was present as well as the morning rays began to lazily evaporate some of the moisture. It smelled earthy and damp; it smelled of new beginnings. The bird songs were full and complex, as if they were all excited to use their talents to the fullest this morning. As I started hiking, I paused here and there to take a few pictures of this scene. It was clear that spring was here. We might still have cold days here and there and it may even snow again, but spring has moved into the neighborhood!
The road crossing for Glasgow was just about 20 miles away, right after the James River Foot Bridge, the longest footbridge on the trail. It is named after William T. Foot, a past thru hiker whose vision and efforts helped to make the bridge a reality. I took a picture of the plaque about this as it has a few more details. There is a shelter about two miles before the bridge, so I figured I would see what time it was and how I felt when I got to that shelter, and if I had enough time I would keep going to the road crossing and hitch into Glasgow.
The first climb took me up to the top of Apple Orchard Mountain. There was a huge weather station tower on top. The trail then dropped back down and passed under a boulder suspended over the trail because it is wedged between two rock formations. This is called “Guillotine.” I ran into Whitewater there and we helped each other take pictures standing under the suspended boulder. I wonder how it got in place, and when! After this, I passed by Thunder Hill Shelter and met a Ridge Runner named Wood Elf. I hadn’t seen a Ridge Runner since the Smokies! We chatted for a bit. He was full of interesting facts and stories. He said he saw that the trillium were starting to bloom, and said something to the effect that trillium take 20 to 50 years to get established before they will start blooming. Wow! So he said when I see trillium blooms, to keep that in mind. This makes me want to do some googling on trillium, but I haven’t had a chance to yet.
I hiked on, continuing down the mountain to a gravel parking lot at a road crossing. This was Petites Gap. It was sunny and had a nice log to sit on, so I decided to have lunch, air out my feet and change my socks. While I was doing this, a guy road up to the lot on his bike and loaded it into his truck. He asked if I was a thru hiker. We chatted a little and he gave me a clementine - I love citrus trail magic! He said he was out collecting morels and asked if I had found any. I had heard about these mushrooms, but told him I really didn’t know how to identify them, etc. He then pulled out a bag of them and walked me through it. They are actually very distinctive looking, and he let me photograph one next to his lighter for scale. He said he finds them just at the edge of forested areas. He chops them up and puts them in omelets for his kids. I want to try this! For the rest of the day I kept my eyes peeled for morels, with no luck. It’s fun to look though! Whitewater arrived as I was getting ready to leave. I slapped on a coat of sunscreen and started the climb to Highcock Knob, where there were some nice views. On the other side of the knob I ran into a hiker who introduced himself as Far Gone. He said that before the next shelter I would have to ford a creek, and not to try to walk on any stones across because they were all submerged. He was pretty dramatic about it, describing how someone had slipped, fallen, and been “swept downstream.” My AWOL guide did say that there was a knee deep creek crossing to get to Matts Creek Shelter, so presumably that was what this guy meant. I thanked him and walked on.
I stopped to photograph a lizard. It was a little larger than others I had seen, namely in the head, and it had blue belly. I had never seen one like it. I looked it up later and it was an Eastern Fence Lizard. Then, I saw a southbound hiker approaching. He was hiking shirtless with a large backpack in short shorts. He had multiple tattoos, including colored facial tattoos. He was tall with a big barrel chest. As he approached I could see something in his mouth. At first I thought he was drinking from a camel pack. Nope. Not a camel pack.... It was a PACIFIER! Yep. A pacifier. I said hello as he approached and he stopped, looking frustrated. He then pulled the pacifier out of his mouth and asked me how far the Blue Ridge Parkway was. I told him it was a ways back and to head to Thunder Hill Shelter. He replaced the pacifier and marched on. Huh! The trail just gets more and more interesting!
I got down to Matts Creek Shelter and, sure enough, there was a creek that had to be forded, not just to get to the shelter but to continue the trail. It was extra high with all the rain, so I walked upstream to a safer looking spot, swapped my shoes out for my crocs, and crossed over. The cold water felt great on my feet! It was no big deal and I scrambled up the bank on the other side. As I walked back to the trail and shelter, I almost stepped on a large black snake! It was about three feet long and was not really interested in running away from me. I circled around it and went to the shelter picnic table. There were a pair of flip flop thru hikers at the shelter and I talked with them as I dried my feet and put my shoes back on. Whitewater arrived, so I showed her where I had crossed and waited for her to come across so I could point out the snake. So many cool reptiles today! I left them all chatting at the shelter and pushed on. It was only about 4:30 and I could be at the road crossing shortly after 5.
I hiked along the creek down to the James River, which is quite wide. There were some pretty cliffside waterfalls on the walk by the river. I couldn’t tell if they were always there, or just a result of all of the rain. I got to the Foot Bridge, took some photos and walked across. It was pretty cool and offered views of the river, which was brown from all of the rain. The bridge ends at the road crossing parking lot. I walked up and crossed the street since I was heading west. It only took me a few minutes and I had a ride! He was an older gentleman named Tony Ware. He said that he and his wife regularly pick up hikers on their drives through town. They also sometimes grill out in that parking lot for hikers as we roll through. He was the nicest guy and told me about the facilities in Glasgow. It’s about 5-6 miles into town from the trail, and he dropped me off right at the Glasgow Shelter! I thanked him profusely and walked around to check out the digs.
Let me start by saying that the Glasgow Shelter is free.... Glasgow is a very small town: no traffic lights, two T intersections that I saw, one restaurant called Scottos, a mini mart grocery, Dollar General, post office, library and gas station. The town provides the shelter for free, and apparently it was an Eagle Scout project originally. The shelter, however, needed a bit of TLC. It was pretty trashed with food left out everywhere and trash. With it being right there at the edge of town, I felt a little like I was standing in some kind of serial killer’s lair! I was the only one there, which I think made it worse. Oh well - I was going to do this, so may as well get started. It had bunks built out of wood, so I threw my pack by one and went to check out the shower. It was an outdoor shower, but did, in fact, have warm water! This was good. I decided I would shower, then go to Scottos to eat, and then see if any other hikers, or if unsavory characters showed up at the shelter. There was one catch though - I didn’t have a towel. I could have patted down with my buff, but I was tired of my gear being wet. There were a few towels laying around, and most of them looked like they had been used to clean up truck stop bathroom floors and never washed. There was a peach-colored one draped over a lawn chair that looked tolerable. I went over, picked it up and smelled it. It was soft, not stiff, and it didn’t smell horrible. I decided to go for it. I know this is super disgusting, but keep in mind I hadn’t had a shower for a week. I was filthy.... The shower worked fine and someone had even left shampoo, so I used that and my camp soap to wash. I realized how badly I needed a deeper cleaning to work on the dirt around my nails. I would take care of that at my next town stop. I got myself as clean as I could, changed into slightly better smelling clothes, and took my pack up to Scottos to eat.
I saw Tarzan and Remmy in Scottos - they had just finished up and were going to the shelter after running a few errands. I sat down in “the hiker room” (e.g. a room that smells like B.O. because they quadron us all off there to keep our scent from offending other patrons) and ordered an Italian sausage ziti dinner. This came with garlic bread and a salad. Yum! I had pink lemonade with that, and then had coffee and a milkshake. I decided that I would resupply after dinner, so I made a quick run back to the shelter with my stuff. Remmy was there and said “this is gross, I’m going to tent in the field!” I laughed and strongly considered doing the same, but it was going to rain overnight and I didn’t want to deal with a soggy tent. I turned on an shadeless Eiffel Tower lamp that was at the shelter so I could see. They actually had electrical outlets that we could use, which was a plus. I ran over to Dollar General and knocked out my resupply. When I came back Bama Dog had arrived. Good - there is safety in numbers! In the end, it was me, Tarzan and Bama Dog in the Shelter. I cleaned up as best I could. I took all the food that was left around and threw it in the trash cans behind the shelter. All of those were over flowing, so I could only imagine the party of opossums, rats and raccoons that might visit later. I took a look in the porta potty. The service schedule indicated no service since 2015. Hmmm.....
Despite these things, we were all still grateful to have some kind of shelter. It was very convenient and it was also free. I was super grateful for an awesome day of hiking, an interesting day of sights, and a break from the rain! So far the people of Glasgow had been good to us, so we made the best of it, had fun joking around while we organized our resupply, and then went to sleep. I wore my bug net to keep bugs off my face. I thought maybe it might also confuse any deranged nighttime murderers.