Late night, late morning. Niday shelter was packed at night but seemed to be vacated by the time we got up. Even Chewy and Tesla were gone. Sambo met us before we left, having done 10 miles before we got out of camp.
Hiking that day was hot and a little exposed. We spent most of the day in dry pine forests with little water. Around lunch Snugz, Patch, Sambo, Rambo, and I stopped at a stream. They all had sling shots and proceeded to make the break, like all breaks now, target practice. The Bo boys and Snuggles hunted and had guns at home but Patch came most recently from Portland (and it wasn’t a big shock). The trail fills all gaps and all got along swimmingly. They fantasized about their first kill and fresh meat on our hike.
Lazer Cat was hanging out on top, catching Pokémon like Ash himself.
After lunch we had the first hot spot around Blacksburg, Dragon’s Tooth. We got up to the high ridge around 6 and stayed two hours. Lazer Cat was hanging out on top, catching Pokémon like Ash himself. I’d been here several times and declined to go to the top of the tooth. I’d done it before and didn’t enjoy the height then.
We started the descent around dusk and the trail proved to be steeper than I remembered. We hit the bottom at dark and proceeded to take the wrong trail to a parking lot because Rambo and Snugz refused to turn on headlamps. After the correction we hit a road that to the left led to a gas station and to the right a free hostel. After a banquet at the gas station of apple juice, fatty cakes, awful microwave dinners, and more we walked to Four Pines Hostel. The hostel is more of a large garage on a farm with plenty of space to camp. We camped under a blanket of stars in the field dreaming of the coming meal. Not just any meal, but the meal of a lifetime. Maybe even THE meal of the trail.
We camped under a blanket of stars in the field dreaming of the coming meal. Not just any meal, but the meal of a lifetime. Maybe even THE meal of the trail.
The farm was even prettier in the daylight. Murals on the garage, dozens of pheasants running in a pen, an old friendly dog, all against a beautiful mountain backdrop that makes southwest Virginia so unforgettable. We hiked out at noon, waiting for a restraunt establishment by the name of “The Homeplace” to open.
I’d had the pleasure of eating at Homeplace on rare occasions while I was living in southwest Virginia and learned to treat the place more like a church then an eatery. Six miles of hot hiking put us at the road to Zion. 1.2 to the west (I don’t have a clue what direction it was but to a northbound thru hiker, left of the trail is always west), the trip would go faster if we hitched but now with a group of ten that wouldn’t work. Alas we road walked the final mile pridefully.
(I don’t have a clue what direction it was but to a northbound thru hiker, left of the trail is always west)
After a short wait mitigated by Yellowbeard’s cellular foresight to get our name on the list before arrival, we all sat down to a large table in a sectioned off room. Restaurateurs think we don’t notice when you seat us away from the general population but we do. How couldn’t we, it happens every time.
Within seconds large pitchers of lemonade and ice tea hit the table giving each voyager the chance to make their own Arnold Palmer. A moment later the feast arrived. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, black eyed peas, butter beans, country ham, moist biscuits, apple butter, buttered corn, and the best roast beef in existence. I’m not sure anyone else knows how to roast beef outside of this converted plantation home.
Restaurateurs think we don’t notice when you seat us away from the general population but we do. How couldn’t we, it happens every time.
We passed those dishes around with full efficiency and speed. When a plate was empty our delightful waitress got more. Yes, you heard me right, this wasn’t just high quality, family style fixings, but a heralded all-you-can-eat experience. I like to believe it was everything I’d been building it up to be.
The group waddled out an hour later uncomfortably full but satisfied. Right away we got a ride from the Four Pines Hostel owner back to the trail. Yes ten people with packs can fit in a truck.
Thru tang slowly moved back into the woods and, eventually, to the first shelter just one mile from the road. It seemed silly to have two shelters so close to the road, but now it was obvious people couldn’t get far with a fat Homeplace belly.