Day 80: 890 ft ascent, 3.1 miles
Erik and I treated ourselves to Cracker Barrel for breakfast in Daleville, then waited for our laundry to finish up before heading to Kroger to resupply. Just as we were ready to leave, clouds started rolling in for a small afternoon storm. We waited it out at a nearby coffee shop, then got back on the trail.
We knew we didn’t want to go far, but we wanted to get out of town and back to the trail even though we didn’t leave Daleville until late afternoon. We went 3 miles up the mountain leaving town (there’s always a climb out of town) before we found a nice stealth site on the side of the trail for the night.
We may not have gone far, but we passed the one-third finished sign! It was very bitter sweet. I was happy we had made it that far but also slightly intimidated that we had two-thirds to go. Erik was much more optimistic about it and wanted to focus more on our accomplishment than what’s to come. I needed that reminder to not let my motivation drop. I guess I’ll keep him around.
Day 81: 3,410 ft ascent, 14.1 miles
We made it to the Blue Ridge Parkway today for the first time. We’ll be crossing it multiple times for the next few hundred miles. While some hikers choose to walk the Parkway for a few miles instead of the trail, we kept to the trail with leaf coverage protection from the sun.
I saw online some comments about hikers ordering pizza delivery to an overlook. All day I used that as motivation to get through the climbs of the day. We finally reached the top, found the restaurant online, and read they charge $4 for a delivery charge. Erik called them and we had the most comedic experience trying to order three gluten free pizzas. The owner tried to upsell us on several items including cheesecake that has “just a little gluten”. When we finally relented and agreed to one cheesecake, he said “four cheesecake, two each”. No thanks.
We finished our order and he said our total was $63, which included an $18 delivery charge! Erik was done dealing with the guy at this point and just canceled the entire order. A little disappointed (but laughing) we walked down to the first Blue Ridge crossing and set up under a tree to make the lunch we had.
As we sat there cars went by driving the parkway. We didn’t really pay too much attention to them until one turned around and drove up to where we were. A lady rolled down her window and yelled out “Drive by trail magic!” before putting her car in park and hopping out.
The lady and her friend had been set up doing trail magic at the next overlook. They were leaving for the day when they drove by and saw us. Next thing we knew, all three of us (Jake included) were eating fresh cut watermelon! They had some LaCroix that Erik and I both took, and both of us emptied out our trash.
It was really nice to sit and talk with both women, one of which had 30 miles to go to finish section hiking the entire trail! Although we missed out on the pizza, the fresh watermelon and conversation more than made up for our disappointment.
Day 82: 1,700 ft ascent, 11.6 miles
My mom decided to come visit! We arranged where she would pick us up when we left Daleville, so we knew we had a shorter day ahead of us.
My dad was about 300 miles ahead of us on the trail. When he saw rain in the forecast, he decided he wanted a break as well and would join us for a few days off visiting with my mom. She drove from Ohio to Maryland to pick him up, then headed south to meet us.
The pickup spot was good for us with the mileage we wanted to go, but also had the added bonus of being at a creek with a swimming hole! We got there early and dipped our feet in for a couple of hours.
As soon as we got there, Jake laid down on his orange mat. Normally he sleeps on it at night but I sit on it at breaks during the day. Not this time. He was claiming it all for himself. He was exhausted.
I made the tough decision to ask my mom if she would take Jake home with her after her visit. I love that dog, but I could tell he was following me where ever I go even if it was a struggle for him. I had asked him to carry his own food for almost exactly a quarter of the trail and he had been a trooper.
It was only in the last week or so when it started getting hotter that I noticed it wearing on him. I asked him every morning if he wanted to go on a hike and his tail would start wagging. That last week I would then go pick up his pack and he would run over to Erik.
If I could carry his food weight I think he could make it the entire way, but I don’t want to take that additional weight on and I don’t want him getting hurt. I’ll really miss him, but I know he’ll be in good hands playing with my parents’ other dogs and keeping my mom company.
Day 83, 84: Zeros
We took two days off of the trail. Luckily we chose our days well and it rained both days. We spent time catching up with my dad and sharing trail stories, playing Settlers of Catan, and being tourists. It was a really good break from the trail for all of us.
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