Monday, July 13, 2015

Day 50: Rendezvous in Pearisburg

April 26: It rained a lot during the night in our crowded little shelter, but it let up by morning. A little tree snot fell much of the morning to remind us of Mother Nature's temperamental temper, but it wasn't bad. The fog, however, was thick enough to cut with a knife!

The rain had stopped, but the fog was thick!

Originally, my plan had been to hike into Pearisburg and find a hotel for the night. If the weather had continued to rain, I probably would have done just that! But now I was having second thoughts. I'd been on the trail for less than a week since my last zero day (in Marion), and Daleville was just another 100 miles up the trail. I had shipped my laptop ahead to Daleville so it's not like I could even get any real work done if I stopped for the night in Pearisburg. Thus, I found myself reconsidering a stay in Pearisburg.

I had to go into Pearisburg to resupply--of that, there was no doubt. The question was whether or not I should return to the trail and just continue hiking for the rest of the day!

I hiked the nearly 10 miles into town quickly. Not much to report on that count. The trails were muddy and the steep drop into town was tricky at times because it was so easy to slip in the mud, but in the end, it was much ado about nothing.

I had a slight scare upon reaching Cross Avenue where a sign posted to a tree promoted a visit to the local hardware store--which I intended to do anyhow to stock up on denatured alcohol for my stove. The scare came when it said the store was closed on Sunday and, by golly, today was Sunday! What would I do for fuel for the next week?

What were my options? Spend the night in Pearisburg after all? Buy food that didn't require cooking? I had not a drop of fuel on me. Knowing I'd be resupplying in Pearisburg, I allowed Heavyweight and Superman to use what little I had left the night before to help start the campfire. Then I remembered--there were gas stations in Pearisburg. They might not have denatured alcohol, but I could probably find some HEET in town that I could use as fuel. It would be okay... I hoped! In theory, I knew HEET would work, but in all my years of backpacking, I'd never actually used it.

At the edge of town, I saw what was left of the Rendezvous Motel just off the trail. I remembered the Rendezvous from my first thru-hike. I had shared a room with Monster, and it was the first time I remembered meeting Constant Motion. I never saw Monster again after that, but I'm still friends with Constant Motion and cross paths with her from time to time in Seattle.

There wasn't much left of the Rendezvous, though. The sign out front was still there, but the hotel behind it was completely gone. It looked as if the structure had burned to the ground and the remains later removed. I could see the foundations of the old hotel, and I recognized where the office once stood and roughly the area where my room had been located. It was all gone now, though. It was a dump of a hotel even then and looked like the rooms could have been rented by the hour, but I felt like a little piece of history of my first thru-hike had been wiped away and I was saddened by it. I kind of wish the sign had been removed as well. As it was now, I felt like it was taunting me.

The town of Pearisburg is nearly a mile off trail, and I trudged up the road into town. My first stop was at a gas station where they didn't have HEET, but another fuel additive that looked like it might do the job. My main concern was if it burned cleanly or not. I was sure it would burn, but I didn't want a sooty mess from it either.

Knowing that I now had a fuel to cook with, I could shop for food that could be cooked--and that's where I headed next: the supermarket.

Not much was left of the Rendezvous Motel this time around, but I definitely had the right spot! (That building behind the sign isn't part of the hotel--it's on the adjacent property.)

Food Lion, to be exact. I picked up a grocery cart and threw my pack in it. No reason to carry my pack on my back while shopping! Then wandered up and down the halls quickly filling the rest of my cart with food for the trail. At this point, I'm a pro. I doubt that I took more than 10 minutes to find everything I needed and checking out took another 5 minutes.

Rather than repack everything in front of the store, I walked back to Dairy Queen where I spotted Superman eating lunch. I joined him and ordered my own lunch as well, plus a strawberry shake because, darn it, I deserved one!

Superman finished his lunch and was heading back to the trail. Other hikers came in and left, including Little Red and Chuckles but I knew they had gotten a motel room in town and wouldn't be back on the trail today.

After I finished my own lunch, I repacked most everything I bought at the grocery store into Ziplock bags and repacked my backpack. I wrote postcards as well and basically made myself at home there. I couldn't find a good outlet to recharge my phone, but it still had a lot of power and I wasn't too concerned about it. Later, just before I was about to leave, an employee asked if I had any devices I wanted recharged and they'd do that for me in back--above and beyond the service I expected! Since I was about to leave in another five minutes, I passed on the offer, but that was extraordinarily nice of them. =)

The walk into Pearisburg has a lot to be desired. Like sidewalks!

With my pack once again weighed down with food, I walked back to the trail and continued hiking. I only covered another seven miles or so the Rice Field Shelter.

This shelter I had fond memories of from my first thru-hike. It was situated at the edge of a bald with incredible views overlooking West Virginia and had an amazing sunset. I wanted a repeat of that experience. When I arrived, the fog was still thick and it was hard to imagine a glorious sunset in just a couple of hours, but the weather forecast actually called for the skies to clear and the fog to lift late in the day. Given how unreliable weather forecasts had been, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. I really wanted a good show!

I was a little surprised when I came up on the shelter from the back, however. I distinctly remembered the trail crossing over the bald and having to hike 0.1 miles off trail to the edge of a bald and over a barbed-wire fence to reach the front of the shelter, and the water source for the shelter being a half mile or so off trail and behind the shelter. This time, though, I approached the shelter from the back and was confused if I had mis-remembered everything about it from my first thru-hike.

But I hadn't. There was the bald just in front of it. And the barbed-wire fence separating the bald from the forest, with the same stile over the fence that I remembered. The trail, I suddenly realized, must have been rerouted! I know it happens every year, but most of the reroutes are so small and uneventful, I never recognize them. This one I recognized, but only because it came to the shelter in an entirely new direction. Looking closely at a blaze on a tree, I could see it had white paint over a blue blaze. The water source that used to be off trail was the one I passed on the trail shortly before arriving at the shelter. The privy had a single wall to shield users from prying eyes, but everyone laughed at it because it was covering the wrong direction. Why would some idiot do that? Because when the trail used to come in from the other direction, it did give the necessary privacy for people doing their business. It all made sense now.

Pearisburg! I found fuel for my stove at the gas station on the right side, and the Dairy Queen is the building is the red roof right behind it. (The Food Lion is just over the top of the hill behind the Dairy Queen but out of view of this photo.) Speaking of the Dairy Queen, it was a lot nicer and fancier than I remembered it from my first visit 12 years ago. I think it had been remodeled and for the better!

In the meantime, I set up camp in the shelter. So far, only Heavyweight and Superman were in the shelter, although several other hikers had set up tents outside of it. Blueberry and Bostrich had stayed in Pearisburg for the night so we weren't expecting them.

An hour or two later, I noticed a vague outline of distant hills. A thinning of the fog that had enveloped us all day. Excited, I put on my Crocs and headed out to the bald to check out the views. Views! They were there! Burn, fog! Burn!

The fog continued to lift and other hikers followed me out to the view, amazed at the incredible view forming right before their eyes. It's one thing to know that there's a view "in theory," but watching it come out before your very eyes is special in it's own right. Soon, everyone was out admiring the views.

The sunset was spectacular. Superman did his handstand photos. I wandered around the bald a bit looking for where the AT used to be and found a thin trace of a trail right where I remembered it from my first thru-hike. It was no longer marked in any way as far as I could see and the previously well-trodden trail had largely grown over leaving just the smallest of scars.

It was a good evening, and I was glad I came out here rather than spend the night in Pearisburg! As darkness gathered, Heavyweight and Superman set about making a campfire the likes of which I hadn't seen for a long time. It was more of a bonfire than a campfire! And a good time for all. =)

Back on the trail again!

The trail crosses over Wolf Creek over this long bridge.
The trail passes a campus for the Celanese Corporation, a Fortune 500 company I had never heard of before. Apparently, the company is a leading producer of acetyl products, which are intermediate chemicals for nearly all major industries, and is the world's largest producer of vinyl acetate monomer. Whatever that is...

And passing under Highway 460.

And finally back in the woods!

The fog was much worse the higher the trail went.

Party at the Rice Field Shelter!

The fog is lifting! The fog is lifting!

Superman went heels over head over the views! =) (I know the phrase is 'head over heels', but really, isn't having our head over our heels normal?!)

I remember this stile separating the bald from the forest. Except last time I hiked the trail, that white blaze by my head had been blue!

Having been pretty miserable almost the entire day, the conditions for the sunset couldn't have been better!

Another hiker takes a photo of the sunset!

This was among the largest campfires I had ever seen!


Karolina said...

Omg! Ryan, before I read the caption I thought it was you doing a handstand! ;p

Ryan said...

Hmm.... Maybe I should teach myself how to do handstands on my next hike.... That could prove to be very useful for photo ops!

If you were impressed with that photo, though, you gotta see a couple of his handstand photos at some other places on the trail--next to cliffs that will make your hair curl! Unfortunately, I don't HAVE those photos because I wasn't there to take them, but I've SEEN the photos and hope to get copies after Superman finishes his hike.