This morning was very relaxing. Blue was up way before me. She was quite kind, spent her early morning with the Lord, reading the Word of God in the sitting room downstairs. I slept until my body was ready to wake-up and that was close to 7am. I could never do that on the trail!
We had to wait for the USPO to open so we were in no big rush. We walked slowly as I took a few pictures. Pirate and Stormy made it to town and were looking for a place to shower and do laundry. Blue squared them away and sent them both off to Crazy Larry’s place. He’s an older guy who hiked previously and now provides services to hikers. Good guy but just a bit crazy!
The PO wasn’t open so I headed over to the Old Mill. It’s a beautiful restored building that was the mill back in the day. The property is stunning, as it backs up to the river. The current property owner, Daniel Boone, not a trail name but his proper name. He invites me and Blue in to show us around. You can tell Daniel has a passion for this historical mill. He has put a lot of sweat equity into bringing it back to its original glory. He showed us the banquet room where weddings are performed. It overflows to the raised patio and the beautiful grounds outside. The Bar was constructed by using the old water wheel with a wooden countertop that was all hand-made by a local artist. Around the edges of the wooden top are animals, fish and wildlife native to the area. It was a stunning piece of craftsmen ship. Daniel talked about the pieces of artwork that were hanging in the dining area. They were replicas painted by starving hikers who needed a room/meal when they passed through. It was unexpected and interesting listening to this man share the love he has for this property. I hope and pray that God blesses and provides for his business. There was something truly special about his heart, and I am sure he is a man after God’s own heart.
The PO opened, we retrieved our resupply boxes, and ran into several other hikers doing the same thing. Blue and I headed to the Diner to get our last home-cooked meal before hitting the trail again.
Finally at 11am we headed back to, not the Appalachian Trail but the well-known Creeper Trail. It parallels the AT but follows the Laurel River and is absolutely FLAT! I know, I wasn’t sure if my body could hike on something without PUDS! Oh, it was incredibly wonderful and such a gorgeous stretch of trail.
The Virginia Creeper Trail is 34.3 miles long and began as a Native American footpath. Later, European pioneers and Daniel Boone used this trail. Around 1900, the railroad was constructed and extended from Abington, TN to Elkland, NC hauling lumber, iron ore, supplies and passengers. The Virginia Creeper was nicknamed due to the fact the steam locomotives would struggle as it creeped up the steep grades. After many years of not profiting, the train ran its last time March 31, 1977. Through the work of countless volunteers, the Creeper became a National Recreation Trail. Blue and I hiked this historic route today. It was like stepping back in time, and we truly appreciate the hard-work to keep this stretch of trail alive. Many state that this is one of the most beautiful trails on the continent and I must agree. I’m so glad to say I am not a purist! When there are opportunities to see something extraordinary, I’m willing to bypass the path and venture off trail. This was well worth it and honestly, I don’t think we are the only hikers taking the more scenic route!
Needless to say, we still hiked all day and ended up back on the AT. The Creeper Trail and the AT intersect and follow the same route much of the time. It’s quite similar to the PCT and JMT that become one trail for miles. We walked along the River most of the day, passed through Taylor’s Valley and stopped at Hellbender’s Cafe for Ice Cream and Iced Tea. This is not as tough as it appears. It was another incredibly wonderful day!
Blue and I were back on the AT by 4pm and came upon our campsite early on. Our home for the evening is nestled between the Laurel River and flanked by the 563’ Trestle that provides safe passage over the merging rivers. I am shocked that we are the only ones here as many were hiking out of town this morning. Anyhow, I will have a restful night with the sound of water nearby.
This is my last week with Blue. As we left Damascus today, I realized how much my hiking friend has meant to me. There is something special about meeting people on trail and being part of a trail-family. But honestly, nothing replaces a true friend who you have history with, who travels clear across the country, leaves her husband for six weeks and plans to hike with me on this unknown trail. Blue has never backpacked more than a couple of days before now. She is one of the strongest and toughest women I know. She has been through every change of weather, climbed the elevation of Everest at least once if not twice by now, and will have hiked close to 400 miles by the end of this week! Who does that? Blue, thank you for being my sidekick, for putting up with me, and considering a return trip to finish out this trail in Maine. I know we still have a few more days together but I just had to thank you ahead of time. You’re a great friend and one heck of a long distant hiker!
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
James 1:12 NIV