Day 53-55: June 6-8, 22 Zero to Route 623 Elevation Profile +3485/-4960 17.5 Miles; Total 576.0 Miles

Zero Days at Smith Mountain Lake. Oh what an unexpected surprise! Blue’s friends Greg and Rhonda swept us away from Bear Garden Hiker Hostel and took us to their beautiful condo. It was absolutely perfect. We arrived and were promptly escorted to showers. Good call on Rhonda’s part. Then we had Mexican Food and Margaritas. By hiker midnight, 9pm I was looking for a place to lay my head. Mission accomplished. I laid my head on three pillows and went quickly to sleep. And slept like a baby!

Blue with Greg & Map of Smith Mountain Lake

The following day was a ride on their pontoon boat around the lake. What a huge lake. It is man made and has homes that line the miles and miles of shoreline. There are numerous fingers and before long, I was hoping Greg knew his way back, as I was totally lost, or rather misplaced! An interesting fact about this lake is the water releases. Daily they release water from the dam to generate electricity and then pump it back to refill the lake. Only in Virginia would they come up with such a logical way to create energy. It’s ingenious!

On Greg’s Boat on the Lake

I had a wonderful time with Greg and Rhonda. They are God’s people and as generous and kind as anyone could possibly be. Blue flew back home and I picked up my new partner Sid. He’s my 15 year old grandson who does not like hiking. From a perfectly suited partner to a teenager who would rather be with his friends. Hmm, imagine that! I’m hoping within the next few days I’ll change that.

New Hiking Partner Sid

On Wednesday Sid stepped his first foot on the Appalachian Trail. Just as we were getting dropped off, it started raining. How appropriate. We both put on our rain jackets and started walking the trail. I chose to slackpack today as it would be an easier way to sell Sid on this hiking thing. I don’t think it worked. The rain definitely did not help matters but it’s just what happens out here.

Rainy Day Start

We saw quite a few animals from the beginning. A baby fawn and her Mama, a Mama and baby groundhog, a big bullfrog and salamanders everywhere. That helped Sid seal the deal. He does enjoy catching anything that moves and in no time he had a frog and salamander. I guess it could’ve been worse. No rattlesnakes and no bears!

Bullfrog Master

The rain was off and on most of the day but nothing too terrible. We made our way to Chestnut Knob Shelter. This shelter was a Fire Warden’s cabin for years, and was later converted to a shelter that sleeps 8 hikers. This is the only shelter that I’ve seen that has four walls and a door with windows. It’s pretty swanky for hikers, especially thru-hikers!

Chestnut Knob Shelter

The highlight for the day was Burke’s Garden. A clearing in the trees to the north looks down on Burke’s Garden, a very fascinating geological formation. The valley to the north, which looks like a giant, 8 mile by 4 mile crater from above, was formed by a limestone sinkhole. The valley has only one natural outlet, in the north, and only two roads leading out of it. The AT to the north walks along the rim of the Garden for 8 miles. It’s quite beautiful and many call it “the thumbprint of God”.

Burke’s Garden

The day was long and we arrived at Bear Garden Hostel after 6pm. There was applause for us when we arrived. Ended up that there were two other hikers behind us that had just finished the Marathon Challenge and they were the recipients of the cheers. When you slackpack the marathon, you earn a chocolate cake! It’s well worth the pain, suffering and agony once you sink your teeth into Birdies homemade cake. Sid and I did not get cake as we only hiked 17-1/2 miles but if you combine it being both of us hiked, I’m thinking 35 miles and we earned something. We both indulged in soda and top ramen. That works for me. Chocolate Cake is overrated!

Sid on Walker Gap

Blue is back home and Sid is on the scene. We had a rough start and honestly the miles were a bit long today. I have a better plan for tomorrow and hopefully we will be rain-free. It appears that the rain is heading to other places, which is a huge blessing for Sid and I.

Day One for Sid

Well Lord, this was not exactly the homecoming I expected on the trail. Just because someone is related, doesn’t mean that they will be much like I. Sid is quite capable of doing anything he sets his mind to, however her truly has no desire to hike the AT. All I ask is to keep an open-mind and he may find the silver lining on this summer trek. Time will tell!

One thought on “Day 53-55: June 6-8, 22 Zero to Route 623 Elevation Profile +3485/-4960 17.5 Miles; Total 576.0 Miles

  1. Good luck, Sid! Hopefully, you will find a love for the trail! I’m sure rain on your first day wasn’t fun😫

    How special to be hiking the AT with your grandmother👏 I know she must be the happiest person!

    Liked by 1 person

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