I managed to wake up on time and hop in the shuttle at 7 with another hiker named Data. We hit the trail at 7:30. It was a cool and breezy morning with beautiful morning light in the forest. The trail was a rolling dirt path for several miles and then turned to a rocky mess on top of the ridge. It was heating up. By noon I had done 10 miles. It was going to be a long day and extra long since I had passed Data earlier in morning. It’s lonely out here without hiking partners. As I hiked south I saw at least 20 people going north with comforted me that there were people all around.
The wind got stronger and I put my rain jacket on for protection. The sound of the wind in the trees reminded me of the beach. As I rounded a corner with I stumbled upon my first snake. Luckily it was a black snake and it quickly moved along. For the rest of the day I jumped at every rustle in the leaves I heard. I walked along the boarder of VA and WV for about 6 miles up to a meadow with a panoramic view to the west. 8 miles left to go. As I descended I passed a sign stating that I was approaching property of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
As I approached the next hill I met some familiar hiker friends I had made at Woods Hole: TBD, Silver Lining, Django, and Willow. They were headed to the shelter I had just passed and they were sweating bullets. I’m sure it was in the 80s by then at 3 o’clock.
I passed them by and traveled up and down through a wooded path that lead me past a chemical plant owned by Celanese. They make basic chemicals such as acetic acid, acetic anhydride, and vinyl acetate which are used in the chemical, paint and coatings, construction, and adhesive industries for polymerization. The plant is located right beside the New River (one of the oldest rivers in the world) which I crossed on a bridge with highway 460. Apparently, Celanese has a reputation for contamination in other locations in the US. As I looked back crossing the river I could see the path cut across the mountain for the pipeline. Then I heard the whistle of a freight train and watched 40 or more gondola cars filled to the brim with coal heading east. So this is a foot path through the wilderness?
With 2 miles to go my feet were of course toast. I shuffled up the trail to my ending point by 6. I walked the mile back to the hostel on what felt like broken feet. I fixed pinto beans and rice, soaked my feet and went to bed. The shuttle would leave again at 7 tomorrow and I needed to get on it unless I wanted to spend the day sitting around at the hostel and I didn’t.
Miles: 656.6 – 636 (20.6)