AT Journal Day 7

Tuesday October 3

We woke up before the sun again today and left our cozy cabin at Lewis Mountain Campground around 7:15am. Before we got on the trail I had to stop at the bathrooms because I was feeling…a little rumbly. Heh.

We carried on but something didn’t feel quite right. Something wasn’t sitting well in my stomach this morning.

Then I remember, I took 3 bites of B’s Mountain House granola which has powdered milk in it.

I discovered in June that I was lactose intolerant, especially to milk, ice cream and powdered dairy.

Crap.

(Literally.)

I walked about 2 miles before I couldn’t take it anymore. Cramping and sweats and chills…

Thus the first time I have ever…had to walk 200 yards from the trail and any water sources and let things happen. It wasn’t as traumatic as I had thought it would be. In fact, it was pretty great.

Poop in the woods. Check.

After that brief interruption, we walked another almost 3 miles before it struck again, this time at least within tolerable walking distance to the South River picnic area which had some decent bathrooms.

There we met a NOBO LASHer named Jeremiah, who was hiking with his pup. He started in Grayson Highlands at the end of August (the day of the eclipse) and took his time up through Shenandoah, and planned to quit outside of New York, where he was moving to. Super nice guy! We gave him a few of our left over protein bars and packets of fruit snacks and said goodbye.

I looked at my Guthooks app and saw we only had 3 miles left until we ended up back at the car. It started to sink in how quick our hike had gone, while at the same time I relished in how laid back and relaxed our days had been. I started feeling kind of emotional. I went ahead of B and got back on the trail, making a game of stabbing as many leaves as I could with my right trekking pole, like I was picking up trash. B snuck up on me in no time, “What are you doing?!” He admired my leaf stack, told me I was weird and then cut back in front of me. We hiked the last 2 miles today by ourselves. I breathed in the last of the Shenandoah air on the trail and felt exhausted and relieved when I saw B waiting at the car for me.

“We did it!” We hugged and high fived and took a breather, took our shoes off and drank some water. The day was far from over. We had to go to Big Meadows to pick up our debit card, stop in the visitors center to get my national park passport stamped, and then drive 2 and a half hours to Kringle’s house. (“Who is Kringle?!” I will get to that shortly!)

The drive to Big Meadows was odd. Riding in a car after being on a trail with 30lb backpacks on for 5 days felt strange. We passed many of the places we hiked through in less than 30 minutes, as opposed to days.

Long, long story short; we arrive at the lodge around 1:30pm and speak to the front desk where they cannot find our card and insist they don’t have it. “But I called yesterday afternoon and it was here, the girl I spoke to said she’d hold on to it. We were hiking the opposite direction so we couldn’t come until today.” B said. The woman at the front desk collected a manager. The manager then informs us that our debit card was destroyed. Uhhhh, what? Apparently they have a 24 hour rule. Card isn’t collected, it gets destroyed. NOBODY told us that yesterday when we called. If that had been the case, we’d have booked it 16 miles back to the car, picked up our card and then just drove back to Lewis Mountain for the night. Needless to say, the situation on Big Meadows behalf was not handled well. They didn’t inform us that this was a possibility, they didn’t apologize, nor did they act as though they cared. There was nothing we could do now, what’s done is done.

We are never careless with our belongings and especially not our cards like this, but now we’ll be extra attentive to make sure it never happens again. It was our fault for not noticing we left it on the table in the restaurant. However, not having a debit card while traveling is probably going to prove very difficult. We still have 3 days in Virginia left, very little cash and (thankfully) a credit card I didn’t want to use. I guess that’s what it’s there for. Sigh.

We started the drive south to Catawba, where our next adventure began.

I “met” Kringle on Instagram (@athikerinva) over the course of a few months. You know how it goes, you find a neat account, one follows the other, then you’re following each other, you comment and banter.

Well, dear Kringle lives a mere 15 minutes from the McAfee Knob trail head, and when he saw that McAfee was part of our itinerary he messaged me and invited us to stay for a night so we didn’t have to sleep in our tent in a hostel yard.

We ended up taking him up on his offer and I am so glad we did because let me tell you, we had a GREAT evening after a crazy stressful day. He greeted us with craft beer, homemade salsa, and promises of steak being thrown on the grill. B and I each grabbed a shower, changed into real human clothes, and relaxed while Kringle shared trail stories and life experiences.

He bought his home in May and one of the main reasons for the location was to house hikers. He has past experience with bed and breakfasts (and you can TELL!) his house is charming, full of character and he knows how to host like no other. We are so grateful for everything he’s done for us today! Dinner was incredible and after drinks, stories and full stomachs by a fire we decided to head to bed. We are getting up at 4:30 to catch a sunrise at the top of the Appalachian Trail’s most photographed location. McAfee Knob.

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