Tagged: va

VA into Waynesboro

cedar cliffs

The joy of this are was in the campsites.  Along this stretch I camped on the Cedar Cliffs and was able to watch the lights of the city come on all the while thinking nonstop about that Journey song.  Also camped up on the flat, grassy area next to Spy Rock.  We were surrounded by flowers the entire day.  Also camped along James Creek and had the sound of trains going by across the river.  I have found that my most enjoyable sites are within earshot of a creek with an active railway nearby.  These are ideal spots for me even though I realize that trains are hard to come by outside of a town setting.

Found a campsite along a reservoir and was struck by how eery a large body of water feels when nobody is on it.  I didn’t see a single soul on the water the entire day and into the next.  I did hear my share of water creatures which are like forest creatures but with different sounds.  There was one creature that sounded like a person screaming.  This happened through the evening and into the night.  The stillness of my night was also broken up by the occasional splashing fish.  As I exited this spot I walked through the Brown Mountain Creek community which was basically an area adopted by freed slaves who made their living.  I found a pretty thorough breakdown of the area here:  http://www.nbatc.org/1992Interview.htm. Any place you know a bit about beforehand feels much more interesting when you can walk through and are able to transport your mind to that area as it existed in its prime. It was a low area with an extensive creek system running through with rock buttresses still intact that must have provided the foundation for the community and the mills that the residents operated.

Along Matts Creek, which flows into the James River, there is a series of pools where you can take a dip and I did just that as the days are getting hotter and hotter.  I found a spot with a mini waterfall and just soaked for a spell.  It was a nice cleanse and had me feeling invigorated for the day.  I have been having issues with my right shin and this dip in cold water had a very therapeutic result.  I had been taking easy days over the last few so I stopped just down the trail along the James River.  There was one funny moment when a boat with two guys came up and landed at the bank at my site and two guys got out and started peeing.  They finally realized someone was there and we had a conversation about the AT and their trip down the river.  They were pretty deep into the beers and the one guy had a very hard time getting back into the rowboat and on their way out they handed me a couple of beers for a nightcap.

The stretch ended with a wonderful visit with my mom in Waynesboro.  She came down to make sure that I was holding it together and we actually got out and explored the Waynesboro/Staunton area.  We hit up local art galleries, moved on to Barren Ridge winery where we toured the grounds and watched them prepare for a wedding, headed over to Staunton where we went by her old college (Mary Baldwin) and visited an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet.

Demascus, VA

AT 559

Got into Demascus on May 6th and returned again on May 12th for Trail Days.  The first time around I stayed with a couple on Shady Ave named Christine and Brian who I guess Christine dated one of Chutes friends back in the day and someone suggested hitting her up when we were in town.  Thankfully we did as they were both ex thru-hikers and extremely hospitable.  They were right in the center of town and we went around with them and met all of their local friends.  It reminded me of an upstate NY town where the locals were all funky and intelligent but living in a backwoods sort of place.  The weekend before trail days they have a town-wide yard sale so we went over to help a couple set up the night before in a sort of set up party.  We would up meeting JD and Elle, Megan and Dennett, and others and this wound up being a nice core to meet as they were all very welcoming and I would up camping on the river on Megan and Dennet’s property when I returned the following weekend for Trail Days.  Christine and Brian had a shed full of bikes so we were able to get around town with the aid of two wheels.  The brother Chutes got violently sick on the first night we arrived in Demascus and we tried to pinpoint the ailment but could not.  He threw up 9 times from night until morning and was a basic mess the entire time we were there.  He was cold and fatigued and losing liquids from his body at an alarming pace.  We all considered ourselves lucky that we were not hit with the same ailments.  The following night at about 2am I heard more puking followed about an hour later by even more.  The next morning I woke up in Brian’s house to discover that the other brother, Snackin, and our host, Brian, had both succumbed to the same illness.  This was the day we were supposed to leave Demascus but I was basically the last man standing.  I thought for sure that I would be hit by this bug but I took my chances and pushed onto the trail. That first day on the trail I encountered many other hikers who were hit with the same bug and to this day the source of the misery remains a mystery. It actually made me a bit nervous that the bug was still lurking in Demascus for our return trip the following weekend for Trail Days.

Hiked out from Demascus and got out to Atkins and realized that a local church group was offering a shuttle back from that exact spot on Thursday so I holed up at the Relax Inn and headed back into town with a few others at that time. The trip out of Demascus included the Grayson Highlands which is famous for its open spaces on top of a series of mountains with amazing views and wild horses.  The first night I pushed a little too far and would up in no mans land on top of Buzzards Rock with noone around for at least 5 miles.  I knew that I had plenty of time to get up and going in the morning and that my hike that day would not be crowded with other hikers.  I passed the best spring I have seen so far just on the other side of the little forest after Buzzard Rock.  There was this pipe sticking out of a rock in the side of a mountain and the water was gushing out like a fire hose.  It seemed to have a wall of water just waiting to burst out of the earth.  I have come to recognize the variations between the different types of water sources and I could have stayed here all day filling up and drinking this source was so plentiful and clean.  There was a campsite right next to it that had I known about I would have set up right here the previous night because the gushing water would have satisfied my background noise requirement for camping.

The Grayson Highland ponies were basically using hikers and their hiking poles as salt licks and there were a few ponies prancing around getting used to using their legs.  There was one who was particularly pushy and I found out later that he was a kicker who would kick at people if you tried to cut his attention time short.  The next day I passed through a field where there were about 20 grazing cows.  We definitely spent a few days surrounded by large animals. Slept the night alongside a cow pasture so I woke up to the sound of cows after a night of storms and rain.  Hit the NRA visitor center and the lovely vending machine inside where I pulled out a few mountain dews just because I could.  I must have chatted with the lady inside the visitor center for an hour and meandered slowly through the shop checking out the books and the Smokey the Bear patches.

Back in Demascus fresh off the church shuttle I headed up the Virginia Creeper trail toward Megan and Dennet’s place and lo and behold she was working in her garden and there were about half a dozen tents set up along the river in their backyard.  I chatted with Megan for a bit and asked if I could set up and while away Trail Days in their yard.  She said of course and I spent the rest of the morning and the next day helping her and her mom with some gardening.  They were very welcoming and a joy to hang out with.  I planted a very aromatic rosemary bush and will definitely plant one at my own place as soon as I get one.  I also met a cool guy named Zach who was out with a few brothers for a section hike.  They were hanging out and enjoying Trail Days so I wound up hanging out with them for a lot of the time.  I rode down to Tent City where most people were set up but as I entered the gated area I was bombarded by cops demanding that I pay $5 for a wristband in order to be in this area.  I tried to explain that I was just exploring and that I wasn’t staying there but they persisted so I left never to return to this area again.  While in town the local ministry offered free showers in a disaster trailer, free medical checkups, free dinners, free internet access, and many other services.  The shower scene reminded me of a scene right out of an army medical tent.  Dirty and injured people were lounging all over the grounds waiting for their name to be called from a long list.  As soon as the name was called the lucky hiker would jump up and have some sort of reaction.  And once they left the shower they had such a sense of relief.  It was a funny scene because each person had basically the same reaction.

My friend Sumner came up from Florida and set up his tent for the night as well and most importantly he brought along my dog Brodie who will be accompanying me on this trip from here until New York at the earliest.  That night I left my rain fly off and woke up to a soaking tent which was not the best way to depart Demascus but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  For dinner we went to Whistling Pig and had a very accomodating waitress who set us up on the back porch so we could bring the dogs along.  We were alone out there for much of dinner which I had two of.  Earlier in the day the hiker parade dominated the downtown street.  People got all crazy picking out outfits from the thrift stores while water balloons were flying from the spectators.  It was a fun event.  We even had a helicopter flyby which came down low and just above the street.  Got a knit hat from the sewing ladies on main street and other little things along the way.  Sumner then brought me up to Atkins to continue where I left off and that is where the Brodie adventure begins.