Virginia: Damascus to Pearisburg
May 9, 2004
Birdie and I got up with the sun and made the short drive from Abingdon to Damascus for breakfast at the Side Track cafe. No one was stirring except for the people working at the cafe. No hikers were on the streets, none in the cafe. We ate responsibly and after about thirty minutes the first set of hikers came in and sat quietly in a corner. No bothering with introductions as we would never seen the hikers again, and they probably just want to eat. We drove over to the Place to drop off some food that my mother had sent with me (and couldn't finish) and then to a parking lot where Birdie could leave her car for a few days. Loaded and ready to go, I was happy to be hitting the trail again after the last few, hectic weeks in Indiana. Not only had I scored a new job across the country, but I had to pack up all my stuff, get it into storage, arrange things with the movers, clean the house, give and grade a final exam, and try to get my life in order so that I could disappear for four months without too many problems arrising.
All that was behind me now. All I had to do was hike. And wait for Birdie to finish talking with her nephew, whose birthday it was today, on a payphone outside of Cowboy's. I could remember perfectly the two days I had spent in Damascus at the end of my first section hike. I remember The Trees and Daddymention strolling out of town and the hurt I felt that I was not going with them. I remember the warmth, not heat, of the day and what and where I ate. How many flowers were out and how thick the undergrowth was. I remembered all that stuff and was content. At peace on the Appalachian Trail, at the best time of the year, and with a long walk in front of me. Finally Birdie was done and we set off down the road, eventually reaching the trailhead.
I was soft from nine months of indoor living, despite my (sometimes) best efforts at exercising and backpacking on the weekends. While a little lighter than when I started the PCT on this exact date last year, I was still 22 lbs heavier than when I finished the PCT. It would be a few weeks before I was in fighting shape again. I quickly separated from Birdie as my enthusiasm came uncorked. I'm not sure where the energy came from, as the trail was the AT at its most usual: Long, green tunnel that heads up to nothing in particular, then comes down to nothing in particular. I was just happy to out and living directly once again. We hiked apart for a while, then together, then apart, each taking our own approach to the trail, just as we had on the PCT. At a lunch break at Saunders shelter, we met our first set of thruhikers: Friar, Spiderweb, and Sierra Marmot. Friar was using two thick, wooden curtain rods as hiking poles (they actually came from a paint store). Spiderweb had bad blisters. It was the AT for sure.
We sat around for an hour before setting off on the AT once again. More or less ignoring the elevation changes, I rumbled along, separating once again from Birdie. Up and then down, with nothing to look at other than the green in between, the AT is not what one would generally call a scenic trail, although it holds the official governmental classification as one. I couldn't care less right now. My general mirth seemed to irritate Birdie at times, bringing forth an occasional sour face, which I did my best to provoke.
The afternoon rolled on and we decided to cut the day short and stop at Lost Mountain shelter, which was only a few more miles to the north. A long rest under a shady tree brought about a calmer Birdie, who was much less fun to tease than the aggravated one.
The trail thickened with hikers as we approached the shelter and by the early evening, after laying around complacently, there were eventually fifteen hikers of various states in the shelter or camped around it, including the three we had met earlier. Birdie and I had put up our tarps outside the shelter, mostly for the added luxury of space. And a lack of snoring. Dinner was rather comedic. Despite having walked more than 470 miles to get here, and having been on the trail for more than a month, there was still a lot of inexperience. Over primed, under heated Whisperlites sending up towers of flame. Hikers carrying frozen, diet dinners (that is, no calories, lots of weight). Hikers that still didn't know how to treat a blister. Birdie did her best to try to alleviate some of the blister suffering. That is how she is. I read the data book and amused myself watching the scene. I should have been helping, but it was all much too funny. Good to be back.
I slept fitfully for the half hour in between the first cracking of the light and true light, taking my time to get up and our of bed. Birdie and I were the first out of the shelter area at 6:45. Not exactly a blazing start, but early for the AT. I enjoyed the cool morning air, particularly as the trail began the long climb up to Whitetop Mountain, which was originally where we had planned to stay the night.
The weather was glorious when we arrived on top, lathered in sweat, and stolled about the open, grassy summit (more like a plateau). Bouncing around, up and down, but lots of flat, we made our way into the Grayson Highlands, once of the highlights of the AT.
I kept hoping that things might get a little better. I was a spoiled hiker, that was sure. Dark clouds had formed on our way to Thomas Knob shelter, where several people were already in residence. "Is the source close," I asked one. "Oh, no, it is way down the hill." Grumbling a bit, I walked down to the source, which was about 20 yards away, slightly down hill. Friar showed up, but there were no signs of others from the night before.
The Highlands proved to be more scenic after lunch and leaving the hikers who, apparently, were calling it quits at noon. Long, open areas were littered with interesting rock formations, but the charm was lessened as the boom of thunder in the distance could be heard, and lightning flashed occasionally. It hadn't started raining yet, but this was the last place I wanted to be when the heavens poured forth.
The tamed ponies of the Grayson Highlands made an appearance as I was hustling down the trail. About as exciting as a lap dog, I had my arm cocked back and a small rock in my hand, when a hiker came around the corner and declared them to be precious. I dropped my rock, and took off again.
The Highlands ended rather quickly, which was disappointing. They seemed about equivalent to an average stretch on the PCT (granted, that makes them pretty good), but really too short to have garnered the reputation that they have. It struck me that the Roan range, in Tennessee, might not be as beautiful as it was two year ago. Two years ago the Grayson Highlands might have been heaven, too. I reached Wise shelter alone, and in a bit of a funk, and sat around for fifteen minutes as the rain came down, waiting for Birdie.
She arrived with a few hikers that I had passed, but not said hello to. When they showed, my mouth was stuffed with a King Size Snickers bar, and I didn't have a chance to rectify my poor manners without spitting bits of caramel and peanuts on them. After munching, I said hello and left, banging out the six miles to Wise shelter in rapid order. Four hikers are ensconced, despite the early hour of 6:20. I set my stuff down and next to the warm fire that they had built, despite the rain. Sometimes people with too much time on their hands can be really helpful. Birdie showed up forty minutes later, having taken a more Zen like approach to rain than I had. Two more hikers showed up, although all they did was talk about how great their gear was. An interesting fellow calling himself Meanderthal was at the shelter and we swapped stories for a while before retiring to our respective tarps. He is writing stories for a newspaper back home and speaks in a voice that can only be described as serene. It didn't matter what he said. It was calming and relaxing.[Note: Meanderthal has a journal online. He made it to within 46 miles of Katahdin before an injury forced him off.] Tomorrow the plan is to hike about 25 miles to the famous Partnership shelter, which may turn out to be a sign of everything that is wrong with the AT (or, rather, what I personally dislike about the AT). Or, it might be grand fun. The contentedness continues, and I hope that it will for the entire summer. While the AT isn't providing the awesome scenic and solitary qualities of the PCT, it does have a peacefulness about it that is hard to quantify, and hence hard to write about.
The two gearheads that showed up last night were pitched within snoring range, and I had to put in my earplugs in order to get some rest. In the morning we got a good jump and were treated to some fantastic light streaming down through the green canopy above. Like the light that seems to permeate churches that do not have stained glass windows: Pure, white, everywhere.
The crowds on the trail have started to thin out, as the many hikers have been heading southbound into Damascus for Trail Days. Having been to numerous drunken college parties in the past, I didn't think for a moment about hitching back for what was being promised as the largest Trail Days ever. The trail moved through prototypical Virginia terrain, with lots of pasture walking and fence crossings on things called stiles.
We lunched at Trimpi shelter where there were three northbounders and a dog. They were arguing about mileage for the day, so Birdie and I went down to the pleasant creek for a siesta. Bits of their argument floated down to me. Apparently, one wanted to stop here, after a four mile day. Another wanted to push on to Partnership, making for a fourteen mile day. It was pretty comical, arguing over a few miles when they still have about 1,600 to go. Why don't they just split up for the day and come back together later on? Seemed like a perfectly reasonable solution, but perhaps there is some fear of hiking the AT alone. Eventually the 14 miler won out and they set off, leaving the creek and shelter peaceful once again.
The weather continued its trend over the last three days: Upper 70s, a little humid, nice in the morning, some clouds in the afternoon. Maybe a little rain. Thunderclaps came down, just in time for my body to tire somewhat, and I was very happy to see signs of Parternship shelter, consisting most of a "Don't Camp Here" warning. The shelter appeared only later. Massively built, it put the Fontana Hilton to shame. It had a heated shower. Oh, and pizza and beer are available for delivery. It was crowded. The arguers were here. A dude with fuzzy hair named Dave. The Honeymooners. Blueberry Bert and her husband. Badger. Papa Bear. Chicago Red. Skirt. Some others I don't know. I felt rather out of place here, as everyone knew each other and had similar experiences to relate to. Rather than chatting, I took a shower and then laid about in my underwear as Birdie went to call in an order to the pizza place.
An hour later we had two large pizzas and an order of wings to work over. Meanderthal showed up late, having put in his longest day yet, and we fed him the remaining slices and wings as a treat. Quite the wilderness experience, I thought. I amused myself by talking to Dave, who had had a remarkable life so far. In his late 40s, he had traveled around the world and was currently living on a boat in Florida. He had recently been to Turkey, which gave us something to talk about and it was really neat to see that his experiences in Turkey were so similar to mine in Syria and Lebanon. Turks and Arabs don't like each other much, but Dave and I got along just fine. The sun was getting low and at 8:30 Papa Bear yelled "Goodnight!" to us, which we took to be a cue to go to sleep. Hence, Meanderthal and I talked for a while about Nepal, although not in a loud enough voice to disturb anyone. The snoring in the shelter was already thick when I dived into my sleeping bag for a night on the hard shelter floor.
As usual, Birdie and I were the first ones out of the shelter, moving in the cool of the morning when the land quiet and the night at its best. The trail proved visually dull, moving through large pastures as it skirted, or seemed to, private land. The spaciousness was nice and I was in a grove as we rolled up to the first crossing of I-81 on the AT at the hamlet of Atkins around noon. We staked out a spot on a bench outside the Shell station and just sat for a while. One of the joys of long distance hiking is that there is nowhere that you have to go in a hurry. I eventually got up and bought a 32 oz soda for 50 cents (God bless the South) and another $17 worth of supplies, enough to get me to Pearisburg. After repackaging my food and taking some ziplocks off of Birdie, Papa Bear and Badger showed up, along with the arguers and Meanderthal, not too far behind. However, they went straight to the motel. The Honeymooners showed up, but Skirt was not to be seen. Skirt was planning to hitch back from here for Trail Days and I was hoping that her and Birdie could hitch together.
Thruhikers came and thruhikers went, some showered and some not. Some in search of food, and others looking for supplies. Apparently the store that I had just resupplied out of was not adequate for resupply, so a set of hikers were looking for a ride to a larger town where they could buy energy bars instead of candy bars. Annie's Mac and Cheese rather than generic. To each their own. A car rolled up driven by a thruhiker who had ended his trip in Damascus due to...whatever. He needed to retrieve a maildrop here in Atkins and was searching for the PO. After going to the Pearisburg PO, he was planning to drive back to Damascus and could take Birdie. She hesitated, then declined the ride. Skirt wanted to hitch, too, and she was a little nervous about doing so. Birdie was like that. She'd wait and wait and wait some more if it meant that Skirt would feel a little better about the whole process.
We retired to the Dairy Queen for lunch and frozen treats, where I sat on the veranda looking cool and she went inside to make a sign. The moment she was gone, a hot rod Honda Jetta pulled up and asked if I knew where the two people who needed a ride were. I wasn't sure how he found out about the ride, as I don't think Birdie mentioned it to anyone. I pointed him inside. Just after he left, Skirt showed up, having taken her time in making the hike from Parternship. Perfect timing. Birdie and I parted, almost tearfully on my part. I wasn't sure when I would see her again, as I was moving across the country. Our paths would certainly cross again, but it was a little unclear when. The Jetta roared out to I-81 and then headed south. I trudged out, crossed under the interstate, and was on my way north again.
The trail seemed to take on a much different mental aspect as I realized how free I was for the next few months. I could walk north until I reached the St. Lawrence if I really wanted to (I didn't). I could stop hiking and sit around a town for a long time. I could fall in love and drop out and be a freaky beatnic if that was what struck my fancy. Without Birdie around I would be forced to interact with them, rather than leaning on her. I quickly caught the Honeymooners on an uphill stretch in the midst of trying to decide whether or not to stay at Davis Path shelter, only a few miles from town. The decision was made at the shelter, as it was rather crowded, with Papa Bear, Badger, and a new NOBO named Tang, who had stayed the night in Atkins, then hiked to here today, arrived at 1 pm and decided to stay. I chatted briefly, then pushed on.
The trail actually turned hard and I was crawly along on both the ascents and the descents, which were steep and rocky. In addition to spoiling me in terms of visual beauty, the PCT also turned me soft. I really appreciate the switchbacks and well engineered bed of the PCT. I topped out on the climb over nothing, without a view, and then dropped back down to the Crawfish Valley, which held a quiet creek and where I found a great campsite. No one was around, but I knew the Honeymooners were planning to camp here. I wanted to be alone. I reflected that there were bugs a plenty and that on top of the next hill I would be sure to find a breezy site.
The Honeymooners and another NOBO rolled in as I was finishing up my dinner of ramen noodles, knowing that there would be no water on top with which to cook. A little amused that I was planning to hike on, I assured them that I really did want to get one last climb behind me today, even if it was a wee 900 feet. What I wanted was a night alone. The Honeymooners were good people, but I needed some space.
I crawled on up the hill and found a nice, soft spot in between a couple of trees. I could even see something approximating a sunset. I threw a bear line for no reason other than having time on my hands and sat down to write while there was still light out. My book tells me that I am somewhere near Tilson Gap, although I swear I am on a hill, not in a gap. Peace reigns wherever I am here or there. That really is the key, it seems. To be at peace and content no matter where you are or what you are doing. It is easy to achieve while living the life of a long distance hiker. It is much more difficult inside of civil society.
It was a dewy morning that greeted me on, in, or somewhere close to Tilson Gap, complete with some sun and some clouds for a change of pace. I was rolling before 6:30 a little unsure of how far I wanted to go today. The trail dropped down from the gap and then bumped along a few small, named (and unnamed knobs) on its way to Chestnut Knob, which seemed to be something of a workout. But, I assured myself, this is Virginia and I could take it without issue. The first mile and a quarter just slew me: Steep, rocky, and hot. I passed a winded hiker carrying a huge Arc'teryx pack in about the same state as I was, except he was clever enough to take a break in the shade instead of trying to force the entire thing at once. Pride wouldn't allow me to admit that Virginia had any real challenges, and so I continued my crawl up to the top. The trail began to roll gently along an open, grassy plateau that led to the top of the knob. Misjudging my distance, I kept assuming that I was almost to the top, when in fact I was nowhere near it. An hour later, tired and grumpy, I finally reached the shelter on the top of the knob, whipped and wiped out. No one was around so I found a side of the shelter with some shade and grabbed the register to see who was in my near future. I nodded off for a few minutes, then was woken up by Stretch, who had lounged by a small pond not too far from the shelter. He left after signing in, which inspired me to get a move on. Afternoon clouds were coming and I didn't particularly want to get caught in a lightning storm on top of the knob, or on the ridges coming up. I gathered my stuff, downed the last of my water, and set off down the trail, heading for Walker Gap where I could get more water.
Much to my dismay, Walker Gap appeared to be dry and it was ten miles to the next source. I was already thirsty. Then, the rains came and I decided to simply hike on, rather than search for a source in the rain. I plowed along, sans rainjacket, hoping that my skin might absorb some of the precious liquid and stave off dehydration. The cooler temperatures helped significantly, and I really motored, passing a Stretch in a furious bit of hiking. The rain came down hard for about a half hour, then slowed to something like a drizzle for a while. I had now been rained on more than I had on the entire PCT.
The rain eventually ended and the skies began to settle somewhat, just in time for me to start running a nice ridge line with lots of exposure. Rock slabs jutted out into the air providing excellent views down to the valley below. Excellent hiking, but it would have sucked an hour ago. My enthusiasm began to fade after the impetus of the rain, and I dragged the last few miles to Jenkins Shelter.
Two older hikers, Batch and Hobbes, were here to stay for the night and Stretch rolled into the shelter an hour or two after I had. Batch has hiked the AT a couple of times and the PCT as well. In his 70s, he puts in 20 mile days just about every day. His secret, according to him, is just to get an early start. If he is out of the shelter at 6 am, that gives him a ton of time to roll up miles at a leisurely, restful place. I love people like Batch. Blue was starting to come out and there is hope for tomorrow. The climb over Chestsnut was tough, and the ridge route, although beautiful, had plenty of sharp ups and downs, which combined to make me a tired kid. My body and, more importantly, my mind and soul are making the transition to the long distance hiker life. The clean, pure state where few things can touch you and where freedom is the rule, rather than the exception. I wrote a few last words in the journal before snapping off my microlight and putting in my earplugs. There was snoring galore already.
The snoring lasted all night and I awoke with my ears sore from the plugs that allowed me some moments of rest on the hard shelter floor. Batch actually beat me out of the shelter by ten minutes, but just by a few minutes and I caught up with him after ten minutes. Young hikers could learn something from him. I hoped he would make it to Jenny Knob, where I was planning on staying the night, as I hoped to talk with him some more. The other shelter dwellers were planning on staying in Bland for the day and I would never see them again. What use did Batch have for another town? Yeah, I liked Batch.
The flowers were getting better as the month of May wore on, but the display was still not as powerful as the more southerly realms of Appalachia, and couldn't even come close to the desert display that Southern California put on last spring, though I am told it was an exceptional year in 2003. The trail did its usual thing: It ran up and down and around and anywhere but straight ahead as it bobbed around parcels of private land. For a while it was content to run along Wolf Creek, crossing it many times, and running through a sequence of muck followed by mud, although it eventually tired of this and the slop ended at a bridge and a road. After a brief, well graded climb away from the wetlands, the trail began to contour around the side of the mountain, providing some of the most pleasant hiking yet. Pleasant really was the word for it. Neither difficult, nor stunning, but calming and peaceful. I was out for a relaxing stroll, rather than trying to conquer a mountain or gain a pass. It was just pleasant.
Blue skies and mild temperatures greeted me at the crossing of I-77, where people usually diverged to go into Bland. I kept rolling and, after a short, stiff climb, the trail continued its Eden like romp. I started taking breaks every hour, whether I was tired or not, whether I needed them or not. I just sat down to sit. It was most pleasant that way. Despite my best efforts, I still rolled into Jenny Knob shelter at 4:30. I debated moving on and putting in a longer day, as I wasn't tired in the least and still had plenty of daylight left. But, at the shelter were several friendly section and thru hikers who didn't seem quite as green as many of the others I had met. Little Tree and The Walking Stomach, two women, had set out from Springer a few months ago and were slowly making their way north to Katahdin. Although generally hiking together, they had rapidly discovered that there was no need to keep strictly together at all times. They would make, or at least I thought they would. As if in recognition of such a fine all around day, there was even something resembling a sunset. Nothing desert like, but at least a little orange and pink glow before the world turned black again.
I tried, I really tried, to sleep in this morning as I wasn't going very far, only 22 some odd miles to Docs Knob shelter, the perfect place to spend the night before making the run into Pearisburg for a half day off on Sunday. Still, I was up at 6:30 and hiking at 7, as usual out before any one else. I liked hiking in the morning when the trail was quiet and cool and there were few others out to disturb the rare hours of solitude on the AT. I tried to stroll, but I found myself crossing a road 6.5 miles from the shelter after less than two hours of walking. An absurdly easy trail, rolling and pleasant, was the culprit. The morning clouds dispersed and the weather stayed nice and cool. Idyllic life on the AT continued. Not PCT spectacular, but rather pleasant. That word again. Pleasant. No magnificent views or stunning vistas. Nothing to inspire shock and awe. No hard work. Just simple walking through the Edenic green tunnel of Virginia.
Occasionally the trail would break through the forest at the edge of a cliff and give some views off into the valley below, but mostly it wound and wound and wound some more, through forests and meadows, with an occasional pasture, replacing the closeness of the forest with the openness of the field. Although I ran into two day hikers at Wapiti shelter and another four just past it, the trail was amazingly empty. Today was the heart of Trail Days and many of the thruhikers were there, swilling beer and meeting up with other hikers that they hadn't seen in a while. Long distance hiking breeds quick and hard friendships and even a few hours spent together is enough. Trail Days gives hikers a chance to re-unite, if only for a weekend. To find out how others have fared, who is still on the trail, and who is done for the time being. As I had none of those connections, Trail Days was a nonevent for me.
Despite trying to keep a slow pace during the day, the ease of the trail brought Docs Knob shelter too close, too soon. I stopped to smell flowers and even photograph some of my favorites. Flame azalea is king, below only the ethereal Mountain Laurel. No plant that I have ever met can match the timeless, subtle scent of a Mountain Laurel and the intricate markings reveal a beauty that a well tended, manured rose can never aspire to. Despite numerous breaks and ramblings through flower thickets, I reached the shelter around 5 with thoughts of pushing on.
I only needed about 3 hours to make it to Pearisburg, where I could get a room for the night and take an entire day off in town. While certainly possible, I saw little logic in this. I would have to pay for two nights in town, or make the long walk to a hostel outside of town (anything further than a mile, in town, is far away). Additionally, I didn't really need a day off. I could be in town tomorrow in time for breakfast and still have lots of time left over for resupplying and laundry and other tedious bits of work that hikers have to do in town. Besides, there is a family of three with a very cute daughter, along with a passel of religious literature with which to kill time when the daughter was fetching water or eating or talking with her parents. To confirm my decision, the heavens opened up an hour after dinner and rain fell throughout the night, providing a nice contrast to the snoring that broke out shortly after night fell.
A former thruhiker (from 1999, I think), now a section hiker, who was in the shelter along with the family, was up and making coffee as I rolled out of the shelter under mostly clear, sunny skies. After a few easy miles, the trail took a super steep grade and went straight up a hillside, though briefly, to reach a powerline cut. The cut gave a beautiful view. Although it was sunny and nice where I was, down below, in the valley, it was completely clouded in: The powerlines dropped down and ran into nothingness in the valley below.
Shortly after the powerline cut I reached Angel's Rests, which is supposed to be some sort of spectacular viewpoint. On this day, however, the viewpoint was not the standard one, but still just as beautiful. Only a few peaks jutted up out of the clouds below, and the rest was a sea of white, with blue skies above. Unfortunately, Pearisburg was somewhere down below, which meant that I had to leave the pleasant highlands for the socked in base. I might even get rained on.
The drop down to Pearisburg was steep, but dull, except for some interesting fungus on a few trees. I reached the road into town quickly and, after orienting myself with the town map from the Companion, I started the walk up the road into the main section of town. I didn't have to walk for long before a large, black pickup truck gave me a lift to the Hardees, just in time to indulge in a fast food breakfast. The irony of eating fast food when I had nothing but time was not lost on me.
I found a room at the Holiday Motor Lodge for $35 (a little cheaper for hikers) and, while not the finest of establishments, was run by friendly people and was conveniently located. I took a long shower and then put on my blue rainsuit so that I could was the clothes that I had been hiking in for the past six days. I got a 32 oz fountain drink and newspaper, along with some change from a gas station and then did laundry. I had a feed at Angelos pizza place, which featured an AYCE buffet, though it wasn't very plentiful. It was cheap and the lasagna was quite acceptable. Thankfully, Angelos is right next to the grocery store, so I didn't have to waddle too far to resupply. AYCE buffets are not conducive to going anywhere fast on foot. Returning to the motel, I ran into EZ-DOES-IT, who is on his fourth thruhike and Spot, on his fifth. I haven't yet figured out what it is about the AT that draws people back for repeated thruhikes, but people like EZ-DOES-IT and Spot are definitely not rare in the hiking community. EZ-DOES-IT and I post to the same message board, Whiteblaze, though this was the first time we had met. He was also the first hiker that I had met on the AT that was carrying a small load. It was his first time going light weight and he said that, so far, this was had been his most enjoyable thruhike. It really does make a difference to not carry a lot of stuff. I couldn't agree more.
I napped and ate and napped some more, with the TV going constantly. Thruhikers started rolling into town after hitching back from Trail Days and I probably should have gone out to introduce myself, but I just couldn't bring myself to get off of the bed. When I finally roused enough strength, there was no one around so I went down to the local sports bar for dinner. A rather thick cook and a skinny, stunning waitress were about the only people other than myself in the bar, except for a man who came in and inquired about fresh oysters. The cook knew his stuff, and the thick burger he cooked up for me was a masterpiece. It is rare that you can order something rare and actually have it come out that way. The waitress kept me well supplied with Budweiser and made the normal small talk as she flitted about the bar wiping down table tops and refilling various containers. I couldn't think of anywhere that I would rather be eating than at the All Sports cafe.
I made a trip down to the grocery store for some beer and doughnuts in the morning and then returned to the motel, where there were thruhikers having parties in a couple of rooms. My desire to socialize was gone with dinner, and so I retired to the motel room and drank my beer and watched the Matrix. Although it was lazy and relaxing, all things considered I would rather have been out hiking. Then again, if I had I would have missed the All Sports, with the great waitress and the masterful cook. Still, there were no Mountain Laurel here.