It was the end of a cool day of blustery hiking. We all met up at the top of Chestnut knob before descending down to Walker Gap to camp out of the harsh spring winds. The gap was only 1.3 miles down from the top and it was a quick and easy downhill as the sun was fading away behind clouds.
Still Don't had a fire going and Dumpstermouth was setting up a tent when Mr. Dallas arrived and sat down on a log stretched out on rocks beside the fire. Manywaters had just turned on his radio. Something black and round broke up the brown background about 100 yards away from our fire. It was still, and sat up in a fuzzy lump watching us intently. "There's a bear right there," Mr. Dallas whispered excitedly pointing to it.
We grabbed our cameras and exercised the zoom features on our lenses. Still Don't took a few steps closer with his gigantic lens bending light waves and shutter clicking away. After the camera popped off a few flashes the bear spooked and ran straight up tree where he could maintain a curious over watch. It did not appear afraid of us, it just lumbered around in the branches and ate blossoms out of the twigs. Still Don't inched closer slowly. The bear finally spooked and scratched down the side of the tree dropping 100 ft. in about 2 seconds. It's claws mangled the trunk, the strength and speed was fearsome. It crashed through the woods and disappeared for the rest of the night.
Later that night after eating a hearty dinner of beans, rice, and pepperoni jambalaya, Muffins departed to run the New River Marathon in Todd, NC. We have already established the boy is crazy haven't we? He will run 5.7 miles to retrieve a misplaced muffin, and he will run 26.2 miles just for kicks during a Thru-Hike. He finished in a respectable 4 hours and 11 minute time. He recovered in bubbling hot tubs for a couple days while the rest of us were slogging it out in the cold spring showers.
Muffins was lucky enough to rejoin us just before Pearisburg, VA around mile 615.8 for our third consecutive day of cold downpour. We walked through a series of rhododendron and swollen creek swamps. We had given up keeping our feet dry days ago, but the rhodo's insulted our injuries. They hung down in low snarls at nearly every creek crossing for miles funneling us into the deepest parts of the creeks, and up into washed out sections of trail. Above every dry foothold, or partial sliver of walkable traction hung a ragged twisted branch ensuring you could not fit under without a pack snag. Mr. Dallas swore he would kill the rhodo in his yard at home out of spite. Every so often someone would scream at them in frustration, and then reluctantly tread shin deep into a mucky trail drainage. Resistance is futile.
The sky cleared out and we dried out for a couple minutes in the last shines of sun. Then, out of nowhere, clouds moved in for another round of cats and dogs. Mr. Dallas was cooking dinner under a tarp set up by Muffins. It was Muffins's last contribution before passing out sore as sin on his mat. Still Don't and Dumpstermouth were out photographing and fetching water. By the time the first course was ready, the clouds had cleared out behind a brisk wind unveiling the stars. The delicious smell of basmati and beans had Muffins out of his coma like smelling salts. Dumpstermouth had the pot licked clean and we all went to sleep with cold winds blowing up on a ridge overlooking Pearisburg. When we woke up it was raining once more.
We saw signs about a hiker feed about 30 miles from Pearisburg at "Craig Creek" around mile 682.4. The sign read "Hiker feed, This is not your average hiker feed! We will have food for everyone...LASAGNA..." We hiked some of our best couple of days, in and out of the rain to get to it. It was worth it by all means. Ann, Jan, and Signage among others fed us, told us amazing stories, and even washed our socks and fed us breakfast! To top it off, because it was mother's day and there was no cell service in the valley, they took down our mothers' phone numbers and called them on our behalf. Thank you so much ladies. You were such a blessing to meet.
Check out the view from Dragon's Tooth mile 695.3! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S71CJW5WVlo
-Authored by Mr. Dallas