Headin’ down south to Roanoke

1 11 2008

Hello faithful blog readers!  This is Beef, reporting from Roanoke, VA- somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of the way. The Vermont Mafia is alive and well, currently asleep after eating copious amounts of amazing food at The Homeplace– the best restaurant on the AT.  We were met yesterday by Cousin Jim (another one of my NH cousins) at McAfee Knob, the incredibly photogenic ledge just north of Roanoke.  We enjoyed blueberry muffins and blueberry pie which he had baked, driven from NH and then hiked in.  Yes, some people love us that much.  He took us home to of one of his lifelong friends who happens to live just 15 miles from the trail.  The house is completely gorgeous and luxurious, complete with heated toilet seats!!  We even got to go through the haunted house in their garage that their son puts together.  Good thing we were holding hands.  We will use this as a slack-packing base for the next few days.  Ah the glories of being in the mafia…

So, that is where we are currently.  Now to sum up the last 500 miles…

The Shenendoahs were completely beautiful, just as everyone said they would be.  For us, they were also very social; it seemed we had visitors meeting us every other time we crossed Skyline drive.  Default’s brother, Musicman (SOBO ’07) joined us at Harper’s Ferry and we enjoyed his musical stylings and good company.  He taught us the SOBO ’07 theme-song “Wagon Wheel” from which the title of this post is taken.  Boo Boo, another ’07, had organized an ’07 SOBO reunion which we also got to be a part of- including s’mores, hot dogs roasted over an open fire and other wonders.  Boo Boo also met us on two other occasions to provide awesome trail magic.  During this stretch we felt like we were hiking in a pack of SOBOs.  There were eight of us (VT Mafia, D-Wreck, Cardshark, Honey and Duster) at the same shelter one night.  I think that is the most we’ve seen together since Maine.

After bidding farewell to the ’07 crowd we were joined by our Texan friends, Sam and Liv, Default’s housemates, who took us to visit delightful friends, Ryan and Janie, living in Harrisonburg, VA.  They were smart enough to take us directly to all-you-can-eat Ethiopian food.  WOW!  We loved hearing about Ryan’s graduate work in conflict reconciliation and visited their very awesome Mennonite church on the Eastern Mennonite University campus.  It was an especially well-timed break for me, as I was about half covered in poison ivy at this point.  Never have I appreciated a shower more!

We hit the trail as a group of six, joined by Liv and Anne.  Anne is Default’s friend who had a week off during her third year at medical school in Kansas.  It honestly felt like a party, hiking in a relatively big group through such a beautiful park with generally easy and very rewarding trails.  Having friends along was even more fun that I expected.  They were totally able to keep up with us and were full of that initial excitement, which kept our spirits high.  It was also fun to share our trail knowledge and culture with them.

We bid farewell to the Texans, Boo Boo and Shenendoah National Park at a totally awesome restaurant called The Purple Foot in Waynesboro, VA.  Anne kept on trekking with us and put in some long, tough days over The Priest, including a 22-mile day.  We were very impressed!  They didn’t nickname her “hoss” at Philmont for nothing.

Our next stop was Buena Vista, which for all its other charms, will forever be remembered as the place where we ate 1300 french fries.  If you are curious, that is 16 biggie fries at Burger King, which created something of a stir in this small town and even attracted an unsolicited donation to our cause!  I admit the idea was mine, building off our tradition of marking each 100-mile increment with a picture and our tendency to constantly think and talk about food.  The 1300 fries were not all that difficult to consume between six people (VT Mafia plus Anne and D-Wreck) although there is some debate over whether this challenge was more or less difficult than the half-gallon of ice cream.  I certainly preferred the fries myself.

Leaving Buena Vista and Anne, we headed into a surprisingly difficult and cold section of trail.  We found ourselves exhuasted after just 18-mile days and the freezing winds and snow didn’t help.  We had our first “breakfast in bed”, meaning cooking and eating breakfast while still in our sleeping bags.  This weather has been unseasonably cold, but it has provided us with a preview of what we should expect later on down the trail and spurred those of us without winter bags to get those sent. 

D-Wreck, aka the Mayor of Manville, once again fell into step with the Mafia and we have begun a new read-aloud book together, Twilight.  It is a true gem of literature, well, at least of the teenage vampire romance genre.  We are all, embarrassingly enough, hooked on it.  What can I say?  We were also excited to meet and briefly hike with Foxtrot, an accomplished hiker, or as he calls himself “complete hiker trash”  who has thru-hiked the AT twice as well as the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and spent the last eight summers in the Brooks Range in Alaska.  His fond descriptions of the PCT encouraged some of us to add it to our “to-do lists”.  D-Wreck has certainly got PCT fever and is already thinking seriously about an ’09 hike.  I am also very intrigued, but think I might have to take a year off or so before doing it.  We’ll see.

We stopped in for a quick resupply and overnight in Daleville, VA.  We got our fill our political analysis and all-you-can-eat breakfast and stayed up late to watch Obama on the Jon Stewart show and then talk politics (again!).  We spent the next night in a mice-infested shelter.  It was the first time I actually saw a mouse in a shelter, although we’ve seen evidence of them earlier.  Luckily the handy mouse-deflecting hanging devices (string with an upside-down can rigged up), which are common to all shelters, work remarkably well at protecting food from hungry rodents. 

Well, Cousin Jim is now awake here and starting to whip up some blueberry pancakes and sausage.  He bought us twelve quarts of frozen berries along with the various baked goods, so we will be rich in anti-oxidants by the time we leave here.  Mmmmm.  Much love!




One response

5 11 2008

Very nice eating display but i am a little disappointed that beef did not win, if it had been quantity instead of time i am sure she would have won.
Tell D wreck his beard looks great.

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