Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Spring Day in Southwest Virginia

From my Appalachian Trail Journal:

I’m first out of the shelter in the morning and have the trail to myself. The sun is behind clouds. The day is cool this early. I get occasional views to the west and can see fog hanging in the valley below. The scene is very calming and serene. I reach Jenny’s Knob for lunch and leave to the rumble of thunder. About half hour later, the storm hits just as I am starting up a ridge. Rain pours hard and lightning strikes in the near distance. I pass under a high voltage power line, flinching with each lightning flash. The storm lasts about an hour. The day is now very humid.

I catch up with Red, Gary and Radar at Kimberling Creek and cross its impressive suspension bridge around 3:30, heading for the campground at Trent’s Store about a mile down the road. The campground is a collection of worn travel trailers clustered around a shower/toilet building. For $4 we can set up our tents in the adjacent field. It’s like camping at Old McDonald’s Farm. Two pigs lounge in their pen not far away (far enough and downwind, fortunately). Cows graze nearby and a couple horses are in the corrals between us and the store where we can get burgers and sandwiches at the deli grill. The man and woman from last night’s camp arrive and set up their tents with us. They are Paladin, who is hiking the AT section from Damascus, Virginia to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and June Bug, a young Israeli thru-hiker. Many locals come into the store while we eat, mostly guards from a nearby state prison. Bland County, like so many rural localities, takes what jobs it can find.

We wake to a wet camp. Not rain, heavy condensation from last night. We walk out as the sawmill across from the store begins its day with a high pitched whine, "singing its song", according to Paladin. Walking back to the trail, I feel like I’m commuting to my day’s work. Real commuters pass in their vehicles. I wonder what they think of a bunch of people out hiking and camping as if we didn’t have care in the world. They’re indifferent; my adventure has no real bearing on their lives. But it is real to me, especially here in southwest Virginia, the remote and exotic region of my home state. It is familiar to me although I am seeing much of it for the first time. Damascus, Troutdale, Burke Garden, Bland and soon Pearisburg and Catawba. I’ve known those names all my life. Now I am seeing the land that goes with them.


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