An early morning chill hung low over Pearisburg as we slipped from the motel to the Trail. After walking about a mile or two of Main Street, we took a sharp left through town and ended up following the white blazes in-between houses and through backyards until we came to the Senator Shumate Bridge which crosses the dark, ancient waters of New River. As the cars of U.S. Route 460 sped by, from the thorny roadside grasses, littered with broken glass and Dairy Queen cups, came a very small dog with so much mud on him it was hard to spot his eyes. The little dog bolted from the ditch and straight in to sixty-five mile an hour traffic, weaving the thundering tires of passing cars. After a full ten minutes of coaxing the dog by waving a granola bar, I was able to snatch him off the road and carried him across the massive bridge. When we reached the other side, the Trail quickly turned off and I set him in the grass. Even though we yelled at him to go away, the little dog began following us up the Trail, probably expecting more food. Mike “Buckets” dubbed the stinking stray Baxter after Will Ferrell’s dog in Anchorman. After about an hour, we left the short-legged creature when we crossed a stream he was too small to cross. For about a hundred yards we could hear Baxter barking at us to come back so he could keep following us.
As the days continued to pass, the weather became increasingly warming and clear. Before we knew it, we were in Catawba where my good friend Andrew Sunderman picked us up and took us in to Blacksburg. Not long after coming in to town, we were eating at D2, an all-you-can-eat dining facility on campus. It was half embarrassing and half impressive at the shear amount of plates began to stack up on the table. After almost two ours of eating, we left and were driven over to the G.E.R.M.A.N. Club guesthouse where we stayed the night. It was incredible seeing all of my wonderful friends after being gone from school for so long. The next day we sadly had to leave and my good friend Jay Tucker not only drove us back but also hiked up McAfee’s Knob with us.
Within a few days we found ourselves in a small crisis. Mike “Buckets” had somehow gotten a stomach sickness that stuck with him for a few days. He decided to tough it out and after a few days it went away. My brother, however, got a little bit more sever version of the same sickness and was so sick he could barely hike at one point. After a few days of talking to other hikers, it appears that a similar illness is spreading rapidly through the thru-hiking community and seemingly everyone has had it except for me. After watching both Mike and Jake go through it, I am taking every precaution I can against it so hopefully I do not get it.
It seems that our time in Crozet, at our own house, has gone by far too quickly. I remember studying the guidebook in Georgia thinking how long it would take to get to where we are now. It seemed almost strange that I was able to see my family, my friends, and even play a short concert with my good friend Josh.
My time spent off the Trail and at home has been both positive and negative in terms of the thru-hike. I was thrilled to see so many people that I love and have missed but I am not even halfway done hiking and have many more miles to go. Saying goodbye will be just as hard today as it was in Georgia and we have more distances to cover and will have more obstacles to overcome before we can return. Whatever it is that lies ahead, we will continue to try our best and do what it is we set out to do.