Day 28

Mile 658.2 to Niday Shelter – 23.3 miles – Today’s Departure is Rough

To spend some extra time together, Ryder and I go to breakfast at 7 AM, before the girls and Beckett. After breakfast we load the car and drive to Mountain Lake Wilderness via VA 613, where I finished yesterday. The morning is cool and we are saying goodbyes and taking pictures. I play a little more with Ryder before we have to split. Understandably, he really does not want me to leave. 

As I begin walking away, he is calling for me. I get about 30 yards up the trail before he comes running after me, sobbing, and calling for me. It is absolutely heartbreaking. I try to comfort him, but he is so upset I’m leaving. It isn’t so much that I am leaving to hike; I’m hiking without him. He wants to come with me so badly. Once again, there is not a short segment in this portion of the trail in which he can hike with me. We assure him I will be home in a couple weeks and then we will hike together. I promise. It takes about three tries to depart. We are both heartbroken as Lindsay carries him to the car as I hike away. Wow, this is really hard! 

After the departure, I feel good, physically. My pack is lighter, since I was able to drop some weight. I am moving well. Most of the trail is smooth and fast. The trail would be great for my cyclocross bike. I arrive at the shelter, the earliest I have in a long time, about 5 PM. This feels weird, like I should still be hiking. I eat, relax, unwind, and then get organized for tomorrow. 

I have a big day tomorrow. I have over 40 miles to Daleville, VA.  At the Howard Johnson Express I’ll get a mail drop that Linds hand delivered today on her way home, and I’ll crash at the hotel for the night. I hope tomorrow is another gorgeous day. 

At camp, I try calling home, but I have no service at the shelter. One of the hikers here is “Blink” from Boonsboro, MD.

There are several goodbyes. Each one is hard. 

   Mountain Lake Wilderness, Jefferson National Forest, VA. 

 Beautiful day on the trail
   Keiffer Oak, largest oak tree on AT in south. Over 18′ around and over 300 years old. The lower limbs are the diameter of a full-grown man. This tree is massive. 


  Where is it?

   Where is it again?

 Cool. Didn’t expect this. 


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