The Priest Shelter to Paul C. Wolfe Shelter – 29.6 miles
It’s a cold, wet morning at The Priest Shelter. I didn’t notice the elevation shown in the guide book, but I think the shelter sits fairly high [3,903 ft]. I am slow to get out of my warm bag and into the dark, rainy morning. I stay in my bag a bit long and don’t head out until 6:30 AM.
It’s a pretty miserable start. Wet and chilled, I try to hike quickly to the next shelter to take a little break from the weather and to decide what I want to do for the day. This weather may change some things. I need to get out of the wind and rain for a little while.
I get to the next shelter as two guys, Achilles and Outlet, are packing up. I stand in the shelter and eat and talk while they pack. They say they are planning to go about 24 miles. Since I am not having a good day so far, I figure I’ll hike with them. It may help me get through this already miserable day and get some higher mileage as well.
From Harpers Creek Shelter, there is a 2,000-foot climb over Three Ridges Mountain. It is a tough climb, but I think it’s the last one in Virginia and the trail for quite a while (until up north). The temperature is about 50 degrees, but with the wind and rain, it seems much colder, definitely hypothermia kind of weather. I never really warm up and I am getting wetter.
I want to stop again at the next shelter, but notice I had inadvertently passed it. I was going to stop to cook a warm meal. I really wanted to stop there, but it was off the trail. Also, I knew that if I did stop, it would have been really hard to restart because I probably would have gotten into my sleeping bag to warm up and not want to get out.
The cold and rain is absolutely miserable, the kind of weather where I can’t stop or I’ll lose whatever heat I have gained. I am becoming uncomfortably cold and wet. This could get bad. I can’t allow myself to stop. I have to hightail it 13 miles to the next shelter. This is the most miserable I’ve been. I don’t know why this day is worse than others, but it is. The terrain is rocky and wet, so I can’t go as fast as I normally do, which is frustrating because I want/need, more than ever before, to hike fast. I arrive at the shelter about 5:30 PM. Nearly a 30-mile day in this miserable weather!
Once I get to the shelter, I get water and prepare to cook a warm meal, but my hands are too cold to twist open my fuel bottle (which is usually very tight anyway). I strip out of my wet clothes, hang them up (not that they’ll dry), put on my base layer and climb into my bag. Turns out I did not eat or drink much all day. I huddle down in my bag and eat all of the remaining food I have. I only have a few miles to meet Linds and the boys. I do not get out of my bag again, so my stove and meal sit on the shelter’s table all night. I’ll just eat the stew for breakfast, since it is the only food I have left.
Achilles and Outlet are going just five miles to Waynesboro, VA for a hotel and resupply. That sounds like a much needed ‘nero’ day and a good place to meet the family for a hotel. The guys don’t plan to leave until 7:30 AM, so I am going to have a lazy start again. It is much needed, I think.
I text and chat with Linds about meeting in town and staying the night. Then I fall asleep.