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AT 2017: Day 75, U.S. 522 to Whiskey Hollow Shelter

A rebel loves a cause

Hike with Gravity

Leaving Front Royal, Stick and I will have 53 miles to go to reach Harpers Ferry. These are the last miles of Virginia, which I entered on Day 36.

As I stood at the Tennessee-Virginia state line, I thought about the “Virginia blues” and wondered if it would affect me. That's what some thru-hikers call a depression that supposedly sets in as they walk the long miles of this state.

Now, as I near the end I ask myself if I have felt the blues.

“Meh, not really.”

Date
Weather Mostly sunny and pleasantly warm, with an occasional light breeze
Trail Conditions Easy hiking with a few small rocky sections and gradual elevation changes
Today's Miles 15.2 miles
Trip Miles 984.9 miles

Don’t get me wrong. This state hasn’t been all fun and games. It’s been difficult at times, perhaps with a couple depressing moments. Those moments have been mostly due to bad weather, not the state.

Something else I’ve heard said about Virginia is, “Don’t let people tell you Virginia is flat, because it’s not.” Oddly, I’ve only heard that. I’ve never heard someone claim it is flat.

Virginia may not be flat, but it's definitely steeped in history. If little bits of feeling sorry for myself creeped in on occasion, they were quickly erased when I walked though some of the many historical areas along the trail.

Normally, when you visit a historical site, you are seeing it from a 21st Century perspective. When you visit a historical site from the trail, it feels like you are much closer to being there, seeing it as it was when the history was made.

Stick and I were anxious to get going early this morning. After a brief stop at McDonalds for breakfast, Mike dropped us off at the trailhead at 7:15.

It was a pleasure to hike with Mike this week. I hope he had a good time with us.

We had only been on the trail a few minutes when we had to navigate around a large tree that had fallen across the trail.

Right away, the trail began a steady climb of nearly 1,000 feet. The trail didn’t take us directly over the top of the peak, and except for the blow-down it wasn’t difficult to walk.

Along the way we saw several day hikers and weekend backpackers.

This area is where Col. John S. Mosby, one of the heroes of the south during the Civil War, conducted many of his legendary raids on the enemy.

Mosby was known during the war as the "Gray Ghost”. Mosby's Rangers (also called Mosby's Raiders) was a unit of soldiers under his command that blended into local farms and communities. Being embedded like that made it easier to launch daring raids far inside Union lines. Their lightning-quick attacks kept them out of reach of the enemy.

A sign identified a campsite as “Mosby’s Campground”, but it’s not specifically a spot where the Gray Ghost hung out. He and his band of raiders roamed all over this part of the south.

A shelter stood at this campsite for several years, but in 1980 it was allegedly stolen for its chestnut logs.

Though there were no Civil War relics to be seen here, there was a stone wall nearby. From the looks of it, it could have easily predated the war by many decades.

The weather was beautiful today. An easy trail to walk helped make this an enjoyable day on the trail.

After stopping for water at a spring, Stick and I took a short side trail to the Jim and Molly Denton Shelter. It honors two long-time members of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.

The time was only 10 a.m., too early to stop for lunch, but that didn’t matter. We were here to check out what is considered to be one of the nicest shelters on the trail.

Near the large shelter, complete with a porch, was a separate, covered pavilion for cooking. And yes, those are horseshoe pits.

A solar shower was also nearby. It’s a neat idea, but I wondered how well the sun heats the water when the tank is surrounded by trees.

I’m sure all of these amenities are popular with hikers, but I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe they were too much. Does a shelter area like this offer too many comforts and therefore encourage hikers to hang around for extended stays?

I don’t wish to seem like a curmudgeon in asking that question. I ask it in concern for the environment. It’s hard to “Leave No Trace” when several campers are in one spot for a couple days or more.

It’s worth noting, though, that the area seemed well-cared-for and showed no signs of abuse.

After leaving the shelter, the trail remained a pleasant stroll through the forest. Just before VA 638 it crossed a nice brook with rocks lined up to make the crossing easier.

Then, after crossing the state road, also called Fiery Run Road, the trail entered a large meadow known to locals as Trumbo Hollow.

The trail wound around, up and down and across this meadow under a bright, but not too-warm sun. A light breeze made this section even more enjoyable.

Dotting the meadow were wildflowers, including blue chicory blossoms.

I was obviously not the only person who thought this was a lovely meadow. Someone, probably a trail maintainer, had placed a bench here for hikers to sit and enjoy their surroundings.

After nearly a mile, the meadow walk ended and we returned to the forest.

Thirty minutes later, Stick and I came upon a sign that reminded again this was the territory of Mosby’s Rangers. The sign said this was the western boundary of their base of operations.

A short distance beyond the sign we began about .2 miles of road walking. This was necessary to go under Interstate 66.

Immediately after the underpass, where the trail turned away from the road, was a large parking lot for day hikers. A picnic table was also here. It was about 1 p.m., so we decided to stop for lunch.

When we finished eating, Stick left, but I decided to stay a little longer just to enjoy the cool shade and breeze.

There was a creek here, but collecting water didn’t seem like a good idea because it was so close to homes and the highway. I elected to keep walking for another .2 miles where the trail crossed another stream.

This stop was along an easy climb of about 1,200 feet.

Farther up the trail I came to a side trail leading to Manassas Gap Shelter. It wasn’t yet 3 p.m., much too soon to stop for the night.

This shelter was named for the spot a few miles from here where Confederate General Robert E. Lee re-engaged his northern foes for the first time after his defeat and retreat at Gettysburg.

Thanks to the Union’s disorganized attack, Lee was able to withdraw his units to safer ground in Shenandoah Valley.

I continued on at a leisurely pace, going over the high point of the day. The descent on the other side was as easy as the ascent.

I reached our agreed-upon spot for the night at 5 p.m. There were two shelters here.

The first was called Dick's Dome Shelter, a small and oddly-constructed structure. There was no one here, but several people were at the other shelter.

This one, called Whiskey Hollow Shelter, was so new lumber, scaffolding and tool lock boxes were still stacked nearby.

After looking around a bit and not seeing Stick, I asked a couple hikers at the shelter if they had seen him. They told me he was on the other side of a nearby stream, so I backtracked in that direction.

I searched for him for a couple minutes, but it was clear he was nowhere near here.

I again went back to the shelter and then walked about 70 yards behind it. I found Stick there with his tent set up on an old fire road.

That wild goose chase annoyed me, but I was glad to find a spot for my tent on the road. It was nice and flat, but later that night as I was lying in my sleeping bag I discovered a negative side of this spot.

A breeze picked up in the evening, which caused a nearby tree to squeak all through the night.

Truth goes up in vapors
The steeples lean
Winds of change patriarchs
Snug in your bible belt dreams
God goes up the chimney
Like childhood Santa Claus
The good slaves love the good book
A rebel loves a cause

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