April 22, 2001

4/22/01 Rusty's Hard Time Hollow

23.2 miles

The only other camper at the YMCA last night was a homeless kid who said he just found work at the Dupont plant opposite us across the river. He told me where to get cheap hot dogs and about a bar down the street with TVs and such. I offered to buy him some groceries, but I don't think he understood. Later I thought he might not even have any cookware. I just didn't know how to approach him with a helping hand. He was afraid they'd kick him out, so he camped deep in the park. I count myself blessed because of the wonderful family I've been born to. My mother raised me to look at opportunities. Hard work, honesty, and a willingness to learn have been lessons that helped me a lot.

After a peaceful night of sleep, it was time to tackle that screaming descent into Waynesboro that now was a 3-mile uphill. So much of today was like going back to your alma mater. I stopped off at the Rockfish Gap Information Center with their model of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, where I talked with volunteers Nell and Karl, who had just returned from three weeks in South America.

At first I had clear skies, but by the time I reached the Parkway, it was overcast again. That's when I tried not to think of yesterday's 20% chance of rain that ended up a downpour for a couple of hours.

The road was just wonderful -- very little traffic and, even though I climbed thousands of feet, the rise was gradual. For those keeping track, my average speed on the climbs was 5 mph, while my max speed on the downhills was 34 mph. Now that the rest of my body is adjusting to the ride, my sore butt is making itself known. That's why I stopped at every lookout along the road.

Found a good museum about Appalachian country life at the Humpback Visitors Center. When I stopped at the trailhead for Humpback Mountain, I talked to a group of kids who had been hiking for a few days and were waiting for their ride. Out of six, one had the dream of the AT some day, and I tried to encourage him.

After that, the morning was a bunch of long, slow climbs followed by a quick, fast descent. At one turnout, I met "Rubie," a guy who was trying to do the second half of his thruhike. "I had to quit because of my feet," he said, "and they're not much better now and I've only been on the trail three weeks." I wished him well and headed out again.

The Appalachian Trail

Finally I came to Dripping Rock, the first place where the AT and TransAmerican Bicycle Trail cross. It's amazing how much memory can be dredged up with the right stimulus. I remembered that day so clearly. I had left Rusty's on a very hot day. Once I got to this spot, I had to find a place to dig a cat-hole out of sight of some cabins nearby. And this was the only day I really got lost on the entire AT. Somewhere I took a wrong turn and ended up in deep thick forest. I was lucky I didn't get poison ivy or snake bitten, the brush was so thick.

Around one o'clock, I found Rusty's driveway and headed down to the house. Rusty had left a note saying he was at church and to make myself at home. So before I cleaned up, I unhitched the trailer and rode down a forest dirt road to the nearest AT shelter in search of thru-hikers.

Every year, I usually help two or three individuals plan for their thruhike. Laura and her two sons had started on February 1st and, last I heard, she and the 13-year old were in Virginia. I was going to leave her a message in the shelter register, only to discover she'd passed here almost two weeks ago. That's hiking very fast. I'm sorry that I missed them.

Back at Rusty's, the sun was getting hot and I decided it was time to relax. I just sat around listening to his stories. Later, another local hiker named Gear Master (my trail name was Dragon's Breath) came by for a visit. We made salad and had dinner, along with more conversation. The whole evening was like talking to an uncle or grandfather, even though Rusty had only met me for one night three years ago. Like June Curry, Rusty is an AT treasure whose value won't really be understood until he is gone.

'home sweet home' at Rusty's Hard Hollow

Looking forward to pancakes in the morning, but not the long ride to Natural Bridge.