Start time: 5:25am
End time: 8:45pm
Jen crossed over one of her favorite stretches of the trail today- Grayson Highlands State Park in Southwest Virginia. She got started a bit later than usual because we stayed at a hotel in Marion and because it took us a few extra minutes to find the trailhead in the dark. Once she got started, though, she made great time. She reached VA 670 (South Fork of the Holston River) by 7:45 and Dickey Gap a little before 10.
Rambler came down from PA to rejoin the Pit Crew again for a few days. He met me at Dickey Gap, hiked in a short ways to see Jen, then hiked the next 8.5 miles with her to VA 603 at Fox Creek. James, Lindsay, and Hazel also met us at Dickey Gap, and they brought breakfast burritos, sausage McMuffins, coffee, and chocolate milk with them for Jen’s second breakfast of the morning.
James, Lindsay, and I drove to VA 603 and lounged around on the blanket while Hazel kept trying to grab dirt and eat leaves. It’s obvious that she already loves the woods, and that she’s going to be a hiker when she grows up.
When Jen and Rambler arrived, James took Rambler’s place and hiked with Jen for the next 9.8 miles up to Massie Gap. While they were doing that, Lindsay, Hazel and I grabbed lunch while Rambler went on to Massie Gap to “summit” Mt. Rogers (Virginia’s highest point). “Summit” here is a very relative term because there are probably a dozen unofficial summits of Mt. Rogers.
After eating and checking email, Lindsay, Hazel, and I drove to Grayson Highlands and climbed up from the Massie Gap parking lot to meet Jen and James. They arrived about 3:45 and took a short break before heading down to VA 600 and Elk Garden.
Aside from the sleet and rain in the Whites, and the scorching heat in Maryland, Jen’s been very fortunate with weather so far, and today was no exception. About the time she and James rolled into Elk Garden (6:10 or so), we could hear and see a massive thunderstorm off in the distance toward Grayson Highlands.
Rambler hiked the last stretch of the day with Jen down to US 58, while James and Lindsay helped me shuttle Rambler’s car around before they headed home.
Jen only saw three ponies in Grayson Highlands, and the ponies are a big reason why she loves Grayson Highlands so much. But she didn’t seem too disappointed about it. Holding our 9-month old niece is probably the only thing that could make Jen happier than petting the Grayson Highland ponies.
Two random thoughts: First, James did a great job hiking with Jen. In the roughly 30 hours he was with us, he covered 35 miles with her.
Second, Lily Kirk suggested I take the Highlander to get a car wash. I weighed the pros and cons, and eventually determined that I was going to take the Manny Ramirez approach. For those of you who don’t follow baseball, Manny Ramirez was a quirky slugger for the Indians, Red Sox, and Dodgers who refused to clean his batting helmet. It was covered with dirt, tar, sweat, and no telling what else, but he insisted on keeping it perfectly filthy until the end of the season when the Red Sox won the World Series.
Maybe I’m taking the Manny Ramirez approach because I’m hoping Jen will reach her goal, too. Or maybe I’m just being lazy. Or maybe I want the car to just fit in with the rest of the Pit Crew. Regardless, there will be about 7 weeks worth of dirt, oil, mud, and no telling what else on the Highlander when we reach Springer. Then, and only then, will it be getting a bath.