It’s traditional for thru-hikers of the Appalacian Trail to get what they call the ‘Virginia Blues’ during their hike through this state.  They say it’s because there’s 500 miles of Virginia and people get impatient to tick off another state or get fed up that there’s allegedly few ‘good views’.  All this makes zero sense to me.  I have found Virginia to have it all; beauty; awe; terror; excitement; disappointment; pride; inspiration and pain…

Beauty

Oh! It’s nonsense that Virginia has ‘few good views’.  I suppose it depends what you consider to be a good view.  The waterfalls, the tree roots and moss covered rocks, the chipmunks who don’t run away properly because they’re too curious, but just duck behind the nearest tree and then peer round the other side to see what you are, the babbling creeks – all these things constitute good views to my mind…

But even if we only consider the narrow definition of a ‘view’ that hikers out here seem obsessed with, Virginia has McAffee Knob… Wow!

Notice here the difference between my approach and Pan’s… It gave me vertigo just taking the photo of him.  In fact, I spent a lot of my time up there telling random strangers to be careful, in a mother hen type way.

And then we heard thunder, and scurried downwards.  I seem to have spent a lot of my time running in the face of crashing thunder to get over mountains before the storm breaks lately (on one memorable occasion listening to Freddie sing ‘Hammer to fall’. Appropriate).  Which brings me to terror…

Terror

We climbed up Dragon’s Tooth in all unsuspecting innocence, it was a pretty tough climb but we were at the top by four, plenty of time, we thought, to ooh over the cool rock formations and head the mere 5 miles or so down to a gas station which we’d heard served pizza and ice cream.  Fantastic.

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And then we began to head downwards.  Oh my.  We’ve climbed down some pretty steep mountains since we started this trail, but this was in a whole new league.  Not so much a path downwards as following white blazes over boulders hand over hand.  In places there were metal rungs set into rock for hikers to climb down… Have I mentioned that I’m terrified of heights? I was holding it together pretty well until I got to a vertical cliff face and reached a point where I could literally not see how to continue.

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Panic hovered, my movements were already hampered by the weight and size of my pack and I was starting to cry tears of sheer terror.  I once saw a video of a guy who froze in fear on Snowdon and had to be helicoptered off… Luckily the thought of this was enough to stave off the freeze response – helicopter rescues look worse than the cliffs. So with some gentle, calm advice from Pan, I made it down…

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All in all it took quite some time to get to the bottom, where a helpful sign warned those going the other way how steep and difficult the path was about to become…

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Excitement

We saw a bear at last!

An actual, factual bear!

Getting water one evening just before War Spur shelter, we looked to our right and 50 yards away an adult black bear wandered nonchalantly across the trail and disappeared into the woods. We waited what we felt was a polite length of time and then cautiously advanced, only to crash into each other as we saw the bear just sitting at the side of the trail watching us.

Sadly we were too excited to take any photos before the bear gave us a very bored look and wandered off.  Rather pointedly, we felt. But still, a bear in the wild!  Amazing.

Hilarity

Pan’s had a great time with the shelter names…

Pain

Various physical issues with knees and hands have begun to cause issues with the increased mileage lately, despite all that anti-inflammatories, joint supplements and KT tape can do.

And then I slipped on some rocks going downhill and landed on my face… Cue hitching a ride to ER to get my lip sutured up, a tetanus shot and my sternum x-rayed (nothing broken, happily).  So now we’re stuck in a hotel room for a few days while I can’t hike, and the clock is ticking on our visas.  Plans may have to be re-evaluated…

Pup and Pan xx

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