After Trail Days, Rob and I were finally headed northbound again. Seeing as we had southbounded the section spanning from Roanoke south to Atkins, VA, we would inevitably have to catch a ride back north to Roanoke where we had originally began heading south. Sounds confusing but the gist is that we were walking south and after the festival are now heading north again. The next section spans 130 miles from Roanoke to Waynesboro, a task we hoped would consume about 8 days of our time, with a quick stop over in Buena Vista to resupply. This was a really cool section. For one, the terrain is relatively easy in comparison to the rest of the trail but somewhat challenging for the state of Virginia. The section included two 4,000 ft elevations called "the priest" and "the 3 ridges". Both of which had some unbelievable views and some really awesome outcroppings which supply hikers with some perspective on where they are in the mountain range. Another reason this section struck us as unique is due to the unmistakeable transition from spring to summer. Spring is short here in VA. By the end of may the forest is completely green. The trees have filled in and the forest floor has become overgrown with waste high vegetation. Gone are the days of brown leaves carpeting the forest floor. As we approached Buena Vista, about half way through the section, we came across a 500' bridge that spans the James River. The bridge is foot traffic only and exists solely to deliver hikers from one side of the James to the other. Being that the river is fairly wide, we assumed that it was also fairly deep. Deep enough (hopefully) for 200lb adults to jump into it from the bridge 30 feet above. Having heard of a bridge that you could jump off, we figured we were in the right place so we seized the moment, dropped trou in the middle of the afternoon in plain sight of the public and hopped over the guardrail. WAHoOoOoOo! As you may have assumed since I'm writing to you now... The water was deep enough. We sorta figured it was.
With summer splashing and frolicking out of our system, we made tracks for Waynesboro, the town which we have arranged to aqua-blaze out of. As the last few miles of the leg began to dwindle, we decided we would camp just outside Waynesboro to save ourselves a few sheckles. We had friends that were behind us on the trail that we had planned to aqua blaze with so we would have to wait for them in town anyways, might as well just camp and save the jing.
Having already set up camp and getting ready to make dinner, a friend who we had assumed was infront of us (and thus already in town) appeared from the forest looking clean and freshly showered. Turns out that he (Easy E) and his pal Sharky had taken a local secret side trail up to the camp sight and were there to persuade us into town a night early. Sharky told us about his home that we could actually see about 2000 feet below in a nearby valley, told us that we would be free to camp on the lawn and that we could swing in town for all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. SOLD!
We packed up the tents in record time and Sharky, Easy, the Dude, Mallet, Rob and myself quickly traipsed through the neglected side trail, dodging fallen tree limbs, piles of river debris and giant rotten logs all the way to the road.
The early escape from the woods was well worth it. Sharky is an awesome dude and just the type to have earned the title of trail angel. His home is beautiful and he regularly opens his doors to AT hikers to enjoy the gorgeous views from his property. After Chinese food and beer, we enjoyed a long and restful night sleep and awoke to Sharky making piles of coffee and a spinach/feta scramble. So unreal. After breakfast Sharky handed rob the keys to his car and told us how to get to wal mart so we could do our resupply. Having been invited to spend another night in sharky's hot tub in the foot hills of the Appalachians, we decided grab the supplies for homemade pizza and a quick stop at the state-run alcoholic beverage commission. GAME ON.