We had a wonderful hike today. I started out with a big climb out of Petites Gap where I ended on Thursday. In the Gap behind a tree was a cooler of cokes, a gallon of water, and a grocery sack of cookies--trail magic. That first mile was steep and rocky going up and even worse coming down the other side. But once I got down the very steep north side, it was smooth sailing for about 3 miles. On my way down, I met a trail maintainer. He was the one who had left the goodies behind the tree.
I passed a large camping area near a spring at about 2 miles. There were several tents, but only one looked like a backpacking tent. The others were too large and were probably couples just out for the weekend. Although there were perhaps 10 tents in this area, I saw no people. All sleeping in, I suppose.
As I walked along the ridge beyond the camping area, I had some great views back from where I had come. This section was especially nice. The trail was almost level and without rocks or roots. The views were good and the azalea was in full bloom giving off a very pleasant aroma.
I met Gene about a third of the way down the mountain toward the James River. We had a lunch and a nice break at Big Cove Branch. There was a campsite here, as well, but it was empty. As we continued our way down to the James River, we saw rhododendron in bloom.
At about mile 8 we came to Matts Creek Shelter. A trail crew was busy installing a brand new privy. Gene had passed by earlier in the morning on his way up to meet me. He got there just in time to see the old privy pulled down. By the time we came rolling in about 1 o’clock, the new privy was completely installed and ready for use, the hole where the old privy had been was completely filled in, and the crew was building a new trail to the new privy. There were about 8 crew members; 4 men and 4 women. They were all retirement age and all volunteers. And they were all working very hard.
I just had to make a few pictures of the new privy. As you can see from the photo, it is handicap accessible. When I saw the hand rails, I thought that was pretty funny since once a long distance hiker gets in a sitting position, it is very difficult to get up again. I said something to one of the crew members and she explained that all structures being built on the trails which are on federal land must comply with all federal regulations. So you see, it is handicap accessible.
I have to offer a few words of praise for the trail crews. The entire Appalachian Trail is maintained by several Appalachian Trail Clubs. The club responsible for this section is the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club. Of the four days we have hiked in this section, we have seen members of this club on three of those days. They work very hard keeping the trail in good condition for the hikers. Our hats are off to all the trail clubs. Thank you for your hard work.
The James River is one of those milestones along the trail. I felt proud today to reach this milestone. Only 1400 miles to go to the end atop Mt Katahdin in Maine.
|Footbridge over the River|
That’s it for today. We’ll be hiking again tomorrow.