About the Author: Pat-Rice Z is a Jersey girl who has relocated to the DC area. She is a 2019 AT Thru-Hike hopeful who is considering going NOBO or leapfrogging, however the adventure unfolds. You can find her on Instagram @halfway_to_the_sky.

To see all of Patrice’s posts, click her name above!

Weeks 9 and 10: May 28 – June 10

Did I think I would end up at Four Pines Hostel? No, but spontaneity is one of my favorite aspects of the AT.

Our everyday can become somewhat mundane so whenever as opportunity for adventure presents itself, I accept! I have two hiking partners, Wiki who is retired and in his early 70’s and Pusher who is in his late 20’s. My usual day consists of waking up at 6 am because Wiki’s internal alarm clock doesn’t let him sleep in. I hear him rustling around in his tent, I open my eyes and as soon as I see the sun my body too does not let me sleep in. I change, pack up my gear, scarf down a granola bar and I’m set to go! We usually have to wake Pusher up, the day we went into Catawba I woke him up by walking over to his tent and whispering, “fried chicken, ribs, and steak.” The night before we decided that we were going to attend the Homeplace Restaurant in Catawba. Hiker hunger makes you set ridiculous goals centered around food. We woke up early to hike 16 miles up over Dragon’s Tooth and make it to town before the restaurant closed at 6pm and would be closed for the next 4 days. Challenge accepted! 

We usually like to plan our camping spots so that the hard climbs are done and over with in the morning when you are fresh and energetic. Breakfast is whenever we wake up, then there is second breakfast around 10am. Wiki is usually a little behind Pusher and me so we all plan to meet somewhere for lunch. Lunchtime is my favorite, we take off our shoes and roll out our sleeping mats for a mid day nap. Hikers nap hard. It is also really nice when most of the miles are completed in the morning. Like if there is a 20-mile day, it is really nice to have completed 12 miles by noon. The rest of the day is downhill. We don’t stop much for rest breaks but we do stop for views, snack breaks (different and important), animals, and when we are lucky, Trail Magic. There is usually a mid afternoon snack and we roll into camp between 6:30-8:00 pm. I really enjoy getting water at the end of the day when in camp, often the water source is a spring so I head down to the spring, sit and listen. It takes a while to filter two liters of water so this time is a great time to sit and enjoy the world around you. There is the sound of the rushing water, birds chirping, insects calling, and wind blowing through the trees. Sitting around camp has been less fun lately because the mosquitoes woke up with full force. There are also these little gnats that but called “no-see-ums”, honestly I have no idea how to spell the word. We don’t have them in New Jersey but they are terrible little buggers. They are the tiniest little black bug that bites and they like to make their presence known in the mornings and at night.

On the day that I climbed Dragon’s Tooth was also the same day that I ran into a fellow blogger, Sprout! I had been following her on Instagram since I joined AT women’s Facebook page. We kinda were fan girling when we met each other. We passed four 700 markers, checked out Dragon’s Tooth and then ran into Trail Magic! Love it! Even though we partook of the soda and chips we still called for a shuttle to take us to the buffet when two more compatriots showed up.

The Homeplace Restaurant is a local favorite. You pick what kind of meat you would like and then the waitress brings 10+ sides (all traditional southern cooking which is amazing). It is family style and the waitress replenishes whatever you have finished, more biscuits please!! We spent the night at 4 Pines Hostel which is donation based. Their only rule was not to poop on the lawn. They were awesome however if dirty bathrooms and questionable bedding is not your style, I would not recommend for you to try a donation based hostel. 

The hike down from Dragon’s Tooth was harrowing, I hadn’t realized that I would see rebar in the rock face this far south. Pusher actually fell off one rock but a local caught him. The next day we got to see McAfee’s Knob and Tinker Cliffs. McAfee is a well known spot on the AT, I flew up the trail to see it, I could not wait! Yes the view is spectacular! We got there on a sunny and windy day, took our pictures and then a 2 hour nap. It is funny though, since we live in the woods 24/7, we almost feel like it is our home. There were four thru-hikers at McAfee’s Knob all taking turns to have their solo picture taken when we were there, as Pusher was walking up to take his turn, two groups of four Muggles (what we call day hikers) came up and sat right at the edge. They then picnicked! At first we were a little upset because who blocks a spot that EVERYONE wants a picture on (we have walked 700+ miles to see this dudes!) but then we remembered that we too have to share the trail so we napped for 2 hours, the Muggles left and we finished the pictures. 

Many choose to see McAfee Knob at sunrise, we chose to see Tinker Cliffs at sunset and it was beautiful. The next day consisted of rocks, rocks and more rocks with plenty of steep climbs (the AT does not disappoint in this department) and we made it into Daleville. I was hoping that the outfitter in Daleville sold the Altra Lone Peak shoes that I wear but they did not, nor did any store in the next city. At this point my trail runners have huge holes in them and I should have planned ahead better but oh well, can’t stress over what you can’t control. My friends and I got plenty of great food in Daleville, I ordered new shoes to be shipped to a post office in Buena Vista and we partook of the pool at the Super 8. Hikers swimming means a bunch of people  running around (tastefully) in their underwear. We set out from Daleville with too much food (so our bags weigh a ton) and knowing that we would be rained on in the coming days (free shower!). I am still loving Virginia. I can’t wait to see what is in store this week, Happy Trails!!