Day 32: Wise Shelter to Trimpi Shelter, 20.1 miles
Day 33: Trimpi Shelter to Rural Retreat, 21.5
Day 34: Rural Retreat to Knot Maul Branch Shelter, 14.7 miles
Day 35: Knot Maul Branch Shelter, 0 miles
For the last couple weeks we have been enjoying staying at shelters. Especially now in the spring where rain can be unpredictable, it’s comforting to know that we will stay dry throughout the night. Our tent doesn’t leak, but packing up a sopping wet tent in the rain is a recipe for everything getting soaked despite our best efforts. Since we’ve gotten ahead of the bulk of the AT hiker crowd, the shelters have reliably had space for us. Day 32 we used the shelters to our advantage and managed to make Hurricane Ridge Shelter for lunch right before the rain for the day came. It lasted only an hour or so, and lightened-up enough for us to leave the dry shelter and hike a couple miles in the softly falling rain. We went by a small cascade, and had a gradual climb to a ridge, before dropping back down to Trimpi Shelter. We decided to stop, and had a good night with the group of thru-hikers we’ve been seeing lately.
It poured during the early morning, but let up by 630am when we all started stirring. We hiked a quick ten miles to the Mt. Rogers Visitor Center, where many hikers catch a shuttle into Marion, VA. We didn’t want to have to worry about catching one of the shuttles, and decided instead a couple days prior to send a box of food to The Barn Restaurant in Rural Retreat, VA, another 11.5 miles. We used zerodayresupply.com, which has thru-hiker staples & favorites. It was neat to shop online for our resupply, and saved us a trip into town. We made the next 11.5 miles quickly, and made it to the Barn a little after 4pm. We unpacked our very neatly packed box from zero day, and had burgers. As we were eating it rained, and the weather forecast called for rain overnight and for the next three days. The next shelter was 14.7 miles away, no way we’d make it there that night, but there was a very cheap motel right across the street. We rationed if we stayed there we could keep the tent dry another night, so we did.
We had breakfast at The Barn the next morning between rain showers, and hiked off. We passed through farmland as it rained off and on for the majority of the day, and we focused our efforts on getting to the shelter. We stopped briefly to pick wild ramps for dinner, but otherwise kept a good pace to try and avoid the rain.The last two miles were full of seemingly endless ups and downs; each time we crested a hill we were disappointed to see nothing but trees, but finally we made it to the shelter by 2pm. With the next shelter being ten miles away, and many entries in the shelter log from other hikers the night before, we decided to hunker down to stay dry for another night and not take our chances trying to find a spot at the next shelter. We met PaJohn who was already there, and had a relaxing afternoon. The sun came out for a little later in the day, and we were happy to see Frodo and Nopol emerge from the woods. We had last seen them going into Marion, and thought they were further behind. While we had been rained on all day, they somehow had managed to avoid most of it! A little before 8pm it started to rain as we all tucked into our bags. A few minutes later Lucky Penny and Already Stinky emerged from the woods, followed shortly by Chef Boy RD, who were all relieved to find the last three spots in the shelter. They made dinner as it grew dark, and we talked jovially happy we’d all stay dry overnight.
We had spotty service at the shelter, but got a clear enough signal the next morning to check the weather. The weather channel predicted rain for the next 24 hours, and temperatures in the high forties. We had a days extra food with us, and decided to take advantage of our dry shelter and stay another day. One by one we said goodbye to our shelter companions, most were hoping to get to the hostel 15 miles down the trail, the rest needed to move on so they wouldn’t run out of food before the next town. We made a second cup of coffee, and settled in to watch the rain. We started listening to the first episode of the podcast S-Town; but a few minutes after each time we pressed play we heard soggy footsteps coming down the trail, and a hiker would pop in to say hello. We saw seven folks over the course of the morning, most trying to get to the hostel, one lucky hiker had a brother that lived nearby who was going to scoop her up in a few miles, and a couple section hikers who had limited time and left to try their luck at the next shelter ten miles up the trail. By the time we finished the first episode, it was lunch time. We started the second episode, and almost finished it before two more hikers plodded in. These two decided to stay, and we spent the rest of the afternoon chatting, watching in amazement at the continuous flow of rain.