Trail Log: Day 2 - Lost Mountain and Saunders Shelter
Updated: Jul 29, 2020
Woke up at 8am and checked my phone to see if I had cell service. I did so I checked in with a couple of people to let them know where we were. We weren’t in a rush this morning so I laid in my sleeping bag for a little bit. I didn’t have enough cell reception to check the weather but messenger was working so I asked my dad to check it for me and said 40% chance of rain from 1-3pm. Cool. Hopefully we can beat it.
A little before 9, I unzipped my tent to see the sun peaking between the trees. It’s going to be a beautiful day for hiking! I was the only one awake and wanted coffee so I walked a short ways from camp to retrieve our food bags that we had hung the night before. That took a little while since I’m not exactly tall and we had to hang them a certain height off the ground and far enough from tree trunks that bears or other animals couldn’t snag our food.
My mom was up by the time I came back to camp with our food bags. I got our JetBoil out and started heating up water for our coffee/breakfast. I enjoyed slowly sipping on my coffee while boiling more water for my malt-o-meal. (Which is kind of like grits except I don’t like grits)
After breakfast we took our time breaking down camp and were hitting the trail by 11:30. We hiked through a little forest area which felt like something that belongs in a fairy tail.
We exited the lush forest and were welcomed to a large meadow sandwiched between forests. In the middle of this meadow was Buzzard Rock. I climbed the top of this giant rock and wow oh wow! The 360 degree view was breathtaking. Virginia is so beautiful. I’m in love with this state.
As we said goodbye to Buzzard Rock and headed toward the next section of luscious forest, you could hear rumbling in the distance. We continued on but as the thunder got louder and the sky grew darker we stopped for a short water break and decided to cover our packs Best idea so far on this trip) so our bedding stays dry. Good thing we did too! A few minutes later at exactly 12:55 it started raining. At first it was a slight drizzle and then it really started pouring. The canopy of rhododendrons following the appalachian trail shielded us from the brunt of the rain but after some miles of hiking in the rain, we were soaked.
Not wanting to hike in an open field with thunder and lightning close by (plus not knowing how bad the storm was since we had no service to check the weather) we waited the storm out out by a campsite near the main road for a bit. After 20 minutes of standing around soaking wet you start feeling cold. It was time to start moving again. The sky had started to open up at this point and the rain was going back down to a slight drizzle. We felt it was okay to carry on so we crossed to main road, through the grassy field and back in the luscious green forest of rhododendrons.
Two short miles later we reached Lost Mountain Shelter. It was 2:30pm. We were still soaked, hungry, and had just walked six miles (some of that in the rain) in less than three hours (if you don’t count our little sit down waiting for the rain to pass).
We decided to have lunch at Lost Mountain Shelter. I needed to collect more water and use the privy (It’s so nice having a bathroom in the woods let me tell you). This was also the perfect opportunity to take our shoes off, dry out our feet and extra clothing too now that the sun came out.
I found the water source a short walk away and collected water for us. The water pipe wasn’t gushing out but it was quick enough that it didn’t take too long to fill up the water bags. Which was good because I was starving and desperately wanting something warm to drink.
Aaron had Mac n cheese, while I chose to eat ramen, hoping the broth would warm me up. The sun was out now so I sat in the sun to dry off and ate my ramen along with a couple of peanut butter roll ups that weighed too much for me to keep carrying around.
An hour and a half later, our bellies were full, clothes were partly dry, and shoes were still soaking wet. But what can you do? Hike on!
Before leaving, we checked the map to make a game plan. The first six miles had been easy. We didn’t want to end up with a 16.5 mile day the next day so we made a goal of going another six miles to the next shelter. The last one before reaching the town of Damascus.
By 4pm we were hiking towards Saunders Shelter. We hiked an average of 22 minutes a mile and shortly ended up where the AT junctions with the Virginia Creeper Trail. We saw a family riding their bikes along the Virginia Creeper Trail while we trekked along beside it and decided that, since we were going to be getting off the AT a day early, we would bike the Virginia Creeper Trail. Because why not bike 17 miles The day after finishing a 30 mile section hike, right?
We took a water break by the river before the Virginia Creeper Trail and Appalachian Trail split again. Our trail immediately went from a nice flat paved trail to a rocky climb up the mountain. We were four miles from the shelter.
The first two miles went by kind of fast while the last two started dragging. First of all, hiking up switchbacks is not my favorite thing to do. I felt hot and sticky again, and although I didn’t want to hike in the rain anymore, I would’ve loved some rain to cool me down. By the time we had a mile to go before our stopping point, I was ready to quit. “Just one mile left.” I told myself. Then after a few hundred yards I’d assure myself again that we were almost there.
Just when my legs felt like they couldn’t go anymore, I spotted a wooden trail sign peering over the hill. That was the boost I needed. We had made it! I waited by the sign for my brother and mom who were a hundred yards behind me. They took more breaks than I did. I pushed myself as I was afraid I wouldn’t make it up the mountain if I had stopped!
Once they caught up to me, we followed the blue blazes to Saunders Shelter. It was such a pretty shelter with nice campsites close by. The night before we didn’t have level ground, and although it wasn’t too bad sleeping at an angle, it was nice to see flat cushioned ground to set up my tent.
I so badly wanted to take off my wet shoes and socks. I figured it would be best to find the water source before getting comfortable. Even though the app said the water source was a
hundred yards away it was definitely way farther down. Or maybe I was just so tired at this point everything seemed longer and more difficult. The pipe was slowly trickling so it took longer for me to gather water. I was getting impatient. I needed food and a warm fire to dry my shoes. After filling all the water bags I hiked my last little mountain for the day back to the camp.
I set up my tent while my mom set up hers and Aaron focused on making us a fire. By the time we finished with the tents we had a nice fire to sit by while eating dinner. I made Aaron and I chicken alfredo in my JetBoil pot but I quickly got full so I gave Aaron the rest of my share. I’m learning that I don’t eat as much on the trail as I do when I’m at home.
I enjoyed reading the shelter log of past hikers who have stayed from 2019-today. When I got to March of this year it broke my heart reading 2020 thru hikers logs. Their worries and thoughts about what would happen on the trail with Covid. Would they get to continue, have to get off trail, be able to resupply if they kept going, etc. I really felt for those hikers. When I was done reading I added in a little note on the first fresh page I saw and put the book back in it’s place for the hikers after to me to find.
I wanted something to drink that wasn’t water and decided that coffee would be a great (my only) option. I sipped my coffee by the fire. Watching the wood flicker between red and orange. It’s so relaxing out here. And the fact that we had the entire shelter to ourselves (except for Cujo the resident mouse and an owl somewhere in the trees) made it even better.
The heat from the fire helped dry our shoes and socks. No wet shoes tomorrow! Clothes were still damp though. Since we had the shelter all to ourselves we changed into our sleeping clothes and hung all the wet stuff in the shelter to dry all night.
At 10:15pm we were ready to call it a night. You could hear rumbles from thunder in the distance so it was a good time to head to the tents anyway. I laid down in my sleeping bag and closed my eyes. The owls and birds lulled me sleep. Tomorrow will be our last day on the Appalachian Trail.
Daily AT miles: 12.1
Total AT miles: 20.8
Continue: Trail Log Day 3: Saunders Shelter To Damascus