Appalachian Trail Update #5: Back In Ol’ Virginny
As I crossed over the border from Tennessee into Virginia on April 5th, 2017, the words of “Rocking Chair” by The Band came into my head: “oh to be home again, down in ol’ Virginny.”
Virginia is a place I was fortunate to call home for four years during college, and never did I realize how satisfying it would be to cross the border and stroll into Damascus. Just miles away from Mt. Rogers, Virginia’s highest peak, memories of college flooded back. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve already seen plenty of maroon an orange, the colors of my alma mater Virginia Tech, flying on flags in people’s front yards and gracing the tops of people’s heads as hats. What a wonderful sight to see.
After the difficult terrain of the high peaks in North Carolina and Tennessee, the familiar landscape of Virginia that seamlessly mixes rolling pasture and dense forest feels quite inviting. While Virginia is mountainous for a spell, from here on out, the trail will slowly begin to flatten into considerably easier terrain throughout the mid-Atlantic and lower New England until mountains begin to rise high again in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Virginia itself lays claim to 556 miles of Appalachian Trail, more than any other state and more than I’ve hiked in total so far. There is something psychologically satisfying about crossing borders, but Virginia is definitely a long haul. Because of this, it is said that AT thru-hikers succumb to the “Virginia Blues,” a feeling that despite putting in long days, feels like you’re not making progress at all and that you’ll never make it out of this state. I hope my well established affection for this beautiful state helps me quell the onset of the Virginia Blues. I also believe the start of spring will help in this regard. We all know that spring is a treat for the senses, as the forest bursts with the colors of blooming flowers and new tree buds. The birds return with beautiful song and warmth begins to the fill the air. I am excited to experience this transition in Virginia. I am excited to visit my old college town of Blacksburg, VA and see some familiar faces, pass by popular hike spots we’d visit in college but also fill in the sections of trail in VA that I haven’t done.
While crossing borders gives us a lot to look forward to, it also represents a good time to reflect on where you just were. On February 28th when I hurt my leg, I didn’t even think I’d make it to Virginia. Now, I’ve hiked over 300 miles since then and have regained full strength. As I crossed out of North Carolina for the last time, I turned and said to my friend, “I’m done talking about my leg. It happened in North Carolina, and it’s staying in North Carolina.” That sentiment goes for my blog as well, as I plan to no longer bring it up after this post.
While in NC/TN, I got to visit old friends, and see a place I’ve wanted to for long time, Boone, NC. I’ve also learned to take great pleasure in listening to owls hoot in the night, something we rarely experience in “real life.” I enjoyed numerous spectacular sunrises while hiking along ridge tops in the early morning. I absolutely loved the Hump Mountains, and they may actually be my number one highlight of the trip so far.
Between my injury and taking advantages of my social connections in the region, it took me a while to get through TN/NC. Like the mountains, my time there was filled with ups and downs, but it was nonetheless good. As I push into Virginia I hope I can cruise a little more consistently and like the terrain through the mid-Atlantic, I hope my time in VA goes smoothly.
Onward into Virginia! Stay crispy, my friends.