My parents join me on and off the Appalachian Trail for some hiking and some fun in Roanoke, Virginia, as we stumble across a pride festival. Enjoy reading my latest journal entry as I backpack the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. If you missed it, here are my previous entries and videos from the trail.
Here’s the latest video from the trail as the snow returns and pummels Virginia once more:
My parents and I stayed at the Fairfield Inn Hotel and Suites in Salem, VA. The hotel is only four months old and it was amazing. We thoroughly enjoyed their breakfast before setting off toward McAfee Knob, one of the most photographed and iconic spots along the AT. My hike hadn’t taken me quite up to this part of the trail yet so I was skipping ahead for kicks.
We parked at the AT trailhead and had beautifully hot weather to start our hike. I slowed down a bit for my parents; they didn’t have their trail legs yet. It was a short four-mile hike along a well-worn trail. After a quick jaunt on the AT we got off and took a shortcut on an fire road. My mom was leading the pack until she began shrieking at the sight of a large black snake.
It was quite the hike in the 70 degree heat. None of us were used to it. We reached McAfee Knob and the views were grand. There were lots of day hikers lounging around taking in the sights. I suppose we were day hikers today, too. We ate lunch and soaked up the sun on the rocky veranda overlooking Virginia.
We took many a picture on the ledge and amazingly no one fell off! The way back was tiring in the hot sun and it was back to the hotel for a nap.
For dinner we drove to downtown Roanoke, VA, not far from our hotel in Salem, VA. We ate at Leonore’s which served Italian and Venezuelan food. I dabbled in both with a Caprese salad and an arepas which is kind of like a sandwich.
Day’s Mileage: 0 + 8 bonus miles!
Total Miles Hiked: 696.9
Remaining Miles: 1,502.8
We were pretty tired from our hiking the day before so we decided to take it easy. Up to this point I had been wearing waterproof boots and planned to switch to my lightweight trail runner shoes. Now that the snowstorms are over I thought it finally time to make the change. Unfortunately my feet have swollen—nearly 700 miles will do that to a foot—and my trail runners don’t fit anymore! I even got them a size up!
So we ventured to a nearby outfitter and I found a new pair of hiking shoes. We also stopped at Kroger where I got too much food and had a hard time fitting it into my pack later on. From here we ventured off to downtown Roanoke.
The downtown was very pretty and a Saturday market was going on. Apparently it is one of the oldest continually operating markets, starting in the 1880s. We walked about and noticed a festival going on. It turns out that this was the weekend for Roanoke’s Gay Pride festival!
After a few laps around the festival we ended up walking through yet another street fair of sorts. After we had our fill of street walking (the wholesome kind) we headed back to the hotel. But first we made a stop at Wendy’s for lunch and frosties.
The weather forecast was predicting crazy storms the next afternoon. All of the good views ahead of me would be ruined by the rain. After some deliberation, my parents decided to stay one more day and my dad and I would do a shorter hike the next day before the storm hit. After some naps we ventured to downtown Salem for some dinner.
Day’s Mileage: 0
Total Miles Hiked: 696.9
Remaining Miles: 1,502.8
After another good breakfast at the hotel, we drove off to where I had left the trail three days prior. My dad and I set off, me slackpacking with only a drawstring bag and my dad with a backpack full of food and water. Slackpacking is basically when you go hiking without a pack and with as little gear as possible, and at the end of the day you return to the comforts of modern society.
We set off for what I thought would be a steep, uphill climb. It turned out pretty nice. The storms in the distance seemed to remain stuck behind the surrounding mountains. On top of the ridge we continued along an old grassy roadbed. We ran into fellow thru-hiker, Josh, aka Donkey Kong, who had gotten over his previous illness. Another hiker, Eagle, wasn’t far behind. We also met Moving, who I hadn’t met before. I understand why he got his trail name; I doubt I’ll see him again at the pace he was moving.
Along the ridge we passed a memorial to Audie Leon Murphy, the most decorated World War II vet. He died in a plane crash in these very mountains (not during wartime).
Eventually we descended down into the valley where my mom picked us up. My nero day hike has pushed me past the 700-mile mark! (A nero day means nearly zero miles) I know my dad was very happy to have hiked a section of the trail with me and with decent weather. It was a nice walk in the woods together.
We headed off to Catawba, VA, to have lunch at The Homeplace. It was a beautiful farmhouse converted into a restaurant. Lunch was an all you can eat affair of fried chicken, roast beef, green beans, biscuits and apple butter, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, etc. When in the South…
During lunch the storm began as a light but constant rain. By the time we were back at the hotel it was a downpour and lasted the rest of the evening. After much needed naps we had an amazing farewell dinner at Outback Steakhouse. I was thankful I stayed an extra day with my parents and missed the rain storm. But I was ready to get back on the trail; I was starting to get spoiled by all these creature comforts.
Day’s Mileage: 7.5
Total Miles Hiked: 704.4
Remaining Miles: 1,494.3
Daily Average: 15.0
They say Virginia is for lovers so I guess I “Came Here For Love.”