I have only been in Virginia for a grand total of 43 miles, but I have had more awesome times, met more amazing people, and have had more pure luck in the last week than I have had along the entire trail so far. Georgia, Tennessee, and especially North Carolina can take a hike; Virginia is the best!
When we were back in soggy NC, Icarus and I told each other tales of how amazing Virginia was going to be. In Virginia the weather was always going to be sunny, the mountains were more like hills, and there was trail magic at every gap and summit. Mostly we were just trying to trick ourselves into leaving the shelter and heading out into the rain. Our made up, exaggerated stories turned out to be more true than we could have imagined.
It started in Shady Valley, which is actually Tennessee, but it was a pre-Trail Days celebration so I'm counting it for Virginia. We came over the hill in a perfect, green, sunny field to find Riff Raff doing the best trail magic we have ever seen. We were greeted with a yell and cheer of "Hikers!" and fellow hikers immediately met us with chicken sandwiches hot off the grill and ice cold beer. Our plans of a big 20 mile day were immediately derailed as we hung out for 9 hours eating hot dogs and burgers and drinking beer while playing Polish Horshoes (my new favorite outdoor drinking game). The beginning of a sweet week.
Next up was actually getting into Virginia and into Trail Days. I wrote a little about Trail Days in the previous post so I'll just say that the festival was a perfect combination rest, hammocks, beer, free stuff, food, whiskey, old friends, new friends, sun, parades, water guns, fire, and general shenanigans. Thanks for the good times Damascus!
After leaving Damascus, which was not easy by the way, we were greeted with easy trails, nice riverside camps, great views, and constant trail magic.
A couple of nights later Icarus,Hulk, and I were about to stop for camp. Icarus and I went ahead to find a spot while Hulk stayed to filter water. A few minutes later Hulk walked up to camp carrying plastic bags filled with groceries. We were a little confused until we saw the Riff Raff guys coming up behind her with even more good stuff. Double trail magic from Riff Raff! Hot dogs, potatoes, marshmallows, and soda. We had an amazing time hanging out with Superman, Soul Flute, Delicate Magma, Hairy, Hollywood, and Orpheus.
Next on the tour of the wonderful state of Virginia was the Grayson Highlands. I can't explain or capture in pictures how amazing it is to hike in such a beautiful place. The weather was perfect, the terrain was super cool, and the ponies... the ponies!!
The last few days have been more easy trails and trail magic. Virginia is all I could have dreamed it to be. Although I still have 437 more miles to go in this state.
We hit 500 miles in the Grayson Highlands too! About a quarter way through the trail. I don't know what I thought it would be like to walk 500 miles, but it took that long to feel like I have accomplished something. It also took that long to feel like I know what I'm doing out here. I've gone through lots of ups and downs, both figuratively and literally, and it's been a hell of a ride.