Beast and I intended to use the local transportation service in Marion to get a ride from the motel to the to the town center, and then try and hitch a ride to the trailhead I left off at. We discovered, however, that the transit service doesn't start running until 10 am this time of year, and so set off walking to town and attempting to hitchhike on the way, before I had the brilliant idea to call a taxi and have them drive us to the trailhead.
Half an hour later, we were at the trailhead, and we got started. Rather, I got started, while Beast collected himself. It was a bit of a mental trip for him: he had been off-trail for two and a half days, had trouble sleeping the previous two nights (as did I a little bit — I was restless from not actually doing much all day), and was now past the point on the trail where he had gotten off last year when his foot broke. Also, he was now breaking in a new pack that was slightly smaller than his old one. (His "70 liter" large pack was actually 73 liters, so packing his actually 70 liter medium pack forced a different weight distribution.)
The morning's trail was largely unremarkable (to me; Beast describes this part of the trail as largely representative of most of the trail in Virginia). About four miles brought me to the very nice Partnership Shelter, which has a loft area and a solar-powered heated shower. On the shelter's picnic table, there was some trail magic, in the form of a box of soda cans and saltine crackers.
On our way to the Chatfield Shelter, we got (very) briefly rained on, and put on our pack covers. This, of course, was sufficient to stop the rain.
At Chatfield, we were witness to an unfortunate incident. At the small creek in front of the shelter, which the trail crosses, a woman slipped and fell on the rocks crossing the creek. Seeing her lying there, unable to get up, the six of us at the shelter rushed to her aid, and Beast and another hiker pulled her up by her pack.
When she fell, she fell on her arm, crushing it between her (and her pack) and the rocks she landed on, and she was unable to move her hand. She was in shock, alternating between laughing and crying, so we helped her up to and on the shelter's picnic table so she could lie down. (This was easier than getting her into the shelter.)
As she slowly came out of shock, a hiker who had taken a trail medic course helped inspect her wrist, and applied a cold compress to help keep it immobilized. It was unclear whether it was badly sprained or actually broken.
I quickly determined that we were very close to a USFS access road, so it was clear it would be (relatively) easy to get her off the trail should the need arise, and Beast confirmed he had a working cell signal so that a call could be made if necessary.
With really nothing else we could do, Beast and I waited for her hiking partner, who was an actual medical doctor, to arrive, and since he had cell signal, we concluded we had done all we could and continued on our hike.
Two more miles brought us to the Lindamood School Settlers Museum. We were tempted by the trail magic in the schoolhouse, but with rain threatening, we elected to pass it up and continue on. For good measure, I took a look inside. Following the instructions on the door, I closed it securely, pulling the doorknob off the door. (Fortunately, it went back on easily, an unsuspecting trap for the next hiker.)
A few more miles of a lazy, wandering trail through grass and a boardwalk brought us to the outskirts of Atkins, VA, and we ate dinner at "The Barn". (I had a 1 lb burger, and also got peach cobbler with ice cream.)
Our original plan for the day had us going another 3.5 miles beyond the 15 we had already done, but faced with the prospect of tenting during the rain (and also, Beast was exhausted), I suggested we stay at the Relax Inn a short walk away from the restaurant. Beast was elated I made the suggestion (he was hoping I would suggest it before he did).
At the Inn, we ran into Sassy again, and wound up going to the Mexican restaurant attached to the gas station nearby. (I ordered a fried ice cream. I so rarely order desserts; apparently I have a sweet tooth today.)
The Relax Inn is by far the worst motel I've stayed in so far. It has a tiny room, exposed water pipes, and it's unclear if the shower was actually cleaned before we arrived. It's overpriced for what we're getting, compared to the Budget Inns I stayed at in Hiawassee and Franklin.
Tomorrow: 15 or 20 miles to a shelter or campsite, depending on whether Beast actually gets a good night sleep tonight, and whether he succumbs to the temptation of a winery tour tomorrow morning.