Today started the first half of a long roadwalk in West Virginia, moving me ever further north.
I woke up a little before my 6 am alarm was to go off, and with a 15 mile day with a trip into town for resupply, I got up rather than sleeping just a little longer. Nukon was up before I was (“I only sleep four hours a night,” he told me last night). Pat appeared to be out cold, stretched out on the hard shelter floor using his sleeping pad as a pillow.
I was off from the shelter before eight to humid air and overcast skies. I should have realized the day wasn’t going to be the greatest when shortly after, I walked right under a wooden sign, not even seeing it until it was (literally) on top of me.
The trail continued through private land, which became increasingly rocky. This was punctuated by two or three short rock scrambles through boulder fields.
Then, the trail became overgrown. Old blazes were hard to see from a distance as plants had grown to obscure them. The trail itself was almost indistinct at times, and without the blazes (and taking the time to find the next one, if you could), you could very easily find yourself off-trail with little chance of getting back.
All the while, there was a perfectly usable (if a little rocky) dirt road just downhill that paralleled the trail. It would have been so much easier to hike on it, and I might have, were it not private property, and I was uncertain of when the trail would stop following the road (which it did, eventually).
Eventually, the trail joined an old road bed, for a short while at least, before sharply turning off-road immediately before a large camo tent. (I missed the double-blaze indicating the turn since I was distracted by the tent; fortunately, I didn’t go too far ahead before suspecting I was off-trail.)
Shortly after, I passed an old couch and a hunting blind just off-trail. This would not be a fun area to be in during hunting season, that’s for sure.
Then, the trail skirted alongside someone’s house. It was so overgrown that I couldn’t actually figure out where the trail was supposed to go, even if I was able to eventually find a next blaze. I may have wound up cutting across the edge of the property to get back onto the trail.
After 11, I finally made it to someplace nice, Barclays Run Shelter. I’d hiked the 6.3 mi from Pinnacle in 3.5 hours, which is 1.8 mph. I think this is the slowest stretch I’ve done by a wide margin on the Tuscarora. It was definitely the most frustrating. It may even have been one of the most frustrating sections of trail I’ve ever hiked.
Barclays Run Shelter, by far a much nicer shelter than deserved to be in such a place, had a nice treat: the shelter log has been at the shelter since the shelter was built, in 2011, and its first entries cover the actual building of the structure and its companion privy, the “Willy Makit”. The shelter also had a mouse wheel attached at the base of the wall on one side; I hoped it didn’t get much use.
The privy, cutesy name aside, was nicely built as well, with a Dutch door, and an attached mirror inside.
As is customary, the privy had a spider. This particular privy spider was not found to be perched on the wall; rather, its preferred space was under the toilet seat.
After an hour and a half break at the shelter (besides being tired, I was soaked with sweat, and needed to dry out, a lot!), I headed on, taking a short jaunt off the Tuscarora to the Gore Connector Trail, a short trail and roadwalk into Gore, VA.
After the tiring and frustrating stumble through rocks and overgrowth that was this morning’s trail, I was quite looking forward to the roadwalk. Roadwalks aren’t usually the greatest either, but at least you can (usually) go fast.
Half an hour from the shelter brought me to Gore’s convenience store, and I picked up a few sodas. ten minutes later, I was at the post office, though I had to wait a few minutes for it to re-open as it was closed for lunch.
Just before the post office, I passed a motel. I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought, but I saw a pizza delivery guy drop off a pizza, and I started thinking that it’d be nice to have a pizza and a shower. I asked at the post office if they’d heard anything good about the motel; they hadn’t, and suggested it would probably be better if I didn’t stay there.
Oh well. I’ll get my pizza and shower when I get to Hancock, MD in a few days.
The roadwalk continued, first along moderately busy US-50, and then on increasingly less-busy roads through rural western Virginia. There were occasional clouds, but they didn’t do much to stop the sun, and it was bright out the rest of the afternoon. Fortunately, it was not excessively hot or humid, though, which let make very good time on the roads. There were a few sections where the roads had smaller shoulders than I would have liked, but the traffic was low enough that it wasn’t generally a problem.
Early on, the scenery was more rural, passing by cow farms. Then there were some run-down areas, including the typical competition between unmaintained and falling apart homes over which can have more “private property, no tresspassing” signs. Late in the afternoon, the scenery was large houses with “private property” and “beware of dog” signs.
My destination for the day was Basore’s Ridge Shelter, planted on property owned by PATC, in just about the last place you’d think a trail club would own land or build a shelter. The trail actually used to continue beyond the shelter, but that section is currently closed due to issues with surrounding landowners, so the shelter and its piped spring sits a thousand feet off a random road in Virginia, a hiker oasis in the middle of a long roadwalk.
At 4:30, just before I reached the little parking lot that provides access to the shelter for hikers and PATC maintainers (and presumably, trailhead parking should the Tuscarora ever be re-re-routed back through the property), a truck pulled into the parking lot. “This should be interesting, I thought.”
“Are you Longstride?” the truck’s owner asked once I got there. This time, it was PATC Central Tuscarora Section Manager William Greenan. We’d also exchanged emails, and he guessed he might run into me — it was “about time” to check on the shelter’s spring and do some trimming around the parking area.
The shelter is supposed to have a piped spring, but it wasn’t flowing. It was unclear (to me) if this was because the spring was dry, or the pipe wasn’t working. But William offered me a ride to a nearby gas station to solve that problem. I quickly hiked to the shelter, and was there just long enough to drop my pack and head back to the parking area, where I found William in the middle of clearing brush with a weed trimmer.
We had a nice chat on the ride to the gas station and back (much longer than I’d have guessed; the shelter really is in the middle of nowhere), and he was familiar with some of the problem I’d identified. (One of the big problems is getting volunteer crews to come out; especially when the section in need of maintenance is miles of hiking on either end from roads, like the section this morning, it’s really hard to find people willing to do that.)
At the gas station, I picked up two gallons of water (one for me; one to leave for the next person who shows up and needs water), a large Gatorade, and a pack of wet-wipes, since I was feeling particularly gross.
Back at the shelter, now with plenty of water, I could better appreciate it. The shelter looked great, and there were several (very heavy) rudimentary chairs cut from logs. Also on the grounds was the “Panda Privy” (“PP”, on the front door), which had panda artwork inside.
As I cooked dinner, I checked the weather forecast. Rain is called for overnight, and tomorrow until afternoon. Meh. Without tree cover, roadwalks in the rain suck.
As the hour grew later, I could feel it getting more an more humid. Now after sunset, suddenly realizing I’d better brush my teeth before the rain actually started, turned on my headlamp to see roaches skittering across the floor.
I brushed my teeth, then came back and brushed a few roaches off my pack and moved it to somewhere it’d be less likely for them to get to it from.
Then I set up my tent in the shelter. Well after dark, and no sign anyone else would be showing up, I had no problem with this. (And in the exceedingly unlikely chance someone did show up, the other half of the shelter was fully open.) The tent seemed like a doubly wise decision when, while setting my tent up, a wasp fell from the ceiling and landed right on the middle of my tent, where I had previously been laying.
I hope tonight does not get any more exciting, I’m a little too tired to deal with much more of it.
That said, there is one milestone today’s hike passed: the “south half” of my loop is now completed; I’m now slightly further north than where I started in Harpers Ferry.