Miles Today: 19.4 + (0.4 of shelter side trails)

Mile Marker: 842.8 Reid’s Gap

This morning I woke up without a plan and started hiking.  Shortly into the day I bumped into Dingo and Hitch who reminded me there is a brewpub off of the trail.  They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  They also let hikers camp in the yard and shuttle you back to the trail in the morning.  New goal acquired.

I hiked most of the day off and on with the group I camped with last night.  They have nicknamed themselves Black Hole because people start hiking with them and end up never leaving.  Apparently the full group is actually about ten people, but half of them are off trail at Trail Days in Damascus.  Early in the day we got to the Priest shelter, which was hilarious.  Everyone uses the shelter log to confess their trail sins.  I confessed to stealth camping in an area where I knew it was prohibited to have a shorter hike into Daleville.  We got to the river around lunch and soaked our feet and lamented over the climb we were facing.  A day hiker told us it is one of the hardest rated sections in Virginia.  Not the best obstacle to be facing when you are considering hiking over nineteen miles.  I made it almost all the way to the top just as the rain clouds were rolling in and thunder was rumbling in the distance.  Being at the top of the tallest point for miles in a thunderstorm is a terrible place to be.  I booked it across the top and through the fog to get down the back side.  Thankfully we only encountered some light rain and no lightening.

We all rested at the shelter on the back of Three Ridges mountain.  The group decided to call it a day, but I had warm dinner and breakfast in my sites.  I made it to the road at 7:30, but no one was interested in picking me up in the rain.  I decided I would wait until 8:00 before calling it quits.  At 7:59 John pulled in and gave me a ride.  He wasn't actually going all the way down to the brewery, but helped me out anyway.  Turns out he grew up in the HEB area in Texas.  When we pulled into the brewpub I was floored by how massive it was.  This is not the usual hiker fare.  There was a massive stage, three outdoor seating sections, a main restaurant, and a small breakfast restaurant.  They were also in the process of building a massive new building.  I have no idea why this place considers catering to hikers.  When I first showed up a manager grabbed me and gave me the tour.  I felt like a zoo animal on display as he was showing me around through all the normal people while my massive pack swung around and my ripe smell wafted through the air.  So very bizarre.