Last night I went to bed so early that I woke up at 4:15 this morning, but I easily fell back asleep. 5:30 rolled around and it was time to get up. We drove 45 minutes to get to the gap and on the way we almost hit a doe and two fawns, two more deer, and 3 rabbits; wildlife was really out this morning on the Skyline and I think the PT needs new brakes now. Off I went at 6:45 to start my 24 mile day...uphill. Not even 10 minutes later I crossed the skyline again and continued uphill. I got to black rock and had a great view, luckily the rocks didn't last long. I hiked again with no knee braces to help my sores heal my knees felt so naked, free, and cool! It's amazing how much heat and sweat is generated...that and gross. I am able to do a little shuffle jog on the trail which is nice, gets me to make great time. Today's terrain was nice dirt paths again, but there were a lot more higher ups and downs. I was making great time again today, so this is what Alpine feels like daily! I sat on a stone overlook and ate my lunch I probably should have stayed longer but I kinda like trying to beat the clock. I headed up another uphill, and sat at the top (no view, thank you Virginia) on a small rock and ate some Cheetos and drank some Gatorade. A doe and fawn ran off and below is an overexposed shot of the doe's bushy white tail behind. I put my knee braces on for the long downhill and instantly felt them sliding around from sweat. I got to an overview, and sat on a boulder to take my braces off and eat a cosmic brownie. No thanks to Greg, I had to buy my own! (Well not really Papa bought them, but still!) I strapped those bad boys back on my knees and went down the rest of the way to Powell Gap. I had hit my 3:30 workday wall at 2:00 and was feeling tired and uncomfortable. I knew when I reached Powell I would have 4.9 miles to go. I didn't have much of cell service all day but out of Powell Gap I got a text from Nana saying we got a new campground for tomorrow further North for 4 more nights-woohoo! I instantly sent her my excited face pictured in black and white below. My natural 5 hour energy kicked in my body somewhere and I was now ready for these next 4.9 miles. I put on some Pandora (Felix would like my station of choice) and adrenaline flowed through me. I ran the trail. I would be hitting 900 miles today AND completing 24 of those today alone. Slackpacking has sure been quite the ego boost lately. I made it to the hut (Shenandoah calls shelters huts and shelters are just for the daytime use) in reasonable time and it was .1 off the trail so I decided to see who was down there. I walked down to find a couple who were hiking south for a section, and a thruhiker who was hiking with his mom who came to visit. The couple had said how they have seen so many bears in the park already, I had said how I hadn't seen any in the park yet (which I forgot about the one I saw the other day.) I talked with them for a bit and then decided to push on the .1 to the 900 mark. It was nothing special but it got the job done. The photos are kind of hard to tell but one is scratched on a rock which was pretty cool in person, and the other was written out in rocks. There was no one around so I had to take yet another selfie, where are all of my fellow thruhikers at?! It's odd not seeing anyone throughout the day, I see day hikers or section but no thru. I knew that I only had 2 miles left to the pickup spot, almost all downhill though. Not even 10 minutes later I saw a bear in the woods to the left of me, he hadn't seen me yet and this was my opportunity for a photo. I reached around to the back of my pack to get my phone and when I went to get to the camera it ran off. Damn! I got to an overview and saw a little white car pull into a lookout parking area down below, it looked just like the PT. It was only 3:30 and I had given them an ETA of 5:00; I haven't had much for service all day so I hope that was them! I headed downhill with no knee braces and tired knees, the terrain wasn't bad but it was all down. I hit a few rocky sections that I prayed wouldn't last until the end, luckily they didn't. I emerged from the woods to the pavement with my hands up in the air and saw the PT across the street parked. I met Nana and Papa outside and though my body and muscles were sore, my mind felt like a million bucks. I had just walked 24 miles by 4:15pm! This slackpacking is really giving me a big ego boost to feel like Wonderwoman it's amazing. I got in the car and Papa said there was some restaurants further North up the Skyline about 15 miles so we decided to check them out for dinner. I wish I knew then what I know now; 15 miles took awhile to travel even in a moving vehicle, and we were moving further away from the campground. We finally got to a small gas station, then restrooms, and a campground, and a sign for restaurants. We followed the road and came to a lodge with a restaurant; however they didn't open until 5:30, it was only 4:45. We decided to go back down to where the gas station was since there was supposed to be a diner somewhere. While down there we didn't see anything and decided to just go back to the lodge and wait since it seemed like a nice place. I went in the gift shop and got some presents and a Shenandoah map for Papa. After, I joined Nana in the lodge where they had big picture windows and rocking chairs. I felt like we were in the looney bin all sitting in a line of chairs, rocking, looking out the window to a view of trees. The view would be gorgeous had there not been trees in the way. Once the restaurant opened, we all went into the dining room and I ordered a whole wheat pene with Virginia ham, snow peas, snap peas, tomato, mushroom, and parmesan cheese. It was light with flavor but it wasn't bad, I had been so hungry and after waiting so long I was past the point and growing very tired. We left and got in the car around 6:30 and wouldn't be home at the campground until 8:00, my bedtime. I still had to shower and prep my stuff for the morning, not to mention figure out my mileage for tomorrow with Papa. I tried to sleep in the car but the Skyline is a curvy mountain scenic road and Papa slammed on his brakes every 10 minutes for some kind of animal. We even saw a bear up on the rock on the side of the road to the right. We got back to the campground and I quickly made my sandwich, got my snacks and water, and took a shower. It was after 9:00 so I poured a small glass of wine, got into bed, and looked at my map. I needed Papa to look on his computer to see if where I pick he can get to me easily. Tomorrow we are headed to the new campground so he can't get me before 5:00 since it will take an hour to drop me off, an hour to get back, time to prepare the motorhome for the road, driving time to the new place, unloading and setting up, and an hour to get me. A long day for the both of us. Seems like 26.2 miles is the plan since my other option is 19.9 and I did that the other day and was done by like 2:00. I wasn't too thrilled with starting later tomorrow, going to bed at 10:00pm, and walking 26 miles-the most I would have done so far. I closed my eyes and tried to go to sleep as quick as I could.
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