We didn't sleep well during the night (sore everything and noisy campers), so despite wanting to get on the trail at 7, we left at 9...most of our posts seem to start this way.
Kansas, who saw Tyler trying to use the tent poles to take down the wrapped up paracord, offered them half of his 50' paracord since he said it always got in the way anyway. Whether or not that was true, it was a kind and generous offer. It's a nice cord, and we would know since we've gone through four so far.
We leap frogged with Monty a few times in the morning. When we stopped for lunch (9 miles in at Matt's Creek Shelter) we saw a pretty large snake, that we think was a copperhead. C'mon seven people that read this, what is it?!
We ate lunch with Monty and met Captain No Beard (now sporting a bright red Mohawk and a goatee after he said his girlfriend could do whatever she wanted with his shaggy hair). We hiked another two miles to an incredibly long foot bridge across the James River foot bridge. The longest footbridge on the AT. It was dedicated to Bill Foot in 2000. Before the trail went across a traffic filled bridge. The James River is indeed wide and the bridge is indeed long.
After the bridge, a woman was handing out her last two beers to Monty and Tripod as we arrived, but she offered us apples. And with eleven miles done and twelve to go, we preferred the apples (though Monty did give Tyler a sip of his beer). Monty, the impeccable gentleman, offered to take our trash, as he was heading into Glasgow to grab pizza and stay at a hostel.
There wasn't going to be water available for several miles on the last leg of our day. So we headed on with about three liters of water that would hopefully get us to Punchbowl where we plan to end our day. We had heard the day before that it was supposed to rain in the afternoon, which was the only other water possible in our future.
The rest of the day was alternating between flat and uphill from about 800 feet to 4000 feet at Bluff Mountain. Captain No Beard also said the road we wanted to head to Buena Vista from was gravel and would be hard to hitch from (this turned out to be a mistake as it was paved, but the hitch may still have been hard) so we needed to get a shuttle. With AT&T this is often hard.
*The bridge we crossed is in the middle of this photo
We started the climb. We ran into at least a dozen day hikers coming down which, hopefully not too offensively, gives us hope that the trail will not be horrible. The uphill for the first two peaks turned out to be fairly wide, though steep (these were some persevering day hikers). Before the third peak, we descended into what can only be described as Fern Gully. Broad leaved plants up to our chest lined the trail for a few miles. And we saw no one for the rest of the day. As with many times on the trail, sometimes we get a strange feeling that perhaps we had died and entered a strange hiking purgatory.
That feeling ended when we tried to call for shuttles. We wanted to get one for 6:30 when we thought we would hit the parking lot at mile 798. (The original prediction at 9:00 AM was 7, we are getting good at that). The first shuttle wasn't picking up past 4, the second was currently in Shenendoah, but he gave us a number for someone who lived in Glasgow.
Finally, we got to Bluff Mountain, only the most minor specks of rain, that after no shuttle and twenty miles, was still demoralizing. We got in touch with Bob from Stanimals Hostel. He met us at the parking lot at 6:40 (we lost a little time trying to call shuttles). One hiker, Crayola, asked to split a room with us, but we had to, for the first time, decline because we were pretty socialized out and needed a night to ourselves.
Bob gave us a ride over to Buena Vista and told us about the hostel he works at, some of his life philosophy, and his bushwacking experience. The ride took 35 miles, though the guide said it would only be 6. Turns out Bob took us on a very round about route to Buena Vista.
We heard horrible things about the Budget Inn so we headed to the Buena Vista Motel. We checked in (thru hiker discount) and ordered some delivery Italian with the manager. Then we hit the room, got cleaned up, tried to watch a movie over the spotty wifi, got frustrated, and well, after 23 miles sleep called to us.