We wanted to make more than twenty miles today to reduce our hike into Waynesboro tomorrow. The terrain wasn't exactly cooperating, and we are still looking for the flat part of Virginia that we heard so much about. Sure, the elevation is lower, but the treadway, ups and downs, and grade aren't flat by any stretch of the imagination. Today, the hike up and over The Priest and over part of the Three Ridges didn't flatten anything out.
We got going from our quiet campsite at around nine. The couple miles up to Spy Rock were a good warm up. We chose not to go to the overlook since we were feeling the groove. We also found out later that at the Priest Shelter you were supposed to confess sins in the trail register log book, but we I guess we will remain unabsolved since we didn't stop at the shelter either.
We stumbled down the steep, horrible, knee crunching, ankle shaking, foot pounding, rock sliding miles to the aptly named Cripple Creek. It was not the sweatiest descent, but it was slow going and really tested our joints. Tyler immediately took off his boots at Cripple Creek and soaked his feet in the icy water. It was so cold it have him a brain freeze. We stopped at Cripple Creek for lunch and Chopper, Savior, and Bagheera soon arrived as well. We talked about the upcoming brew pub, that we would be missing in order to keep to our schedule. We also met Easy who was now hiking with the three of them.
We continued on, pretty set on water since we were soon approaching the tough uphill of Three Ridges and a seven mile stretch with no water. A bit more downhill, and we crossed a road where two section hikers were ending their hike. They warned us that the upcoming hike was a Bear. We tried to shake off the threat as section hiker silliness. But they were right.
The first thousand feet was steep at times, but mostly just packed dirt so we hiked it quickly. We saw Chopper come flying over the first uphill before we headed up. He shared his triple crown tattoo with us. A giant crown with Three "jewels" for images from future thrus. Currently, of course, only the PCT jewel was filled. We headed up.
Quickly, the uphill here distinguished itself. It felt more like the White Mountains or climbing to a hidden temple in a scene from Indiana Jones. Boulders, loose rocks, gravel, dry stream crossings with worn boulders that we had to hop across with our tired joints. It tested our mental and physical endurance for sure, and our patience. Our speed, which has been 2.5 mph or greater for weeks, dropped to maybe 1.5 mph which also tried our patience since we would lose all our light to push our 23 mile day. At the end of the ridge we would be at around 20 miles. Still, make it over we did, commiserating with a few hikers. No one passed us on the way up, so we weren't the only ones who dropped speed drastically. We didn't make it to mile 19.3, at Maupin Field Shelter, until 7. We decided we had to stop. We couldn't even call an audible to go the extra mile and a half to Devils Backbone. We were toast, burnt and crumbly toast.
The tenting area was beautiful and extensive. They even had bear hanging hooks which is always a weird, challenging game. At the shelter itself, we met Bambi (the other Bambi we had been hearing about, who is an illustrator and a big fan of Chris van Allsburg). We also met a family of section hikers, Sadie, Bill, Ricki, and Lily. They had a year and a half old black lab puppy, Chase, that reinstill some energy in us after petting him.
It was frustrating to miss another goal but we weren't dispirited. Tomorrow is a new day. And despite missing our mileage goals, we were going to make the final 20.8 miles to Waynesboro tomorrow no matter what.