I am sitting here at Jenkins Shelter with three friends from Bluefield. We are out on a day hike from Burkes Garden to Laurel Creek in Bastian. With me are Dale Vance, Dan Trent, and Peter Romano. This is Peter’s first time hiking on the Appalachian Trail and he is having a blast. Today’s hike is about 9.6 miles and it will be the third time I have hiked this section. The last time was probably over 15 years ago. We are eating lunch at the shelter and when I opened my pack to get my tuna fish sandwich I found a bunch of rocks in my pack. Boy was I mad! I had been hiking the last 5 miles with 15 pounds of rocks. Of course Dan, Dale, and Peter were laughing their heads off wondering when I would notice the extra pack weight. To say the least, I did not think it was funny and hardly talked with them rest of the day. In fact, I just ate quickly and headed back to the trail. That just ruined my day.
Well I am really just joking about not talking to them and being mad but Dan did put rocks in my pack. I will get him back one day when he least expects it. Ha!
We have seen lots of wildflowers today and the mountain laurel in the lower elevations are in full bloom. I love their pink umbrella shaped blooms. It reminds me of the time when I hiked at Bear Mountain State Park in New York walking on a carpet of these fallen flowers. There were a few rhododendron plants blooming and the wild azaleas were in full bloom with blossoms from bright yellow to dark red. We have not seen a lot of wildlife, just a few frogs on the trail. The birds are singing like crazy as I sit here at the shelter. I hear them along with the crumpling of plastic and gravel crunched under hiking boots. It is a beautiful day out with temperatures in the 70’s and partly sunny skies.
Our hike is finished. It is 4:30 and we started at 10:30 this morning. We had a great refreshing time in the woods. I am now sitting on a rocky shoal at Laurel Creek. There is a little falls here that the AT footbridge crosses. When I arrived I dipped my hat in the water and placed it on my head letting the cool water drip down my neck and face. Ahhh, that feels good. The sound of stream is tantalizing, mesmerizing, and healing. There is nothing like a cool mountain stream to finish the day at. Dan is sitting on a small island of rock surrounded by flowing crystal clear water. His legs are hanging over the falls and he has a big smile on his face. During our hike Dale told us some great funny stories. He always makes us laugh and helps us get up those steep mountains. I haven’t hiked with him in over 16 years. At that time he told us Margaret was pregnant and they were starting another family. They already had two children who were almost finished with high school. He said the kids were each 18 years apart. Caitlin is now 16 and Andrew 14.
I love hiking the Appalachian Trial and you can’t beat good friendship and Dale and Dan have been gems for me.