Day 70: Dragon’s Tooth

Audie Murphy monument to a mile past VA 624. 13 miles.

Today was hard, no two ways about it. The first part of the day, I thought I was just going to write a post about PUDs. A PUD is a Pointless Up and Down. Places where the trail climbs some little hill, with no view or other significance, then goes right back down, when clearly it could have just gone around. AT hikers are used to PUDs by now, it’s kind of the trail’s trademark.

That was on the way up and around to The Dragon’s Tooth. All told, for something with that name, the trip getting there could have been a lot worse. The Tooth itself is a giant stone sticking up at a 45 degree angle. I guess if you’re going to have a trail that hits all the major peaks in the Appalachians, it would have to hit that one. Fair enough.

What I really wasn’t counting on though was the trip down. It was by far the hardest descent on the trail so far. There were a couple of spots with ladder rungs sunk into the rocks, and a bunch more I wish had had them. It was a serious challenge getting down in one piece carrying 30lbs on my back! On top of the climb itself, it was a hot sunny day, and I ran out of water not far into the descent. I knew there wasn’t water for a while, but I hadn’t counted on the down being nearly as strenuous as the up.

But I did eventually make it down, and just before the road crossing at the end, I found trail magic: some not ice cold, but colder than the air, Budweiser. In fact I got the last one. It was the best Budweiser I ever had. Also at that road, I knew from the guide that there was a little convenience store just around the bend. I got a gatorade, a cheeseburger, an ice cream sandwich which I ate there, and some other snacks to go. I also ran into the gang on their way back from their restaurant excursion, which I’m still glad I skipped. I left half an hour behind them this morning, and must have been at least 1.5 hours slower to have met them when I did. And I don’t think trying to do today any faster would have been wise.

I also told them I was thinking about getting a shuttle to Daleville for the night and maybe hiking backwards to here in the morning (still a two day trip). But really, just seeing them lifted my spirits enough that I probably wasn’t going to do that. Almost as much as the cheeseburger and ice cream. I hiked back to the trail and found em at a great campsite next to a stream that’s not listed in the guide at all except as “footbridge” without even showing that there’s water. Sometimes the guide is full of fail.

Tomorrow we climb up McAfee knob, which is one of the most photographed points on the trail. It’s what they always use for book covers, post cards, etc. unless they use the sign on top of Katahdin instead. I will make sure to get the iconic picture of me sitting on the outcropping, weather permitting.

Then after that, I really hope the rest of the way to Daleville on Tuesday is free of rocks. I’ve had my fill for a while.

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