Roanoke, VA

Smoked Gruyère omelets, cantaloupe, and coffee. Prepared by our host, consumed by us. Ray McDavitt, who once was a train engineer until a head injury causing derailment required he go to speech therapy. Which grew from basic theater based therapy into a new career as an actor. This December he will be going on his own adventure, to New Zealand. To complete 5 famous hikes.

A nearly straight shot out to the parkway. 12-15 miles. As we turn off of the 501, I can hear rain hitting the leaves on the ground. But it does not seem to be raining. At least not yet. Heavy fog is collecting in the trees and is then being blown off by the wind. It isn’t until we we pass 3000′ elevation that the real rain starts. It begins to drizzle. Rain jacket and rain cover weather. The temperature is 55 degrees and dropping. At 3500′ it starts pouring, and then at 3800′ it gets nasty. Sleet. Stinging sleet. It is too dim to wear my Oakleys so I am blinded by the ice specs pelting my face and eyes. Descending to lunch, frozen to the core. Half way done, half way to go.

Two plates of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, rolls, cabbage, dessert, and all of the hot tea I can drink.The Peaks of Otter Lodge. Dressed up fancy, but dishing out slop. Mashed potatoes from a dehydrated sack, mac&cheese out of a box, dessert from a mix. Low end cafeteria food in a place styling itself as a resort. Bad food is better than no food; take what you find and push on. And what we find is what we will get. I have finished off my last two KIND bars (Apircot Macadamia and Almond Cashew) and won’t be able to replenish for a couple of days. My next stash is waiting for me in Boone.

We prepare for weather like we had just escaped from. All of my Craft layers, base layers, leg and arm warmers, toe covers, hat, gloves, shoe covers. Embrocation on my legs and arms. My Rapha jacket over everything. I am prepared for a battle that no longer exists. The storm has broken and the sun is exposed. I am roasting, and am forced to stop and do a strip tease before I stew in my own juices.

The final 34 miles feel like a cake walk compared to the morning. Plenty of sustained climbs, but at a slighter grade and not for an hour at a time. The sun is out and we can, for the first time, see the terrain we are surrounded by. The visibility is still restricted at times, but at least there is some visibility. Red, green, and yellow flow from the valleys all the way to the ridge lines. A continuous carpet of fall. I can smell the sickly sweet scent of those that have dropped decomposing in the ditches on either side. Nutrients are returned, the soil is built. 4:30pm into Roanoke. A new early finish record.