Mile 528.9 - 543.9 (15 miles)
I catch the pink sunrise through the trees, the birds are going nuts, deer are everywhere and it's the first morning in ages I can pack up in short sleeves. I realize this means I'm probably back to the ridiculously hot/muggy summer I'm going to hate soon enough but right now I love it.
It's a short walk past a ton of tents and the Mt Rogers shelter and visitor center. There's a bus to the town of Marion or a pretty easy hitch from the road but it's not even 7:30 and while I need to go town for food I make a last minute decision to head an extra 11 miles to the town of Atkins which is right on trail. Once there I can hitch back to Marion (bigger town with more stores) or stay and gas station resupply.
It's mellow miles of rhododendron tunnels and more open prairie country.
This was part of the Settlers Museum, a crazy cool museum and old school right on trail complete with a ton of trail magic inside. Mix history and fresh fruit and I'm one happy camper.
Pioneer history is one of my favorites, what a cool stop.
Some railroad tie art by some train tracks. The last bit to Atkins is beautiful hills, opening up to more farm country. Atkins is hot and exposed. An interstate and a highway, gas station restaurant and funky hotels. I decide Marion sounds better and after a while standing looking confused trying to figure out how to even get there.
I give it 20 minutes and at 15 a local takes me straight to the grocery store in Marion. Hot and overwhelmed I stumble into the grocery store finding Pie sitting right inside. We chat forever and finally resupply finding Funsize who has been traumatized by the local bus outside and somehow kill a few hours outside Walmart. Apparently the local bus does a 2 plus hour loop and a different bus takes you back to the trail, Funsize spent 2 hours driving in a circle never finding a laundromat or making it back to trail. Enough time on a bus to make anyone cranky.
Cucumbers make everything better, fresh veggies are a rarity out here.
Pie learns the art of ordering from Sonic.
The day is over before I know it and after some creative microwave cooking and cleaning up I'm exhausted. There are hikers everywhere I look and I'm looking forward to being out of this crowded town even if the AC and bed are amazing.
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