We had a good night in the Wal-Mart Parking lot! Other than the parking lot “zamboni” doing an exquisite job cleaning the parking lot, making several passes near my RV (I did have the windows open, that was likely why I heard it) around 2am and my fridge losing the flame and alarming at the exact same time as the zamboni’s first pass, I slept great! (I am quite glad that both “wake me up” events happened at exactly the same time!"). Even though I wasn’t cold, I did close the windows after the zamboni showed up to cut down on the noise.
As predicted, we woke up to rain. It was still warm, high 50s, but getting colder faster. Since it was a yucky morning and we really didn’t have any place to be, Dad made oatmeal and we had a leisurely breakfast before heading to Grindstone Campground. It was only about 20 miles and the road was very scenic.
There is a spot about 3-4 miles from the campground where the AT crosses the road we were on. I wasn’t sure if it was the AT or not, but I thought I saw a White Blaze on the other side of the road. There was a large parking lot and a sign. There was a guy standing by the sign. He had his hammock hung between the posts of the bulletin board and looked “settled”. I was wondering if he was a thru hiker looking to get a ride. He saw me and I waved, he waved back, but it was more of a “hey!” than “come pick me up”, so I kept moving. I was also past the point of being able to turn into the parking area by the time I thought the whole situation through. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would be hanging out at a trailhead parking lot on a day like today (by now it was in the 40s and raining), but “Hike Your Own Hike". I figured that if he was really desperate for a ride he would have waved his arms to get my attention or moved closer to the road or whatever, I’m sure he heard my Dad’s RV coming – it’s very loud you can hear it from miles away!
We arrived at the campground a little before 11. We are the season’s first guests! I think we are tonight’s only guest. There are a lot of camp hosts, but no other campers. We got parked up and headed out to Abingdon.
There’s not much to do around here on a rainy day so we decided to check out both Damascus & Abingdon. It took about an hour to drive out there and we started with lunch at Wild Flour Bakery and Cafe! Our veggie wrap & butternut squash/potato soup was yummy! I thought it was funny that it was snowing outside and one of their soups of the day was gazpacho! We don’t have cell phone signal at the campground so we both spent lunch checking different things online and texting with Mom.
After lunch we checked out several stores in Abingdon – two outfitters, a yarn store, a fabric store, and our favorite, The Abingdon Olive Oil Company. The olive oil store had several varieties of basic olive oil as well as infused oil and fused oil, and every flavor imaginable of balsamic vinegar. We were given the grand tour of the store and then armed with spoons to sample whatever we liked! I was a big fan of the dark chocolate balsamic, the strawberry balsamic, the lavender balsamic and the garlic infused oil. Dad bought some olive oil and some basic balsamic and some strawberry balsamic. I opted not to get any just now, although you can order it and have it shipped!
All day it was rainy, sleety, and snowing. The snow wasn’t sticking, but it was coming down hard and heavy. My Weather Channel app said that the snow would stop at 3:30…and sure enough at 3:30 on the nose we saw blue sky start to appear! By the time we headed back to the campground the precipitation had mostly stopped and the temp was dropping further.
On our way back to the campground we stopped in Damascus at the Mount Rogers Outfitter. It was a Thru Hiker Party! I was surprised as it seemed a bit early for hikers, but there were lots of hikers! They were all looking for rooms at the hostels in town and not having much luck. It was fun listening to the discussion, but it was kinda like crashing a party. As I was paying for my map & sticker I said something about surprised I was by how many hikers there were and how I’d thought about spending the day sitting a trail crossing waiting for hikers since the weather was so bad, but I’d figured there wouldn’t be many hikers yet. Dad started telling about the guy we saw on the the way to the campground. There was a guy standing by the counter who said “THAT WAS ME!!! I stood there for hours waiting for a ride!” OH NO! I should have turned around! (No, I don’t normally pick up strange men, but at an AT road crossing on a rainy day, I would pick up anyone with a backpack!). I apologized and told him my side of the story, why I didn’t get him – he seemed to understand. He said his girl friend had been in the sleeping bag staying warm. I told him that if when he waved at me he’d jumped around, acted like he needed help, I would have turned around. He definitely remembered us, described both vehicles! I felt so bad about not at least stopping to ask if he needed a ride! But then again I’m kinda glad – there were two of them, I have only one seat in the van so some smelly thru hiker would have had to ride in my bed! LOL! Also, it’s his choice to be out here hiking, he knew what he was getting into!
After our visit to Mount Rogers Outfitter we headed back to the campground. As we went up the mountain there was more and more snow stuck to the rhododendron. The temp was also quickly falling into the 20s. When we got back to the campground we found a winter wonderland! Snow was stuck in all the trees and bushes! Our RVs also had a light sprinkling of snow! The steps for Dad’s RV had gotten coated with ice and my sliding door was frozen stuck.
We got a quick dinner of salad with our new oils and balsamics and some soup I’d brought, and then we went for a quick walk around the campground before it got dark to take the trash out, get in some steps, and enjoy the snow! :-)
It’s going to be a cold night, but it’s going to be a chance to test some of my “how to stay warm” ideas!