The White Walkers

Freezeland Rd to CCC Road

April 6, 2016 (10 miles, 5.5 hours) elevation gain: 2,300 feet

Cold MichaelThis was another cold morning that started with frost on the windshield. It took 2 ½ hours to shuttle our cars and drive to our starting point on Freezeland Road. Hiking southbound the woods looked as cold as we were. We saw very few wildflowers at the higher elevation, but as we descended we started to see leaves on a few dogwood and red bud trees.

Midway on our hike the trail broke out of the woods into a high upward sloping grassy pasture. I was thinking about taking a short nap in the warm sun, but we needed to move on. About a third of the way across the meadow, a hiker with two white dogs came into view. Like a bolt, the 2 canines ran down the hill toward us yapping and wagging their tails. He yelled not to worry that the dogs were very friendly, and they were.

His companions were two magnificent husky/wolf 2-year-olds with shining white coats and vivid sky blue eyes. Their tale (pun intended) was the best story we encountered so far.

White Walkers w Jane
The White Walkers started their northbound journey in December.

The trio began their journey in December hiking Northbound from Georgia. Can you imagine tromping through the Smokies and Shenandoah during the tremendous snowstorms this winter?

I asked his trail name, and while waving his arms over his two canine companions, he revealed that they were the White Walkers. We’re from the North Country in Massachusetts, he said, and fans of the Game of Throne program.

He talked about the difficulty of wading through snowdrifts. He also mentioned that there are 10 other northbound thru hikers ahead of him. We were astonished to learn that people were venturing on the trail during the difficult winter months. White Traveler also said that it was getting so much warmer, that the heat was getting hard for his cold-loving dogs. He even removed the packs they were carrying to make the dogs more comfortable.

Jane on bench
One of several inviting benches on this section of the trail.

This section had a couple of nice benches that provided a nice respite and also has one of the nicest shelters. The Denton shelter is called the Hilton of the AT and includes a number of amenities such as a camp shower, eating pavilion, and horseshoe pitch. What more could you want? Even with these comforts, we’ll stick to our plan of staying at hotels and B&B’s during our journey.

2016-04-06 02.31.00
The Denton shelter is known as as the AT Hilton.

 

We took a short break at the Denton Shelter and glanced through the shelter log. Jane added a few comments in the book, just below White Walker’s entry. It indicates their start on December 13th, northbound Georgia to Maine.

Shelter log crop
Shelter journal entries by the White Walkers and Jane.

We completed our walk at 3:30, taking about 5 ½ hours for the 10-mile trek. Surprisingly, we never took off our coats. Except for a few very short areas when we worked up a sweat, the temperature was crisp enough to warrant an outer layer.

This section has an elevation gain of 2,300 feet. Needless to say we were much more tired than a previous 10-mile jaunt with an elevation gain of just 1,200. I think we’ll pay more attention to that statistic and try to keep our sections to 2,000 elevation gain or less.

As we were driving on VA Route 522 back to our original starting point on Freezeland Road, we stopped at the end of a long line of cars pausing for a school bus up ahead. No sooner did we come to a halt than a vehicle rammed into us from behind! We dutifully pulled over to the side of the road and I got out to check out the damage. Even though the collision wasn’t great, I immediately felt a twitch in my back. I had a slight spasm as I got out of the car to check out the damage.

The other driver walked over to where I was standing. “How are you doing today”, he asked. I thought it an odd greeting considering he just rammed into my car. “Not good,” I simply replied. We both looked down on the rear bumper. “It doesn’t look like there’s any damage,” he said. I looked at him incredulously as I pointed to his front license plate embedded in my rear bumper. I then asked him to step away from me and he complied.

I went back into my car to check on Jane. She said she was uninjured and she got on the phone to call our insurance company. I exited our car again, with my camera, and took 3 photos of the scene.

License
Virginia license plate embedded in out bumper.

I asked the other driver for his license and insurance information. He said he had neither. His license was revoked and he didn’t have insurance.

Meanwhile, a Good Samaritan, driving from the opposite direction witnessed the incident and stopped to check it out. It turned out he is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). He asked if we were hurt or needed assistance. I was unsure of my back. I felt a tightness and muscle spasms. The EMT called the dispatcher to report the incident. He said that an ambulance was on the way and they would check me out. As we were talking, the other driver jumped in his bright yellow Ford SUV and fled the scene!

When the police arrived at the scene a few minutes later, they asked if I had a description of the car and license number. It was a bit hilarious when I pointed to plate implanted in my car. In the “isn’t it a small world” category of events, the EMT knew where the perpetrator lived. I was told that the police picked him up and charged him with DUI, driving without a license, and fleeing the scene.

The EMT crew from the ambulance asked how I was. I felt some pain and muscle spasms, but I didn’t think it was serious. At first, I declined to go to the hospital, but on second thought, I decided to have it checked out. I eventually was taken to the Front Royal hospital in an ambulance, while Jane followed in our car. Fortunately there wasn’t any apparent damage and I was quickly released.

We’ll be back to Front Royal at some point to testify at the court hearing. It’s another unexpected experience of Americana that we encountered along our AT adventures. This will go down as one of our most memorable days.

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