James River to Rockfish Gap Trip Report – Day One

Me and Mr Breeze

Day One – May 31
James River to Punchbowl Shelter – 10.5 miles

I call this the day from hell. We got started hiking at around 11:30, right in the heat of the day. First, I did not have a proper breakfast. Second, it was just really hot. Third, we started with a huge 3000 foot elevation gain. And fourth, I had 6 days of food which made my pack freaking heavy. I mean heavy. I bet it was close to 35 pounds. Maybe a little heavier since I needed to carry a little extra water. Anyways we set off. We took a short break at the Johns Hollow Shelter. I was already super hot which meant I did not eat enough. As the day went on I felt sicker and sicker. I was feeling extremely nauseous which isn’t a good thing. I was really hating Virginia at this point even if it was beautiful hiking. We managed to finally make it to the top of Bluff Mountain. The views were awesome. And this meant it was all downhill until the shelter. Yea for me.  We finally made it to the shelter and got the tarp set up. I managed to find enough energy to make us dinner which I ate all of 5 bites of. We stayed dry and survived the thunderstorm complete with lightening that night.

Punchbowl Shelter

Day 2 – June 1
Punchbowl Shelter to Brown Mountain Creek Shelter – 9.5 miles

Terrain wise this was the easiest day of the trip. There wasn’t a lot of elevation change so it was nice hiking. Well until the rain came. For those that don’t know, I am really blessed when it comes to hiking in the rain. If it rains when I am hiking it is usually just a light misting. Nothing that makes me look like a drowned rat. And 1 out of the 2 times that it has poured down it was my last day of the trip so I don’t have to deal with the wet nastiness. Well that changed today. About 30 minutes before I got to the shelter where we were going to take a lunch break the skies opened up. Yep, I looked like a drowned rat. Needless to say we decided to stay at that shelter for the day. We ended up sleeping in the shelter so we wouldn’t have to set up the tarp.

Around Cold Mountain

Day Three – June 2
Brown Mountain Creek Shelter to Seeley-Woodworth Shelter – 15.8 miles

I knew today was going to be a challenging day. First thing I had to put on cold soaking wet clothes. Let me tell you, nothing feels better than that. Second, the day was starting out with a 4.5 mile climb. And third, just the high mileage of the days hike. I am still new to hiking over 10 – 11 miles per day. But once the climb was over the terrain was  generally easier. Todays highlight was going over Cold Mountain. It was a long day but we finally made it to the shelter. Ended up staying in this shelter as well. I was too exhausted to deal with setting anything up.


On top of Spy Rock

Day Four – June 3
Seeley Woodworth Shelter – Harpers Creek Shelter – 14.2 miles

Today is another longish day but at least the weather was nice. Today’s highlights are  Spy Rock and the Priest. Spy Rock was beautiful. I definitely had to get out of my comfort zone since to get up to the top you have to do some bouldering but it was worth it.

The next climb would be The Priest. This climb didn’t bother me one bit. I was feeling strong. It was the down that was brutal. 3ooo feet in about 4 miles. It was steep and the first half was so rocky. Sometimes the down hills are worse than the uphills and this was definitely no exception. We finally made it to the bottom to the Tye River. Just one more climb and a couple of miles to the shelter.

Harpers Creek Shelter was an awesome shelter. Great tent sites. Nice shelter. Creek in front of the shelter. The first thing I did was soak my feet. After that brutal downhill it felt so good. We thought we would have the shelter to ourselves but “Brown Banana” from Switzterland came in pretty late. He had just hiked 3o miles into the shelter. At least he was cool.


Home Sweet Home

Day Five – June 4
Harpers Creek Shelter – Campsite – 14.7 miles

Today started with a 3 mile climb. At least it was in the beginning of the day. Today was pretty uneventful. I was tired and definitely getting cranky. I had planned my food poorly and all I had thought about for a couple of days was wanting to eat macaroni and cheese. We made it to the Dripping Rock parking area on the Blue Ridge Parkway and took a short break. Only 2 miles to go to the campsite. While we were there another hiker was dropped off by a car. I was secretly hoping that it was trail magic. The hiker was “Talks Alot”. She decided that to camp with us on top of the mountain. The only downside was having to carry water to the campsite. I filtered water for Mr Breeze and sent him on the way to find a campsite. Then I loaded up myself with water and started trudging up the hill. “Talks Alot” caught up with me and we hiked together for a bit. It was nice to hike with someone and have a conversation. But then she went ahead. It had started raining a little bit and she wanted to get set up. At one point I looked up and there was Mr Breeze. He had come down the trail looking for me to make sure that I was OK and walked the rest of the way with me.


This was the best night on the trail. We had wonderful views and a beautiful sunset. Mr Breeze had built a great fire as usual. The rain had stopped. There was great conversation. A deer walked around our campsite. And I only had 12.5 more miles into town the next day to get some macaroni and cheese 🙂

View from the last night’s campsite

Day Six  – June 5
Campsite to Rockfish Gap – 12.5 miles

Today was the last day on the trail. And I didn’t take any pictures. I was excited to be getting some real food. I am grateful that that the terrain was easy. There were a couple of short  climbs but nothing serious. It was a great day. We made it to town by 2:00. And after this second long trip of the year I feel like I can do anything. Well actually I know I can do anything. As long as I stay positive and believe that I can.




To see all the pictures from this trip please visit my gallery located at http://jagwab.phanfare.com/5621143



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