Swift Run Gap

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July 2, 1983 Saturday (1293.3 mtg) From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

Today is a special day. It is the day that I will rendezvous with my parents somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway. They were going to drive all day to spend the following day with me, then drive back to Illinois on Monday in order to be back at work on Tuesday. They must really love me to come all that way to spend such a short period of time in my presence, especially when I exuded the odor of almost two months on the trail, and sported a scraggly, long, bushy beard. I gave mom an idea of where I thought I would meet them the last time I talked with her - two days ago. I arranged to be waiting at one of the overlooks at a certain mile along the parkway. That was about the best I could do without pinning me down to a particular time as well. I noticed the trail in the Shenandoah's had become very nice. Nicely graded, sometimes four feet wide and practically paved. Not at all like other sections of the trail where vegetation encroaches the trail and at times practically hides it from view.

Another thing that is different about the park is the presence of campgrounds. There are campgrounds for "normal" camping situated throughout the park. These are places where people in RV's and some tent campers are congregated in one huge group. While I passed behind Loft Mountain Campground, I found a camera attachment that I thought would be a good addition to my camera gear. I picked it up, but only intended to carry it until I could send it back to Illinois with my folks. Having covered roughly twelve miles, I ate my lunch below the building housing a snack bar, and while eating, a couple of ladies that I had met yesterday dropped by. Although yesterday I acquired a Fig Newton from them, today all I received was conversation. But that was OK, I was all set with food. I drank a soda purchased from the vending machine, and moved on. The excitement of seeing my parents was building and I did not want to miss their arrival. I quickened the pace. This morning I skirted Blackrock summit, climbed over Big Flat Mountain, and Loft Mountain. This afternoon I went over Weaver Mountain, Flattop Mountain, and Roundtop Mountain. The biggest climb of the day was from Powell Gap up to the summit of Hightop Mountain. The change in elevation was almost two thousand feet, but took three and a half miles to ascend. I really stepped up the cruise control on this climb and worked up a big sweat before I reached the spring one tenth of a mile from the summit. I guzzled some of its refreshing water and prepared for the final downhill section that would take me to the meeting spot in Swift Run Gap.

When I arrived at the parkway I walked down the road a short distance to Swift Run Overlook where there was a pull-off and accompanying vista, but no parents waiting for me. I had arrived at 5.00 pm. Had they already been there? I did not think so. They would not come all that way and then not have waited for me. I sat there at the overlook for what seemed an eternity looking at the view and watching every passing vehicle in hopes it was my ride. Tourists passing by occasionally stopped, took in the view, and then went on. Some stayed longer and had picnics. I put on the charm of the lost soul and managed to net a piece of fried chicken, some nuts, and a couple of apples from a lady accompanied by a couple of kids. The sun was beginning to set and still no parents! I watched and photographed the sunset. It was one of those sunsets that you can actually stare at without hurting your eyes. The haze of thick humidity was what allowed this, and also what made me sweat so heavily on the way up Hightop Mountain.

Just as the light faded to practically no light at all, a car rolled into the overlook and I could tell it was them. Who else would pull into an overlook to see a view in the dark? My ride had arrived! It was good to see Mom and Dad. This time they were coming to visit, not to pick me up. I felt good about that, and knew that I could make the entire journey barring any unforeseen physical injury. It had been a long trip for them, and the last bit along the parkway over it's twisty, windy road and numerous pullouts made travel slow. They had kept their eyes open for a hiker waiting as they passed each one. It was already between eight and eight-thirty by the time they arrived, so we headed for Harrisonburg and asked at two motels before getting probably the last room at the Belle Mead Motel for $43.46. We ate supper at the restaurant there at about 10 pm.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983

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