6/25 Devils Backbone Brewery! (15.5)

July 9, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Today is the day we’ve been looking forward to since Damascus, four hundred miles ago, when the Devils Backbone rep gave us cards with their mileage on it.  Today we are hiking to a brewery.  We are also doing one of the toughest climbs of Virginia.  The first part of the day was a long, steep downhill descending the Priest that ended in trail magic!

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After soda, fresh fruit, chips, and real chairs, we started our ascent of Three Ridges.  It has a tough reputation as a 3000 foot climb punctuated by several ridge sections that lengthen the climb by bringing you back down.  We got up to a long ridge that held the first shelter of the day and paused to fill our water, thinking that we only had two ridges left.  When we climbed up to the second ridge that overlooks what we took to be the rocky summit, we were exhausted.  Virginia is filled with small hills and liars that tell you it is a flat state, but to be honest it hasn’t been as challenging as its Southern neighbors until now.  We pushed ourselves to get up what we thought was the final climb and cheered briefly at the rocky top.  Then we saw the last ridge, another thousand feet above us.  We tried to convince ourselves that we weren’t intended to climb the big forested lump in front of us, but soon after we continued along the ridge line we came to the switchbacks going up it and our hiker companions commiserated with us from three switchbacks up.  The false summit of Three Ridges is a cruel one, especially on a 90 degree day in the heat of summer.  Still, we made it to an anticlimactic summit without a view eventually, and fought our way through the suddenly dense bug cover to the downhill.  We were pretty grumpy going down through the clouds of gnats until we saw a small path to a rock outcropping.  We almost walked by it but decided to look over there and found a huge rock ledge with amazing views of the range we just climbed.

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The rest of the hike was easy after our sweaty morning, and we made it to Reeds gap to catch a well timed hitch to the brewery.  The six of us – Steady Eddie, Smiley, Winterborn, and Frodo drank good beer and fell asleep in the field across from the brewery, which under any other circumstances would be indicative of a serious problem, but right now seems to just be part of the greater adventure.

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Finally, sleeping outside a bar is acceptable.

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