Backpacking Jefferson National Forest

March 3-11, 2001

After a winter of much winter hiking, a few Pitt Outdoors Club members and I decided to put together a big spring break hike. Jeff Israel chose the destination: Jefferson National Forest in Virginia. The trip began with us hitching a ride along with the Florida Keys spring-breakers. They dropped us by the roadside in Virginia and we proceeded to hike approximately 100 miles in the eight days we spent afield. It was a great trip – the longest time I had spent in the backcountry up til then. We ended up hiking through significant snow high on a ridgeline, and spent some cold nights in our 20deg bags. I learned a lot about hiking in the early spring in the mountains…carrying way too much junk, not enough warm clothes, and terrible boots made the trip memorable.

The funniest tidbit from this trip has to be on the last night, when we decided to hike into “town” to get a real meal for the first time in over a week. Well, the “town” that showed up on the map wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. As we hiked down the hill towards the ramshackle assortment of huts, we walked up on a wrinkled old fellow in red and black flannel standing by the side of the road. We asked him if there was a diner in town. He stared at us for at least a minute, spat a long string of tobacco juice, and grunted “Nope. Y’all wanna diner or sumtin ya betta go dawn ta Blunt.” Blunt was 8 miles in the opposite direction. It was a crushing blow.

Then someone had a brainstorm: why not hitchhike? In short order, we flagged down a rusty old pickup. The crusty driver slowed down and hollered out the window, “Well whatcha waitin fo? I ain’t got all day!” We dove into the back of the truck amid rusty farm implements, barely catching the fourth member of our team before the redneck driver put the petal to the floor, nearly dumping us all out the gateless bed of the pickup. We sped into town. After a harrowing ride, the driver dropped us off at a Dairy Queen. Before he drove off, “Chief Rottingfeet” John called out a heartfelt thank you, to which the backwoods pickup owner responded with a gruff “Whatcha thankin me fo?” as he drove away…

We managed to find a much more civilized ride in a minivan back to our rendezvous spot with the returning spring-breakers, and met them without incident in the morning.

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