If you recall from our last post, Chief and I were headed to a hostel after six straight days hiking the Appalachian Trail in the rain and deep woods. It was Day 53 of our A.T. adventure and we were both in desperate need of a shower and a laundry facility. Only a half mile off the trail, the Woods Hole Hostel in southwest Virginia boasts an original, beautifully preserved, two-story log cabin built in 1880. We marveled at the large hand-hewn timbers and the way they were perfectly stacked in the living area to the open pitch of the roof. The section above the large wooden dining table sported a loft where hikers could sleep. The original cabin shared some more modern additions, including a large kitchen, office area, bathrooms and several private bedrooms. The hostel constructed a separate bunkhouse for hikers in 1986 and this structure’s character resembles the original log cabin. Woods Hole has been serving A.T. hikers for thirty years and incorporates massage therapy and food from organic gardening techniques in its services. The owners, Neville and Michael, raise their own livestock, vegetables and herbs for the business. After a thoroughly enjoyable shower, Chief and I enjoyed a warm loaf of Neville’s delicious homemade bread and marbled goat cheese. We had eagerly anticipated the hostel’s famous smoothie made with their homemade strawberry ice cream and served to the brim in a quart Mason jar. Chief and I each had one and polished off every delectable drop. For dinner, Neville and Michael prepared a wonderful pork and vegetable dinner with the help of nearly twenty hikers. We all ate dinner in the original log cabin area in a family style setting. Before the meal, all the visitors held hands in a large circle and shared our name and something for which we were thankful. Just looking around the 19th century cabin, I wondered how many dinners had been shared in its history. I do know that it continues to provide a homey and inviting atmosphere to weary A.T. hikers.
We had wanted to stay a second night at Woods Hole Hostel but they were already booked up so we hiked into Pearisburg and called the MacArthur Inn in Narrows, Virginia. The inn was constructed in 1940, next to the New River, and was a popular stay for celebrities and politicians who enjoyed hunting and fishing. The inn eventually fell into disrepair and closed. The village was prepared to demolish the inn but a sympathetic resident bought it and has already invested half a million dollars in its renovation. A friendly stay for hikers, the owner welcomed us by picking us up at the trail and transporting us to the inn. He sported a large handlebar mustache and a deep southern accent and willingly transported us all around town at no cost. The owner’s daughter prepared our dinner that night which consisted of a yummy salad, nicely seasoned ribeye steak, crab cake, country green beans, fried potatoes, and a homemade roll. The meal culminated with a piece or angel food cake topped with fresh strawberries and chocolate truffles – all for a mere price of $10.95 each!
Our little piece of Virginia’s history was enriched with a stop at a one-room schoolhouse that silently stood right next to the Appalachian Trail. The Lindamood School was originally constructed in 1894. The wood siding of the schoolhouse has grayed and warped with age. The front steps and porch have bowed but nevertheless welcomes hikers to the front door. Inside, wooden desks line both sides of the schoolhouse and look like they are replicas from an earlier period, but in the middle of the the room stood a rusty wood stove, no doubt original to the structure. There we met another hiker, Walkie Talkie Nightingale, who was reading a trail journal with comments left by hikers that had previously visited the schoolhouse. Walkie Talkie is a recent college graduate from McLean, Virginia, and is the youngest child of parents who are both teachers. A local church uses the schoolhouse to provide plenty of trail magic to hungry hikers. Chief was quick to find an icy cold cola in a large cooler, as well as a nice selection of Little Debbie snacks and chips. We three sat at the little wooden desks of the one-room schoolhouse, enjoying a cold drink and snack, and discussing education. Although this quaint schoolhouse no longer is used to educate children it provides a much needed respite to fatigued hikers on the A.T.
Lastly, on Day 57 Chief and I hiked by the Keefer Oak. This white oak tree is believed to be over 300 years old and holds the title of the oldest tree on the Appalachian Trail. Its massive trunk was so large that Chief and I both couldn’t reach around its circumference. The limbs were larger than most trunks of a tree, reached higher than we could see and were too numerous to count. You couldn’t help but wonder about the many hikers, pioneers, soldiers, old men and dreaming children that have passed by or took shade from the Keefer Oak over the past three centuries. Oh what stories that majestic tree could tell… we could only imagine and appreciate another interesting piece of Virginia’s past.
Historically Speaking, Chief and Toad