June 4, 2006
I slept in the loft of Rusty’s bunkhouse barn, and I awoke at the crack of dawn to the call of roosters.
Then I rolled over and went back to sleep for a few hours.
There’s no place in the world quite like Rusty’s Hard Time Hollow. He’s been taking in Appalachian Trail hikers since the early 1980s. Many of them like it so much that they take a hiatus from hiking and stay for multiple weeks at a time, doing chores and lending a hand to work-for-stay. I first visited Rusyt’s in 2001 and stayed for three days – there was no plumbing, no electricity, no phone… nothing. Since then Rusty has become part of the power grid and installed a phone line, but only because he was considering selling the place back in ’02. He also uses a gas generator on occasion, but these changes haven’t affected the place’s previous charm.
The men’s room is a fire hydrant located in a corner of the property. The refrigerator – a spring-house. A cool pool of water inside keeps sodas, hot dogs, cheese, butter, and just about anything ice cold. Fresh spring water is potable for drinking directly from a well pump. There’s even a hot-tub – wood burning, of course.
But the best part of Rusty’s lies in its character. Hikers (Or cyclists) who are run down by the daily mileage and drudgery of the trail are encouraged to relax and have fun. Stir in the cast of characters that make up AT hikers, and you have something unique here. Rusty takes a close up Polaroid of everybody who stays overnight, and a few years ago he started lining the ceiling of his patio with the photos. It brought back so many memories to look at the faces from 2001, and to see mine among them. I had forgotten that some people even existed!
I hung out there all morning and hit the road around noon. Jesse’s group, the Cookie Lady, and Rusty all warned me about the steep, winding descent from the Parkway into Vesuvius, and it sure lived up to the hype! I took it slow and pumped the brakes the whole way down, but it was a long way, and my nerves and brake pads got quite a workout.
At a field near the bottom, I saw a red fox! I was stopped and looking at it when a guy in a van who works on the Parkway pulled up beside me. He handed me a cold Barq’s root beer through the window. Talk about roadside service!
The rest of the day brought me along a scenic river valley (Complete with train trestle bridges, swimming holes, and kids fishing with a net), through Lexington (Historic town, home of Washington & Lee University, Stonewall Jackson’s final resting place, etc.), and along a narrow country lane in the afternoon, littered with farms. Tonight I’m staying in the town of Buchanan. Life is good.
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Google Map Route may not be 100% accurate.