9-15-09 day 105
start: YMCA Field in Waynesboro, VA
end: Rusty's Hard Time Hollow, VA
daily mileage: 14.3
total mileage: 1340.1
Raffle Queen drove us back to the trail head the next morning, and we noticed shortly after leaving the Shenandoahs that the trail got rougher. Not hard, but not nearly as graded and smooth as the Shenandoahs were. We didn't know where we were heading that day - we'd heard about "Rusty's Hard Time Hollow" (a trail hostel) but didn't want to pay any money, so planned on skipping it. But then we heard that some friends (Laid Back and Professor) were there, so we thought we'd at least stop by. Boy are we glad we did!
We hitched there on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and found his driveway totally smothered with all kinds of signs. Lots of rules (no pets, no drugs or alcohol, etc) but also a TON of super specific signs about AT hikers, and about Rusty, and jokes, and everything... there must have been 50 signs just on the approach to his house. And then we got to the house itself! The whole thing is plastered in signs. We later found out that he has a friend that has the machinery to print them, and just has bunches made all the time.
The house itself is Rusty's home. It's an appalachian backwoods back-to-basics hillbilly heaven. He built most of the buildings on his property himself - his outhouse, sweat lodge, spring-house, bunk-house, etc. He only got electricity 4 years ago, and seems to vaguely mistrust it: he still refrigerates his drinks in his spring-house with a natural spring on his property, cooks with propane, even uses kerosene lamps. Same with his recently aquired home phone.
Rusty himself is a super nice old guy who loves hikers and just totally opens his home to us. He told us lots of stories about his life, let us shoot his shotguns and pistols and eat his food, let us use his wood-fire heated sweat lodge... it was incredible. He told us that we were always welcome to come and stay with him no matter what else happened to us - our families desert us, friends move away, we've always got Rusty. He says that former hikers sometimes come to stay with him for literally months at a time while they're arranging their lives. It's awesome.
In fact, one of the people who'd stayed with him for a while recently bought him a TV with a built-in DVD player and some movies, so we watched Wayne's World (soooo good). In short, our Rusty experience was really awesome!