Day 5-6: Johns Creek Valley -- Craig Co.

From Mountain Lake, we crossed the eastern continental divide out of the New River watershed (which flows to the Mississippi & Gulf) and into the James River watershed headed for the Atlantic. I can't really say that the watershed cross-over made things look too different, but coming out of the woods and down into Johns Creek valley was certainly a big change - big open views, fields of grass rippling in the wind, and old farm houses (many of them abandoned). It is a long long valley, beautiful.
Where the road cuts into the hillside, the crumbly shale rock gives a clue as to why there is not much more grown here than grass for hay and pasture. The shale affects more than the topsoil though. When we stopped to ask an older couple sitting on their porch for a little bit of water, the man hesitated at first, saying that their water wasn't any good...smells like rotten eggs (from the sulfur). The wife reminded him that they have a container out back of drinking water they buy, and he said they'd give us a little. Ryan said that was the first time anyone hesitated to give water when he's been out hiking. But especially given that they have to buy it, we were thankful for what we got. Oh, and we got some good advice out of the conversation...After we mentioned that we are ultimately headed for the ocean on this trip and tomorrow headed for New Castle, he contemplated for a second and confirmed, "yup if you're headed for the ocean then New Castle is the way to go." Well, dang, ocean or bust.
It was long day of walking, about 18 miles, but we finally made it to where we could access the National Forest to camp. Got the tent up just before a day and a half of rain. Walking in the rain wasn't as miserable as it may sound - it helped to have good umbrellas and good pack covers (hand made by Ryan aka The Mouseworks). After another 12 miles the next day we entered New Castle, gateway to the Atlantic.  There we found the cutest library with a very kind librarian who let us use the computers and relax for a few hours. Thank you for libraries, thank you for IGA, thank you for Subway, and thank you for drivers who slow down and move over as they pass.