Memorial Chapel, Virginia Tech
During those winter months of '94, we had remarkable weather move through Southwest Virginia. The first of a handful of ice storms hit Valentine's weekend. February 13th coated much of the South, with Virginia Tech's campus transformed into a fantasy ice castle.
The center of VPI's campus is the Drillfield, an oval expanse of grass criss-crossed with paths worn into the turf by students between dorms, classes, offices and labs on either side. At one end of the oval is this underground chapel, with eight pillars of stone and statue adorning the flat roof. Each statue and relief represents one of the eight core values of the University. Coated in an inch of ice gave the landscape a surreal late night vibe.
It had only been six weeks since I first blurted out the madness of considering an A.T. thru-hike. In that time, I had taken up a supplemental job at a local eatery (Macados) to earn some additional Trail cash. While I had a sufficient salary with Tech, I was uncertain if I could sock away enough readily accessible additional savings to cover my mortgage (should I be unable to rent out my house while on Trail). Waiting tables would keep me from going into debt for the hike.
Closing my evening shift this night, I was the only one on the road well past the after-midnight hour. The spectacle and beauty of the campus coated in ice was too rare, and too stunning, to pass up. Unfortunately, I had purchased an awful camera in preparation for the hike -- its lack of weight translated to a lack of optical quality I wouldn't discover for eight months when the film was eventually developed.