A quick 8 miles got us into Damascus around 10:30a. Although it poured the entire hike, I was eager to get to town. I had breakfast on my mind. Once we got into town, we ran into Subman and his wife Suds. Subman was the first hiker to begin NOBO in 2019. He’s completed the trail at least twice already in prior years so he’s in no rush to get to Katahdin. It was so nice meeting them. Such friendly people. At breakfast, I started scrolling through Facebook and read the horrific news that 2 hikers were attacked just north of where we were. Apparently a guy who caused trouble on the trail just a few weeks ago came back. He had been arrested near Erwin for threatening and harassing hikers with a knife. I’m not sure of the whole story but I believe a well known hiker bought this guy a bus ticket so he could head home. The guy appeared to have some serious mental issues and did get on the bus, but did not go home. He got off in Virginia and found the trail again. At this point we don’t know much about what and how everything happened. All I know is 2 innocent people were attacked on what I want to believe is a safe trail. I fear bears, ticks, poison ivy but people???!! People are last on my worry list but now after these tragic events, that is going to change.
Zero day in Damascus.
Today was an ugh kind of day. I just couldn’t get my body moving. Plus the Super Feet insoles I’ve been wearing since the NOC for my IT Band have begun to squeeze the inside of my foot, making it very painful to walk. I’ve been switching out the Super Feet with my regular Altra insoles every few miles, but today I waited too long, seven miles too long. Once I switched out the insoles, my feet never recovered and pain shot through each foot with every step. Despite the foot pain, we managed to push out 17.2 miles. I have no idea how. I was physically done after 9 miles. It’s also a bit eerie on the trail after the tragedies. This is our first night sleeping in the woods since the attacks and I can’t deny that I am scared.
I’m sitting in my tent right now with just about every layer I have in my pack on my body. It is freezing! My mom told me a front came through so it’s going to be cold for the next few days. I do not do cold weather, neither does my boyfriend. The cold really slowed us down because we only did 11.6 miles today. Total bummer. We did get to see some wild ponies though! They were so beautiful. They came right up to us and let us pet them. One almost bumped me off the trail as she tried to get by! I’m pretty certain we will see more tomorrow. We also need to put in some big miles tomorrow because John (aka Leaks) is running low on food and we have 30ish miles to the next town.
Today was the most magical day. The temps were warm, the sun was shining and the ponies were everywhere! Grayson Highlands has been my absolute favorite part of the trail and I would love to do that section again. After finishing up with the ponies, we quickly realized we needed to assess our food situation. We clearly did not have enough food to get us through until Friday. Today is Wednesday. We decided to go as far as we could today (21 miles) and try to make it into Marion, VA tomorrow for a quick one night stay before John’s friend picks us up on Friday for Trail Days.
After a 21 mile day, it was so hard to get going this morning. Sometimes I’ll wake up and think gosh, I really don’t feel like hiking today…then I hit the trail and forget how I felt an hour ago. Not today. I dreaded hiking from the moment I opened my eyes until we finally stopped at the Mt Rogers Recreation Center. Here, a trail angel drove us into town. So why was I hating the hiker life today? Well, my feet were sore from yesterday, I have blisters on my toes, I think I may have a case of plantar fasciitis and my boyfriend’s allergies had him sneezing every 5 seconds. Not a good day, but now that I’m laying in a bed at a very budget friendly motel, I wish I was in our tent.
Days 50 and 51
Trail days in Damascus.
I have enough food to feed 3 grown men. Seriously, why do I do this to myself? I guess my fear of running out of food like I did on my last resupply got the better of me. My pack is heavy, very heavy. Despite the heavy pack and just getting back on trail after Trail Days, today was a pretty good day. We passed the little school house where a local church leaves trail magic and it was unbelievable. Not only did they have drinks, snacks and fresh fruit, they had a huge tub of first aid supplies and toiletry items. Just what a hiker really needs. We were also able to eat dinner at a Mexican joint located right on trail. Now that’s winning.
We have officially completed more than a quarter of the trail! I was so excited to see that mile marker first thing this morning. After we celebrated, the mood turned somber as we were headed into the area where Stronghold was murdered. It was very eerie hiking in the same area where another hiker lost his life not long ago. It made me think of all the reasons why I wanted to hike and complete the trail and now I have another reason….Stronghold.
I really didn’t want to do more than a 16 mile day. I was determined to lower our mileage since we hiked 20 miles the day before and my feet were in pain. It was actually a pretty boring day on trail until we hit that 16 mile mark and all my plans went out the window. Turns out, nothing motivates a hiker more than food and even though we would miss the cheeseburgers, the outpost opens at 8a and that means a hot breakfast. Plus they allow you to tent in their yard for free. Bonus! So here I am tenting with 15 other hikers, crammed in the back yard of the local outpost after a 23.8 mile day. Always an adventure.
Another day motivated by cheeseburgers, only this time there were milkshakes involved. John only wanted to do 13 miles but I had a vanilla milkshake calling my name, so I batted my eyelashes and we made the 19 mile trek. We are currently camping in the grocers field for $12. This $12 includes a bathroom with a shower, laundry and an outdoor outlet. $6 per person. You really can’t beat this! Oh and we won’t have to listen to snoring because our neighbor is a horse.
So we made a bad decision…well, not bad just not smart. We got off to a good start but then the rocks took over. My feet were killing me and I was so over hiking. My friend, Bubbles, told me earlier today that she was going to stay at a hostel just .5 off the trail. I was a little intrigued because I heard such awesome things about the place, including the food. We got to the intersection where you keep going on trail or go to the hostel. After a quick debate, we headed to the hostel. We figured at $16 to tent and $14 per person for dinner, we were spoiling ourselves but we could pass on something in the future to make up for it. The hostel is very nice. The owners are very friendly and the company has been awesome. But, let me just put this bluntly, it’s a rip off. At $16 PER PERSON to camp, that’s a bit extreme. We ended up spending $60 here. Ugh, guess we’ll have to pass on a few more things in the future.
Nearo into Pearisburg, VA. Angels Rest Hostel.
Our nearo at Angels Rest was awesome. If you are needing to make a stop in Pearisburg, please check them out. Great rates, friendly people and everything a hiker needs is within .5 of the hostel. Anyway, we had to get back on trail today. A few of the people we have been hiking with decided to take a zero at the hostel today but not us! We hiked our little hearts out. Honestly we didn’t go that far (15 miles) but with a full pack, the miles are so much harder. I did send my gloves, wool socks, waterproof socks, long underwear and beanie home so my pack definitely felt lighter even with a 4 day resupply. I could’ve hiked further but John was really tired. We compromised. An early day today means a very early start tomorrow.
Rocks, rocks and more rocks. If I think Virginia is bad, I’m terrified of Pennsylvania aka Rocksylvania! It was a tough 20 mile day for me. I fell twice and the heat and bugs are suffocating. It was also my mom’s birthday and I felt sad that I hadn’t had the time to get her a gift. Nor was I there to celebrate with her. It’s so weird saying I don’t have time to do anythjng but hike, but it’s the honest truth. My days consist of eating, hiking, camp chores and sleeping. That’s it. Life is so simple but so hard at the same time.
Today is Memorial Day. While I was scrambling over more rocks, normal Americans were celebrating. But guess what? I was able to celebrate too! Movin Moo (2018 thru hiker) and her husband had the best trail magic waiting for us after a difficult mountain. We had hamburgers, hotdogs, cherries, watermelon, cookies, candy….anything you name it, they had it. They even had a roll of duct tape so Mocha Joe could fix his blown out shoe. It was amazing and definitely made me feel like a normal human being for a while. I’ll be back to hiker trash tomorrow after we resupply and sort our food bags out in front of the local gas station.
I set the alarm for 5a. We had to conquer Dragon’s Tooth and after hearing some of the horror stories, I knew I needed an early start. The stories were true. I think if I was 6 feet tall, today wouldn’t have been so difficult but God knows the AT wasn’t designed for short people. I was so excited to get off that mountain, plus the heat was brutal. We sat at the gas station indulging in pizza, ice cream and Gatorade for 3 hours before we started hiking again. The heat was too much. Tomorrow we see McAfee Knob. I am very excited.
McAfee Knob is what you see in pictures and more. It is one of the most beautiful views I’ve seen on the AT and of course makes for an awesome photo op. Shortly after leaving McAfee, we ran into a large rattlesnake sitting directly in the center of the trail. I get chills just thinking about snakes and being that close to a poisonous one is frightening. John coaxed it off trail with his trekking pole and the snake was angry! It looked like it was ready to strike at any given second. Anyway, we made it through that crisis and hiked over 18 miles today. We hiked through rain and high winds this afternoon so I’m happy to be in our dry tent finally.