Homer's Travels: Appalachian Trail: Mountain Harbor Hostel To Damascus, VA

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Mountain Harbor Hostel To Damascus, VA

UPDATED 10-18-2020

I've been doing some long days lately.  I'm not sure why but I guess I'm curious to see how my body reacts.  The answer is my body gets tired.  I think I will stick to my plan and go back to shorter days.

I am crossing hundred mile marks sooner.  The first one hundred miles took twelve days (not including zero days).  The second hundred miles took ten days.  The third hundred miles took nine.  Four hundred took eight days.  Looking ahead five hundred will drop in seven days.  This will not go on forever though.  I don't plan to do five twenty mile days in a row any time soon.  I expect I will top off at six days per one hundred miles eventually or maybe I'll just be satisfied with a hundred miles per week.  Yeah, that sounds about right.

Day 48 - I had a late start this day since the hostel didn't serve breakfast until 8:00am.  The breakfast was magnificent.  Everything from blueberry pancakes (fresh picked blueberries from their garden) to ham to perogies to chocolate cake to so much more.  I left the hostel with an extra three or four pounds in my belly.

Jones Falls.
This full stomach didn't help as I climbed up the next mountain.  I drug my butt up and down those hills until I finally reached my destination for the day.

The trail changed along this section.  Water became more prominent as we passed rivers, waterfalls, and cascades. It was a nice change.  I crossed the four hundred mile mark today.

I'd thought about stopping at a hostel for the night but I decided to push on to a campsite at 16.7 miles (26.9 km).  There were three thru-hikers there - me, Spaceman, and Cali-Butter (From California with a smooth voice like butter).  I thought I heard a bear while I was in my tent but I think it was just Spaceman snoring.

Day 49 - More rivers, more waterfalls.  Huge rock formations.  I almost took a wrong turn but ran into Camelback Santa who steered me in the right direction.  The trail passed a large waterfall where I ran into a few thru-hikers I'd thought were miles ahead.

Laurel Falls.
The trail skirts a cliff along the river's edge.  The wrong trail I'd been on before Santa corrected me was the high water bypass.  If the river level rose a couple feet the trail would be underwater.

Most of the people I met were heading to a hostel on the other side of Pond Mountain.  I took an alternate route into Hampton, TN.   I stopped there to resupply and planned to stay at the Braemar Castle Hostel.

I bought some food, ate at a small diner, and got a haircut at the local barber shop.  Hampton is kind of like Hot Springs without any of the charm.  Spaceman noted to me later that many of the thru-hikers were better dressed than the town residents.

Stepping out of a grocery store I heard someone call my name twice.  I still have no idea who it was.  I assume it was someone who went to the other hostel driving by in a shuttle but no one has told me it was them.

The hostel was in an old stone building with creaky floors and crooked door frames.  I kept waiting for someone else to check in but no one showed up.  I was alone.  It was a nice hostel but being alone gave me the creeps.  I felt like I was in the movie "The Shining".

Lake Watauga.
Day 50 - Another long day up and over Pond Mountain, around Lake Watauga, and up a second long ascent to the shelter I would spend the night.

The lake was a nice change of scenery with its beaches and boats.  Took a wrong turn and accidentally skipped a few hundred feet of the AT.  I kind of felt bad but didn't walk back.  The area around the lake does not permit camping due to bear activity.  You are asked to hike through without stopping.

Water was getting harder to find on the trail.  This combined with warmer temperatures and higher humidity made for a miserable hike up the mountain.  I was relieved when I finally arrived at the Vandenventer Shelter.  Supposedly there had been a suicide in this shelter.  The shelter had a nice view of the lake and mountains.

As I went about my end of day chores I listened to a few guy discuss the correct amount of shrooms to take for a better hiking experience.

Day 51 - I left the shelter and promptly ran into a girl I'd met in day one of my Appalachian Trail (AT) hike.  She was with her Mom at the next shelter.  She had skipped the Smokies because she had heard how difficult they were.  Strange how the trail brings people back together at random.  A few day before I'd run into The Lady Who Waits No More slack packing (hiking without a pack).  I hadn't seen her in weeks.

One of the few handicapped accessible parts of the AT.
The trail passes a grave marker for Uncle Nick Grindstaff.  You find lots of grave markers along the AT but this one was pre-AT.  He was born in the 1851 and died in 1923.  The sad thing was the line at the bottom of the stone that read: "Lived alone, suffered alone, and died alone." Makes you wonder what his story was.

Spaceman had reminded me that Memorial Day was approaching and if we were getting mail we had to be in Damascus by Friday or have to wait until Tuesday to get any mail.  I had a new pair of shoes waiting in Damascus so I decided to push hard to get to the town.  I passed by the shelter I'd planned to stop at and then passed a campsite too until I finally stopped at the Double Spring Gap Campsite.  I ended up hiking 19.9 miles (32 km).  I was pooped, naturally, but I felt okay.  No extra aches or pains.  Old aches and pains were not any worse.

Spaceman showed up and I said I was pooped so I got in my tent really early.  Iceman, Labamba, and Andrew showed up and put up their tents.

A few hours later I heard someone yell bear. I stayed in my tent since the other guys scared it off before I could have gotten out of my tent.  A little while later the bear came back.  This time the other guys threw rocks at it until it left.  I stayed in my tent.  The third time the bear returned I got out of the tent.  The bear had managed to get its paws on two food bags.  My bag, which was hung in a tree in such a way that it violated multiple food hanging rules, was still there.  Spaceman and Labamba were not so lucky.  Labamba would find his shredded bag the next day along with a bag that didn't belong to any of us - this bear has been hunting food bags for awhile.  Despite this I have still not seen a bear.

Days 52 & 53 - I booked it the thirteen miles or so to Damascus.  On the way down the mountain I crossed into Virginia, my fourth state.  It will be awhile before I see another state since there are more AT miles in Virginia than any other state.

Entering Virginia.
Damascus is one of the few towns the trail passes right through.  I stopped at the post office and picked up my package and walked to the B & B where I'd booked a private room with a bathroom.  A shower never felt so good.  I ate a late lunch at a diner and checked out the resupply potential.  Damascus is both hiker and biker friendly due to both the AT and the Virginia Creeper bike trail passing through.

I soaked in the tub a bit before doing my laundry in the same tub.

I have always had trouble sleeping when I get in town.  It took me a while to get to sleep but I really slept hard.  I got up, went to the diner for a hearty breakfast, bought a magnet, and mailed my cold weather clothes (along with a few magnets and the cool stone Buddha I'd bought in Franklin) back home.  I walked to the Food City and did resupply before returning to my room and crashing for another hour and a half.  The afternoon was mostly chilling and eating a light lunch.  Dinner would be in the diner again due to the fact the food was good and it was close by.  There are other places to eat but they are just too far to walk in this heat.

Next stop, Marion, VA.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 470.8 Miles (757.7 km)
Section Distance: 79.0 Miles (127.1 km)
Section Elevation Up: 14,230 ft (4,337 m)
Section Elevation Down: 15,509 ft (4,727 m)

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