Saturday, June 01, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Damascus, VA To Marion, VA

I'm approaching my two month mark on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and I am doing well.  My knees seem fine.  My feet have been aching a little but that could be the new pair of shoes I received from home in Damascus - they will be broken in soon enough.  My left foot has been giving me on and off trouble for the past month or so but it's nothing a little ibubrophen can't remedy.  The biggest health related surprise has been the lack of blisters (knock on wood).  I guess my shoes and my toe socks are doing their job.

Mentally I'm feeling up.  I've given up on a trail family.  I just enjoy the people I encounter until it's time for them to move on.  Now that I've come to accept this fact of the trail, I have been doing much better moodwise.

Another gorgeous day on the AT.
Day 54 - I got up really early so I could take a shower before getting back on trail.  Showers are few and far between so they are precious.

I left the B&B I stayed at in Damascus at 6 :10am and walked out of town.  The AT follows the Virginia Creeper bicycle trail for a while.  At one point you are walking into bicycle traffic which was a bit nerve racking since there were a lot of little ones on bikes who didn't quite know what to do when they were heading for a hiker.

After crossing a long bridge the trails diverged and we hikers were safe once again.  Like most other towns, the trail climbed out of Damascus.  I arrived at my stop, the Lost Mountain Shelter at 15.8 miles (25.4 km).  My plan was for this day to be the longest in this section of the trail but things would change as the often do.

One of the Grayson Highlands ponies.
Day 55 - This would be a relatively short day at 12.3 miles (19.8 km).  The trail continued to climb as I drew closer to the Grayson Highlands.

My stop for the day was Thomas Knob Shelter, not far from Mt. Rogers the tallest point in Virginia, and just outside of Grayson Highlands State Park.  The park is famous for its wild ponies.  As I got closer to the shelter I was passing ponies in the nearby fields and stopped to watch a pony licking the salt off a hiker's arm.

At the shelter a mama horse and a couple yearlings came into camp and proceeded to lick salt off of everything they could get their tongues on.  I kept a large rock between me and the horses.

That night a horse stood outside the shelter and stared in most of the night.

The view in the Grayson Highlands.
Day 56 - Today I entered the Grayson Highlands.  Like the Roan Highlands and Max Patch before, these highlands did not disappoint.  It was a blustery day as I rock hopped and admired the views.  The trail took you through our first squeeze - Fatman Squeeze - where the trail narrowed between rock formations.

The trail left the highlands and the ponies behind and dropped down to my stop of the day, the Old Orchard Shelter.  The day was again fairly short at 11.9 miles (19.2 km) but the rocky trail made it a difficult day.

I met my first shelter log groupie here.  He stopped for a rest and asked our trail names.  He'd been following several people by their shelter log entries.  He found Tarzan who was there and then said he thought he was close to Little Hill.  I raised my hand and I thought he was going to jump for joy.  He was very excited.  My entries are not elaborate and just say what I'm doing.  I do have a logo that I use though which probably attracted his attention.

Day 57 - This was going to be another short day but, after talking over the plan with Tarzan, Cali Butter, Sunshine, Sister, and Vagabundo I decided to push for a longer day.  This would allow for an earlier entry into town.

The day went well.  I stopped at the Trimpi Shelter for a snack, a privy break, and a little nap.

I pushed on heading for a campsite next to a water source.  I reached the site but there was no water.  I climb the hill more looking for water and found none.  I dropped my pack at a campsite and headed a half mile back down the hill to a stream I'd crossed earlier and hauled the water back up.  I did 17.0 miles (27.4 km) today not including the running up and down the mountain for water.

A three to four foot Black Snake on the trail.
As I was trying to get my breath back I heard thunder.  I quickly put up my tent and started eating my evening meal but then I felt drops.  I put my unfinished meal in my food bag and looked for a place to hang it before it really started to rain.  I had a hard time finding a place to hang when the rain got stronger so I got in my tent with my food bag.

There had been a lot of bear activity in the area and having your food bag in your tent was not a wise thing.  As I sat there listening to the rain I swore I heard deer, bears, and other hikers putting up their tents.

It poured for an hour or so then reduced to a drizzle.  When it finally let up I got back out and successful hung my bag.   There was no on there.  No deer.  No bears.  My mind likes to play with my head.

Days 58 & 59 - I woke up to an empty campsite.  All the others who planned to join me stayed at the Trimpi Shelter when it rained and hailed over there.  I was lucky I didn't get hailed on.

I packed up and headed out. Along the way I heard a crack of a breaking branch.  I looked down the ridge and saw my first black bear running away from me.  I wasn't very close and it wasn't very big.  I didn't have time to get a picture.

Despite of only hiking 6.4 miles (10.3 km) I was tired when I got to the Pat Jennings Visitor Center probably because I hadn't eaten my dinner last night.  I called for a 50¢ shuttle ride and went into town with everyone else who arrived in time.

I checked into a hotel, walked over a mile to do my laundry, ate, and started planning my next section.  Resupply would be scarce going forward so I would have to find alternatives to carrying a ton of food.  Some of the alternatives may make for good stories next post.

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

Total Distance: 534.2 Miles (859.7 km)
Section Distance: 64.1 Miles (103.1 km)
Section Elevation Up: 12,578 ft (3,834 m)
Section Elevation Down: 11,379 ft (3,468 m)

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