The 42 mile dash into Damascus
Day 58: (June 10th)
My alarm went off at 3 AM, and I seriously considered just going back to bed. I snoozed for a couple minutes and then saw a headlamp light approaching my tent. C Sharp came knocking on my tent to make sure I was up. There was no backing out now. I reluctantly crawled out of my tent and started packing up. We woke up Harambe and we all loaded up on some breakfast calories. We all drank some caffeine, and took an obligatory group selfie (since no one else was crazy enough to be awake at that hour).
Everyone was ready to go at about 4 AM, so we headed out. The hike out through the Watauga Lake area was relatively flat, so it was a good place to warm up. We all stuck together and kept a brisk 4 mile an hour pace, so we were to the dam in no time. We only had one wildlife encounter in the bear closure area, and luckily, it was just a deer.
At the dam, we took a short break and prepared for the main climb of the day into Vandeventer Shelter. We made a plan to stop whenever the sun looked like it was rising, so we could take a break and get some nice pictures. We got almost to the top of the mountain when the sun started to rise. We all stopped at a clearing in the trees, ate some snacks, and got some amazing pictures of the sunrise. It was about 6:30, and we had done 6 miles. We just had 36 more to do. We continued climbing up the mountain for what seemed like forever, and finally arrived at Vandeventer Shelter. There, we saw Mogley, Fancy, and Gunsmoke. We tried to convince them to do 36 miles into Damascus that day, but they didn’t think it was a good idea. We ate a quick snack, drank some energy drinks, and carried on.
After the climb to the shelter, the day was supposed to be pretty flat, and it was just 6.8 more miles to the next shelter. We all started hiking out of the shelter, and took a break at Turkeypen Gap to smoke a cigarette and catch our breath. We continued on until we reached the stream just .2 miles outside of the shelter. We all loaded up on water, and climbed the small hill into the Iron Mountain Shelter. Here, we took a nice long break and read all of the comments on the walls about Bob Peoples. He is the trail’s Chuck Norris, so they said things like, “Bob Peoples can make communism work” and “Bob Peoples doesn’t use a headlamp when night hiking; he simply tells the sun to rise”. We were snacking and giving our feet and legs a rest still when Mogley walked up. He said that he decided to go the 36 miles with us to Damascus.
C Sharp and I decided to race out of the shelter, and so we started to run down the hill. We took a quick (3 second) stop to pay our respects at the Nick Grandstaff memorial. Then we continued running down the trail. I was right on C Sharp’s tail when a turkey came flying out of the bushes next to us. I’ve never screamed so loud in my life. I had no idea what was jumping out of the bushes at us at the time. The turkey chased us down the trail for a couple of feet, but we just kept on down the hill. We crossed over a bunch of bridges, and finally came to a clearing where TN 91 was. He beat me by a couple of minutes, but we did the 4.6 miles from the shelter to the road in just under an hour.
We took another break at the road and talked to a couple of section hikers that thought we were crazy. A couple of cigarettes later, we continued on. On the other side of the road, we entered into a huge meadow and passed some cows and cow pies before returning to the woods. From there, it was just a short 2 miles to the Double Spring shelter, and we all arrived in no time. We all refilled our water bottles and ate some more snacks. In total, we had done 23.6 that day, and our feet were starting to feel it. Off came our shoes so we could air out our feet and get some good blood flow in them. We all were running out of steam for sure, but we decided to keep going.
The next 3.5 miles to Low Gap were relatively easy, and we were there in about an hour. Harambe and I decided to stop here and smoke a cigarette while C Sharp and Mogley continued on.
The next 3.4 miles to the Queens Knob Shelter were miserable. We were all aching and wondering why we thought that this was a good idea. The pace was definitely getting much slower too. Finally, we all made it to the shelter and took yet another break.
It was only 1.4 miles to the Abingdon Gap shelter, and it took at least an hour to hike. We were all dead tired, and energy drinks were definitely not helping anymore. At this shelter, we saw Dragon Born and a couple of section hikers. We had 32 miles that day, and we just had 10 more to go. It was starting to get dark, so we all pulled out our headlamps for the second time in one day.
We just had one more small climb, and then it was all downhill into Damascus. We just had to get over the climb. We were all going miserably slow, and then sun had gone down completely. We got 5 miles down the trail when we saw an orange glow in the distance. It was Mogley’s camp fire. He had a nice campsite, so we all sat down for yet another break. By this time, we were all exhausted and in loads of pain. Mogley convinced us to take a short nap and continue our hike in a couple of hours.
We all decided that it would definitely be good to get some rest for a bit and then continue on. We ended up cowboy camping around the fire with our alarms set for 2 AM. I passed out within minutes of laying down and got some of the best sleep of my life.
Day 59: (June 11th)
Needless to say, when our alarm went off at 2, we snoozed and decided to stay the night. We woke up early the next morning to continue on and get into town. We just had 5 miles to go until we hit Damascus.
Downhill has never hurt so badly in my life. It was probably the slowest downhill pace I’ve had yet on trail. Anyways, just under 2 miles later, we hit the Virginia border. We all smiled for pictures even though we were miserable.
We kept on hiking down the hill, and came upon a water source. On Guthook, I saw that the water source was a steep climb down .2 miles. I decided that I didn’t need water that badly, and I would just have to make it to Damascus without water. Harambe and I headed down the mountain while C Sharp got water.
We got to the edge of town just shortly after, and I had never been happier in my life. Beers and burgers were waiting for us at BoBo MacFarlands restaurant, so we headed there. Mogley, Oatmeal, and Doobie were waiting there when we arrived. Shortly after, C Sharp arrived, and we all chowed down on some burgers and drank some beers.
Everyone was staying at the Broken Fiddle hostel, so that was the next stop. We all sat down on the porch and didn’t move for hours, well except to get some more beer from the gas station across the street. PBRs were just 5 dollars for a twelve pack, and altogether, we must’ve bought at least 10 cases. We sat around drinking beer and recovering from our 37 mile day for the rest of the afternoon and well into the night. We met a bunch of new faces and got to share our trail stories with everyone. It was the best way to end our long 42 miles.
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