5 days in from Damascus
Ok, so first post since starting this grand adventure at Damascus, VA. Had a great send off. My wife, Nancy, and I drove from Waynesboro, VA to Abingdon, VA and met my childhood friend, John. John led us to his beautiful home between Bristol and Abingdon where we met his wife Jane who welcomed us into their home. We enjoyed a beer and left from Bristol to meet my Sister, Beth and her husband Wes at McAdoo’s in Bristol, TN. We enjoyed a meal and a few more beers. My sister presented me with inspirational quotes to be read while on the trail as well as a guardian angel pin that belonged to my Mother, whose 100th birthday would have been the 23d, the day I take my first steps on the trail. I pinned this to my pack. We enjoyed the evening and returned to John’s home where talked politics til after mid-night. Turned in for a great night’s sleep and the following morning the bunch of us met at Cracker Barrel for breakfast before heading to Damascus.
We left for Damascus, a 20-30 minute ride from the interstate 81. Nancy and I were quiet on the way and held hands tightly. She is concerned for me and my safety and has some feelings of abandonment but she knows how much I want to do this and wishes me well. We arrive at Sun Dog Outfitters where I signed my first trail registrar and get info on just where to start the trail. I pull my 38 lb. pack on (I packed too much food) after being toasted by my sister over champagne they brought to the trail head. The toast was beautiful:
“May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be ever at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rain fall soft upon your fields
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.”
Then cheers over champagne and my buddy John knowing it wouldn’t be a proper send off without a beer, we toasted a last Coors light together. We then walked down the 1/4 mile to the trail head, a set of steps leading up into the AT towards my first goal of Saunders shelter some 8 miles away at 10:45 AM. Pictures, hugs and kisses, I depart into the wilderness known as the AT.
On my way I met 3 day hikers as I was climbing a nearly 1400′ elevation and arrived at Saunders Shelter to find another backpacker already at the shelter, Sharkey. We talked about our first 8.4 miles on the trail. We were the only two at the shelter and discussed the next days hike. We both wanted to do another short day so we decided on a 6.5 mile hike to Lost Mt. Shelter and arrived at 2:00. My hips are aching and its taking a toll on the ascents. We look to do 12.5 miles tomorrow to Thomas Knob shelter. Forecast for some rain this evening and were glad to arrive early and claim a spot in the 8 man shelter. Apparently a number of hikers wanted to get to this shelter for same reason. Ended up having 7 hikers and a dog in the shelter. A family of 5 tenting and a Mother-Daughter pair tenting. We all shared the one picnic table for fixing food that evening and the next morning. Poured rain 2-3 different times thru the night and by 7:00 am the rain had been reduced to a mist. Walked in the fog all morning and ate lunch at 2:00 pm at Rt 58. Headed up the mountain and made it to the shelter at 4:40 pm. Hips started feeling better even after the long climb into VA’s highest mountain, Mt. Rogers at 5700′. The shelter was at 5413′ and temps that evening were 36 degrees. Slept warmly in the shelter with a tarp across the front. The winds were significant. Beautiful views across the balds and the outlying mountains.
Wise shelter is just 5.2 miles away the next day and Sharkey and I decide we will hike there, eat lunch and reassess our day. We begin our 3d day of hiking off Va’s highest peak and into the Grayson highlands where the balds and views are spectacular, very rocky terrain though and slows your pace. Saw about a dozen wild ponies, have pics but haven’t figured out how to upload them yet (bear with me). Tons of day and week-end hikers out and weather turned beautiful by noon. Temps 55-60 thru out day. Periods of fog, wind, clouds and sun. Made it to Wise Shelter by 12:30 and decided to do another 6 miles to Orchard Gap shelter. We met “Gun-Shy” a female hiker who had thru hiked the AT last year out for a day hike. She gave us some good info on our next 6 miles. Sharkey gets to the shelter about 30-40 minutes ahead of me and I arrive at 4:30 pm. Week-end hikers Kate and Dave aka: Girth, arrive and tent at the shelter sight and we decide on having a nice camp fire this evening under beautiful clear star-lit night. Later, a thru-hiker who had started at Springer, “Scorched heels” arrived and sheltered with us. Quite a character, young, enthusiastic and an archaeologist, shared many stories with us of his first 4 weeks on the trail. He’s doing20-30 mile days and intends to finish in 100 days. He turned me on to a shot of bourbon, much appreciated. Enjoyed the campfire and Sharkey and I talk about his need to resupply and where to come off trail. We decide on Troutdale and a hitch into Marion.
Prior to departing the next morning, Scorched Heels, says one of the favorite quotes from other hikers thus far is. “I don’t like walking but I love eating snickers on mountain tops”. Loved it as I loaded a snicker into my top compartment for a mid-morning snack.
Next morning had a 1 1/2 mile walk down only to have a 1000′ elevation to the top of Hurricane Mountain. Started in the fog and ended up walking above the clouds (beautiful). Easter Sunday and while atop the Mountain I find I can get texts out so I spend 15 minutes snacking and texting before descending. Then back up another 600′ to Dickey’s Ridge near Troutdale along Rt 16 thru Mt. Rogers. Most beautiful falls I have seen were on this ascent, Comer’s Creek Falls, where we crossed a foot bridge over the stream. You’re not driving to this location folks. Once at Dickey’s Ridge I stick my thumb out and get a ride with the third vehicle to pass us. You’ll never guess, another archaeologist, from PA working for the power companies. He took us the 15 miles into Marion where we got a motel room and split the tab. Wow, the best hot shower ever, followed by pizza and surprise, surprise, a beer (maybe 2-3). I’m blogging from the hotels computer and don’t know how to send pics from my phone yet so be patient.
This was a wonderful Easter out in nature, thank you Jesus!!!
Woke up this morning, March 28th, after a great night sleep on a real bed and had waffles at the hotel. Went to the Laundromat to clean my stinking clothes and microwaved my left over pizza for lunch. Will resupply at Ingles or Wally World this afternoon and head back out in the morning. A great zero day in Marion where it rained this morning but has turned to be a beautiful afternoon.
OK, that’s it , that’s all for now, signing off and hope to post again within a week. Reception so bad in the mountains I can’t hardly get a text out.
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Love hearing about your adventures! Stay safe! Love ya! Libby
Thanx for the good wishes Libby, say hi to Eddie for me. Did 5 mi today into Atkins and just beat the lightning Storm into town. Filling up on burgers and Mexican today/night. Will do big breakfast at Barn in morning and push on. Hope to be in my hometown of Pearisburg inside of two weeks.
Thanks for the update, we are rooting for you everyday!!
Such a grand adventure
Wish you were here Bud. Conversations would be crazy.
My friends and I were with you at Lost Mountain on that rainy night. We really enjoyed talking to you and wish you the best of luck on your journey. I know you were dreading the climb up to Thomas Knob. I’m sure it was well worth it.