Day 39: Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow/Green Wood

Back on the Trail

It felt good to be walking the woods again after a day off. I love the woods. It’s where I belong. But to be honest, I felt a little depressed and burdened after Northstar dropped me off early this morning at one of the many US58 crossings for my 17-mile walk back to Damascus.

We’d intended to camp at the US58 trailhead, but when we drove out there yesterday afternoon, we discovered there was no space to camp and no cell service. Northstar needs cell service for family reasons, so we headed back to town and boondocked on Main Street across from some porta-potties set up for Trail Days.

Since the trailhead had no place to park and no cell coverage, it worked better as a drop off spot than as a meetup spot. Plus, hiking from there back to Damascus would give me a chance to check out some of the vendor displays at Trail Days and maybe catch up with a few friends I hadn’t seen for a while.

Funk, Not Funky

I’m not quite ready to write about what was/is bothering me. Perhaps in a few days or weeks. For today, you only need to know that I was in a bit of a funk when I set out. And still was after about three miles, when the AT hooked up with and followed the Virginia Creeper Trail (VCT) for about a mile.

The VCT is a popular biking/hiking path that follows an old railway (the Virginia Creeper) grade. The VCT is wide, smooth, level, and well-graded. In other words, it’s a treat for the feet. As a bonus, it follows Whitetop Laurel Creek, crossing the lively trout stream on dozens of refurbished wood-decked bridges. The creek’s running water and small rapids provided a perfect harmony to the wind’s tree music.


After a mile, I reached a junction point where the AT headed back into hills, leaving the VCT’s gentle path along the creek behind. I stopped and looked at the map. The VCT and the AT both went back to Damascus over about the same distance. In fact, the AT paralleled the VCT in numerous places.

Standing at the junction, I had to wonder why are there two trails? Why wouldn’t the AT just follow the lovely VCT route? I scanned the AT route to see if it would take me to some lovely clifftop vistas, pass by waterfalls, or visit interesting historical sites. Nope. The AT just did what the AT always does – more climbs up wooded ridges with no views, more switchbacks over rough, rocky terrain, and more steep descents right back down to the VCT alignment.

Now, I love the AT, the woods, and seeing where the trail takes me. But I’ve seen a lot of that lately. The VCT is unique, a one-of-a-kind feature along the AT. People come to Damascus from all over the USA for the sole purpose of biking the VCT. It’s a unique feature that is part of Appalachian history. It’s also a lovely place to walk.


So, I stood at the junction point, stymied over which way to go. I actually walked 20 feet up the AT, but met a hiker coming down and backed up to let him pass on the narrow trail. Gus looked at me, wondering what was up. I didn’t want to skip any part of the AT, but I really liked the idea of following the VCT along the creek. I love walking by rivers.

Just as I reluctantly and dutifully turned to go back up the AT, another group of thru-hikers came down the trail. The lead hiker, Red Beard, wore a ball cap with a cocktail umbrella stuck to the top. The hat had the words “Hike Your Own Hike” in huge letters on the bill. If that’s not a sign from God, I don’t know what is.

Hike Your Own Hike!

I took the VCT and that made all the difference.

I immediately felt some of my burden lift. Gus and I had a great walk, with plenty of space to walk side by side, and spots where he could jump in the creek for a swim. I saw parts of the Appalachians I might not otherwise have seen. Most of all, we had fun.*

And this is supposed to be fun, right?

Daily Stats:

  • Start: US 58 (Mile 487.7)
  • End: Damascus (Mile 470.7)
  • Weather: Perfect hiking weather. Partly sunny, chilly, breezy
  • Earworm: Psalm 23 (led by still waters)
  • Meditation: Psalm 23
  • Plant of the Day: Dame’s Rocket
  • Best Thing: Freedom
  • Worst Thing: Snakes*


*Not fun: Two snakes (Cottonmouth? Copperhead? Common Watersnake?) hanging out on the one of the wooden bridges, sliding creepily down between the wooden slats as a I approached. I can’t express how much I hate snakes. And now, I’m also not feeling too good about wooden bridges.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 9

  • Smitty : May 19th

    Sure that’s not a common water snake they’ll bite and draw blood but non venomous

    • Jon : May 20th

      I thought it had a pit viper head shape when I saw it on the bridge, but it doesn’t look like it in the photo. You’re probably right.

  • Roz : May 20th

    My favorite post of yours, and quite possibly all-time top 5 I have read. This time is YOUR time. Enjoy!

    • Jon : May 20th

      Thx, Roz!

  • thetentman : May 20th

    The Virginia Blues? Jon, you should know that I am having fun reading your adventures. You should too. HYOH!

    And thx.

    • Jon : May 20th

      As always, thx for reading!

  • Charlotte : May 20th

    How wonderful to read your post today! Inspiring as always! Psalms 120:1 🙏

    • Jon : May 21st

      Good verse. Thanks!

  • Mike Nixon : May 26th

    I’m pretty sure the snake in the pic I see is a copperhead. While I don’t see the other snake, I don’t think it is a water moccasin/cottonmouth. I think they are in more coastal areas. Stay safe out there!


What Do You Think?