Day 45 – The Memorial Marathon into Damascus

Today we set an aggressive goal. Not just our first 20+ mile day, but in fact a full marathon (26.2 miles) of hiking into the town of Damascus. A few years ago we did a Memorial Day Murph Challenge (run 2 miles, 300 squats, 200 pushups, 100 pull-ups) celebrating the life of veteran LT Michael Murphy who died heroically in combat on June 28, 2005. Today was a different version of the Murph challenge for me, albeit symbolically significant nonetheless.

I woke up earlier than usual to accomplish the additional miles. I slept well and got my things packed by 7:30. By 7:45 I was off, the first in the tramily to start, which was also a first for me. Rain was still drizzling when I left. My dry socks were wet the moment I put my shoes on and fully soaked ten minutes into hiking. The thought of “how long does trench foot take to set in?” crossed my mind.

I set an aggressive pace and never looked back. I finished the first 11 miles in under four hours. The terrain was steady but manageable ups and downs the whole way. I only stopped once for any significant period of time. At 16 miles in, Abingdon Gap Shelter, I stopped for a quick lunch and water. It was the last water resupply for ten miles. I ate the rest of my snacks on the go while walking. I also removed my rain gear here despite the lingering clouds.

The first sunlight poked through the trees at mile, 25. Just about everything hurt at some point in the day (specifically in the last six miles). My hips, arches, ankles, knees, and toes (knees and toes). I made it into Damascus around 5:30PM, surprised nobody in my tramily had passed me (Rabbit specifically). The Tortoise (me in this scenario) got the better of him this time. Although, I did get passed by a man with a full head of white hair, which was humbling to say the least.

The town of Damascus looked quaint without all the hubbub of Trail Days a week earlier. There was a sign that said “dead end” which was exactly how I felt after 26 miles. I walked through town to “The Place Hostel” which is affiliated with the Methodist Church it sits behind. The caretaker “Bayou” greeted me and gave me the tour.

I headed over to the Damascus Diner for dinner which consisted of meatloaf and chicken wings and three mellow yellow fountain refills. Town is where you put your weight back on. I got some to-go food for Rabbit and Hatcher as they wouldn’t make it to town before the diner closed. I plan to head back in the morning when they open for breakfast. Sip has ten miles left still to meet us tomorrow, so I’ll likely be having lunch at the diner as well.

I watched game seven of the Eastern NBA finals on my phone before bed. Happy the Heat won (or more-so that the Celtics lost), Rabbit and I strategize our food supply and potential stopping point for tomorrow. It was a long but rewarding day. My trail legs were fully tested and nothing broke. I feel ready for the 544 miles Virginia has to offer.

Stow away in my pack for Day 46 on the Appalachian trail.


Hey brother, I’m so glad we met at Ft Irwin and that you’re just a ways down the road in TX. Thanks for always hosting me when I’ve rolled through town. I’ve always admired you as a family man and something I aspire to be one day. Keep up the good work and anytime y’all are in SA hit me up. Take care.

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Comments 5

  • James Nelson Reeb : May 30th

    Doc: Love your posts. When will you be hitting Maryland? Love to bring some trail magic-Fellow Vets are AT section hikers, we know the Maryland drill, very well. Semper Fi, and AATW! Jimbo

    • Derek Witteman : Jun 4th

      Hey Jimbo, thanks for following. My plan is to hit all of Maryland on the 30th this month when we do the 4 state challenge. But after that I’ll be Middletown with my girlfriend (she used to live there) for a few zero days.

  • Russ Hobgood : May 31st

    Ah, made it to Va. Please make note that Va isn’t flat despite persistant rumors. Hoping the weather clears, May has been a wash. 544 miles of Va, well you got in the first 5 or so. Best of trail luck and fair weather.

    • Derek Witteman : Jun 4th

      We’re definitely finding that out. Not flat, but the trail legs make the ups and downs more tolerable. We’ve been blessed with great weather so far, hopefully that continues

  • thetentman : May 31st

    Nice post. Thx.


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