Days 28 to 34 of my 2023 AT Nobo Thru-Hike

Day 28

Hood on and buttoned to keep my hat on my head in the high winds

We started the day at Clyde Smith shelter before doing what essentially felt like 22 miles of climbing to Doll Flats campground on the side of Hump Mountain, thus finishing out the Roan Highlands in a day! Despite the rain and the strong thunderstorm last night, water was a bit tricky to find, although we were being picky. I hiked all day with 700, Will, Groot, and Anna. We started the day with the Alchemist, but due to poor communication he went on ahead while the rest of us stopped at the Roan High Knob shelter to check it out and have snacks. The views today, once we broke out of the trees, were absolutely incredible along the ridgeline. The high winds were also something else, as they were strong enough to quite literally knock us over when we were going up Little Hump and Hump Mountain. I’m stoked from playing in the wind, and excited for town food tomorrow! Also, my new little group might be starting a book club on trail!!! I love continually meeting amazing people out here.

Day 29

Myself, Anna, Groot, and The Masochist pose at the falls after a nice, ice cold foot soaking break

After a very brisk three miles near sprint this morning, we were surprised with a full breakfast as trail magic right at the road crossing. One of the kind people involved gave us a ride to a nearby dollar general to resupply, and then we ended up hanging out at the magic spot again for lunch and drinks as no other hikers had shown up! A bit past noon, the Alchemist informed us that he had a deadline to reach Damascus, so he launched out of there and we rushed to follow suit. Groot, Anna, Masochist, and I ended up doing a short day and calling it early at the Mountaineer Falls shelter as we were all feeling a bit banged up. The hike was absolutely gorgeous, as it wove past old cemeteries, ancient trees, and a large river. At one point, Groot climbed a tree and serenaded us as I sat and rested my poor legs. Hopefully tomorrow we are back up to 100%, and we can crank out at least 20 miles. That being said, just hanging out at magic and enjoying the company was absolutely wonderful!

Day 30

Anna, The Masochist, and Groot raid the hiker box at Boots Off Hostel

Today went fairly smoothly, until the final climb which absolutely killed us. Will (The Masochist) left early in the night to run to town to grab a box. We slowly chugged along as we were still banged up from the Roan Highlands, and suffering due to our well worn shoes. Thankfully, we had pretty good weather and some excellent views. We ran into Ma and Marlene again, which was a wonderful sight! We also saw gorgeous waterfalls and had an absolutely amazing section of trail before that last tough climb. To wrap the day up, we ended up tenting at Boots Off Hostel, and enjoying some delicious pizza and Yoohoos!

Day 31

Watauga Lake as seen from the dam, before the climb up to the ridge line

We slept in today and woke up to Groot unfortunately being quite sick! After taking care of some camp chores and gentle prodding from him, we left him be in his tent with some Gatorade and crackers, and set off on what we thought would be an easy day. Boy were we wrong haha. After a nice lake side walk, we immediately had a long climb followed by what felt like an all day ridge climb/ridge walk that had no cover and very little water. It was also unseasonably warm, so nearly everyone we passed was some level of dehydrated with salt lines on their clothes. Thankfully, Masochist, Anna, and I managed our water well and made it down to the other side where we stopped in an absolutely beautiful meadow for the evening. There were no nearby water sources, but we had carried enough that we were able to figure it out and make due. Of note today, we saw the Nick Grindstaff monument (which had the saddest grave words), and I caught up with 700 and The Alchemist on the phone to figure out what their plans were. I’m excited to get more water in the morning and to make it to Damascus soon for new shoes!

Day 32

Our absolutely gorgeous campsite at sunrise before heading in to Damascus

We had a quick easy day today into Damascus. We stopped and camped last night in an absolutely gorgeous meadow, where we caught an amazing sunrise and sunset. Our hike today consisted of mostly small hills, so it was easy to put down miles in my sad old shoes. Right as we were about to stop for lunch, we ran into Emoji again, who loaded us up with sugar, smiles, and great conversation! She informed us that it would probably be the last time we see her on trail, as she is wrapping it up for the year. After that, we quickly rolled into Damascus, where we had dinner with The Alchemist and Flying Camel. Anna and I had tequila shots to celebrate another state, and then we headed to the Methodist church bunks to set up for the night. There we ran into Catch and Stairmaster, who I had a bit of a reunion with. After that, they left to do a resupply, and we went over to the Broken Fiddle for drinks and fun with our other friends. All in all, and excellent day!

Day 33

I neglected to take other pictures today, so here’s one of Masochist eating a stick of butter on a dare

Zero day in Damascus! Our little group had been taking turns “running” each day, and today it was my turn. So we started the day with brunch at the Damascus Diner complete with mimosas! Afterwards, we went on a wild goose chase to find my new shoes which I had shipped to an outfitter. After checking with the post office and every local outfitter, we determined that the guy who had picked up the packages had accidentally left mine in his car. With that sorted, I pressured Anna into getting new shoes, and then we headed over to Broken Fiddle, where we were staying for the night. The rest of the day was essentially one big hang out session in the hammocks with Anna, enjoying some well earned cold beverages and some amazing company. That night, a bunch of us went to a local wing spot before retiring early. As we had spent too much time hanging out, we unfortunately didn’t finish all of our chores on time. I ended up reading a short story, The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allen Poe, aloud to the group as the tv was in use so we couldn’t watch a movie. I was able to crash in a queen sized bed, the first bed all trip that has been long enough to not make my toes hang off! But by far, the largest highlight of the day is that Anna and I broached the topic of our growing feelings towards one another. Today was our first opportunity to spend time alone together, and we quickly determined that our affections were mutual! I had some inkling that she felt the same way towards me, and I am absolutely ecstatic to begin a relationship with her, while hiking the trail together!

Day 34

The Broken Fiddle, in all it’s glory

After a long and relaxing day yesterday, we started off today by grabbing breakfast and quickly knocking out the chores we had avoided the previous day. Anna and I got breakfast sandwiches, and the Masochist packed out two Subway Italian subs. We said goodbye to Treehouse at Broken Fiddle, and then set out down the road towards the trail. On the way out, I picked up a 10 pack of Fireball nips (mini bottles) as I had been enjoying the Alchemist’s apple cider + Fireball. We then proceeded to have easily the wettest day on trail that I have experienced so far, as we slogged out a quick and easy 16 miles to Lost Mountain Shelter. It had to have rained more than an inch as the trail turned into a river, and every piece of clothing and gear became absolutely soaked. Needless to say, after having some dinner, we put on dry clothes, bundled up, and called it an early night. The Masochist was incredibly thankful for his subs, and Anna and I were thankful for the Fireball. Fingers crossed it stops raining and dries out a but tomorrow!

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