Days 41-43 on The Appalachian Trail

First Things First: Giving Thanks

Everyday I give thanks for many things in my life. I would like to give my thank you to a number of people who helped see me off of and back to the trail. In order of appearance:

Franklin County Tennessee Emergency Services Personnel

Franklin County Hospital and Dr. Holland

Captain Hong, 341st Medical Group, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana

Ozog Eye Care, Great Falls, Montana

Northern Montana Oral Surgery, Great Falls, Montana

Same Day Orthopedics at Benefis Hospital Great Falls, Montana

Bighorn Outdoor Specialists, Great Falls, Montana. Chris and the team have taken care of the majority of my needs on the trail since the beginning and will be there as I continue North. I am grateful.

My Family and Friends, Everywhere. The prayers and well wishes do more to heal and encourage than you know. Thank you for being there always. Mom and Carrie, I’ve already said what I need to in private.

I have glossed over the exact events that caused my injuries. I was walking near an edge of an exposef ridge in the vicinity of Iron Mountain Shelter and the sleet and rain were constant. I stepped a bit to the right and a mass of leaves and dirt gave way underneath and slid toward the edge. I grabbed ahold of a rhododendron branch and continued to slide, but was able to position myself for the drop as my hand slipped from the branch. It goes without saying that I did not stick the landing. Doing a parachute drop-type roll onto my left side, my pack swung and pulled my head onto the rock floor causing a hard impact and brief unconsciousness. I gathered myself and took a body inventory. Could I feel and move toes, legs, fingers, and arms? Yes. Vision? Double and then blurry. Bleeding from the face, definitely! I took out my phone and took a picture to find the extent of my injuries. Nose definitely broken, but that is nothing as there have been numerous fractures and three surgeries. Left eye socket on fire. Let me break to say I am a certified combat lifesaver and felt confident in my assessment. I stood up and knew there were problems with my left foot and knee.
Looking at the terrain I knew it was too steep to go up so down it had to be. There is an app I use, GAIA GPS, that provides detailed mapping and I found the nearest road in the direction I needed to go. Thankfully I had cell signal and contacted Franklin County Emergency Services. I let them know I was injured, but ambulatory and mobile and could make my way down. GPS coordinates were given and they kept constant contact as I made my way down the very steep and foliaged valley. I fell several times on the way to the valley floor and each time turned to let my pack take the impact. It was not fun. When I reached the bottom I caught sight of the telltale reflective jackets of the responders and they and I made our way down to a waiting ambulance and associated team. The first thing they asked was why I was smiling. Easy, I’m still here and upright. It could have been worse. As we looked back up at my egress route you could see a long path where I had to slide, probably 80 yards or more. Farewell rain pants. I was transported to the hospital where I was kept for observation overnight, cleared to fly, picked up by my son and grandson, and flew out of Greensboro, NC back home to Montana for medical treatment.

All of the medical personnel and staff listed above did more than just attend to me, they treated as if I were their only patient. My gratitude forever! As for the 341st Medical Group and Captain Hong in particular, best military health care anywhere!

Days 41-43 From Watauga Lake to Damascus

Pre-injury I had hiked in continuous rain and sleep from my stealth site past Vandeventer Shelter towards Iron Mountain Shelter with the goal of reaching Osborne Farm. The above events describe the remainder of Day 41

Day 42 Reinsertion into The Matrix

Having flown back a week to the day of injury I overnighted near the Virginia border and my son and grandson son drove me to Cross Mountain at mile 449 so I could begin my walk South back to the scene of my misery and North again to continue my journey. My son is teaching my grandson how to leave me in the woods.
I had been asked by someone to get a picture of where bad things happen. I did not. It was sleet and rain when it happened, and on and off rain when I went back. And I could only guesstimate the exact location. No more “Charles Falls” jokes. Although it is funny. I walked as close as I could guess and turned North again.

At the pastures going North from Cross Mountain the trail has been smoothed and graveled for a length of handicap access. What a great thing that is. I did explain to my grandson that the trail was not like that for the greatest portion of it’s length. It was a nice bit to walk. Seeing the barn with the AT emblem marked another milestone. The walk to Abingdon Shelter went by without effort and 19 miles was almost my longest day. The pharmaceutical industry had something to do with me walking that length post-injury. The rain continued as I tried to sleep and somewhere in the night stopped. The rain had been replaced by snow.

Day 43 Walking Into Damascus

As I woke to snow the anticipation of walking into Damascus had me more than excited. Finally I would cross into Virginia and have completed three states. Cold breakfast as usual and off I wandered. My mind was focused on seeing the town, the river, and The Diner. The snow and ice underfoot had me stepping carefully and my happy feeling was growing. Turns, bends, ups, and downs were just things in the way of seeing Trail Town USA. I had been walking some time and came across a couple day hiking. I exchanged greetings with the young man and stood to the side as the young lady approached. “Your eye looks better” she said. It is strange, but nice being recognized from blogging and a facebook group. When she said that the state border was right around the bend and that it was just a few miles to Damascus I was almost giddy.  A short walk and pictures with the border sign. Finally, Virginia!

Walking down into Damascus was almost triumphal. I stopped and took a picture with the AT sign and immediately sent it to a friend in Montana who is a former Damascus resident.

I strode into town and stopped at Damascus Outfitters to look snd rest my feet for a few minutes. Melissa is a gem and helped me with securing lodging for the night. Lady Di’s B&B is a beautiful home and run by an AT thru hiker. I made my way up the street and to the house where Lady Di greeted me and gave me a tour.

I went to my room and layed back on the bed only to awaken after the diner had closed. Oh well. A stroll down the street and I procured a gas station pizza and two pints of ice cream. Ate what I could, arranged for a shuttle in the morning for a day of slack packing, and contentedly dozed off. Virginia!!!



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Comments 4

  • CzechM8 : Mar 17th

    Charles, you’re now in my back yard! Do you like steak & potatoes? We tend to grill a lot at home. We also have an all-u-can-eat Chinese buffet in Wytheville, if that’d be more comfortable for you… but they’re closed on Tuesdays. Seems like you may be in the area around then. I can pick you up as far from where my family lives as Dickey Gap, but I don’t know how we can touch base outside of this blogging website!!

  • Steve : Mar 17th

    I’m glad to see you are back on the trail. I enjoy your posted. Safe travels.

  • Bluewhale : Mar 18th

    I’m glad you made it back! Welcome to the Commonwealth!

  • Kelli Ramey : Mar 19th

    So glad to hear you are still at it.
    You inspire so many people.
    Keep us posted!


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