Days 44-49 on The Appalachian Trail

Moving Up The Trail Post-Injury

Returning to the trail was an easy decision  Lady Di’s B&B in Damascus provided a great first stop with an amazing home, wonderful thru-hiker host, and a great breakfast. The homemade sourdough bread is a must try and Di is knowledgeable and of great help navigating the area and moving your hike forward.

I’m posting the only picture I can find of me without a smile. It was taken to assess facial injuries after my fall. There was no way to bluff through my unhappiness at that moment.

It makes my Hall of Shame list for not being more careful.


My highlights are aside from the beautiful town and great people. I understand the draw and why folks flock to it. The Damascus Diner. Homestyle, make you feel happy and warm food. Great breakfast which was made even better by sharing the time with Glenn Spain, who should be hitting the trail in a few weeks. You are a bright spot in my story Glenn.

Damascus Outfitters and the outstanding staff. I’m going to highlight Melissa for her help and guidance. Also, our conversations provided brightness and humanity to my days in Damascus. Don’t rush to leave this wonderful town. Stay and shuttle in and out like I did.

Something of note, there is a chiropractic clinic opening next door to the diner. I definitely would have been a customer and if I hike through town again at a later date the clinic will be on my to-do list.

Gear Changes

My Hoka TenNines failed me after 350 miles and I’m sure it wasn’t my blinding speed that made the tread come off.

Marion Outfitters doesn’t carry Hokas and I called shoe Guru Rob at Outdoor 76 in Franklin, NC to discuss suitable replacements. From my previous problems in January when Rob and Kelton got me back on the trail. With the help of Coach in Marion I slipped into a pair of TOPO Mountain 3 trail runners. I have two pair of these at home in Montana in a size that no longer fit me because of the trail’s effect on making my feet grow. In style and ready to hike again.

I decided on a pack change from my ULA and I wanted one with a suspension similar to my Osprey that needs more volume for my current load. Ashe at Marion Outfitters walked me through some options and we settled on a Gregory Zulu 65. It weighs 4 pounds, but the carry comfort fits my needs/wants. It is a happy thing and had helped my hike comfortably.

A Hiker Turned Hostel Owner

My second stay during these days was at The Harborsite Inn in Troutdale, VA. It was previously named Grayson Highlands Base Camp. The owner, Luis Herrera is a former force recon Marine who was thru hiking in 2023 and came off trail and bought the hostel. There is some construction and improvements going on , but he is guest ready. Luis shuttled me to and from the trail, and into Marion, VA for resupply and gear. Great person, fellow wounded warrior, and new friend.

Days 44-45

The shuttle driver picked me up after I had had a nice breakfast at Lady Di’s, and we drove out to Beartree Gap so I could walk southbound to Damascus and continue to test the strength of my left foot. The ups and downs of the trail seemed to be easing and I had the good fortune of meeting a thru hiker named Rainy within the first mile. It had been many days since I had seen another of my kind.

I view every rock wall with suspicion

The scenery is constant beauty in this 12 miles and the AT comes near the Virginia Creeper Trail closer to Damascus. All went well with the exception of my feet feeling every twig and stone. When I arrived back into town I headed straight to Damascus Outfitters to look at shoe inserts. Upon removing my shoes and inserts I discovered the original inserts were now as thin as communion wafers and providing no cushion at all. The Superfeet cushions were a relief. Floating on the new cushions I walked to the diner for dinner. The meatloaf was worth the walk to town and some fine citizen was generous and paid for my meal. A short hike back to the B&B to prep for the next day.

After breakfast with Glenn and a shuttle to Elk Garden it was southbound again over White Top. What a great hike. The views around White Top are singularly pleasing.

So many balds and highlands along the trail, and each makes me want to linger awhile. So much to see concentrated into so few miles.

I get lost in my steps at times after seeing such striking views that the hike is finished almost without notice. The Shuttle took me back to Elk Garden for my hand off to Luis and four nights at the Harborsite Inn.

Days 46-49

Rolling out at first light back to Elk Garden I was anxious for what the day held, mile 500 and the Grayson Highlands with the wild ponies. Though my wife and I raise horses and mules there is something special about seeing a wild horse in it’s habitat.

There seemed to be an ample amount of uphill and rock to get to the 500 mile mark. Turning down toward Massie Gap I came upon the ponies. They paid little attention to me as they went about their feeding. So elegant!

Passing The Scales and Old Orchard Shelter I was happy with the day’s travel and finished at State Route 603. Luis took me into Marion for some groceries and back to Harborsite Inn.

Another morning, another Range Meal Bar breakfast, and on to the trail. I’ll be honest as always. The highlights of the day were the first daffodils, and going to Marion Outfitters to pick out a new pack. Fourteen miles and off at Virginia Route 670. Ashe at the store was a great help and a joy to meet. The Gregory pack is a good fit for me.

Back on the trail and heading the 12 miles to Glade Mountain Road I came across another thru hiker, Rambler, who will be pictured in the next post. The highlights are the nicest shelter I have seen complete with modern latrine nearby and the Forest Service Headquarters. I didn’t even notice it in the map. There is a vending machine and for $2 you can get a wide variety of beverages as long as you want Powerade because everything else was sold out. It was then I noticed that leaves were stuck under my left shoe as the tread had torn away. Hike ended and again into Marion Outfitters.

My last night at Harborsite Inn and a mixed feeling about leaving. So many good people to meet along the way. Up in the morning and back to Glade Mountain Road for a farewell and a long day.

Past some large power lines you come upon the Settlers Museum. Pretty cool photo op and there was a nice young lady that asked to hike with me for a bit. Kind of nice to have company on the trail.


Winding through meadows and up past Rural Retreat and some interesting white blazes.

Past quarter way.

I had to backtrack some miles realizing my destination road to try to hitch into town was isolated and most likely not heavily traveled. I haf made well over 20 miles and walked down a paved road, had a pleasant conversation with a retired veteran and his delightful family. They filled one of my bottles with what the patriarch assured me was the finest spring water in the county. He will get no argument from me. I continued down the road as dark quickly approached and put my thumb out. Happily the truck stopped and it was a young man from the family I spoke to who had set out to give me a ride to Bland. This young gentleman is counted amongst my angels. He took me to the store, sandwich shop, and motel. An answered prayer, kindness from a stranger, and safe harbor to a weary traveler. That angel embodies the good in the world.

Final Thoughts

Keep us from harm on our journeys. Remind yourself to be thankful for the smallest kindness. Be giving to those around you. Love is found in the smallest expression of good for those of us constantly searching. Do good with the gift of the day you are given.

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Comments 5

  • Dee : Mar 23rd

    So good to see you back out on the trail. Safe travels and godspeed.

  • Bennett F. C. Walters : Mar 23rd

    Simply desire to say your article is as surprising. The clearness in your post is simply excellent and i could assume you are an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the gratifying work.

  • Doug Burns : Mar 24th

    Been following your posts since Springer. Wanted to read about the trail experiences of an “older” person like myself. Good to see you are back in the saddle, showing good resilience. I am planning to start a flip-flop hike at Harper’s Ferry on April 26. Maybe we will cross paths at some point.
    Cheers, Doug Burns

  • Melanie Miller : Mar 24th

    Let us know when you get near Shenandoah NP.
    If you need a day or 2 off the trail, we can certainly spoil you with Torchys Tacos in Charlottesville and a nice cozy place to stay.

    🙂 Mel and Chuck

  • Kelli Ramey : Mar 26th

    You are hiking right ahead of Spring.


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