Easy Hiking but Rookie Mistakes

Day 44: Boots Off Hostel to Iron Mountain Shelter

We left the hostel around 9 a.m. It’s nice to return to trail, but for some reason I wasn’t really feeling it today. I tried not to think about the miles ahead and focused instead on my audiobook. Moving slowly from lack of enthusiasm, I managed to carry myself 16 miles. This isn’t a race, so there’s no reason to be hung up on pace.

We’re shooting for 20 miles tomorrow, which I’m actually excited for.

The Boots Off Hostel bunkhouse.


Day 45: Iron Mountain Shelter to No Name Gap

I had a bit of a water scare this morning when the water source I was counting on turned up dry. Do you want to know how to hike faster? Hike thirsty! An additional 5.5 miles later, I found a small stream to filter at. Thank the water gods!

The weather is starting to warm up and it reminds me of Florida; hot and humid. Despite the heat, I felt really good all day. The terrain is nearly flat here with the occasional small up and down. I believe this section of the Appalachian Trail is known at the Tennessee Turnpike.  Overall, it was fairly easy hiking today and I found myself running quite a bit. I really do love running when the terrain allows and my pack weight can afford it.

Midmorning, I happened upon a field of cows that the trail passed through. It’s funny how the simplest things can bring the biggest smiles to my face. I loved seeing the cows!


Stoked to see the cows!


Unfortunately, Zia really struggled mentally with the mileage today. When we got to camp, she silently broke down. We’ve all had these days, of course. Fossey and I did our best to comfort her and assure her that she’ll bounce back, as we all do.  I hope she is able to overcome her mental block and find the willingness to hike bigger miles in the future. We’re about to be in Virginia where the bigger miles can and should happen.

Day 46: No Name Gap to Damascus/Woodchuck Hostel

Hello, Virginia!


The Dirty Thirties are about to take on Virginia!

We neroed into Damascus this morning. Damascus is another tiny town that the trail passes directly through. I had a late lunch at Mojo’s and then got to work on the usual domestic chores of laundry and resupply. Oh the joys of being in town.

Trail family love.

Day 47: Damascus to Lost Mountain Shelter

Hiking out of Damascus, the weather was perfect, sunny and cool with a light breeze. Though the trail was not particularly challenging, I struggled to find my groove today. I have a corn developing on my right heel and both of my Achilles hurt, making it most unpleasant to walk. I took two hourlong breaks in an effort to perk up but the drive to push never came. I rolled into camp just before dark but I made it. I hope tomorrow is a better day.


Taking a break at Saunders Shelter, not eager to hike today.


Day 48: Lost Mountain Shelter to Thomas Knob Shelter

The trail today was, once again, very easy. I am definitely liking Virginia. Though the sky threatened a storm, I got incredible views from the top of a grassy bald. As I neared the shelter, however, I heard a few claps of thunder. Fortunately, I managed to get to safety just moments before the sky opened up. It hailed for several minutes before turning into heavy rain.


The rolling hills of Virginia.

Lost Mountain Shelter is a large shelter with capacity for approximately 16. Being at the top of Mount Rogers, Virginia’s highest peak, it’s popular with section hikers. Lately, I see a lot more section hikers than I do thru-hikers. I have nothing directly against section hikers but I often find them to be somewhat inconsiderate, lacking both shelter and trail etiquette. The section hikers I share the shelter with this evening are no exception.

I’m really looking forward to going into the Grayson Highlands tomorrow. We’re going to see ponies!

Day 49: Thomas Knob Shelter to Hurricane Mountain Shelter

If I had to sum up my day: cold, windy, lots of rocks, hurt feet, and don’t forget the ponies.

Let me first start off by saying that it got really cold last night. It seems last night’s storm brought with it a cold front that I can only assume is categorically cold for Virginia in June. Today’s high was 56 degrees and coupled with high winds, I required my puffy jacket to stay warm. I never would’ve guessed I’d need my puffy in June; it’s been used as my pillow for weeks. I’m glad I have it for those times when it’s needed for its intended purpose.

We had a wonderful time in the Grayson Highlands this morning despite the fog and cold. We got to see several ponies and we were even able to pet a few.

The ponies of the Grayson Highlands.

Though the elevation gain and loss remain desirable, the trail today was very rocky. I love the zero drop shoes until I have to walk several miles on small rocks. My feet feel bruised. Regardless, it was a good day. We passed the 500-mile mark and we got to see ponies. I wrapped up the night with the usual chitchat and laughs shared around the fire with the girls and our new friend, South.


500 miles down, only 1,692 more to go!


Day 50: Hurricane Mountain Shelter to Partnership Shelter

I started my day full of energy, excited for the 19 miles ahead. I felt so good, in fact, that I danced as I hiked along the trail. However, things drastically changed around lunchtime when I realized that my food supply was dangerously low. I ate a light lunch to conserve food, which may have been my first mistake as I became increasingly fatigued as the day progressed. When I realized how sluggish and hungry I was, I ate all of my remaining food trying to perk up, which was possibly my second mistake.

Fatigued, I failed to make proper water arrangements and found myself several miles from the next water source with only half a liter on hand, my third mistake. With no food and little water, I thought an audiobook would help distract me but instead of hitting play, I accidentally deleted it. It was my only audiobook and my fourth mistake of the day. On top of that, the bottom of my left foot is really starting to hurt. It feels like a knife is stabbing the underside. Needless to say, today was not my favorite but many lessons were learned.

I was relieved to finally make it in to camp.  The Partnership Shelter is a pretty cool shelter. My favorite thing about the Partnership Shelter is that it is so close to town that you can have pizza delivered. Just what I needed after the kind of day I had. Tomorrow we’ll go into Marion. My feet could use the rest as they’re pretty banged up.


Hanging out by the fire with my girls at Partnership Shelter.

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Comments 2

  • Mike : Jul 9th

    The Pony Picture is fantastic! Great post, Jessica!

  • Sandra K Price : Jul 23rd

    I really am enjoying reading about your hiking experiences. I love how open and candid you are.

    Your faithful follower,


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