Hot Springs to Damascus

Well, I guess we left off in Hot Springs, NC. Keeping up with this is proving to be more of a challenge than I thought it would be… This time I have the luxury of typing this post from an actual computer from our hotel business center! The more I keep my phone off, the more I’m getting used to it being off and the more I like it remaining off. I’m going through my daily journal with a smile on my face, revisiting so many daily adventures and thinking of people we hike or have hiked with. I have a bit of remorse that I haven’t taken more pictures with them and of the natural trail beauty, but it’s true when they say pictures never can do it justice. Anyway, I’ll try…

300 miles

Hot Springs was a great little trail town but it was tainted for us with a stomach bug that persisted for a good 72 hours. At the end of it, we couldn’t seem to put enough miles between us and the town. Norovirus, by the way, is extremely contagious and propagates up and down the trail similar to traffic on a freeway. A couple days out we came across an “Exposed Ridge”. This gave us the option to continue on the white blazes (the true AT) or an optional blue blaze trail in case there was inclement weather. We had thunderstorms the days leading up to this point but it was only cloudy so we took the white blaze trail up and over the ridge. In true AT fashion, it started off as a mundane climb then went up faster than Mary Poppins with a beach umbrella. We hit 300 miles on the AT atop the ridge and got our picture taken by a hiker and now-friend, Twinkle Toes.
Shortly after, we heard thunder off in the distance and found an emergency blue blaze down to safety. I was quite literally the tallest thing on the ridge…
  • May 5: Dad’s boat went in today… would have been Pepper and my boat going in today too ;(
  • May 5: Pepper hung her first bear bag!
  • May 9: Mothers Day – Thinking of mom. Wishing she was here to see me now…

Kincora Hostel

One of the highlights of our trip so far was being able to stay at Bob Peoples’ home and trail hostel, ‘Kincora’. It was at the end of a tiring 21-mile day when we decided to seek shelter at 9pm. The hostel is iconic to the trail and Bob is even more so. We had our own private cabin in the back which was built by Bob – twin-sized bed, couch, wood stove, dining table, and chairs were all that was in it.
The main hostel had a little living room, kitchen, and bunks in the back and on the second story. Bob led us out to our cabin, showed us around and before leaving turned to us with a warning that startled us. “IF…you guys have to use the restroom during the night, beware.” He went on ominously about the size of his property and the lack of civilization around it. “There’s a bear that hangs around here… along with a possum, three raccoons, and my two cats.” We all laughed at his changing demeanor and light-heartedness at the end. I journaled about how neat it was to be talking to an AT legend.
  • May 11: Met Pop Tart, G-Hippy and Snortz giving out trail magic. Had a PBR.
  • May 12: Walked around Watauga Lake. Walked out onto Watauga Dam – Not the typical dam, no water on the other side.
  • May 13: Passed random monument in the woods “Lived alone, suffered alone, died alone”
  • May 14: Hiked down the hill and had trail magic beers with The Trail Fairies – Flora, Fauna & Merriweather. Funny gals!

Trail Magic Beers!


In one day we achieved two big milestones: We entered our fourth state (Virginia) and we successfully walked into Trail Days!
For those who aren’t familiar, Trail Days is a big event the town puts on for hikers. It’s a reunion for some, a party for others, a chance to let loose after 470 miles of hiking and a chance to buy newer, lighter gear from vendors. We hadn’t known about Trail Days before starting our thru-hike but it quickly became a goal to hike into it – many other hikers shuttle north or south to Trail Days depending on where they are on the trail. We found our posse camped out in “Tent City” in a nice little section near a creek and we gladly set up tent nearby. We made a valiant effort to leave on Saturday but we got pulled into the vortex. We’re glad we did because Saturday night was a great hiker reunion and met many new friends.

Saturday night in the field section of Tent City

The town of Damascus really blows up during Trail Days. They know exactly how to cater and handle a big, stinky crowd of hikers. From medical tents to portable shower and laundry trailers – they have us covered. I had bad shin splints the two weeks leading up Trail Days so we stopped at a tent that was checking vitals as well as performing other free medical consultations. My blood pressure was exemplary but apparently, I was still considered “overweight” according to my BMI. 6′-3″ and 242 pounds is what I stood at on Springer Mountain on Day 1. I was down 25 pounds – roughly my full pack weight! If I lose any more weight I’m afraid I’ll have to find a volleyball and name it Wilson…

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Comments 5

  • Noro : Jun 2nd

    Haha, if you have norovirus you will know it for more than 72 hours! I ate one norovirus bowl of soup once and couldn’t eat for 3wks, never been sicker!

  • Nicholas Phillips : Jun 3rd

    So proud of both of you, keep it up! As a AT Sectional hiker, I smile at your post because, I can relate to some of your experiences. I am tracking your course on my AT wall map in my office.

    When you get to Northern Virginia, (Font Royal), just north of the Shenandoah National Park there is a great place to stay called Mountain Home! 540.692.198. It is less than 500′ feet off the AT trail. I stayed there on my trek to Harpers Ferry, WV.

    I would love to hook up with you two at Bear Den right on the AT trail 540.554.8708. The place is fantastic for hikers! And hike with you into Harper’s Ferry, WV. Let me know. It is a short section that I did not complete on one of my sectional hikes. Let me know!

    Praying for you both! Blessings! Dr. Nick Phillips

  • Manfred Heck : Jun 3rd

    Keep going, keep it coming! Love the blog!!

    For a future post, what’s one thing you wish you HADN’T brought along? What’s one thing you wish you HAD brought along?

  • Mom : Jun 3rd

    Flora, Fauna & Merriweather 💛 I want to meet them 🥰

  • GroundHog : Jun 4th

    Great writing, I really like the “guy next door” vibe. There is something you need to look at though- you are loosing a pound every 12 miles. That’s not sustainable…. The shortfall is something like a pound of food a day! You need to start eating more right now to slow the rate of fat burn. Otherwise you’re going to hit a big brick wall of hiker hunger, muscle loss & calorie starvation somewhere north of Harper’s Ferry
    More FOOD = more MILES!
    Best of luck


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