Slackpacking Into Virginia

Day 31:  AT Miles 0 — Zero At The Refuge

It has been raining the entire day so far so my decision to take a zero is proving to be a wise one. I spent the morning cleaning my gear, backflushing my water filter, and preparing food for the next four days. I had the hostel to myself, which was nice, and turned 70s classic music on and just chilled. It was an awesome way to recharge and get ready for seven days averaging close to 20 miles per day.

My breakfast feast

The Refuge Hostel

I can’t say enough about The Refuge hostel. It’s very chill and has everything a hiker could possibly want. The rates are incredible, the resupply prices very low, the accommodations clean and up to date, and the two owners are the most friendly and generous people I’ve met on the trail so far.

The Refuge Hostel Lounge

I put a plan together this morning to slackpack tomorrow and stay here another night, and then do a hard 20 into the Boots Off hostel. That hard 20 will be in an all day soaking rain if the forecast is correct. Then I will have two more 20 mile days to get into Damascus Virginia where I will meet my wife for a night as she travels for business to Charlotte, North Carolina. If all goes well, and I can do 63 miles over three days into Marion, Virginia, I will see her again on her way back to our home in Columbus, Ohio.

Day 32:  AT Miles 12.3 Miles — FS 293 To The Refuge Hostel

Did you notice today that I am actually hiking back to where I started the day? I took advantage of the offer to slackpack which means I will just carry a day pack and hike a shorter distance. Robert will drop me off 12 miles down the trail and I will hike back to the hostel to spend the night.

Today started as expected with steady rain in the morning. I was sticking to my plan of waiting until noon to slackpack. I got started around 12:30 and the trail was surprisingly in good shape despite all the rain that had occurred. It was actually pretty warm with temperatures in the mid 60s and I immediately discarded layers. It took about five hours to cover the 12.4 miles which flew by with several waterfalls and much of the hike along a beautiful creek. I crossed over the 400 mile mark about midway through the hike.

Jone’s Falls

What a View

I ran into another great trekker today that I’ve seen off and on for the last few weeks, Bird Dog. There he was sitting by a waterfall. I’ve seen him a lot with Kenny Powers and he has that same positive energy. Cool dude.

Bird Dog

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be very rainy and windy and I will need to do 21 miles each of the next three days to meet my wife in Damascus, Virginia on Saturday. That’s the goal so I’m starting early.

I want to say again how much I’ve enjoyed staying at The Refuge hostel. Robert and April are super hosts and the hostel is very chill and relaxing;  just what I needed. I’m so glad I chose to stay here.

Day 33:  AT Miles 19.5 —  FS 293 To Boots Off Hostel

I’m finally back to a full backpacking day. The weather forecast originally was for high winds and hard rain the entire day. When we got started, though it was just cloudy and most of the day was really beautiful. It wasn’t until the last hour and a half that it rained as hard as it has any time on the trail. I was pretty soaked by the time I got into the hostel that tonight.

Yes, I’m staying at a hostel again tonight. This stretch really is conducive to hostel staying especially when the weather forecast has been so terrible. My wife asked me if I ever will be using my tent again lol.

Red Newt

You’ll see from the pictures that it was really a beautiful day, especially along the Laurel Fork.

Laurel Fork Falls

Watauga Lake

So tomorrow I’m taking advantage of the hostel’s slackpack offer where they will drop me off 21 miles up the trail and I’ll hike back to this location. It’s supposed to rain the entire day so at least I’ll be able to move fast and get through it quickly. That’ll really help me get into Damascus on Saturday to meet my wife.

Day 34:  AT Miles 20.9 — TN 91 To Boots Off Hostel

I consider today a very successful one. Slackpacking from 20.9 miles north back to the hostel went extremely well. It was much more downhill than if I had to hike it from the hostel north to Tennessee 91. Even the weather cooperated, except for the brief thunder hail that had me scampering to put my rain suit on.

Tomorrow will be about another 21 miles to Damascus and a new state in Virginia. Always exciting to start a new state! Plus for the first time in weeks, there’s no rain in the forecast.

A Great View

I wanted to introduce Odion and Panda that I’ve been hiking with for three or four days now. They are both much faster than me, but somehow we keep ending up in similar places. They are great company on the trail and awesome people.

Odion, Panda and Me

Day 35:  AT Miles 21.6  TN 91 To Damascus

Today was another slackpacking day and a very exciting one too. I would be entering a new state which is always exciting and going into Damascus, Virginia, which is nicknamed Trail Town USA and really, really cool. And to make matters even better I would be meeting my wife for dinner and beer. A lot to look forward too!

Into Virginia!

I wouldn’t say the day was the most scenic on trail so far, but it was one of the most enjoyable. There were some ups, but overall they weren’t very steep, and there were more downs that I could really make good time on. I was able to make it into Damascus at about 4:30 PM where my wife was already waiting for me. A quick trip to the hotel for me to take a shower and we were off for dinner and beer. The bed was really nice.

Damascus is a super cool hiker friendly town. It’s beautiful with the rushing creeks and the Virginia Creeper Trail. I could really see myself living here someday it has such a positive vibe.

Trail Town USA

I wanted to share a modification update in case it helps anyone. Here is a picture of my sleeping mat and how I’ve added a tiedown for my pillow. I was always sliding off my pillow or having to look for it in the middle of the night, which I no longer will have to do. You can’t do this with a inflatable mat, but it worked perfectly with the closed cell foam type.

Pillow secured

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?