A Tale Of Two Feet, Wind and Rain
This post contains a bonus day. Woo!! Hooray for bonus days!!! You’re welcome.
Day 36: Overmountain Shelter to Mountaineer Falls Shelter, 17.9 miles
We awoke this morning to the drizzle of rain on the roof of the barn that served as our shelter. I thought of my friends that had rented outside last night, and packed up slowly. As I ate breakfast the rain intensified. I watched as Mountain Goat sprinted towards the shelter in full gear, pack on and everything.
River and I left together and the rain ceased the minute we put our feet out the barn. As we passed our friends tents I yelled “White Walker and Elmer Fudd are scared of the rain!” In response I got “lies! Lies and slander!” Shouted back from the inside of a nylon shelter.
On top of the balds, the winds picked up and at times hit 80 mph. Bandana securely upon my noggin, I pushed ahead. Monty, Pipes, and Nate caught up to us and hiked with us until we got to the trees. In high winds, its safer to stay with a group. If someone had gotten hurt out there alone, no one would ever hear them yell for help. At one point River fell behind. We heard a faint call. Worried she had hurt herself, we all backtracked to find her. When we asked her if she was ok she told us she was actually just yelling swears at the weather, not for help.
Below tree line was much calmer. Our group grew by two as Legs and Jose joined us. A few people coming up the trail told us of trail magic at the upcoming Gap. We crossed out of North Carolina and from that point on I was miserable. I wanted a pizza dammit and I wanted it now! Where is this stinking gap anyways?? Maybe it doesn’t even exist. The tirade in my head went on like that until we did, in fact, reach the gap and the trail magic.
Today’s trail magic was brought to us by a man who was waiting for his wife. They had started the hike together but he had gotten hurt about two days in. Now, he drives to the gaps as support for his wife, who is continuing on.
The Mountain Harbour Hostel down the road had a food truck, so in an attempt to satisfy my food cravings I ventured over. I ate a quart of ice cream, someone else’s French fries, a burger, my own French fries, and a Gatorade. Not pizza, but I was happy.
I got maybe a half mile down the trail before I stopped again. My boots were eating my feet and I had had enough. I tied my boots together, threw them on my pack, and hiked the remaining miles in my sandals. By the time I dragged myself into camp at 7:30, I was dead on my feet. It took everything I had just to force myself to eat, instead of going to bed right away.
Pro Tip: if it’s obvious that someone needs new boots, you don’t need to tell them. Chances are they already know, and they now hate for assuming they’re stupid.
Day 37: Mountaineer Falls Campsite to Kincora Hostel, 16 miles
The miles today promised to be easy, and did not disappoint. However this meant they were also boring. I’m not even in Virginia yet, and I’m bored. Gooooood.
At one point, I came across LD and Carolina Red! We hadn’t seen them since the day we left Erwin. I’m glad we caught them, because they were our nightly comedic relief.
I walked until my feet could no longer stand my boots, and again switched to my sandals. My Tevas have been a god send. They’re easy to walk in and don’t chew up my toes. What more could you possibly want? Well, a pair of boots that do the same, but that would just be way too much to ask.
At around 5, I joined the rest of the crew at Bob Peoples Hostel. This guy is literally the best person ever. I can’t say enough good things. There was a hiker there that had dislocated his shoulder on the trail. Bob Peoples drove him to the hospital, stayed with him, helped secure pain medication for him, and brought him back at 2 in the morning. His hostel is run completely on donations, and the suggested rate is $5/day. We all crammed into the back of his truck to go resupply and get dinner. Classic hiker style.
Day 38: Kincora Hostel to Wilbur Dam Road, 13 miles
After a breakfast of leftover pizza, I started out today in my sandals. No point wearing my boots if they’re just going to hurt me. The trail was completely flat up to where it dipped down to the glorious Laurel Falls. The trail then climbs about 1000 feet up for no view, and then goes straight back down. Why we couldn’t have just gone around the large hill, I will never understand. We ate lunch at the bottom on the banks of the Watuaga Lake.
By the time I left the lake it was 4:30. There was no way I’d make it to the next shelter, 9 miles ahead, and I knew it. My feet were developing blisters in new places, and the lack of support in my sandals made my ankles sore. I limped out to just past the bear closure, found a stealth site, and set up camp. I was too tired to care that I’d be camping alone.
Pro Tip: if it hurts don’t do it.
Day 39: Wilbur Dam Road to Double Springs Shelter, 19.1 miles
An early start today allowed me to catch up to the rest of my trail family. I shoved my feet in my boots knowing it was going to rain, and they weren’t quite as bad as they had been. It rained off and on all morning and started to clear up after lunch.
About an hour after lunch, you could hear thunder rumbling all around us. It started to rain, and I passed Bird as he put on his rain jacket. I opted to keep walking without rain gear. My pack was covered and that was good enough for me. Shortly after I made this decision, almost in spite of me, the torrential downpour began. I was soaked to the skin in seconds. The trail became a river, and my boots became little lakes. This was easily the most intense rain I’d been caught out in so far.
The rain continued on like this for about 10-15 minutes. I met up with Bird again as I came out to a road. We walked the remaining 3 miles together through a cow pasture where cows were grazing with their calves. I managed to squeeze into the last shelter spot just before it started pouring again.
Day 40: Double Springs Shelter to Damascus, 19.2 miles
The rain was still going in full force this morning when we woke up. There was even a small river flowing from under the shelter platform. Everything is still wet, especially my boots. They were the last thing I put on and the least amount of fun to wear.
Despite the early rain, the rest of the day was looking a little clearer. The weather report even called for sun later in the afternoon.
It amazes me sometimes the things we take for granted in the “real world.” A climate controlled room with a roof over your head, hot meals three times a day, or knowing exactly where you’ll end up every night. For thru hikers, these everyday things are luxuries. Sometimes you will have to set up an already damp tent in the cold and rain. You don’t know when the next time is that you’ll be clean or dry. Hot meals are a once a day thing, made primarily by boiling water. You carry your home on your back and set it up wherever you can. The driving rain and my still soaked gear from yesterday have really put these things into perspective for me. I spent this morning thinking about it.
I also spent this morning being a beast because I managed 8.6 miles in 3.5 hours. Maybe my feet are better? I hit the TN/VA boarder three hours later, and Damascus 2 hours after that.
Picture: a small, frizzy haired ginger girl, running out of the woods and down the street carrying a pack that looks weighs about a third of her weight, trekking poles in hand. She hasn’t showered in three days, (unless you count the rain) and she’s yelling out song lyrics to music that no one else knows. Yeah, I thought I was crazy too.
Dinner was at Bobo McFarlands, and let me just tell you, that place is legend-wait for it- dary! Our waitress was funny and laid back, but provided excellent service at the same time. She recommended the pulled pork nachos for an appetizer and I will never look at pulled pork the same again. I almost cried when I took my first bite, that’s how good it was. It was like food for the gods. 10/10 would recommend.
I stayed in the teepee at the Woodchuck Hostel tonight. Sleep in a teepee: check.
Pro Tip: “wear it dry” works really well for everything except boots.
Day 41: Zero Day #1
Breakfast this morning was provided by the hostel owners. They made us hard boiled eggs, home fries, and waffles, and also put out sliced bananas.
No Chill lead a yoga stretching session in the back yard. As a hiker, stretching is something that I should make a priority but don’t. Injury prevention out here is key, and I’d like to get in the habit of stretching every night before bed. I’m just always so tired I never want to.
Lost and Found, River’s friend from home, has rejoined us today! Her foot is finally healed enough that she can start hiking again.
I spent the rest of the day generally being super lazy. Around 4, I headed back out to the woods to find a tent spot. My new boots were coming into Damascus, but they wouldn’t be here for a couple more days. Rather than spend more money on hostels, I decided to camp for the rest of my time in town.
Once I had set up and relaxed for a bit, I decided to go back to town and do some resupply. On the way there, I came across a man and his dog camped out on the side of the trail. I’ve been told that he’s harmless, but that’s not the impression that I got. He stopped me, and asked me all kinds of personal questions. There was just something about him I didn’t like, so I lied about most of my answers. I humored him right up to the point where he called me sexy, after which I politely excused myself. On the way back to my site it was the same story.
The whole situation made me very nervous. It was clear to me that he was under the influence of some kind of drug or alcohol or both. Usually, people don’t bother me out here, but there are some things that you don’t just ask someone that you just met. When someone tells you you don’t like hugs, you don’t continue trying to hug them anyways.
Pro Tip: stretch regularly to prevent injury.
Day 42: Zero Day #2
As I walked into town this morning I met up with Monty, Jose, and Stick. They invited me to breakfast at Mojo’s, a cute little trailside cafe.
Since I had nothing better to do, I rented a bike and rode the Virginia Creeper Trail. The Creeper is a rail trail that extends from White Top to Abington, with Damascus in the middle. I was shuttled up to the end of the trail in White Top, and from there it’s all downhill to Damascus. The ride was easy, and incredibly scenic. It runs right along a really pretty river. At one point, I stopped at a small cascade, took out my lunch, opened a beer, and relaxed next to the river.
From Damascus to Abington the Creeper has a reputation for being less scenic. I don’t think that’s an accurate way to describe it. I would just say it’s scenic in different ways. Once it departs from the riverside, it takes you through a varying landscape of forests and farmland. I also saw more wildlife on this section of the trail than the first, including a snake, rabbit, groundhog, and a buck. I biked back from Abington to Damascus, making the whole trip 51 miles.
It’s sort of nice to take all these zeros because I’m getting to see people who are a day or so behind me. I met up with Torch and Medicine Man and we went to Bobos again for dinner.
On the downside, today I said goodbye to my trail family. They are moving on while I have to stay behind and wait for my boots. I know I’ll catch them eventually, but it’s still sad to see them go.
Pro Tip: don’t try to take a selfie while riding a bike.
Day 43: Zero Day #3
I had exactly zero things to do today, so I was lazy in the morning. While others in the tent site packed up and went on their way, I lounged around taking my time. Another hiker, Zero, was also planning on staying for the day. We agreed to go into town in turns, so there was always someone with our gear.
While waiting for home to come back, I finished my book, learned a song on the harmonica, and did some yoga. My body had taken a beating from the bike ride yesterday. Thank goodness for zeros!
On my turn in town I immediately go to Crazy Larrys Hostel to get my mail. I have two packages, one from a college professor and another from an unknown sender. It was like Christmas in May! I got my boots, some new socks and some more food. A huge shoutout to everyone back home who’s helping me out. I seriously don’t think I could do this without you guys. Deb Dunlop, Raelyn, mom, and Chris Lochran. I run a couple more errands and pick up one final ice cream cone as I head out of Damascus for the last time. Tomorrow, I’ll finally be back on the trail! Wahoo!!
As always, you can find me on instagram at erica.runs or shoot me and email at [email protected]
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.