Things learned on the way to Damascus
First Leg Completed
Finished approximately 70 miles from Elk Park NC to Damascus VA. Took seven days of walking, but the thru-hikers we met had 400 miles on their legs since Springer Mountain and were leaving us in the dust, since the terrain was relatively easy compared to the Smokey Mountains they left behind. We unexpectedly had to return home to MA for a bit, but will soon be heading south again to pick up where we left off.
More Lessons Learned
(1) Forget about “down time”
We have made this mistake before – planning for leisure time on the trail – time to wash socks, take stunning pictures, keep a trail journal, etc. But once the walking starts, it’s not long before one discovers there is no such thing as “extra” time. It’s walking, collecting water, eating, setting up camp and sleeping. When we hit Hampton TN we mailed several items home that seemed a good idea during planning but just weren’t worth the extra weight. Max’s GoPro was one such item. Used it a lot on day one, but the effort and battery drain were reasons to shelve the idea.
(2) Observe, Ask, Listen
No matter a hiker’s experience, there is always something to be learned from others. We were passed by a thru-hiker who attached his Crocs in a more efficient way than we used, so we stole the idea. On a windy, chilly, afternoon, a SOBO hiker told us about an upcoming tenting spot near a large boulder that would shelter our tent during the night. Worked great and kept us a bit warmer. Max also learned how to use his sleep pad as a chaise lounge.
(3) Equipment Research Pays Off
The time we spent researching packs and tents was time well spent. Our Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 packs were light and held everything we needed. Fit was comfortable and external pockets easy to use. Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 tent was easy to set up and kept us dry on a couple of rainy nights. Also kept out snakes and bugs and that made Maureen happy.
(4) It’s cold up in those mountains!
We thought we would have warmer weather than what we left in MA. Turns out the mountains of Tennessee are just as cold as New England in April. We brought along cold weather gear, but learned the importance of sunscreen since the leaf cover is still a few weeks away.
(5) Don’t pay attention to the elevation maps
The trail is always going to be up, up, up and down, down, down. Looking at the climbs and drops only causes undue anxiety. Just walk.
Back to Damascus for more Northbound walking in the next week or so. Lighter packs and stronger leg muscles.
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