Through Fire, Through Water–and Now in Virginia

We’ve had beautiful hiking since the last post. Unaka Mountain was serene with its gentle dark spruce forests, the Roan Highlands were open with sweeping views. But we encountered a pretty major setback coming down from the Highlands: a forest fire. Up on Roan and Hump Mountain and those parts, we could see white smoke rising from a section of woods it didn’t look like we were heading towards, but the trail ended up veering right towards there. As we soon learned, 12 miles of trail were closed because of a fire started by arson. The Forest Service recommended a long, circuitous walk along a dirt road to circumvent it, but some friends and I decided to take “the Adventure Trail” instead (as we dubbed it)–a rarely used path cutting dozens of times across a river, also out of range of the blaze but much more direct. I took off my boots so they wouldn’t get soaked in the knee-deep crossings, and hiked the path barefoot. It was raining at the time too, so we were just covered in water and mud the whole day. What a crazy time…The rain put out the fire by the next day, though we were long past that section by then.

The trail flattened out, and I’ve raced to Damascus, Virginia, where I’m currently taking a day off. I got up before the sun did today so I could make it here early–a quick 10 miles. Saw a bear run off into the bushes along the way. As I neared the border between Tennessee and Virginia, I thought to myself, “So I’m entering Virginia, for the first time in my life, on foot; and leaving Tennessee for the last time in a while.”

The woods are getting greener; the weather’s about to get rainier. Onward!

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