AT update: Hello Virginia!

Day 37:

Today is gonna be a fun day. We woke up around 7, after a much better night of sleep than the night before. We’re only carrying our packs around 1.5 miles, so we weren’t in any particular rush. The first half mile was back along the highway, which is a less than ideal way to start the morning, but after that we hopped off into the woods again and started our way to the next hostel! It’s a beautiful morning, spring has truly sprung out here and everything is green. The sun was coming up over the mountains as we got started, and after about an hour we were at our next hostel!

The plan for today is to drop our stuff at another hostel up the road, slack pack a ways, then come back at night to celebrate Bibos birthday. We dropped our stuff at the hostel around like 9ish, and left for the hike around 10. It’s a nice, easy, flat 12 miles, and it’s supposed to be a GORGEOUS day for hiking, so we were off at a very good pace. We spent the first hour or so singing Hamilton, which is, yknow, certainly a choice that we made.

400 miles!

The big event of the hike today was the waterfalls. There were several to see today, and we crossed our first one about 4 miles in. With the excess rain recently, the falls are running fast and loud, so it’s hard to hear each other talk, but it was nice and cool down by the pool at the base and we hung out there for a while. The next falls was only like 3 more miles up the road, which is where we stopped for lunch (or for me, a poptart). IMOM was with us for a good amount of the day, which was fun. He’s cool to chat with, but he’s much faster than us so I think we’re gonna unfortunately lose him pretty soon. About 5 miles after the second falls, we finished our day, and got picked up to head back to the hostel for the night.

The big falls of the day

The rest of the day was pretty chill. We made a quick run into town (town is a strong word) for dinner supplies and drinks to celebrate. After we got back, I did a quick check in with family, which was really nice to talk to people, especially with it being the first night of passover tonight. It’s a little sad to not be at a seder, but it was at least nice to talk to people for a while. When I walked back into the hostel, Bibo was busy getting to work in the kitchen, if his own choice of course. We weren’t gonna make him cook on his birthday, but he apparently wanted to so to each their own. His burgers were very good.

Shortly after dinner he pulled out the Malort, a chicago specialty. He wanted to see how we each reacted to a shot of it, but I think we all put it down easier than he thought we would. It was definitely strong, but nothing awful. The rest of the night was just us hanging out, munching on snacks, and stretching. It’s a good day.

Today was pretty easy all in all. I’m really glad we got out and hiked, it would’ve felt like a waste of this gorgeous weather. Slack packing is really nice, my knees are dry thankful. Like I said, definitely missing family a little bit tonight if all nights, but I got to at least talk to most all of them so that made up for it. Only like 4 more days to Damasacus, which is CRAZY, but I’m very excited. Virginia is coming up quick!

Day 38:

We had a pretty early morning today, which is not lovely considering I went to bed late, and didn’t sleep super well. But through sleepy eyes I got up, had breakfast, and got ready to get out. Molly and Ziggy got our way early cause they’re trying to do like 20 miles today. Will left about the same time as us, and Bibo is taking a full zero. The gang is dispersing a little bit, but I think (hope) that we’ll all get back together in Damascus. We shall see. But anyway, Lindsey and I got shuttled 12 miles up the rod and began our 13 mile day.

The hike was another pretty easy one. We had a long, steady climb in the morning, but it was flat enough that it didn’t really feel much like climbing. AKA, we were feeling good. After about 6 miles we started our looooooong sloooooooow decent down to dennis cove road, our next food pickup. Somehow downhills have started to become more of a challenge than uphills, and my knees were feeling it after a couple miles. Fortunately, that was around the time we took a break for lunch. I discovered that cold corn tortillas are, in fact, not good, so I’ve switched to rehydrated mashed potatoes for my lunch. They’re good, and filling, but they take more time than a usual lunch so I gotta kinda shove them in my face when they’re ready.

After the face shoving was complete, we set off once again. We were a lot

closer to our destination than we realized, with only 2 miles left to go. I switched on an audiobook and cruised the rest of the way down to the road. At the road we sat at some trail magic for a little while, and talked about the AT, PCT, and everything in between.

Once the day started getting further on, Lindsey and I decided to stop being lazy and actually go pick up our food, a half mile walk from where we were. The pickup was uneventful, although some of the passover snacks I was sent had to unfortunately be left behind. But most importantly, the matzah crack fit in the bear canisters! And I have already eaten half of it.

The last 2 or so miles were both the hardest and coolest of the day. After the road we followed the Laurel River down to Laurel Falls, which led us through some really cool gully type thingies, and down some pretty steep and technical valley edges. We eventually made it to the falls, which are pretty damn spectacular. After the falls, we continue to follow the river for basically the rest of our hike. It’s nice and cool, as well as very green down by the riverside, which was a great way to end the day. At one point we were walking on this little rock outcropping hangin over the river, which was probably the highlight of the day.

Laurel Falls!
Our rock outcropping path next to Laurel Fork

The shelter is unfortunately straight uphill from the rest of the trail, so we ended the day on a not insignificant climb, but it’s not the end of the world. We got here around 4:30, and spent the rest of the day planning logistics, eating, and hanging around. It looks like we’re the only ones here tonight, so we’re gonna take the shelter in order to hopefully get out early tomorrow. I think it’s gonna be a big mileage day.

I was really really tired today. I feel like I haven’t had a good night sleep in a while, which is weird because we just spent 2 nights at hostels, but I guess a good bed doesn’t garantes good sleep. Whenever I’m tired I always prefer to be by myself, and I spent a lot of today wishing I could be alone. But good luck with that on this trail, you can’t go half a mile without somebody. I think that’s where the audiobooks are really helping me, I can just zone out into my own world. It makes it a lot easier.

I wish I understood that desire to be alone, and knew if there were a way to make it a little easier to interact with people when I feel like that. I’m always a little worried I’m gonna get overly annoyed and snap at someone. I definitely don’t want that, so I normally just end up being really quiet most of the day. But I guess that works well enough, at least for now. Hopefully it’s a better night of sleep tonight.

I’ll be honest, I cannot remember a good quote for today. I’m sure there are some, but they’re not coming to me right now. Sorry about that

Day 39:

Up early today, it’s gonna be a long one. Fortunately, my sleeping pad has mysteriously stopped deflating, so cautiously optimistic about that! It was grey and very threatening this morning, the smell was rain was thick in the air. This should be particularly fun! The first few miles were easy, 3.5 miles of super flat walks besides the river. But the easy morning was a poor set up for what was to come.

We got a really pretty walk around a man made lake for the last 2 or so miles of the flat part. There were a whole. bunch of cypress trees in the middle of the lake, which made for a very pretty view. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a live cypress before, so that was pretty cool. We crossed over the dam that made the lake, and followed the road for about a mile, unfortunately straight uphill. This was the start of our big climb, so we decided to stop and eat lunch before we got going.

Our view of the cloud-covered mountains across the lake

This climb marks a big stretch for us. This is our last run in Tennessee. Once we get up on this ridge line, we follow it all the way down to Virginia. And we’re damn close now. But first we had to climb. It was definitely not easy. 3-4 miles of sustained uphill, climbing about 2500 feet all in all. It had been raining, so I had a rain jacket on, until I started sweating profusely and had to take it off. We did walk straight up into a cloud, which I was worried about, but it wasn’t raining in the cloud so it just got a cool kind of misty look. And that was it, we were up on the ridge!

Up on the ridge does not mean done for the day. We still had about 10 miles left to go, and although it was flat(ish), my legs were tired from the big climb. But it was a really pretty view along the ridge, and the clouds finally cleared. We stopped at a shelter, but decided to push another 7 miles, to bring our total to 22 on the day. And although that was probably the right call, it was a tiring one. We were both really tired and hungry by the end of it, but we made it! And boy oh boy did we eat when we got there. I finished the rest of my matzah crack, so fingers crossed I get more of that in my next box.

Tomorrow is marathon day. What’s the marathon you ask? Well, the 26 miles leading into Damascus is relatively flat, and so a lot of people do that all in one day, the “Damascus Marathon”. And how could we say no??? We’re getting to Virginia tomorrow! It’s practically a homecoming. And all it takes is 13 hours of straight hiking!

I felt pretty good today! Although I was physically tired, I got a good night of sleep last night, so I feel a lot better than yesterday. And the weather was beautiful, which made it even better. I’m really excited to get to Virginia, this is a really big milestone for us. I can’t believe we’re already this far. It’s kind of insane to think about. We have WALKED here from Georgia. Absolutely crazy. But anyway, I gotta sleep, it’s another long day tomorrow.

Quote of the day: “Consider me plopped”

Day 40:

It is officially marathon day. And we started early, awake at 6, out by 6:45. The sun was rising as we hit the road. It was, in fact, as pretty as it sounds. Normally when you get up that early, camp is quiet and still. Not so today. Everyone was on a mission. And that mission is Damascus.

To be honest, as Im sitting here writing this, a lot of today blurs together, so forgive me if this is a little bit short. I promise this was cooler than I’m about to make it sound, but after like 12 hours of walking, it’s hard to remember the details. The early morning was chilly, but was comfortable enough once we got moving. I ate a lot this morning, my normal bar for breakfast, plus about 3 meat sticks as snacks along the way. Another consequence of leaving early was it was a long time before we ate lunch, so I needed a lot of calories to carry me there.

Our view off the ridge line in the morning

We ate lunch on a small rock outcropping off the edge of the trail. And here’s the thing; we were a lot farther than we thought. At this point as far as we knew we had only gone like 8 or so miles, but turns out we were closer to 14. Less than 10 to the Virginia border, less than 13 left to Damascus. We were flying. And in retrospect, that makes sense. The walk was very flat, so we didn’t even need to feel that fast to be moving fast. And the rest of the way was flatter.

We crossed into Virginia no later than 4 o’clock. It’s a big moment. Apart from being a home coming for Lindsey, and a sort of foster-homecoming (surely that’s not a real term) for me, Virginia on its own has about 25% of the trail. This is the longest we will spend in any state. It’s a lot to try to take in. But a big occasion anyways.

Welcome to Virginia!!!

By 6:30 we were in Damascus. It’s a nice town, probably one of the bigger ones we’ve been in so far. And boy oh boy do they love the AT here. This is the home of the Trail Days festival, a big party where past and current thru hikers come to celebrate the trail. They are “Trail Town USA.” And you could definitely tell. The sidewalks are paved with the names of old thru hikers, and people who dedicated themselves fully to the trail. It’s pretty cool. But anyways, we wrapped up the marathon, got settled in the hostel, and went to the supermarket.

What’s the best way to celebrate walking a marathon? Eating a pint of ice cream. And $17 worth of watermelon. Yes I did both of those things. Yes it was all in one evening. Yes I will probably regret it tomorrow. But for tonight I’m stuffed, content, and ready to go to bed. It’s been a really good day. I’m a tiny bit annoyed that I can’t remember today in more detail, but to be honest I don’t think it was all all that exciting. And it was a long way to try and remember. But we’re zeroing tomorrow, so that’ll be a nice chance to rest and recharge.

Quote of the day: “How weird would it be if I sat in the dining room with only my headlamp eating watermelon?” “mmmmmm 3/10?”

Day 41:

Zero day in Damascus today, and boy oh

boy we’re our legs thankful for it. It took me a while to get up out of bed because my feet were simply not functioning. guess that’s what happens when you walk 50 miles in 2 days. We popped over to the diner for breakfast, which was delicious, and then set to wandering about town for a while. We dipped into the thrift store, the outfitter, an antique store, and pretty much everything else. It’s not a big town, so we managed to see pretty much everything by 12.

After wandering town for a while, we went to our place for the night, and then resupplied at the super market. Lindsey went back into town to buy some stuff, and I just hung out at the lodge for a while, I was tired. Around 3 I went back into town to pick up my resupply box, and headed into the park to throw a frisbee for a while. It was really great, but a bee sting my foot, so that was less than ideal.

Our whole crew rolled into town tonight, so after a quick dinner we met them at the distillery for drinks and to hang out. It was a really fun time. I really like all the people we’ve met so far, and although I think this crew is eventually gonna disperse a bit, I sure hope we can stay together for a while. Back on the road tomorrow, a chill 16 mile day planned. Now it’s a straight shot for the next 2 weeks until the wedding. I think it would be funny to just walk there, but we’d have to average 20 miles a day, so that ain’t happening. But we’ll probably get pretty darn close.

Quote of the day: “Corn is just, like, THE crop now yknow?”

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Comments 1

  • Marcia Henthorn : Apr 28th

    Do not worry about wanting to be alone. Just say “I am enjoying solitude right now” or something similar. I found long ago the term solitude is something people understand and therefore doesn’t not make you seem strange. Been saying it for years as I perfer outdoor activities in solitude.


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