Into Virginia, the saga begins
Damascus to Lost Mountain
As I was excited about finally making it back to my home state after my rest day I was looking at a piece of trail I had hiked several times years ago and remember it for being pretty challenging. While it didn’t take me quite as long to so it this time it was every bit as challenging as I remember. After my much appreciated zero day in Damscus I got to eat at Mojos coffee shop one last time before I tackled one of my most remembered climbs. The rain held off and we made it to the shelter before 4 pm and set up camp for a windy, rainy night. A lot of the people I had seen before on the trail were camped there too so it was a bit of reunion.
After a little of the before mentioned rain I got up at lost Mountain with one important piece ok knowledge in hand. It was pony day. All I had to do was make it over mount Rogers and to Grayson Highland State Park and I was gonna get to see all the ponies. Also today was 500 mile mark day but mostly ponies. I broke camp and hiked about 45 minutes to the first road the AT crosses north bound out of lost my. All the signs were there tents, lawn chairs, real coffee, and little Debbie’s. A group of thru hikers from 2016 were camped beside the road doing a little trail magic. The real coffee was awesome and I got to play with my fellow thru hikers dog Z when they got there so it was a good trail magic. After setting out from the trail magic I had to get over Mount Rogers in order to get to AT pony land. The climbs grade wasn’t to bad but a lot of the trail was flooded and I had to rock hope to keep from drowning my dry shoes. With Mount Rogers in the rear view it was lunch time and I had to pass through another road crossing at Elk park. Well today hikers in the area hit the lottery because there was an older couple set up giving out sandwiches, beer, drinks, and snacks. I wanted to eat my lunch in my bag to lighten it up but who says no to sandwiches? I ate my sandwiches and set off to cross the field to finally get over to Grayson Highlands. As soon as I started getting close I saw small groups of the ponies running around and eating grass. I walked through the park and saw groups of them throughout . 4 of them were on the trail and walked right by me without a care that I was there. The ponies were well worth dealing with overcast and rainy weather. This Virginia day was above average since it in included two trail magics, ponies and also hitting the 500 mile mark. VA was awesome this day.
I went to sleep the night before this in moderate weather that was just a little rainy. I awoke to rain that had sleet in it. The cold snap had left lots of folks myself included in bed not wanting to freeze to get up and move around. I even talked to so people who stayed at the shelter slightly higher that us, Thomas knob , and they said it snowed there all night. I set out to nor waste the entire day at about 930. While the rain gave us a little window the wind was in full force. We had to walk through a few last of the Meadows of Grayson Highlands to get out of the park and on towards our next resupply location , Marion, Va. Walking through the Meadows you could see the trees still had ice on the tops and every once in a while the trees would rain ice down. I walked all day through wind and the run off from several days of rain and in the end only made it 10 miles but even in that Va made me earn those miles.
After spending an inordinate amount of time in my hammock to escape the cold and wet weather I awoke to find that my state of the art hammock tarp somehow had a sprinkler installed on the top seam. This got my sleeping quilt and under quilt slightly damp. While I remained warm waking up to damp anything is always a morale downer. I decided I was gonna get to town to dry everything out and spend at least on night in climate control. It took me 20 miles to get to partnership, aka pizza shelter, bit I did it even before the store closed at 4pm. I was pretty satisfied and made my way into town for resupply, laundry, and the biggest cheesesteak I’ve ever eaten.
After a McDonald’s breakfast and a brief wait for the shuttle we were back on the flat rocky trail out of partnership shelter. There was trail magic at a one room school house beside a church that the trail goes right by and also we ate the barn restaurant. It’s a reatutant practically on the trail. With all that fun we made it to just before the 1/4 way point and set up camp to get on trail in the morning.
When I went to sleep at Davis Hollow there wasn’t a cloud in the sky but the weather was calling for rain overnight. When my alarm went off I realized the rain was in fact outside and I wasn’t going anywhere until it died down a little. My best effort repair on my tarp with the patch kit it came with was keeping the seam of the tarp from sprinkling water on me and all my gear but water was still getting to the inside of the tarp. Luckily the tarp vendor is supposed to send me a replacement in the next town I go through. After packing up the group camped there all made our way to a lunch spot and then to the famous 1/4 finished sign. It was a long hike just to see that sign but it was worth every minute.
My night at Lick Creek camp site started with a thunderstorm shortly after bedtime the storm lasted the better part of the night. When I got up the inside of my tarp was wet from the leaks but my gear was mostly dry. The morning included a long climb through some meadows to Chestnut Knob shelter. This shelter is one of the stone shelters on the AT and I’d recommend starting the night here if possible. The rest of the day was filled with ridge ups and downs and I eventually landed at Jenkins shelter for the night with plans to go I’m the town of Bland the next day to await the arrival of my new, hopefully much more waterproof, tarp.
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