Virginia is for lovers
So I wrote some of this update with intentions of posting it immediately after, but the time passed too quickly. I composed this post during a couple different times and decided to squeeze them into one………so try and follow along as I attempt to update all of you on my progress.
Tonight, as I was filling out my list of places I stay along the trail, I wrote down night forty-four. Forty-three nights ago I recall the anxious thoughts racing through my head. So eager to begin such a huge journey, but nervous to the challenges I knew awaited me. Because I lacked any experience in the backpacking world, the possibility of me absolutely hating this was definitely on my mind. It isn’t typically like me to get so concerned about me not actually liking something, but because many of the people I shared my adventure with were rather spectacle, the thought certainly crossed my mind. No fault to them, it does sound ridiculous. I value honesty, and it was important to me for them to express their real feelings regarding my upcoming adventure. I knew it was going to be a major lifestyle change……………but did I think I had the strength to thrive? Absolutely. I’m proud to say that I have successfully surpassed some of the guesstimated dates of me quitting. A group of my friends made bets against me, which really was just fuel to the fire which has kept me moving forward in my voyage to Maine.
I am still in awe with myself that I somehow mustered up the courage to set out on this thru-hike. Yesterday I crossed my forth state border into Virginia and my excitement skyrocketed. I thought to myself “damn girl, you really are doing this”
Since my last update I have experienced some exhilarating, fun, frightening, impulsive, and unforgettable moments on the trail.
Let’s talk about tough days. Everyone has them……….either in your office, at home, or during a trip; they are inevitable. The tough ones usually creep up on you when you least expect them and can cause the slightest issue to become catastrophic. When I first thought about blogging during my AT adventure, I dreamt of sharing my entire experience with anyone reading………..the good, the bad, the thruimphs, and the tribulations. With that being said, I have had some days recently that were tough as hell. The Appalachian Trail is no walk in the park, thru-hiking is hard on your body………….it is mentally and physically exhausting. On any given day, I’m sore, smelly, hungry, filthy, homesick, ect……………but the amount of mental fortitude it takes to keep pushing on is definitely still here. When the going gets tough, I just have to remind myself that the reward of this adventure far outweighs the temporary uncomfortably. Even if it means that I find a spot in the sun with my journal to jot down my thoughts halfway through the day, I do it……….I know it’s the little things like that will help keep me mentally strong enough to make it to Maine. Also, I realize now that I need those bad days because it helps me truly appreciate the great ones, like I’m having today.
Like I said, yesterday I walked into Virginia. Seeing this sign gave me a great sense of accomplishment. I have walked 468 consecutive miles from Georgia to Virginia. I’ve come so far, but a long way to go.
The days following my Damascus adventure passed rather quickly as I knew Trail Daze was approaching in a few short weeks. I have to say that Virginia has been a very beautiful state so far. I spend many miles in the day on ridge lines of continuous up and downs. I honestly expected this state to be flat, to my surprise……….its been everything but that. When I stop and admire the beauty after a challenging climb, I look out to a sea of trees that look like waves moving freely in open water. Trying to soak in the views is extremely liberating for me because I lived so long without seeing how breathtaking this part of our world is.
The Grayson Highlands are located about 30 miles outside of Damascus. I really enjoyed my hike through there, not only because it was gorgeous…….but because wild ponies graze freely as many hikers admire their beauty.
Until last week, I considered myself a “fair weathered hiker”, I have been extremely lucky to miss all of the crappy weather most people have had to deal with. I somehow always ended up in town or at a shelter when the rain came down. Like all good things must come to an end, I was initiated into the rain hiking without warning and spent three solid days in the perception that fell freely from above. It’s important to keep a high morale, but especially during unideal circumstances. Luckily, I was able to keep a smile on my face as I powered through the miles from Atkins-Bland.
It’s quite awesome to see how many people along the trail who love to be a part of the hiker world. Trail magic has been plentiful, random acts of kindness are always happening, and all sorts of hitchhiking. I have never experienced anything like this before. The other day, Tumbleweed, Happy Feet, and I spent a zero day hitching 3 hours back to Asheville to spend Mother’s Day at Lure Lake. Thanks again to Peter and his family for being so great and hosting us again. You are all such stellar people and I’m so glad our paths have crossed.
A few stand out moments that I would like to share are, first……..I hit the “1/4 way to Maine” sign. It’s not exactly accurate, because the traichanges some years…….but it was close enough and seeing the sign brought happy tears to my eyes for the first time out here.
A couple fires roared through three parts of the trail. They closed down some sections and many hikers were rerouted through unmaintained miles to avoid the destruction that was caused. We decided to take a zero day in Roan Mountain, because the area of the trail we needed to go through was opening the following morning. Here are some photos of the aftermath.
That evening four of us attempted a night hike. Two of us–Puma and I were the only successful ones that made it the entire way. Not without it’s problems though. Our headlamps ended up dying and we encountered a large cat. I’m still not sure what kindly kitty it was, all I know is that it had large yellow eyes and wasn’t scared of all the ruckus we were frantically making. We ended up picking our pace up and rushed to the shelter as quick as we could. Not going to lie, that’s the most terrified I have been on the trail so far. Thank goodness for cellphone flashlights, otherwise we may have made a nice feline feast. Lol
As I’m sure you can imagine, hiking all day, everyday can really wear and tear on your mind, body, and spirt. One of the most common things hikers desire out here after a long day is an ice cold adult beverage. We have been traveling with a group called The Cat Crew for awhile, they are all great people and we thoroughly enjoy the time we spend with them. I had been planning to camp in the same area as them that evening. It was like everything worked out so perfectly this day. I hit a gap, stopped to take a break and have a snack……..when out of nowhere, Tumblwweed’s friend from Asheville showed up. As if that wasn’t awesome enough of him to show up, he also took us to the closest gas station that sold beer, three of us loaded up with cases of beer and decided to surprise the rest of them at camp with some liquid of the gods. With only 1.4 miles left to hike that day to camp, I thought I could easily strap a 24 pack of Coors to my hip belt. Sure enough, I pulled the task off and we had a grand evening around the fire.
Like I mentioned earlier, Trail Daze was creeping up quickly. Well, here we are……….the time has come and I am so excited for a weekend of shenanigans. Trail Daze is the hiker festival that is held annually in Damascus, Virginia. The town multiplies by thousands, with everyone congregating in town to celebrate how amazing the hiker world truly is. I would describe it as Damascus’ way of giving back and thanking hikers for keeping their community thriving. All sorts of events and activities are planned for the next three days and people look forward to this celebration for many months. Tumbleweed and I arrived first thing Thursday morning to find a good spot to camp all weekend and kick the festivities off the right way.
It’s been a challenge for me to try and put everything I experience out here into words………..but so many unexpected things happen out here in such a short amount of time, that it would be impossible to share all the great moments. I am still having the time of my life and It’s hard to believe my two month mark is just a few days away. The strength my body and mind has gained is amazing. 20 mile days are becoming much easier and that gives me such satisfaction remembering how difficult it was to hike just 8 miles my first day. Be on the lookout for some more updates as I make my way North. Also, I upload photos to Instagram more frequently, I encourage you to follow me on there as well.
Here are some photos of the terrain and beauty I see daily. No picture does anywhere close to the justice our planet deserves……..but this is my best attempt.
PS. I also want to thank Brady 1st grade class for writing me the best notes. They made me smile so big. ?
Until next time,
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Incredible! I’m absolutely speechless and so proud of you!!!