Damascus, VA(467.8)-Lost Mountain Shelter(483.2) Virginia
Elevation chart courtesy of Guthook’s AT Hiker app. He has apps for many trails including the PCT and CDT.
This morning was glorious! I could have lounged in that bed at the Hiker Inn for days. The Hiker Inn is definitely the quality place to stay in Damascus and was a wonderful home that made me feel like I was back in Portland, OR. I woke up naturally at 6:45am and just laid there watching tv until 9:15am while rain fell outside. I got to catch up on the last two episodes of Survivor (dang, Tasha was my fav!), finish a New Girl episode, and watch most of a Greys Anatomy episode. I didn’t even get up to use the bathroom or eat I was so comfy! To cap off the morning, I got to Skype with some of the kids I sit for back home. All the while, it rained on and off this morning. There is a chance of rain and scattered thunderstorms most of this week, but at least it’s warm out. I ran my errands and ate Subway for lunch and was hiking by 12:30pm. A nice leisurely start. The 1.5mi long main drive of Damascus was having their weekly yard sale and tents were set up all along the way. Yesterday I think I forgot to post one of my favorite pictures showing how all the hiker’s packs were set outside the stores.
It hit me yesterday and today how much more relaxed I am on this trail. I honestly came onto the AT with low expectations having hiked out west and experienced trails with less people and more scenery. I expected the social aspect and green tunnel to trigger my anxieties, but I think I may even dare to say now that I’m enjoying this hike! I thought all the towns, people, and rain would really stress me, but I’ve found a great happy medium balancing my independent time with towns. The option of towns and ease of phone signal has actually helped me to keep a handle on the blog and correspondence so I don’t feel so overwhelmed when I get to town. I know this isn’t a big part of most people’s hike, but it is an added challenge for me. Today I realized how far ahead of schedule I already am and I’m not even intending to do it. It’s good to know because in weeks like this one with poorer weather, I know I have the flexibility to do less miles if the weather gets rough, if I want to stop early, or start late. It’s just a much more relaxed feeling than I’ve ever had on a trail.
Again I have to say how much I LOVE having the umbrella and the hands free setup. I hiked in my short sleeves and shorts while staying happy and dry. It was great! Notice how I have my camera and MP3 player safe and dry up higher under the umbrella. My phone is in a waterproof Lifeproof case.
There was a slight detour around a washed out bridge that someone else pointed out later was from last year. He took the official trail and said it was fine. I was impressed with the ease of signage of the detour and it was very short at just about a mile and didn’t seem to cut much off the official route.
Today was the first day rhododendrons were blooming more in certain areas. It will be fun to see them really bloom in full force soon. There are also more of these sharp red flowers I don’t know the name of.
The rain stopped the last few hours of the day and I saw about 10 other hikers today. I kinda leapfrogged with a couple guys, but there was little conversation which I think we all kinda needed coming out of town. It was nice. The trail overlapped the Creeper Bike trail I rode yesterday and I got one of the guys to take a picture of me hiking over one of the long trestles.
I stopped at 6:30pm at a shelter wanting to go further, but the options ahead were close to roads and highways and I don’t like to do that. Especially on a Saturday. Plus, it looked like the rain clouds were gathering. I found a nice big camp spot a hundred yards or so from the shelter that was nice and quiet. Right as I finished dinner and all my chores, a woman I met earlier in the day arrived. Her name is Brave and she is in her 50s and from Russia. She started April 6th, 10 days before me as said she’s yet to meet anyone who started after her. She is a trail runner and journalist that has been posting articles for an online paper in Moscow. She started off with the barefoot shoes and had lots of pain, so she now has sketchers that are working. She also uniquely wears these big knit socks that she says work for her. It was nice to talk to her a bit before retiring for the night.
It has rained lightly on and off the last hour or two and I’m happy I chose to stay here rather than push my luck hiking later. It should rain overnight, but hopefully not storm. We’ll see if I’m still enjoying this trail after a week of wet weather. I may have jinxed it by admitting my enjoyment!
I have a few other random things I want to mention that I’m excited to share. Today my good friend Rockin’ and her husband started a two week hike across the logistically and physically challenging Scotland as part of what is called Scotland’s TGO Challenge. Her plan is to post daily and it’s sure to be an EPIC trip! She will also be completing her solo section hike of the PCT by doing Oregon and Washington in July and August this summer. Check out her blog at www.ladyonarock.com. What I love about technology today is that we have been texting each other from our respective trails.
Another thing I want to share is that last week I had section hikers Andy and Julia join me coming out if Erwin. Julia keeps a blog called Picture Happiness in which she features things that make people happy. Today she posted my happy photo(guess what pose that would be) and my explanation of why hiking makes me happy. She captured what I had to say perfectly and you can read the brief post by clicking here.
Finally, I hope all of you took my advice to follow Sparky’s AT blog (www.sparkyhikes.com). He is a bit behind me and recently came out of the Smokies. He had a pretty intense bear interaction he captured on video that is really cool! So check out day 28 in his journal to see that footage!