I neroed into and then zeroed in Damascus, arguably the most famous trail town on the AT. After some much needed rest, I headed back on the trail. A few miles later, I was out of Virginia and into Tennessee. Little did I know how beautiful the trail was about to become. The Roan Highlands would soon prove to be my favorite section of the South!
Day 113 (9.2 miles)
I managed to wake up before the sunrise. Eager to get into town and down some food! It was an easy 9 miles, mostly downhill. The morning chill faded as the sun peaked its head above the mountains.
I made it into town around 11 am and immediately headed to the Broken Fiddle Hostel. I met up with Tick Bite who was also there. We got some food at the Damascus Diner and a nice man bought us a beer. A quick resupply and then back to the hostel to relax. We finished the night with a trip to Wicked Chicken where I ate a cheeseburger, fries, and a dozen wings. Needless to say, I was a happy resting hiker.
Day 114 (0.0 miles)
I got up slowly and drank way too much coffee. It was a complete lazy day. I worked on the blog and laid in bed. Later in the day I spent time with the other hikers. We played darts (I somehow won in a game of Cricket) and eventually made our way to the 7 Trails Tavern for dinner. I crushed a whole pizza and a couple beers.
After dinner we hung-out on the porch area of the hostel and talked. I had a great rest day, but I was eager to get back on trail the next day!
Day 115 (20.0 miles)
Another slow morning, but still managed to get a good day of hiking in. I had a few personal things to take care of in the morning, including an always enjoyable post office visit to send some gear home. On my way out of Damascus, I got a picture next to a pretty sweet painting!
The trail out of Damascus was a big climb. It was long and fairly gradual. There weren’t many view points, but the hiking was still enjoyable. Only a few miles into the day and I exited Virginia. The state line for Tennessee was a big milestone. I was officially out of the longest state of the AT.
I took a lunch break at the Abington Gap Shelter. My foot had begun to hurt again and I thought that a bit of rest might help it. It did not. I accepted that I will likely deal with an on and off foot injury for the remainder of the trail. I did however order new shoes and insoles to be picked up in Erwin, TN. About 130 miles past Damascus. It was another 8 miles to the Double Spring Shelter. Tick Bite and I started a fire to keep warm. It was going to be a cold night and we were high up in the mountains.
I went to bed soon after eating a normal hiker dinner (ramen, packaged tuna, and instant potatoes).
Double Spring Shelter: T2, S3, P2, W1, B1
Total Score: 12
Day 116 (23.8 miles)
It was a very cold night and morning. I woke up and immediately made a fire for everyone. My strategy was to pack some gear, then go back and get warm by the fire, and then repeat. I didn’t make it out of camp until 9 am. The day never got warm. I had to hike in my down jacket, something that I rarely ever do.
In addition to the cold, my foot continue to bother me. It was just one of those days that you push through rather than enjoy. Towards the end of the day, I passed by Watauga Lake. The fall colors made it a beautiful and scenic area. I tried my best to enjoy the last few miles of the day.
I spent the night camping at Boots Off Hostel. Although I slept in my tent, they had a heated common area to hangout in. I purchased a frozen pizza to make for dinner and relaxed for the rest of the night. I was glad to be warm and be able to ice my feet.
Day 117 (20.4 miles)
My day began just before sunrise. I quickly got up and moving, packing up my gear as fast as possible. Then I headed up to the heated common room for hot coffee and a free breakfast. Fresh fruit and cereal was a nice change of pace. I realized that I hadn’t had cereal since I’ve been on trail. Another late hiking start, the warm room was too inviting and made it difficult to leave. Cold days were seeming to be the usual now.
There was a long climb and descent to start the day. No views, but the other side of the mountain was gorgeous. The trail followed along a creek for a long ways.
Eventually the trail came to the Laurel Fork Falls. A large and powerful waterfall. A man who lives in the area said that this was the lowest water volume he has ever seen. A testament to the dry year we have had.
After a break at the falls, I continued up another long climb for the day. I stopped for lunch at a nice overlook. My foot was still in a lot of pain, but today was much more manageable.
The day was much warmer than the previous, but still very cold when the sun disappeared behind clouds. The rest of the trail that day traveled up and down a few hills. It went through a number of ravines with small beautiful streams. I passed the hardcore cascades and then found a place to camp a few miles after.
Camping along the creek was both beautiful and frigid. A campfire was delightful after a long day of hiking. The cold flowing water was perfect to soak my sore feet in. Normally, I do a 15 minute ice soak, but the creek was way too cold. I did two 5 minute soaks. Both times my feet went completely numb and tingly. The fire was a necessity to bring them back to life. It was this night that I had a “bright” idea for a solution to my foot problem. I noted earlier that day that my pain diminished when my toes were slightly raised. I believed that my pain was caused from my shoes being worn down. To mitigate this, I taped cardboard from hot pockets under my insoles.
Upper Laurel Fork: T2, S1, P1, W1, B4
Total Score: 8
Day 118 (21.9 miles)
A surprisingly cold night by the stream. I was at significantly lower elevation than some of the previous nights, yet my water was still frozen when I woke up. The morning was full of more hills to go over. An efficient way to stay warm. The air itself soon warmed to an enjoyable hiking temperature.
There was a restaurant/resupply along a road about halfway into the day. I hurried there to make it for lunch. I hiked with Ducky and Gravy for a few miles in the morning. Some good conversations kept the feet moving fast. Speaking of feet… the cardboard under the toes was proving to be quite effective. My pain was minimized significantly throughout the entire day.
I made it to Station 19E (the restaurant) around 12:30 pm. I resupplied in the small shop and then got to work on ordering lunch. Tick Bite, Stretch, and Lotus were also there and ate with me. I got chicken tenders, fries, and a reuben.
After lunch, we began a long 5 mile climb up to some bald peaks. At the time, I didn’t realize that I would be seeing such amazing views that afternoon. It blew me away when I broke tree-line and could see for miles!
We camped a couple miles down from the top. It was an amazing open field with a view. A great sunrise and star gazing spot. I started another fire to combat the cold. This was one of my favorite days on trail!
Overmountain Shelter: T1, S1, P1, W1, B2
Total Score: 2
Thank you for reading my latest trail update! I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey. I’m definitely bummed that my foot flared up again, but hopeful that some new shoes will fix the issue! Until then, I’ll be walking on cardboard… literally. Remember to keep wandering in your own direction!
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