An Update and Trail Days: May 15th

Appalachian Trail: Day #68

Damascus, VA (Again)

Total AT Miles: 589.9

Kodak here signing in from Damascus, Va. Mountain Goat, My Shadow, Firecracker, and myself caught a ride here late Wednesday night to attend the Trail Days Festival. Trail Days celebrates hiking with the town swelling from a population of ~800 to an estimated 15,000 people. The main event of the festival is a hiker parade. Current and former thru-hikers tramp through town while locals bathe away our smell with water guns. The town also fills with vendors competing for business, repairing worn-out gear, and hosting gear give-a-ways.

After vendors vend their wares, hikers party around their fires. A field fills with tents so close walking becomes a gnarled maze of tripwires. The woods fill as well with two separate areas: quiet and chaos. We camped in chaos not entirely sure what we were getting ourselves into. Our tents happened to be right next to the largest bonfire I’ve ever seen with hundreds of nearly naked hikers tribal dancing to the thrum of a drum circle.

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Tent city Sunday morning after clearing out. All that grass was packed with tents.

The blog being a month behind my current where-abouts, I’m posting some photos from the last thirty days. The hike is going well, better than I ever imagined. In fact, when people ask me how it is I tell ’em, “Everyday feels like the new best day of my life.” While this isn’t totally true, it isn’t too far off.

I am still hiking with Dr. Kool-Aid, My Shadow, Mountain Goat, and Finch. Firecracker is a recent addition, but has been with us for a couple weeks now. We are all eating better than ever with the occasional cookout.

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Here we are grilling sirloin skewers at Woodchucks Hostel in Damascus the first time we were here (two weeks ago).

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We arrived at Watagua Lake a few days before to find former thru-hikers performing trail magic. They were grilling burgers and had coolers filled with beer and pop. We stayed put that evening and the next night as well. A kind family lent us their kayaks and paddle boards. We fried bacon, beans, and eggs on a charcoal grill adding wild onions for extra flavor.

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We crossed another border! Three states down, eleven to go.

We crossed the 500 mile markers – there were three with one made of pony poo – in the Grayson Highlands with it’s wild ponies.

We’ve entered the rainy season. I’ve been soaked through a couple times now. It’s actually a nice change and I often enjoy the rain.

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Lots more hitchhiking.

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And bellies full of pizza.

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Wheeling carts of backpacks as we purchase food for days to come.

And then feasting with the addition of wild foods. Those are ramps in the backpack and all diced up. Firecracker is holding Solomons Seal, a root we’ve decided needs too much cooking to be worth our while. We also eat stinging nettle and wild garlic with the occasional green salad. We are all eagerly anticipating the arrival of berry season.

 

My shoes died a horrible death as I walk them to shreds. My friends all tell me they were dead weeks ago. Maybe they were right. My feet were sore for a time. I replaced them today tossing my poor old shoes into the trash where, I hate to say it, they belong. You definitely do NOT want a whiff of ’em. They smell bad enough to kill an elephant. I can hardly imagine how a recently bathed, clean-laundered person would fare. You know those movies where noxious gas touches a person skin causing them to convulse, blister, and boil…

Epic sunsets,

And frightening night hikes.

Stunning vistas,

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And pony poo??

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Salamanders,

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And wild animals.

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Plants,

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And hikers blowing their seeds across grassy landscapes.

Our hair grew long but then was cut by friendly church-folks here in Damascus. My shirt is in the wash if you were wondering.

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I’m hoping to prepare some new posts for the coming days but first must heed the call of the bottomless pit that was once my stomach. Tomorrow, we catch a ride back to Bland, Va then hike a few days to the town of Pearisburg, Va where you’ll hear from me next.┬áTake care everyone and Happy Trails.

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 23: Icewater Spring Shelter to TriCorner Nob Shelter

Day #23

Icewater Spring Shelter –> Tri Corner Knob Shelter

12.1 Miles

222.2 Total AT Miles

Kodak here signing in from Damascus, Virginia 54 days, and 469 miles, into an Appalachian Trail thru-hike. The blog has fallen a bit behind, but I’m working to bring it up to date if the wifi here will cooperate. It’s spotty though I think it’ll do.

I arrived here two days ago and have been really out of sorts. I was lacking sleep, a condition caused by my stubborn refusal to use inflatable sleeping pads. Until last night that is. I finally caved trading my precious foam mat for an inflatable.

Weeks waking under-slept and stiff led to the decision. I spent thirty minutes yesterday laying on different mats on the floor of an outfitter before deciding on a Sea to Summit Ultra light mat.

Feeling exhausted from the previous nights toss-and-turn, I blew up the mat here at Woodchucks hostel and napped on a wooden bench. I woke feeling refreshed though still tired. I guess I’ve been sleeping worse than I thought!

Sleep was never a problem when pushing big miles. If your tired enough, you’ll sleep anywhere and on anything. The issue is: I haven’t been pushing big miles. Not even close! Our group enjoys a slow pace soaking in as many special moments as we can muster.

Anyway, I slept really well last night. I’ll need another night or two before I’m finally caught up, but a good nights sleep makes all the difference. I cannot wait for another.

The next ten posts or so will be mainly photographs. I began journaling again after Hot Springs so written words will resume shortly.

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Brewing coffee in the vestibule of my tent on a chilly morning in the Smokies.
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Dr. Kool-Aid, Shaggy, Bambi, Moonboots, (i forget! Sorry), and Owl kneeling in the front.
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Dr. Kool-Aid packing up his tent in the wind. It rained in the night and was so windy I was almost worried. I staked out my tent at every possible point though so I didn’t have any issues. Henry Shires at TarpTent added extra guy-out points around the perimeter of my tent allowing for a total of 8.
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A cloudy and windy day in the Smokies.
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My Shadow and Dr. Kool-Aid on a blue-blazed trail to an overlook. Heeeyyy!!!
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My Shadow and Dr. Kool-Aid celebrating the beauty of the mountains.

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Rocks and moss line the trail.
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A light rain makes the greens and grey glisten and glow.
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Rocky trails are easy walking allowing water to drain.
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The Smokies have been my favorite section thus far.
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An overlook along an exposed ridge. Luckily, the weather is holding. Thunderstorms are forecast.
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Fallen trees are everywhere here. Rocky soil and shallow-rooted evergreens are easily pushed over in the wind.
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The aftermath of an old landslide.
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Dr. Kool-Aid and My Shadow dressed for the dreary day. It hasn’t dampened our spirits however!

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Dr. Kool-Aid removes his jacket in the warm shelter and begins to steam. We all are as our damp clothes begin to dry.
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Wet packs hanging from the shelter wall.
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Handicap accessible toilets?!
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Shaggy in front of Tri Corner knob shelter. I thought they would be long gone, but they took refuge here from the rain.