May 5 Day 47 Trimpi Shelter
This morning I was up and eating waffles at 6:15.
Thank the universe for modern medicine, I thought to myself. I felt great, finally. I tentatively drank about 3 oz of coffee and an hour later I was still feeling good.
I learned that the public transportation in Marion does not run to the AT on Saturday, just Monday-Friday. So around 9am, after watching some more Star Wars, I called Jim Sparks again and he picked me up 15 minutes later. He had another hiker with him who needed to run a couple of errands. We also picked up another hiker from a motel and then we headed back to the trail.
I happily hefted my pack and started down the trail. It felt so good! Man. Good to be back.
I got a couple of thundershowers but I didn’t care. I’m back!
After 10 miles I decided to stop here at the shelter, I wanted to take it easy my first day back out and I wasn’t sure what the weather would do. After seeing a GIANT spider in the shelter I weighed the options in my head: if I sleep in the shelter and it rains, I’ll have a dry tent in the morning. But there will be spiders and mice. If I pitch my tent, there will be no critters, and if it rains tonight, I should get a chance to dry my tent out tomorrow.
I pitched my tent and I’m so glad I did.
About 10 NOBOs have showed up and they are super nice but I’m not keen on sleeping in a full shelter.
Tomorrow I’ll hike up into the Greyson Highlands, a very famous part of the trail and very beautiful. There are wild ponies! One of the NOBOs showed me a photo of a baby pony. I hope I get to see one!
May 6 Day 48 The Scales
The Scales is a large corral at the northern end of Greyson Highlands State Park. It’s beautiful. This was my goal for today and I’m glad I made the 17.5 miles to get here.
I left camp with a wet tent, but I was hoping the weather forecast would be right in its prediction of some sun today.
I got my chance around 11:30 halfway up the second big climb of the day. Flat spot, lots of sun. I dried my tent and rain fly and had some lunch. About 45 minutes later is started pouring and it rained for a good two and a half hours. I was halfway up my third big climb of the day when I ran into Papi, who is 87 and thru hiking. We complimented each other on our respective rain gear and as I wished him happy hiking and turned back to the trail I thought about what I’ll be like when I’m 87.
I stopped at the Old Orchard Shelter to take a break from the rain and chatted with some NOBOs. It was nice to sit in a dry spot for a bit. They told me that once I got up into the highlands I’d see plenty of ponies.
An hour later I got to the top of the climb and did a little dance and ate a Lara Bar. Then I checked my GPS, hefted my pack and set it for the last 1.8 miles.
Sometimes 1.8 miles seems like 5 miles. Sometimes it goes by in a heartbeat. But at the end of a rainy day with lots of gain 1.8 is an eternity. I finally made it around the bend to the corral and quickly found a spot to pitch my tent within the corral. It keeps the ponies out! They are beautiful. Several are running around along the fence and others are grazing on the new grass that is everywhere.
Tomorrow as I hike over the highlands I’ll see more ponies and hopefully the baby pony Aladdin told me about yesterday.
I feel good, pleased to have met my goal and I’m happy to be in some new terrain. I’m above the tree line which is cool; I haven’t been above the tree line since the Whites.
I think I’ll sleep good here.
May 7 Day 49 Whitetop Mountain Ridge Tentsite
Coyotes woke me up around 2am and then again at 4am, much closer, but I went right back to sleep both times. I slept well and woke up to clear skies and a beautiful sunrise. I saw ponies running around outside of the corral and as I ate my breakfast in my sleeping bag I watched the sky turn pink. I cuddled up again and was about to drift off but nope, I was awake and soon taking down my tent.
It was a great morning; I felt strong and it was nice to have a change in scenery. Open fields, rocks and small trees dominated the landscape and I could see where the trail would eventually take me in the State Park. A couple of hours later I came across a mother pony and her baby. I didn’t get too close to them, but close enough to get a photo without bothering them too much.
I chatted with some day hikers and a NOBO, and after a second breakfast I was climbing up towards Mt. Rogers. I had fun on this stretch as the trail squeezes between two large boulders. This area also really reminded me of Maine and New Hampshire. I found myself thinking of trail days in the past, on the AT and the PCT.
As I began the descent out of the Greyson Highlands I came across several NOBOs who told me about trail magic at Elk Garden Gap, just a couple of miles away. I arrived to find a handful of NOBOs and several trail angels who had so much stuff! Pasta salad, sandwiches, snacks, homemade cookies, fruit, salad, drinks, hiker foods like Clif bars and Knorr Pasta sides to take with, all kinds of things. I sat in the sun and ate a variety of things as I chatted with the hikers and the trail angels. One of the trail angels said to me, “If everyone in this country treated each other the way the hiking community treated each other, so many problems would be solved.”
As the angles packed up the hikers did so as well and I hiked off with a full heart and stomach. It was a nice 2.5 mile hike up here to the tentsite near a gushing spring. Thunder followed me for the last quarter mile but it was to the east.
After I had dinner and hung my food bag a small shower rolled through, and hopefully that will be it. Tomorrow looks like a nice hike, but I have to say, today was one of the best hiking days I’ve had this spring. The ponies, the terrain, the people, all these things combined made for a very memorable day.
May 8 Day 50 Laurel River Tentsite
I woke to pink skies. It had cleared overnight and I was hopeful for a sunny and warm day. My tent was still wet from the night before, but I wasn’t concerned.
I was hiking by 7am and since I camped at a high elevation (over 5,000 feet), and the ridge was relatively treeless, I had stunning views of the valleys below, mostly covered by fast moving fog. It was windy, but not too cold. A good sign. I’ve had my share of cold wind. I had a nice long descent ahead of me and I was looking forward to some easy miles to start my day. It was beautiful. Before long I found myself in an open area with views on all sides. I happily made my way down, and before I knew it I was 6 miles into my day and I had arrived at Lost Mt Shelter. I got my tent out in the sun to dry and sat down for some snacks. I chatted with some NOBOs and took my time. It felt rather luxurious to take a longer break early in the day. Lately I’ve been switching my schedule up, trying to take my time more and it just pound away the miles. I still reach my daily goals and it feels like I am enjoying myself more. What? I am enjoying myself more!
Anyway, I was back at it and the next few hours went by rather quickly. When I dropped down again to the river I was ready to stop for the day. I’ve got a lovely spot near the water all to myself, so far anyway, and it feels good. I always love to camp next to rivers.
Tomorrow I have a five mile hike into Damascus, the trail goes right through the town, and I’m hoping to find a breakfast joint so I can have an omelette. Funny the things I find myself craving out here.
This has been a good stretch and tomorrow I’ll get some hiker chores done and pitch my tent at the Woodchuck Hostel in town. I’m not needing a bed just yet.
May 10 Day 51 Woodchuck Hostel, Damascus.
It was an easy five mile hike into town this morning and my first stop was at Mojo’s Coffee. I inhaled an omelette and potatoes with toast. I sat there for awhile and updated my social media, then I continued on my way through town. There are several outfitters here and I thought I might get lucky and find one that sells hip belts for my Osprey pack (Frankenpack). I knew it was a long shot, and so I was pleasantly surprised to see the exact hip belt I was looking for at Mt. Rogers Outfitters. The folks there were very helpful and gave me a good deal. They also gave me some free hiker snacks and we talked trail for a bit and then I was in my way, stuffing free energy chews and honey waffle bars into my pockets. I love getting trail magic like that. The kindness of strangers.
I arrived here at the hostel and after a nice shower, laundry and a good tent cleaning session I am done with chores. So now I’m sitting in the shade with Abby, Woodchuck’s cat, who has decided I am acceptable company.
Another beautiful day on the AT.