Day 39: Damascus

Day 39: Goooooooooooooood morning Virginia! Hey, this is not a test this is a walking goal. Time to walk it from Damascus to Harper’s Ferry!

Ok, in all honesty that sounded way better in my head with Robin Williams’ voice when I thought of it this morning. Oh well, what can I say, I’m excited to finally be in Virginia. However, I realized today that many friends and family have no idea what Damascus is and why it’s a big deal.

So, let me explain.

First, and most obviously, entering Virginia marks my 4th state along the Appalachian Trail. It’s the state with the most AT miles in it (500ish), and includes some of the best landmarks of the whole trail: Grayson Highlands, Keffer Oak, McAffee Knob, Jennings Creek, The Guillotine, Shenandoah, Big Meadows Lodge, and The Roller Coaster. These are all things you may not know about yet but will see me talk about in the weeks to come.

Damascus also marks a big milestone, as it signifies you are one of the 50% of hikers that did not drop out. Yep, historically, half of the thruhikers each year quit before reaching Damascus. So it’s a great feeling to be on the right side of that average.

Lastly, Damascus is a very symbolic trail town to the Appalachian Trail community. It hosts the annual AT festival called “Trail Days” each year, where more than 20,000 hikers, vendors, locals and other patrons gather to celebrate this 2190 mile scenic walking path. That festival isn’t until mid-May, but many hikers come back to town for it, even if they are hundreds of miles away.

So for all those reasons, I am ecstatic to finally be here. In addition, it means I get a rest day. In planning my thruhike, this was meant to be my first Zero Day of the trip. In reality, this will now be my 4th, but I am happy for it nonetheless. I was overzealous in thinking I wouldn’t need one until now. Even still, the last few days had long miles and my feet could use a break.

They also need new shoes. I’ve worn through my first pair of trail runners, signified by the painful feel of every stone and root I stepped on the past few days. The tread is almost gone and the soles are worn thin. Luckily, for such a small town (814 people according to the 2010 census), there are 3 outfitters to sell boots to hikers. It’s a very common place to replace trail runner shoes like mine, as most only last 400-500 miles. I researched a bit today and picked out a new pair of Salomons very similar to my current pair. These, though, have a slightly stiffer sole, which I wish I had against this rocky/rooty trail earlier.

I started today’s 18 mile hike at 8am, arriving shortly after 3pm. It was a very flat and easy trail, as expected, so I took my time to enjoy it. Last night’s snow put a blanket of white over the world that was silent and untouched, and hiking through it in the sun today was refreshing and exhilarating. With each mile walked, the sun melted more and more of the snow, until it eventually was gone near the Virginia border. Such a great thing to experience.

Because of the easy terrain leading here, many people do a hiker challenge into town called the “Damascus Dash”. This constitutes them hiking 42 miles from the road crossing at Hampton to Damascus in one day. Which typically requires you to wake up long before dawn and hike until dusk. Even at 3 mph, that would take 14 hours to do. In my younger more vulnerable years … I may have considered it for the excitement of the challenge. But now? No thanks. I enjoyed my two day stretch instead. 🙂

Upon getting to town, I checked in at Crazy Larry’s Hostel. Larry is an older gentlemen that runs a great hostel in town and is well-adored by the AT community. He provides a bed, dinner and breakfast for $45, does your laundry, and has many hiker friendly amenities … including (as he calls it) a Smartass TV. I like Larry.

Legs and Ridge are also in town, but at different hostels. I saw one other couple wandering around that I know, but no one else. It is odd for there to be so few hikers here, but I’m currently in a weird void where few other hikers are on my same schedule. I know others will roll in tomorrow, like Jackelope, Ripple, and Leap Frog, but tonight it feels as quiet as the past few days on the trail.

I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow on my day off, but it will definitely include rest, relaxation, and lots of food.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start to Mile: 451.6
  • Start Time: 08:00
  • End Mile: 470.9
  • End Time: 15:05
  • Miles Hiked: 19.3
  • Miles to Go: 1720.0
  • Lodging: Crazy Larry’s Hostel

11 thoughts on “Day 39: Damascus

  1. It certainly is a day to celebrate. I think you need to retitle these “zero” days as “down-to-earth” days…. a day to be “one” with your feet on terra firms. So far, so good… actually better than good. It is a milestone to reach Damascas intact. I’m thinking about my shoe options too. What is the terrain like where you and I will. E packing? Rocky? Muddy? Both? Let me know. Enjoy your DTE Day!
    Mom & dad


    • I think it will be good terrain to break in your new boots. Could be rainy and muddy (always could be, haha) but those new boots need to get dirty eventually! 😋

      Down to earth days indeed! I heard mom starting adopting my vocabulary on vacation. Taking her own “zero days”, haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Way to go ! I hope to see you sometime in VA. Maybe Big Meadows (that’s close to where I live), I am currently visiting acksburg (snowing here this morning) and will be in Grayson (my hometown) at some point.


  3. Mike, congrats on a fine job. Take lots of photos of Harper’s Ferry. My grand daughters name is “Harper May Moleski ” be fun to have a photo of a sign with Harper’s Ferry for her memory book. Sounds like your in great shape and good spirits. Happy Trails


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