Day 41. After another great Crazy Larry breakfast this morning, I was feeling anxious to get back on the trail. The previous Zero days I did always seemed to roll into a Nero day accidentally, but not today. By 9am I was ready to get walking. After a quick stop for a 2nd breakfast (fruit smoothie), I was on the trail.
Side note, damn that smoothie was good. I forgot how great those are in the morning and how well they get me moving. I know some people do them on the trail, and if it weren’t so messy, I would possibly consider it. For example, I’ve heard of people having a “smoothie water bottle” that they shake protein powder and cocoa mix up in each morning, then clean it naturally by drinking water in it throughout the day. Actually, now that I talk through it … I don’t think it would be too bad. I may try it.
One of the other popular tourist activities in Damascus is a 30-mile bike path called The Creeper Trail. This path is a nicely paved road that cuts through town and follows the Laurel River as it winds northward. If you recall, that is the river that feeds the amazing Laurel Falls I enjoyed a few days ago. The Creeper Trail and the AT parallel each other for a few miles (and used to be one and the same), so the scenery was gorgeous all morning. It was also distracting and confusing. I lost the AT 3 times and had to back track to locate white blazes at missed intersections.
The only other hiker interested in getting an early start with me today was Ridge, pictured above. Ridge hiked with me between Hampton and Damascus, so it was nice to have a partner at my current pace today. We decided to do the 16 miles to Lost Mountain Shelter, though got there pretty quickly and almost went on. If the next few miles weren’t basically straight up Mount Rogers (the highest AT mountain in Virginia), we would have. Instead we enjoyed a lazy evening, a cozy fire, and an early bedtime.
A couple other familiar faces are at the shelter too, though, no one I’ve hiked with yet. Atlas, a recently retired man has been leapfrogging me since the Smokies. The other is Quattro, a young man in his 4th thruhike in so many years. There are also a few section hikers here enjoying a week-long trek out of Damascus. Long story short, it was great company around the fire.
Given that the terrain is pretty calm after Mt. Rogers, we are thinking we may do 24 miles tomorrow … which would make tomorrow the day we go through Grayson Highlands. This is the state park in Virginia that has free range ponies. It would be an amazing experience to see and interact with wild animals that are normally domesticated during this 4 mile stretch. I did something similar with wild bison a few years back at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota … it’s an incredible experience to be hiking/camping among animals like this. Also, I haven’t seen any wildlife bigger than a chipmunk yet, so I’m really hoping it is as common a sight as they say. Ridge claims he’s going to ride one … I have my doubts he’ll get within 10 feet of one.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start to Mile: 470.9
- Start Time: 10:00
- End Mile: 486.1
- End Time: 04:55
- Miles Hiked: 15.2
- Miles to Go: 1704.8
- Lodging: Lost Mountain Shelter