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
Beware of free range ponies, they bite. Been there done that in SD Custer State Park. I too loved hiking and camping with or around larger wild animals. One fav is Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Its quite the experience. Happy Trails
I hate having to backtrack to find the blazes and/or the right trail. It’s happened in the Whites (NH) and along a section of the SHT. I actually volunteered and went back to paint/repaint blazes along the SHT a few years ago… no will get lost on that section for a decade or two! I hope you have good/clear weather up on MT. Rogers!
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When I worked in Williston, North Dakota I went to Theodore Roosevelt National Park…but did not see any Bison. Had great BBQ nearby.
Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.
If you watch Will Wood (Red Beard) AT hike on YouTube from a few years back, his hiking partner managed to pet the muzzle of one of those ponies.
Don’t get any wild ideas of adopting one of those ponies – stick with Pippa. Actually, the video was great. I’m sure everyone was pretty jealous of your horsing around on the trail. Sounds like things are “mellowing out” nicely. It also sounds like you’re hitting better weather (finally), and that makes everything better :).
So, I decided to bring my new aluminum poles back to REI – they needed to be cut down some more so they would fit in the pack better (I went from 8 sections to 12 sections). The good news, however is that my new 2-person tent (including poles, stakes & rainfly) only weighs 4.4 pounds (I weighed it at Byerly’s on their electronic scale in the nuts & candy section). I’m excited to cut my shared tent weight to 2.2 lbs – the same actually as my 1-person tent. I also put on some glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls from MSR. It’s always nice to see where the damn zippers are at night.
I think everyone (including me) is jealous of your whole experience on the AT. I know how much planning it takes, but all that effort has really paid off for you. Be well, stay warm.
mom & dad
This update regarding the weight of the tent on the Byerly’s scale has given me life all week. Please let “Dad” either blog when he is with you or dictate posts to you. The TN comments are really the highlight of all of this reading every day.
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Lol I’ll let him know! Haha