Damascus, Va to Pearisburg, Va (Mile 474-634)

Damascus, Va to Pearisburg, Virginia

The past 9 days (give or take a couple) have been excellent. I’ve stayed at some great hostels, met new people, and have taken a couple zeros (3).

The shorthand-

Damascus -> Thomas Knob Shelter (Roughly 23 mi)
Thomas Knob Shelter -> Hurricane Shelter (Roughly 15-16 mi)
Hurricane Shelter -> Partnership Shelter (19 mi by 3:30)
Partnership Shelter -> Quarter Way Inn (21 mi Great new hostel – took a zero the next day)
Quarter Way Inn -> Jenkins Shelter (Roughly 26 mi – Long but rewarding day)
Jenkins -> Bland, Va (12 mi in – Took a zero the next day)
Bland, Va -> Trent’s Grocery (0.5 off-trail – roughly 19 mi)
Trent’s Grocery -> Wood’s Hole Hostel(0.5 off trail (roughly 16 mi)
Wood’s Hole -> Pearisburg, Va (1 mi of trail roughly 11 mi)

Expanded Version-

After resting in Damascus and Abingdon, Va I was ready to put both towns behind. I hit it hard that day and cranked some miles. I hiked til 8:30 that evening. The transition the few days after Nicole’s departure was strange/lonely/sad- after roughly 500 miles together. I anticipate her return and love and miss her very much.

Following my first 20+ mile day I decided to do a lower mileage day to Hurricane shelter. There I met a father and his two Daughters. They were hiking from Damascus to Troutdale, Va (roughly a 40-mile hike). After sleeping in the shelter (not setting up the tent) I was able to get an early start the next morning. I hammered out 19 mi to Partnership Shelter.

I arrived by 3:30 P.M. and had planned to push another 7 mi. There I met Woobie and Cypress. They had a female friend coming to pick them up and run them to town. I decided to stay, ride into town, snag some beer and wine at Wal Mart, and crash at the shelter. The next morning I woke up at 5:30 in a fog (thank you Gimli for the Wild Turkey 101). I gathered my belongings ate breakfast and headed to the Quarter Way Inn. Yahtzee had recommended I stay there.

After 21 miles I arrived at the Quarter Way Inn. That night Tina “Chunky” (the owner and 2009 SOBO thru-hiker) made homemade pizza and fresh salads. Only one additional hiker stayed that night- it was quiet. They had a movie room with a projector and VHS setup. I watched Glory and A River Runs Through It.

The day or two before arriving at Quarter Way Inn I felt a discomfort in my knee (only when loaded with weight and at a certain angle). I decided to zero and give the knee a rest. That day I helped Tina paint boundary trees on her property. It was nice to rest but still get out and move around (see the property). In the evening I rode with Tina to Pearisburg, Va (roughly a two hour round trip to pick up Yahtzee at Barraca’s (Mexican restaurant). On our way out of town, I snagged a knee band at the Rite-Aid. Roughly halfway back to the Quarter Way Inn, a black bear darted in front of the car. Tina hit the brakes and pulled the mom maneuver barring her arm across me. We arrived back at the inn and were introduced to her fiancee, Brett. They prepared dinner for the four of us (Venison sausage, kale, noodles, and a veggie salad)- another great dinner – thank you, Tina and Brett.

The next morning I didn’t make it to the trail until 11. That day I hiked a total of 26 miles- my longest day yet. In the afternoon I got caught on a 1.5 mile treeless stretch in a thunderstorm. A bolt of lightning struck close by and I nearly shat myself. I sprinted maybe a half mile to the woods and felt much less exposed. As I arrived at Chestnut Knob shelter the rain started dumping. I mowed down some snacks and pulled out the ole AWOL guide (mileage and elevation profile book). From Chestnut Knob Shelter I still had an additional 10 miles to go (what turned out to be a nasty 10 miles). Water was scarce during this stretch and after roughly 7 miles without water and another 3.1 to go, I took a gamble. A .5 mile side trail (downhill) took me down to a potentially dry water source (there was water). I pounded water and snacked some more.

After the .5 mile trek back to the trail it was approaching 8:45 and still had the 3.1 to go. I pulled out my headlamp and started a podcast. Eventually, there was total darkness (aside from the headlamp). Hiking in the dark and solo is a trip. You are alert and hyper-aware/sensitive to your surroundings (even with a podcast turned on low). With roughly a mile to go, I stopped and paused the podcast. I heard a crashing and realized I had spooked a bear (you get used to the different sounds a bear, squirrel, deer, etc make). I kept pushing and by 9:45 made it to Jenkins Shelter. I was relieved to see multiple tents and a few other hikers setting up camp.

I was lazy that evening and decided to sleep with my food bag. After a couple hours in the tent, I woke up to the sound of a bear in the distance. I listened for roughly 15 minutes as it approached my tent. When it got close enough I made myself known and it took off. Within a half hour, it circled back around and cut through the middle of the camp/shelter area. I could hear another hiker hollering, “Hey bear- hey bear- get out of here.” The next morning I met the hiker “Bengal John” (a fellow Phish fan) and we recounted the evening’s bear encounter. He mentioned that he had crawled out of his tent and saw the ass end of the bear taking off into the woods. Pumba, Dinner Roll, and Big Sexy slept through all of it. In the morning we noticed a sign on the side of the shelter indicating there had been recent bear activity in the area- it all made sense.

From there we hiked an easy 12 miles into Bland, VA. I originally planned to continue hiking but stayed the night. I called Bubba, a local shuttle, and scheduled a 10 o’clock shuttle. The next morning Bubba never showed. I called multiple times and he never answered. Bengal John and I stayed an additional night.

The next day Bubba did show up and provided a shuttle to the trailhead. Around the three mile mark, I noticed a pain in my shin. It turned out to be a shin splint and it kept me company the additional 16 miles to Trent’s grocery. That night Bengal John, Elijah, Carolyn, and I camped behind Trent’s grocery. The following day, after a few miles, we crossed Dismal Falls side trail. A short 0.3 miles lead down to the falls and a swimming hole. We enjoyed the scenery and swimming hole and continued on to Wood’s Hole Hostel.

Wood’s Hole Hostel was an awesome place. They have a huge organic garden, pigs, goats, and a massage studio. After arriving I ordered a 32 oz smoothie- butter pecan ice cream, strawberries, bananas, and whole milk. I signed up for the dinner that evening and ate fresh greens, homemade salad dressings, strawberries, homemade bread, Mexican lasagna, brown rice, and an ice cream cone. Bengal John, Tortoise, and Haire also enjoyed the dinner and hostel. That night I tented on the hill behind the hostel. The next morning, after a short 10-mile day, I arrived in Pearisburg, VA. During the hike, I noticed an awkward feeling in my ankle. The discomfort came and went throughout the day. Today I am zeroing at the Holiday Motor Lodge (Friday 6-19-2015) and plan on it being my last for several miles. At the motel Woobie, Cypress, Big Sexy, Pumba, Dinner Roll, Gimli, Bengal John, Tortoise, and Haire are zeroing.

I spoke with Yahtzee last night and he is roughly 60 miles ahead. He informed me Kimchi had broken her ankle and is off trail along with 5 additional people. I’m going to keep trucking one day at a time. I hope everyone is doing well. I miss my family and friends and think about all of you often.