We last updated from Erwin, TN- Mile 342.9
Monday, May 25th
We said goodbye to Erwin and continued our journey north. Upon reaching Indian Grave Gap, TN we were greeted by Ms. Janet and two gentlemen with trail magic. The magic consisted of brownies, banana bread, bagels, lemonade, coffee, and ice water. Ms. Janet is a trail angel along the Appalachian Trail. She shuttles, provides trail magic, and offers advice to hikers- all free of charge. After a quick rest and chat, we thanked the angels for their noble offerings and hiked on to Beauty Spot Gap.
After lunch, we followed the trail up Unaka Mountain. The climb consisted of switchbacks sprinkled with rocks. Pan (a fellow thru-hiker) left a note on the trail warning of a large rattlesnake. By the time we arrived the snake had moved on. Near the top of Unaka the trail transitions into a spruce forest. The segue was smooth as butter. We ended the day at Cherry Gap Shelter- Mile 360.0
Tuesday, May 26th
We left Cherry Gap Shelter in high spirits. A short seven-mile hike to Greasy Creek Hostel (GCH) and we would score our resupply and a care package from mama Packard. The side trail leading to GCH read 0.6 miles. It was all downhill and the guidebook was missing a 1 in front of the six (so it seemed). We made it, resupplied, and received our care package. The contents included beef jerky steaks, Snickers bars, pistachios, and a few gear items for Little Lady. Thank you, mama Packard! We climbed out of GCH and continued to Ash Gap where we set up shop for the night.
Wednesday, May 27th
From Ash Gap, we climbed Roan Mountain standing at 6194 ft. Our hike started with a light fog in the morning and spectacular views in the afternoon. Following the top of Roan were beautiful views from Round Bald.
For lunch, we stopped at Overmountain Shelter (a converted barn). The Overmountain Shelter is located near the Overmountain Trail. Here is a brief explanation of the Overmountain Trail borrowed from a plaque. “Yellow Mountain Gap is the junction of the Appalachian Trail and historic Bright’s Trace route used by the Overmountain Men to cross the mountains en route to the revolutionary war battle at Kings Mountain, North Carolina in 1780”.
After a huge lunch, we immediately started uphill and climbed Little Hump Mountain Clearing (5,459 ft). At the top, we met a day hiker from the area named “Dozer”. He stood 7’4″ 350lbs and was hiking with a broken toe. He pointed out some peaks in the distance (Hawks Bill, Table Rock, and Grand Father Mountain). We continued hiking and proceeded towards Hump Mountain (5,587 ft). Dozer hiked with us and at one point was following behind me. Little Lady said that we resembled a son and his father out for a hike. From there we continued down to US 19E.
Our goal for the day was to reach Mountain Harbour B&B/Hiker Hostel. Rumor has it they have the best breakfast on the trail. After a slight detour (almost a mile in the opposite direction) we turned around and started hitching the right way. A truck pulled over to pick us up and coincidentally the driver was Dozer. After dropping us off we paid for tenting and a spot at breakfast the next morning.
Thursday, May 28th
We arrived at breakfast and were greeted with roughly 20 dishes and hikers. The feast included but was not limited to cheesy hash browns, scrambled eggs, french toast, biscuits and gravy, real sausage patties, multiple breakfast pastries, assorted fresh fruits, and unlimited coffee and OJ. From the hostel, we made our way to Mountaineer Shelter. Along the way, we embraced the sun as we hiked through open fields. We continued to Jones Falls and had a snack. Shortly after the falls, we hit our 400-mile mark. We made it to Mountaineer Shelter and whipped up some tuna wraps. There we were greeted by Pumba and Dinner Roll (a couple we had previously met). It was approaching 4 P.M. and a storm was approaching (lightning and the works). We decided to press on and within a half hour, we were caught in a nice downpour. During the rain, we snapped a few pictures along the way. The afternoon/evening rain lasted about four hours. Just ahead, Nettle and Briar, Octopus, and Don Quixote were enjoying the shower. We all made it to Moreland Gap Shelter pitched our tents, changed into dry clothes, made food, and crashed.
Friday, May 29th
The next morning Nicole was greeted with a terrible case of the chafes. Unfortunately, we were still 6.6 miles to the next hostel where we could stop and let her body heal. With pain accompanying each stride she marched on. We made it to Black Bear Resort where we stayed for a nero that day and a zero Saturday (May 30th). That Friday we went to town and caught game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs (Lightning vs. Rangers) with an older character named Double D.
Sunday, May 31st
Between Friday and Sunday Nicole made a quick recovery. On Sunday morning we hit the trail and passed Laurel Falls. Eventually (afternoon) the trail dumped us off onto US 321 where, again, we hiked about a mile in the wrong direction. Once we got back on track we made our way to Watauga Lake and crossed the Watauga Dam.
We continued hiking through the evening to Vandeventer Shelter. There we bumped into Yogi, Kimchi, Stray, Turtle Hawk and a few others. After a quick dinner, we planned to hike an additional 3.8 miles to a campsite located at mile marker 440. Roughly a mile later Nicole expressed to me a possible discomfort/pain/issue in her lower leg. Before we started our trip we discussed the importance of communication especially in matters of fatigue, injury, etc. Shortly after, around 9 P.M., we passed a nice campsite and pitched the tent.
Monday, June 1st
The next morning her leg felt normal and we set out to hit our first 20+ mile day. We got an early start (7 A.M.) and stopped for our second breakfast around 10. There we met Giggles and Woodstock (another couple) and Rue. After an extended break we got back to it and hiked into the afternoon. We ducked from some rain in the next shelter and had a big lunch. Just before we arrived Nicole noticed the discomfort had returned to her leg. She felt comfortable enough to move forward and we did. As the afternoon passed the pain intensified. At Shady Valley Gap she turned her phone and Googled the symptoms on her leg. The first result returned from Google was a stress fracture. We set up camp shortly after in hopes that a long rest would alleviate the ache- assuming it was not a stress fracture.
Tuesday, June 2nd
After waking up and breaking down camp it was clear the discomfort had developed into something more serious. At this point, we were still 13 miles from Damascus, VA. This was by far the roughest morning both physically and emotionally. Again, Nicole pressed on despite the extreme discomfort (she is more machine than man). After a few miles, I took her pack to lighten the load and hopefully prevent further injury and discomfort. As we continued the possibility was setting in that this may be the end of the road. The last ten miles into Damascus were, what I refer to as, “doom and gloom”. The weather was overcast and we both fought back our tears. Prior to our trip, we discussed that in the event of one or the other having to drop out the other would continue. It is one thing to discuss the matter months beforehand and it actually became a reality. Despite our efforts, the tears flowed like the salmon of Capistrano.
Upon reaching Damascus we bumped into Yahtzee and Sarah (his sister). Sarah drove from New Orleans the night before to join Yahtzee for a few days. They offered to take us up the road to a diner. There we stuffed our faces (burgers, nachos, potato salad, crinkle cut french fries, a milkshake, and ice cream scoop) and made calls to several bed and breakfasts with no luck reserving a room. Finally, we decided to get a hotel room a few miles outside Damascus in Abingdon, VA. We both needed some time away from the trail and crowds to assess the situation and plan our next move.
Before checking into the hotel we made a stop at the Wellmont Urgent Care Center (thank you Yahtzee for the ride) to get an X-Ray of her leg. The X-Ray did not show a stress fracture and apparently will not until the healing process has begun.
Wednesday, June 3rd
Rest day at the hotel.
Thursday, June 4th
Rest day at the hotel.
Friday, June 5th
Today Nicole woke up and the pain had subsided. We caught the community transit bus and hit the laundrorama. Afterwards, we resupplied at Food City and rode the bus back to the hotel. The excitement is back in the air and we are both looking forward to resuming our trip north. Although stoked we are not naive. So quickly she (the AT) can chew you up and spit you out. Without notice your trip is short. Currently, we are blogging from the hotel room, drinking wine, and watching Jurassic Park. Tomorrow we will return to the trail and continue north. Today was a good day.