Saturday, May 21, 2011

We walked to Virginia! Yesterday morning we crossed the Tennessee-Virginia border and have made our way to Damascus, "the friendliest town on the trail."
It's been quite a week since Asheville, with many ups-and-downs, figurative and literal. We did two 22+ mile days, and we trudged through rain and cold, but we are very grateful for the last two days of sunshine, and for a full "zero" today in Damascus.

Here's what we've been up to:

Day 32
Erwin, TN to Curley Maple Shelter (4.2 miles)
After a great time in Asheville, we headed back to the trail. As we drove, heavy gray clouds moved in, and we learned that the forecast showed five days of rain ahead of us. We decided to press on nevertheless, and had a pleasant and short hike to a shelter just outside of Erwin. Just after we arrived, the downpour started and didn't let up all night. We were happy there was room in the shelter, and that our good friends, Avo and H.I.P., had also braved the elements.

Day 33
Curley Maple Shelter to Clyde Smith Shelter (22 miles)

Our longest day yet (until later in the week)! Phew. The weather was not fun (to put it nicely). We trudged through pouring rain and slogged up slippery slopes, but we made it the whole 22 miles. Once we got to the shelter, a heavy fog moved in, and the night turned cold, but thankfully we were able to stay warm and relatively dry in the shelter.

Day 34
Clyde Smith Shelter to Overmountain Shelter (14.4 miles)

Oh, the wind and the rain! We climbed Roan Mountain, one of the highest points on the A.T. and the coldest part of the trail in the South, year-round. (We were very thankful this week to have our cold weather gear with us; some of our friends had already sent theirs home, thinking that the multiple 80-degree days we had had last week meant that the warmth was here to stay...not so fast...) We also climbed over many balds, from which the guidebook tells us there are many great views, but we were lost in a cloud of white and couldn't see anything. We made it to Overmountain Shelter (an enormous, old barn converted into a shelter in 1986) for another cold, drafty night.

Day 35
Overmountain Shelter to Mountaineer Shelter (18 miles)

And the rain kept coming! Today was the day of "mud-skating." The trail was muddy the whole way, and almost all of our clothes were soaked from the previous days of rain. I was so eager to get to the shelter by the end of the day, that we pretty much ran there for the last hour. Staying warmtook some effort, but we were able to salvage one pair of dry-ish items each and get some sleep.

Day 36
Mountaineer Shelter to Dennis Cove [Kincora Hostel] (15.6 miles)
The thought of dry clothes must have motivated us down the mountain today, because we made it to Kincora Hostel fast. Though it wasn't actually raining, the trail was still muddy, and the air was still cold. We arrived at Kincora, a unique, low-key hostel with two bunk-rooms and a kitchen, supported by "a suggested donation of $4 per hiker." We washed our clothes and dried off; it was so nice to be in a heated room! And then...they brought us free food! (A hiker's best friend is free food.) They had tons of leftovers from the weekend, when they hosted an annual event called Hard Core, where volunteers meet at Kincora and go out and do trail work along the A.T. They said the food "had to go," so we worked hard at that task for a while (salad, pasta, ice cream, soup - yum!).

Day 37
Dennis Cove [Kincora Hostel] to Vandeventer Shelter (17.5 miles)

After a big and luxurious breakfast of fresh fruit and cereal, we headed back out into the woods. First thing, we walked by Laurel Falls, a beautiful and enormous waterfall. It felt great to be hiking in weather that was not cold or rainy. The sun even made an appearance! We arrived at Vandeventer Shelter in time for dinner and a nice chat with some older thru-hikers. Given the favorable weather conditions, we were even able to set up the tent for the first time in a week!

Day 38
Vandeventer Shelter to Abington Gap Shelter (22.7 miles)

Our longest day yet (for real this time)! We woke up early to watch the sunrise from Vandeventer Shelter. We were above the clouds, so even though it wasn't clear enough to see the sun actually rise, we did get some great views. We headed out early, as we had a long day ahead of us. One thing we have learned on the A.T. is that "flat" terrain is never flat. Indeed, our "flat" day turned out to have lots of hills and climbs, but we did it, and the day was gorgeous. It makes such a difference to hike in nice weather.

Day 39
Abingdon Gap Shelter to Damascus, VA (10.2 miles)

Yesterday morning, we woke up early and headed out of camp, eager to get to town. We made great time, and crossed the state-line around 10:00am. Such a great feeling to know that we've walked from Georgia - through North Carolina and Tennessee - to Virginia! At this point we're almost a quarter of the way done with the trail (we hit the 500-mile mark next week).

Day 40
Damascus, VA (ZERO miles)

Today we plan on relaxing and relaxing. After receiving an awesome mail drop from home and from Zack's Colby friends, Colin and Esther, we stuffed ourselves yesterday with sweet treats. (In fact, we were so full that we had no room for dinner - crazy talk!) Today we're hoping to do less gorging, but still more eating (of the fruit and vegetable variety this time). We're sitting at Mojoe's Trailside Coffeehouse eating breakfast and sipping coffee, and we've gotten a few recommendations for good veggie burgers in town, so that's where you can find us.

We'll be in Damascus until tomorrow morning, and in the meantime, we're looking forward to giving our legs the break they deserve.

Lara (and Zack)

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