I am now 370 miles into my hike and have between five and six times that much to go from here, so hurray for being more than 1/6 done! Also, I have my trail legs now and the weather is finally perfect for hiking. I am also about 80 miles into VA and all I can say is: wow. Privies everywhere!
It was 8pm by the time I posted last and headed out of Damascus. It was almost dark, so as soon as the AT crossed the road and went upstairs, I pulled out my headlamp. We probably walked 5 miles before arriving at a stream where another trail crossed and a tiny stony campsite with barely enough space for my tent. I couldn’t stake it out properly, but Comet had said not to expect rain and indeed it was a clear night the whole time we hiked, and the temperatures were perfect. So I left the rainfly off to get the cool air flowing through, put Copper inside, and went right to sleep.
Copper woke me at 3am and I soon heard why. Thunder! Lightning! It was a huge electrical storm. But Copper and Stevie Nicks both seemed to think it would rain, so I stumbled outside barefoot and put the rainfly on. Of course, I couldn’t stake it out right either because of the stones and the fact that I was stumbling around barefoot in the dark while the stakes were inside.
When Copper and I got to the car, mom and Renea refused to touch us for fear of catching some dread disease. We first rode to Shady Valley for a delicious pickle from the Country Store then on to Auntie’s Cottage in Damascus, right off the AT.
I may or may not have mentioned this, but Mary at the Mountain Harbour B&B makes the best breakfasts on the AT. Copper needed a day off to recover from his illness, and that was as good excuse as any to get to participate in this smorgasbord two days in a row.
The weather and the trail coming away from the Nolichucky and Erwin were both nice, if cold. What with how nice it was, I was surprised to see Pilgrim marching back south saying “I’ve been praying all morning, and I’m ending my hike here. God is telling me my true purpose is providing to trail magic to the other hikers.” I never met him before, but it’s always sad to hear a thru-hiker is quitting.
It was only around 5 miles to the first shelter, and we had no intention of staying there, but the sky opened up and a nice day turned rainy as we climbed the last stretch to it. A large group was there waiting out the rain and eating lunch, including a guy who was crazy enough to be carrying 60 lbs. up the trail, a third his body weight! But the only one who stuck around when it stopped was Crow, a Hawaiian guy who was “taking the day off” by only walking to the first shelter and spending the night there. One interesting thing about this shelter was a hiking challenge inscribed on it with several rules, but the gist being that two hikers sharing a pack must leave no earlier than 5pm from the shelter to go to Rocky’s pizza in Erwin, order 2 large pizzas upon arriving, and bring them and a 12-pack of beer back to the shelter before dark. Clearly a challenge for summertime.