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April 26, 2018 / Comments (2)

WEEK # 7 – “Welcome to Virginia”

WEEK # 7 – “Welcome to Virginia”

4/3 – 4/8

Week 7 is a short week with two rest days, but covers the last miles of the Appalachian Trail in the Southern Appalachians as RTK leaves NC/TN and enters his home state of Virginia. Specifically, after enjoying the Easter weekend in Roane Mountain, TN, Bruce left the magnificent Roane Highlands and set his sights on the famous trail town of Damascus, VA –
often referred to as “Trail Town, USA.”

The day I left Roane Mountain at State Route 19E was almost as interesting and enjoyable as the hike through the highlands from Carvers Gap to 19E. It featured some open meadows and a wonderful walk along the Elk River.

The next day was to feature the Laurel Falls and Laurel Gorge area – a particularly beautiful and impressive area on the AT – but we’d have to endure a reversal of the fine weather we had had and deal again (thankfully just for half the day) with cold, rain and wind. The sky was suppose to clear and appeared to be clearing so I slowed my progress to Laurel Falls hoping
the sun would come out fully. This worked and I had a perfect afternoon for the Laurel area and its features. That day ended at a hostel, but only after a particularly tough climb over Pond Flats.

This short week ended with back-to-back slack pack days where I did over 20 miles each day to get the Damascus. In retrospect I worked very hard to finish my first three states (GA, NC, & TN) and my first 470 miles of the AT.
I hiked days of 18 miles, 15 miles, 21 miles and 22 miles to get to Damascus. Those are very long days for me. I was not really in a rush to get to Virginia but a forecast of winter weather caused many of us to try to beat the weather to Damascus, which caused the big push in terms of miles.

That said, walking into Damascus was a big deal for me. The town is famous as an important AT town, it is in a new state – our 4th state (and MY state!), and it marked the completion of 470 miles, and for some, kind of a psychological first quarter of the journey to Katahdin.

As I mentioned to Mighty Blue on the podcast, it felt like I had just/finally completed “boot camp” or basic training and that now, perhaps, I had graduated and was reasonably or “basically” competent in hiking and camping. If there was a right of passage to continuing on the thru-hike journey, I thought that maybe I had passed. I was able to both rest and celebrate the “dash” to Damascus (and the first 470 miles) by staying in a hotel room with a television tuned to CBS Sports.

Day 39 – 4/3

START:
US 19E (Roane Mtn B&B) / Mile 394.8

END:
Moreland Gap shelter / Mile 413.2

OBSERVATIONS:
I started hiking from US 19E around 8:15 on a beautiful morning. After an early climb the trail then followed rolling terrain, which included hiking through meadows and along the Elk River. It was a beautiful walk enhanced by the different terrain features through which the Trail took us.

I took a short blue blaze trail to Jones Falls where I met Crockett and Sleeves. Later, we also checked out the less impressive Mountaineer Falls.  It was a fairly warm, long day of relatively modest ups and downs. I saw very few hikers on the trail all day and, other than the falls, there were not any particular points of interest or views. I finally made it to the shelter a little
before 7 pm. The only other hikers there were Sleeves and Crockett. With rain threatening and only Sleeves in the shelter, I tried my second night sleeping in a shelter.

Day 40 – 4/4

START:
Moreland Gap shelter / Mile 413.2

END:
Boots Off hostel / Mile 428.1
OBSERVATIONS:

After a very windy and rainy night (I was glad a stayed in the shelter, so I did not have a wet tent to pack up.). [It was my first voluntary stay at a shelter. The fact that I only had to share the space with one other hiker (Sleeves) helped with the decision. The experience was fine – no mice or other issues.]

Sleeves and I got going around 7:30. The morning was cold and there was a light rain. After an initial climb the trail was mostly downhill as we headed for Dennis Cove Rd and Laurel Falls. The morning weather worsened resulting in a very windy, rainy and cold three-hour hike. If we had thought the recent good weather was ushering in spring, we were sadly mistaken.  Things eased as I approached Dennis Cove and the forecast showed a sunny afternoon I stopped for lunch well before the falls hoping to give some time to let the sky clear. I made my way down along Laurel Fork, into Laurel Gorge and
down to the magnificent Laurel Falls. After enjoying the Laurel area with its running mountain streams, deep rocky gorge, powerful falls, Rhododendron gardens, and rock outcroppings, I had one long climb (“Pond Flats”) remaining for the day – three miles up and three miles down.

It was a difficult climb – steep and rocky; and seemingly endless. I did not enjoy it. Fortunately when I finally reached the top the descent was fast over a pleasant foot tread. After a short side trip, I checked into Boots Off hostel and shared a cabin with Scars.

 

Day 41 – 4/5

START:
Boots Off hostel / Mile 428.1

END:
TN 91 (Boots Off hostel) / Mile 448.6

OBSERVATIONS:
[This section was hiked southbound from TN 91.] After an early morning shuttle Not Today, Zzz and I started hiking at the AT  trailhead at TN state route 91. It was a cool, clear morning- perfect for hiking. We moved fairly quickly over moderate grade terrain. After almost 4 miles we stopped at Iron Mountain shelter for a quick snack/break. We met Inside-Out and visited with Eddie Steady & Rumi, Crafty, and Sauerkraut there.

The rest of the morning was mostly following a high ridge that led generally down to Lake Wautuga, but rolled up and down in an almost regular series.  We ran into Sleeves, Professor, Crockett, Play-by-Play & Pit Boss, and a few others hiking northbound. We stopped or a short lunch break at the Vandeventer shelter and then moved on to complete the long day.

After that break most of the hike was downhill with increasingly good views of Lake Wautuga on a still pristine day. Temperatures were great for hiking although typically our hands would get cold whenever we stopped.

There was a particularly steep downhill (addressed by multiple switchbacks) before Wilbur Dam Road followed by a mile plus road walk down to the dam. After some photos there we finished the last three miles by circling the lakeshore to the public road where Zzz’s mom waited with cold drinks, chips, and donuts.

I walked the last short piece to Boots Off where I found: Stickers & Ladybug, Donut, Dimples, Easily Forgotten & BunnyTracks, Kirb, Vagabond Jack and Scars — the first four listed were playing a 40-mile dash to Damascus in the morning. Scars, Dimples and I caught a quick shuttle into town for dinner.

Day 42 – 4/6

START:
TN 91 / Mile 448.6

END:
Damascus (Old Mill – hotel) / Mile 469.9

OBSERVATIONS:
Scars and I got dropped at TN 91 by Steve Campbell around 8:15 and we started our own “Damascus Dash” – 22 miles to town, hopefully to avoid a wintery mix forecasted.

The day began sunny, cool and beautiful. We took on and kept a faster than usual pace over reasonably easy terrain characterized by following a high ridge that rolled up and down numerous knobs on its way towards Damascus. There were few notable views (just the usual broad looks at surroundings hills through the trees) as we followed a single ridge on our
way to Virginia.

After an aggressive morning we finally stopped at Abingdon Gap shelter for a brief lunch break. We left the shelter a little after 1:00 and began the final 10 miles. With very few uphill climbs and good conversation, the next 7 miles flew by – my fastest pace of the entire trip. With 3 miles to go, we hit the TN-VA border. We coasted into Damascus before 5:00 just as slight rain began. This was a big landmark and we were excited to arrive.

We quickly made our way to Old Mill and then dinner at MoJo’s (where we saw Hokie Pokie, Hungry Cat and Professor).

Day 43 – 4/7

START:
Damascus (Old Mill – hotel) / Mile 469.9

END:
Damascus (Old Mill – hotel) / Mile 469.9

OBSERVATIONS:
Rest/zero day in Damascus.

Day 44 – 4/8

START:
Damascus (Old Mill – hotel) / Mile 469.9

END:
Damascus (Old Mill – hotel) / Mile 469.9

OBSERVATIONS:
Masters Sunday – rest day in Damascus. (Scars slackpacked the 16 miles between TN 91 and Wilbur Dam Road).

A great Masters. I was hoping Jordan Speith would make history – but just came up a little short. I not sure what happened to Rory. Kudos to Ricky Fowler, and to Patrick Reed – the winner.

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Last modified: April 26, 2018

2 Responses to :
WEEK # 7 – “Welcome to Virginia”

  1. Dave Veerman says:

    Godspeed, my friend. Here’s to good weather the rest of the way. What a great adventure!

    1. rtkchallenge_w2dqin says:

      Thanks for following.

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