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3 True Trail Tales from Our Trip to Trail Town USA

1st Tale: Tim & Greg Spend 7 Days Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Tim and Greg: Day 1, Minute 1

Tim and Greg: Day 1, Minute 2
Things got colder, wetter, dirtier, more strenuous, and a whole lot stinkier after that.

This tale gets top billing because it’s the reason we returned to this area (I’ve linked to posts from our 2015 visit below). We wanted a location with easy trail access, that was also within a day’s drive from our next stop, which is just south of Nashville, TN, and from Greg’s hometown, which is Norfolk, VA.

Hello, Damascus, VA, halfway point and trail town extraordinaire!

From VisitDamascus.org: Damascus is traversed by the Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Trans-America National Bicycle Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail, the Crooked Road Musical Heritage Trail, Virginia’s Birding and Wildlife Trail, and lies within a short distance of hundreds of miles of other hiking, horse, and biking trails.

That red line is the Appalachian Trail. The boys hiked sections in this area, between Roan Mountain, TN, near the lower left, and Troutdale, VA, near the upper right.
(map source)

Since I didn’t go (other than accompanying them on a quick 2.5 miles in, then back out to the car after a gear replacement delivery on Day 2), I’ll let Tim finish up the tale with his stats and photos.

  • We hiked 76.7 miles, tracked using Greg’s GPS watch.
  • Our highest point was Mount Rogers at 5,728’.
  • Experienced grassy highlands and dense humid forests.
  • Our longest day was 16.9 miles; our shortest was 6.6 miles.
  • Night-time temps were in the 40’s; day-time probably 60’s.
  • We saw four thru-hikers. All were working hikes known as flip-flops or MOBOs, where they started somewhere in the middle and hiked north to the Maine end, then reset to where they started and hiked to the southern end in Georgia. They had roughly 400 miles of their 2,180+ mile journey remaining.
  • Met a father/son team (both named Tim!) at the summit of Mount Rogers. They’d just completed their 21st “Highest point in a state” hike, and were planning to do all 50.
  • One deer
  • Many wild ponies
  • Several longhorns (not the UT kind, like our younger son)
  • Zero actual bears, but we saw some pretty fresh scat and heard/saw a tree being worked over nearby, in addition to the honey-grabbing evidence below
  • No raccoons (remember this for later)

Random summit view 1

Random summit view 2

Laurel Fork Falls
A couple of thru-hikers said it was in the top two of the best things they’d seen on the entire Appalachian Trail.

What can I say? I have a thing for log cabins.

A freshly dug hole, probably by a bear going after honey in the hive.
Unfortunately the bees don’t show up in the picture, and we did not see Winnie-the-Pooh.

2nd Tale: Emily Does 6 Miles, and Gives Her Boots the Boot

While they were out, I went out too. Gathered my gear, packed water and snacks, and hoped my old boots would see me through one more hike. They did, but it wasn’t comfortable. My next “hike” was into town for a new pair!

My hike on the trail started here, up these steps.
My hike to the trail started on the steps of our RV, which was parked only half a mile away.
Location, location, location!

It ain’t much, but it’s mine.
But then, I’m a day hiker, so I don’t carry a tent, sleeping bag, cooking supplies, or multiple days worth of food.

When I reached this sign at the top, I turned around and hiked the 3 miles back down into Damascus.
Took me about 3 hours, including my 20-minute lunch break.

New boots!
This is my second pair of KEEN hikers; the first pair lasted a good 3-4 years. I like them because they are comfortable from Day 1, and they are nice and wide at the toe, just like my feet. I’ve managed to purchase both pairs during end-of-season clearance sales, taking their cost down to less than $100.00!

3rd Tale: The Half of the Virginia Creeper Trail We Didn’t Do in 2015, but Twice This Time, Because we Foolishly Skipped Booking a Shuttle

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Sure, we can ride 17 miles from Damascus to Abingdon for lunch, I thought.

I know we’re not serious cyclists, and that our longest ride together has been only 15 miles, but this is on an old rail bed with only a 5% grade, I thought.

Riding 34 miles can’t be that hard, I thought.

I was wrong.

And 24 hours later, I am still in pain.

In 2015, we took a bike shuttle to White Top Station (1), and rode the trail downhill 17 miles to Damascus (5).
Yesterday, we rode 17 miles from Damascus (5) to Abingdon (8), ate lunch, and then rode all 17 miles back.
I thought it would be maybe a 4-hour outing, but it took 7.
Yeah, ouch.
(Map source)

Don’t let that subtle bowl shape between Abingdon and Damascus fool you. Up is up, and I was one hangry chick by the time we got to Abingdon.
(Map source)

Our reward: scenic wooden trestles, rustic farmland, majestic rivers, lots of cows, and one final, magical, adorable sighting.

There were cows in the woods…

… and cows by the river…

… and cows in my selfie …

… and wow, that cow is reallyreally close! Wait. Close enCOWnter. HAAAAHAHAHAHA!

This part of the Virginia Creeper Trail cuts through quite a bit of private land, so there are several gates along the way.
Tim rode ahead to hold them open for me.
What a prince!

And then, just as I was thinking there was no way I could pedal the last 6 or 7 miles home, because everything hurt, and I’d run out of swear words to describe it, a bit of rustling on my right caught my attention.
It was not one…

… not two…

… but THREE BABY RACCOONS that were tumbling all over each other in the leaves, and making the most adorable pippity-purring noises I’ve ever heard.
I wanted to snuggle them. Bad.
But we didn’t get too close (I zoomed in for these photos), because nature.
Mama raccoon was probably nearby, and we definitely did not want to deal with the likes of her.

Those fuzzy little bandits were my good omen, my powerful talisman, the image that sustained me for the rest of the ride home.

Best. Wildlife sighting. Ever.


Posts from our 2015 visit

 

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