Damascus, VA to Lost Mountain Shelter – 16.2 miles
I was the one of the only ones awake by 7 am at the church. I decided to get breakfast at Mojo’s. Why not splurge since I won’t be back for Trail Day’s. Rachael and Braden walked in as I was leaving around 9 am. Grant and Graham (possible trail names – The Giver or GTB’s Grandpa Tinkle Baggage) got breakfast at Crazy Larry’s. Graham calls him Scary Larry. Didn’t have long to hike today and the weather was nice, so I took my time and hiked slowly. Got to the shelter at 4 pm. Lots of people stayed at Lost Mountain tonight. Starting to hike with a new big group along with the 4 I’m already with. Stoic, Baba Ganoush, Duracell, 2-Clicks, Soothe Sayer, Homebound, the Tortoise, Stylo, Honeybun, Firebeast. Someone made a campfire and a lot of us were up way past dark. I didn’t turn in until 10 pm. Probably because there was a good bit of whiskey being passed around – not by me. Grayson Highlands tomorrow!
I was pretty used to being the first one awake, especially in town so I had a pretty good system going to pack up quickly and quietly. Besides my sleeping pad – which is very loud when I empty out the air – I think I do a pretty good job of not waking up the hikers I share the room with. I couldn’t say goodbye to Damascus without one more breakfast at Mojo’s, so I got a big breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs, potatoes, and bacon. I just missed eating with Rachael and Braden but I was ready to get moving and we were all planning on getting to the same shelter that night, so I would see them later. Graham has some possible trail names. The day he and Grant hiked into Damascus was when it rained all day, so they were soaked to the bone. Graham’s hand looked pretty grim after that from being soaked all day and gripping his poles so tightly. He showed a picture of his hands and it looked like they belonged to a grandpa. He has two working trail names right now – The Giver(I came up with this because his old and gray looking hands reminded me of the man from the book The Giver and GTB, Grandpa Tinkle Baggage. I don’t remember the full explanation for that one but I do remember it gave us all a good laugh.
There is another trail that goes through the town of Damascus besides the Appalachian Trail. It is called the Virginia Creeper Trail and is a 35-mile multi-purpose trail. It is very flat and wide; quite the opposite of the Appalachian Trail. Heading north out of Damascus on the AT, the trail follows the Creeper trail for about half a mile before turning sharply off of it to start climbing up. Some hikers choose to stay on the Creeper Trail until it crosses the AT again a few miles later to avoid the steep climb out of Damascus. I wanted to stay on the AT the entire time so I hiked up.
Not too far out of town, there was a creek crossing. There were no rocks or branches in the water to walk on to avoid getting wet, so this was the first time I had to wade through the water. I took off my socks and shoes because I didn’t want them to get soaked when I still have 15+ miles to hike. When I was drying my feet and putting my socks and shoes back on, a few other hikers chose to walk straight through the water and not care about wet feet. I had not yet had to deal with that problem on the AT and I planned to hold off on wet feet as much as possible.
I don’t remember much about the hiking of this day. This day was really important because all the same hikers that I hung out with at the hotel in Damascus were at the same shelter and campsite that Rachael, Braden, Grant, Graham, and I had planned to stop at. It was like my first week on the AT when the campsites would be packed every night. It was great though because we all got along really well. We had a campfire going, multiple people packed out whiskey, and a lot of us stayed up past dark. One of the other female hikers was one I had met hiking up Blood Mountain my 4th day on the AT. She had a trail name at this point – Stoic. It was a very fitting name. She was very quiet and seemed like she could sit still for hours without ever moving. When we got the fire going, she sat on the ground right in front of it without flinching, even with the fire would shoot out sparks at all of us. We joked that it was yet another good example of her stoic-ness.
Before going to sleep, I remembered to write down the names of all the thru hikers that I hung out with today at the campsite. I figured I would want that to reference back to since I have always been bad at names. Trail names are easier for me to remember, but this list definitely helped me learn everyone’s names quicker. Tomorrow, we all planned to stay at the same shelter/campsite again after hiking through Grayson Highlands. We were all very excited to see the wild ponies that are kept there to control the growth of brush along the balds. I have hiked through Grayson Highlands once before with my mom and I was very excited to see that section of the AT again.