Moving lumber has never been my forte; however, since that’s what Warren requested that I do for my “work for stay,” I resumed the task early this morning. After my work responsibility was complete, I got my full pack ready for today’s journey. I also phoned Susie at the Montgomery Homestead Inn in Damascus to reserve a room for the next two nights. She was most accommodating, allowing me the option of a third night if I so choose. I hope to use Damascus as a base for the next three day’s hikes similar to what I did in Erwin.
Since Warren wasn’t able to drive me back to Low Gap until late morning, it was after noon before I headed up the trail. A climb greeted me from the outset, but I still made good time until I reached the crest. Then for the remainder of the afternoon the trail was relatively flat with occasional minimal ups and downs. Within the first two hours I saw Mr. Gigglefits and Paisley taking a break. Throughout the day we leapfrogged one another. I passed thru hiker Sonny and also passed Outfitter and In Progress, who were slack packing today.
When I arrived at the Tennessee/ Virginia border, In Progress took my picture by the sign. I returned the favor for her and her husband. Reaching my fourth state was special. Virginia comprises about one-fourth of the entire trail; therefore, it will be about a month before I reach the next state. Even though I don’t have a firm schedule, I’ve made it to Virginia about two days before I had expected. With my light pack in tow, I hope to continue averaging over 15 miles per day for as long as I can.
Shortly after crossing into Virginia, Moses passed me for the second time today. I tried to keep up, but he quickly disappeared into the distance even though I was hiking at a good clip. By the time I first saw the town of Damascus from the ridge line, I realized that I was making excellent time on the planned 15.2 mile day. When I reached the outskirts of the city, I called to let the innkeeper know that I was nearby.
Coming into Damascus, the AT passes through a park before heading up the center of town. While in the park I struck up a conversation with a man walking his two dogs. Trace had thru hiked in 2003, met his wife on the trail, and later moved to Damascus. We walked together until I reached the street where my inn was located. When I arrived at the inn, Hester gave me a tour and showed me my room.
After settling in and showering I walked about a block to the Blue Blaze Cafe. As I approached the restaurant, Whiskers and Rocket were walking toward me. I think we all began smiling simultaneously. I had not seen them since Hot Springs. Before going into the cafe I walked down to a bridge at the end of town and met Shutterbug, a young lady from Indiana who had taken some time off the trail due to injury. Later when I finally reached the Blue Blaze, Shutterbug was there and asked me to join her. It was enjoyable chatting with the English major from IU. I told her about Don and my journal before wishing her well on her hike. Since I’m hiking faster than she is I may not see her again. With the AT community, however, you never know.
Today’s hike was special because I reached my fourth state. It was also a day when I reflected often on my brother. I thought about how much I would like to talk about the Braves with him and how I would like to tell him about my hike. But then again, I think he knows. Tomorrow I have options, but one given is that I’ll spend another night in Damascus. The forecast is for sunshine, so if all goes well, I’m looking for another beautiful day to hike north on the Appalachian Trail.