Writing this update from the plush surroundings of a 1950s style hotel in the ‘metropolis’ of Marion, Virginia. I’m not even being sarcastic in labeling Marion a metropolis, as it is the biggest town I’ve come across (Atlanta excepted) whilst on the trail with big towny things such as street lights and a Wallmart.
We arrived here after hiking a couple of days out of ‘Trail Days’, which may seem a bit early to have a town break after just leaving a town, but the laundry in Damascus was still out of commission and Suzanne was hell bent on getting her clothes properly laundered.
Virginia Map Photo Gallery
This is as good a time to explain that Suzanne (trail name Sheila) is here to walk the Virginia section which is the longest section on the trail at around 550 miles for which she’s set aside six weeks to complete. She bloged to arrive at Damascus on the 12th and unfortunately my predictive powers of when I was going to arrive were out by about a week and I got there on the 6th. This, coupled with the fact that the weather was pretty bad meant I got to spend a whole zero week in Damascus.
Poor Sheila then had to weather my minimalistic inspection of her gear and food.. “FIVE shirts? TWO fleeces? Oh nothing.” and then listen to all the horror stories that I’d stockpiled over the previous month.
Leaving Damascus involved a rather steep ascent heading into Mt Rodgers and some highland country so I was a bit worried that the first couple of days would be a baptism of fire. Luckily there was a bike trail (the Creeper Trail) which ran parallel to the A.T. with a couple of intersection points. For the first day we had a nice easy walk along a pretty river section with a slight gradient which was fortuitous as the first days are always really tough for a new hiker. The second day however was back onto the trail and Sheila got to experience some climbing and realize that my warnings weren’t all fictional.
Mileage wise we were doing around 10 miles a day which is quite a bit slower, around half, of what I’d been doing and by the third day Sheila was getting annoyed with my restless character. This led to a bit of a confrontation where we discussed the best way for us to walk together which in a sense involves us not walking together but rather meeting up at rest and camp spots. Unfortunately, this fairly involved discussion began when we were at a junction with another trail and so intense were our deliberations that we meandered straight off the trail.
The A.T. has 30,900 white blazes, someone actually counted them all.
The A.T.is an extremely well trodden path.
The A.T. is the best marked trail in the world with a blaze every 50-100 m.
Despite this, we managed to walk 2 miles before working out that we were off the trail which is something I probably shouldn’t own up to. Luckily, the horse trail that we had followed re-intersected with the A.T. and it turned out to be a big shortcut as we had somehow jumped 9 miles further along the trail. Unluckily, that 9 miles included a section through Grayson Highland Park which Sheila really wanted to see. So we decided to walk that section in reverse, so in the end all we managed to do was walk the horse trail twice which was fine by me because the trail followed a bald saddle and had some great views.
We found a really nice campsite. We camped early as Sheila’s feet were sore and it would give us
a chance to do some washing. I had got some drinking water from a stream which I had a few reservations about and should have trusted my gut instincts. That night my gut paid me back and I ended up emptying my stomach.
Luckily it wasn’t giardia or anything long term and despite the uncomfortable night, I was fine, if a little weak, the next day. The water however did steal my appetite and all of the previous night’s food and calories. By the time I reached the designated shelter that we were aiming for, I was as shattered as I’ve felt on this trail despite only walking a pretty easy 10 miles. I was in bed by around 6 pm and slept for something like 14 hours.. The body is an amazing thing. By the next day I felt pretty good and seeing as we were heading back to Damascus for Trail Days, I was excited as well!
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