Once again, staying in a shelter means that everyone wakes at the same time. We woke at 7:00, packed, ate, and were on the trail by 8:00. We left after most of the shelter dwellers but before those in tents. We made great time over the first 11 miles, covering them in 4.25 hours due to improving terrain. At one point we saw a White Tail deer bound across the trail 100 feet in front of us. We paused in case there were any others.
When we got close to TN 91 it started to rain, so we threw on rain gear and pack covers. A bit later, we found an orange trail angel metal box with some drinks left, and we each had a cold Coke. At the road, we got lucky and found shelter under the roofed parking lot sign for the trail, which paid off when it started to pour rain.
Fifteen minutes into our lunch, we were surprised by trail angels pulling in to reload the orange box. They open their trunk and offered us snacks and sodas. We each took a Mountain Dew and a couple of honey buns. Since I was full, I mine in my food bag. Several other hikers showed up, so we gave up our dry spot and hit the trail again by 13:00.
The next few miles were across farm land and into the woods on pretty level terrain. Sometimes the trail followed an old fire road, which wasn’t too steep on the uphills. Our rain gear became optional as the afternoon went on, but I left it on for warmth against the low blowing wet clouds. It stayed cloudy all afternoon. I even took a video of the trail and the low, creepy visibility.
We stopped at the Double Springs shelter for a quick break and logbook signing. That is when we saw our first mouse. It was running back and forth up high into holes and cinder blocks. Tandem tried to get a picture of it, but other hikers showed up, so we left.
Tandem went ahead since it was all downhill the next three miles to US 421. She was trying to get the tail end of another trail angel’s food. I met her at the road with no food but a new bandaged blister. We had 4.8 up and down miles left to go to Abingdon Gap shelter.
Within two miles of the shelter, we saw signs of another recent controlled burn of the forest floor. We arrived at the shelter in time to grab two of the remainingthree spots. Davinci grabbed the last spot. The other three hikers in the shelter were not through hikers but section hikers, which irked me, since other thru hikers showed up in the misty weather and had to set up their tents.
For dinner, we had mashed potatoes with shrink wrapped burger, plus Ramen. I had three honey buns for dessert. After the bear bags were hung, everyone turned in by 20:30.
The weather for our nine/ten mile downhill hike into Damascus, VA, tomorrow is sunny and cool. We should be in town before noon to check into a hostel and pick up our packages, including my new REI hip belt!
An easy day.
In the Abingdon Gap shelter I woke up first, at 6:45, due to my excitement on going into Damascus today — and because the shelter faces the early sunrise! I grabbed my gear and packed on the picnic table away from the sleeping hikers.
Tandem was soon up, and after a cold breakfast of the rest of my honey buns and banana chips, (basically emptying my food bag) we were off for the 10 mile, mostly downhill hike into town. We left at 7:45. I was happy for the good weather after the drizzly day yesterday. After 7.5 miles we crossed the VA state line. Our fourth state!
The real downhill run started shortly before that point, so for the final two and a half miles I told Tandem to take off, while I hiked favoring my infected blister, which only hurts going downhill. I was passed by Joe Bird and Davinci while I enjoyed a slower pace and listened to my music.
I reached Damascus at 11:15 and was greeted by a welcome sign, which I walked through after taking a selfy. Damascus is a small town of homes with thick groomed green lawns, parks, the Virginia Creeper bike trail, Laurel Creek, retail locations, and the AT, which passes right through it for more than a mile.
I followed the trail through a park past the relocated retired Deep Gap shelter, which I learned later is actually the location of a virtual Geocache. As I approached a kids’ playground, I saw Tandem enjoying a swing in the warm sun. She jumped off and joined me for the rest of the walk into the center of town.
We walked down Laurel Ave past hostels, B&B’s, stores, and houses. We evaluated hostel conditions and costs as we walked along, actually going into Dave’s Place and Crazy Larry’s. We continued to the north end of town to the Sundog Outfitter. Both of our new pack belts had arrived via drop shipments. We were elated!
We discussed the hostel choices and chose a private room for $20 per night at Dave’s Place, which is operated by Mt Rogers Outfitters across the street. Carrying our boxes and packs on our backs, we went back south on the AT along Laurel to Mt Rogers. We were lucky on timing and got the last room, #3. It has a double bed made of wood with a pair of cushion pads on it. It is the largest room, has a lockable door, and a back door, so we were happy. Showers are free.
We checked in and unpacked. We went for lunch at Joe’s Place, which is a great new Mexican restaurant. All if the restaurants in town are hiring for the huge Trail Days event here on May 10-15 when most through hikers come here off the trail to camp and party. There is no alcohol served or sold here, just beer at restaurants and convenience stores. There is a brewery.
After lunch we showered and previewed what food we could restock with at the Dollar General on the same block. The church next to the Dollar General has a sign to “PRAY FOR DENIAL OF DOLLAR GENERALS BEER LICENSE”. We hung out later on the front porch of Dave’s Place and relaxed with other resident hikers, including Flat and Davinci.
Toward the end of the day, we made a run back down to the Sundog Outfitter to see if our care package from home had arrived. They had just locked the door but let us in anyway, and the box was there! We carried it back through town and opened it in our room. It was like Christmas! There was food and the second quarter of the A.T. Guide, covering from here to Harpers Ferry, WV.
We joined other hikers at the Blue Blaze restaurant for dinner. We had 12 at our table and more hikers at other tables. There were issues with the delivery of our beer orders due to a new, inexperienced server and problems with the restaurants new portable ordering devices. We hikers entertained ourselves by drawing on the parchment paper on the table with markers. The younger hikers also drew ancient symbols of various meanings, like peace and harmony, on their faces.
This lack of service caused us to wait thirty minutes for our food order to be taken. Then the food came out thirty minutes later, one plate at a time, two minutes apart.
The portable ordering devices didn’t do separate checks, so we all had to settle up at the bar. Once they sorted it out, we had to pay separately for beer and food. For our trouble, we all received a free on tap beer and a 10% off coupon for a large pizza.
We settled back in our seats to continue drinking and played three games of Spades to 300 points with Rain Pants and Mio. We actually closed the restaurant shortly after midnight. Virginia doesn’t allow beer to remain on tables in restaurants after midnight.
What a day!