The morning after a zero day in a town is typically depressing only because we spend a lot of time with town tasks and don’t really unwind. Then when the morning after comes, we suddenly just want to get back on trail.
I woke and showered and found Tandem already up and out on the porch of Dave’s Place talking to Flat. I changed clothes and bought a box of cereal and 1/2 gallon of milk for us to enjoy while we packed. Tandem didn’t have an appetite after drinking beer and being up late the night before, so I bagged the rest of the cereal for trail food and offered the remaining milk to Flat, who took it.
We finished packing and found out it was raining outside. I ran the room key over to the Mt Rogers Outfitter while Tandem got hair bands from the Dollar General store, and the rain had stopped by the time we were back together. We loaded up to hike the AT through town and stop at the last retail stores.
After deciding that we had enough food, we headed out down the Creeper bike trail until the AT took a left turn up some stairs. On the stairs there were four full Mountain Dew cans. As we walked up the trail, more Mountain Dew was placed against random trees. We learned later that a thru hiker coming through later in the day had consumed his very first Mountain Dew from a trail angel, so his buddies were treating him to more.
The Creeper bike trail can be used to bypass seven of the nine miles out of Damascus, but we chose to be “purists” and stayed on the AT up onto the hills above the Creeper. We did that even in heavy downpours and thunderstorms. At one point, there was a detour back to the Creeper to skip a long-time washed out bridge, but we got right back up the hills after that.
At seven miles, we turned hard left and hiked straight uphill on steep switchbacks to the top. We made it to the Saunders shelter by 14:00. There were familiar faces there, all repacking their packs and heading out to the next shelter in six miles ahead. We had planned to stay at Saunders, so after they left, we cooked a warm meal of pasta and mashed potatoes. We cleaned up and set up our beds, including Tandem’s tarp over 1/2 of the shelter opening. There were a pair of weekend hikers in tents far behind the shelter.
Tandem crashed after dinner at 18:00. I talked with the weekend hikers while they cooked at the picnic table by the shelter. They are nice guys who hike together often. Later, I found a touch of AT&T signal, so I checked for nearby Geocaches. There were three and an Earthcache at a large pink rock. I found all four of them.
When I returned to the shelter, Tandem was still asleep and there was a fire going. I joined the guys at the fire and they shared a cup of cider. We talked about each other’s recent hiking experiences and Philmont. No one else stopped at the shelter out of Damascus. I turned in at 21:00 to write this blog.
Tomorrow will be better weather and hiking more up than down. We are looking forward to the upcoming easier terrain of Virginia.