Internet service and cell signal has been very poor since I’ve last written, thus the lapse in frequency of posting. Since my last report, I’ve crossed into Virginia, hit mile 635 and have passed the quarter way mark. Still, no “real camera” photos to post because computers are scarce and carrying mine seems a bit heavy and unnecessary. So, enjoy the phone pictures and words.
My first stop out of Hot Springs was Erwin, TN. Yaeger and To Sol (Kirk) and myself all shacked up at the Mountain Inn and Suites. It was a really nice hotel compared to what we’ve become accustomed to. We ate, we drank, we slept, and we moved on. Nothing too special about Erwin.
The stretch between Erwin and our next destination, Mountain Harbour Hostel, was perhaps the most beautiful section thus far. The roan highlands, little hump and big hump mountains, were absolutely stunning. Although winds were blowing 40+ miles per hour, one could still see for miles. Yaeger and I were able to catch up here with Wild Turkey, his wife “hardcore”, and their friends for one last hike together before they headed back to the real world. They were kind, generous and fun-loving folks…their energy will surely be missed.
Mountain Harbour Hostel was the buzz of the trail from the second we left Erwin, to the second we arrived in Roan Mountain…reason being, Breakfast. They are notorious for their lavishly prepared homemade breakfast delicacies, and they did not leave anyone wanting. French toast with pecan syrup, fresh fruit, strawberry-pineapple upside down cake, cinnamon swirl monkey bread, pulled pork with scrambled eggs and the list could continue forever. Every bit of it was absolutely fantastic. It was all cooked by the delightfully traditional southern woman who owns the place. If you’re ever in the area, or want to visit Appalachia, Mountain Harbour is a must stay.
Unfortunately that amazing breakfast would be Kirk, Yaeger and my last one together…for the foreseeable future anyway. Yaeger was nursing a swollen shin muscle and Kirk went to Boone to relive some college days with a good friend. The Law would then hit the trail solo, again.
Upon leaving Roan and moving closer to Virginia, the miles started to fly. My injuries subsided, other than minor blisters, and I was feeling stronger by the mile. Fifteen miles in a day was now becoming the bare minimum. My next destination was Damascus, and I would push my longest day yet, 26 miles, into the town known as “Trail Town USA.” Although I pushed big miles into town, I took a zero the following day…making it my third zero day in Damascus, including trail days.
While in Damascus, I met a hiker named Bernard, who is also from the triangle. He’s 30 and is hiking with his 8 year old Aussie Shepard named Sheila. We struck up a friendship fairly quickly and have been hiking together ever since. It’s really nice to be around someone who knows the area I grew up in, as well as with a dog. I miss Hazel Mae something fierce and having a dog companion helps.
I’ve also been bouncing back and forth with a younger guy named Finn who’s from Cleveland. Aptly named for his love of literature, although poorly named because I’m pretty sure huck finn was illiterate. Either way, we’ve had some interesting conversation about literature, religion, music and the overall well being of society. Finn also hikes at a good pace and I’m sure we will continue to be in company as we move further north.
Virginia, thus far, has been littered with Trail Magic; which has been primarily provided by local church groups. I never imagined how happy I would be to come across store-brand soda and crackers. Thanks Virginia.
Bernard, Sheila, Finn and I have been moving at what I’ll call “above average” pace. We walk anywhere from 2.5 to 3 miles per hour, depending on terrain. Since leaving Damascus 10 days ago, we have averaged just under 17 miles per day; with 24 miles being our biggest day of the stretch. Hiking at this pace has brought us to encounters with a whole new bubble of hikers. Two guys from Raleigh, Waves and Buns. Five mid twenties females, Bubbles, Zeta, Figgy, Whiz Bang and Finch. Five other solo hikers, Stryder, Raiden, Papa Oats, Dejavu and Boston Ryan. I’ve gotten to know each of them over the past five days or so, and all are interesting characters from different cities across the U.S. I’ve enjoyed being around a bigger bubble of folks again.
The past few nights we’ve walked shorter miles because of nightly socials we like to call “Dirty Hicker Meetings.” Yes, I meant to say Hicker. (Note: as reading, “Dirty Hicker” sounds best with a Deep Southern twang). Two nights ago, myself and the aforementioned dirty hickers had a meeting at an awesome waterfall camp at Dismal Falls. Each of us packed out a 6 pack (or more) from a little convenience store just a few miles south. Carrying the extra weight that far was both worth it and completely not worth it.
Around dusk, Waves and I went to find wood, and returned to make a bonfire on top of the falls. We all then proceeded to tell stories of our hometowns and misguided adventures while consuming adult beverages until about 2am. This would not be a problem in the real world, but hiker midnight usually comes around 8:45pm, and we’re all soundly asleep by 9:30pm.
The next morning, Waves, Bernard, Bubbles, Zeta, Raiden, Stryder and myself decided to stay at the falls to go swimming, sun bathe, and wash away our hangovers until about 2pm. Usually leaving this late means you’re not going to make any miles, but we only had 14 easy miles to make to Woods Hole Hostel, and the water and company was just too good to leave.
Woods Hole Hostel has been my favorite of the trip thus far. The hostel has been family run for three generations now. The hostel is run on an organic farm by wife and husband duo Neville and Michael. Neville is a licensed masseuse, yogi and meditation leader. Michael mostly does the labor intensive work around the farm, which includes maintaining a 24 hour fire that heats the water to all three buildings on the farm lot. Dinner consisted of delicious homemade bread, fresh picked greens with homemade dressings, and Mexican lasagna with homemade tortillas as the pasta layers. All of it was exquisite.
Now, I sit at the Holiday Motor Lodge in a less than clean motel room…just wishing I never had to leave Woods Hole. Unfortunately, there are still many miles to be traveled and I must continue on. My feet, knees, legs, mind and spirit are all working at 100% right now. There is not much else I could ask for…except for my dog. Someone bring me my dog.
Hopefully less time between posts in the future. For now, this dirty hicker needs a bath and a nap.