AT Day 030: Sunday May 7, 2023
Mile 453.5 + 17 miles /27.4 km
Total Distance Hiked: 470.5 miles / 756 km
Camp – Low Gap/ US Route 421 – MaQueens Gap Road – Abingdon Gap Shelter – TN/VA border – Damascus, VA
A: 2475 ft /755 m D: 4245 ft /1295 m
I woke several times through the night, Hammer was fast asleep. It was so comforting to have him by my side. I’m not sure I could hike this trail alone. I didn’t pursue this thought any further. I watched the moonlight reflecting the forest around us, it made some lovely shapes on the tent. I eventually fell asleep until it was coffee time. We were woken this morning by lots of bird song. It felt like sleeping in an aviary. I guess even the birds are loving this spell of great weather.
Despite a slow start this mornings we were packed and left our campsite around 7am. The sky was overcast but it was warm enough not to need layers over the shirt. There is some rain on the way later in the day. The trail was just as yesterday, soft underfoot and offered distant filtered views through the tree canopy.
Another ‘hope we didn’t peak too early moment’ happened soon after we left our campsite when we came across a whole bunch of Pink Lady slipper orchids. There would have been about 20 with some still not fully opened. Even though there were so many blooms each was just so beautiful, I wanted to take picture of them all. I didn’t of course, but Hammer was ever so patient.
Even though it was easy hiking conditions I was again struggling for energy mid- morning. About seven miles north from our campsite, we passed Abington shelter and met a hiker still packing to leave. His trail name was ‘Old Bay’ he said they had about four bears come near the shelter last night and the bears took a bunch of food bags from the trees. I guess the warning sign from Low Gap was serious.
We stopped for an early lunch soon after the shelter. Old Bay passed us a little later and said he just had a text from a friend who hiked out earlier. His friend came across a couple of bears on trail a mile or so ahead.
While waiting for lunch to cook Hammer and I decided it would be wise to go into town today with this much bear activity around. We were only 10 miles from town and it was 11am. We had originally planned to get close to town and camp on trail today and go into town for a nero tomorrow.
We finished lunch and got going anticipating perhaps a bear encounter. So Hammer ‘ the designated bear wrangler’ took the lead and I tucked in behind him. No bears, but we did see our first bear scat on trail and it was fresh. In addition to bears, this section of trail had so many patches of Pink Lady slipper orchids. From Low Gap to Damascus was slipper orchid heaven.
Hammer was refreshed by the lunch break and set a cracking pace. I was still struggling with energy with the slightest incline. I’m hoping that a full rest day in Damascus tomorrow will restore my missing mojo.
Around 2pm we crossed the Tennessee border for the last time and entered our next state, Virginia. It felt nice to be done with Tennessee. We have around 500 miles in Virginia which, by all accounts, is a little bit flatter then the terrain we’ve had so far. We shall see.
From the border we started to descent towards Damascus. The forest canopy was thick and with darkening skies the trail grew dim and rain threatened. We thought we would escape it but we were not so lucky. Heavy rain fell for about 20 minutes by which time we were in town.
It’s Sunday afternoon and it was very quite, hardly anybody around, not even other hikers. We found one cafe opened, ordered a sub sandwich and thought about our options for accomodation. We have a room booked in town for tomorrow night. So our first option was to approach them to see if they have a vacancy for tonight as well.
The Dancing Bear Inn, where we are booked for Monday, was almost across the road from the cafe. And we were in luck. The lovely owners Elizabeth and Pat greeted us on the porch and within minutes we were checked in. They did our laundry while we walked to the shop, got our resupply, came back, showered and our laundry was done and delivered to the door.
We are feeling so blessed.
Wow, what brave hikers battling the windy/freezing conditions, very brave & then the sunshine arrived, hooray.
Don’t know how “home made” can hike bare footed, amazing.
Great photos, loved the tree house, enjoy Damascus 👍
Damascus was lovely respite from the trail. We are renergised and ready to head back out.