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Trail Log: Day 1 - Massie Gap

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

July 4, 2020

Woke up at 6am to start the coffee and pack up camp. We were in the jeep by 7 so we wouldn't be late for the shuttle.

Our shuttle driver Lone Wolf drove us from Damascus to Massie Gap and we chatted with him during the hour drive up the mountain. He told us about people he’s met and life in the little city of Damascus.

Horses at Massie Gap

We arrived at Massie Gap at 9:15 and immediately hit the trail! I saw ponies within the first 0.8 miles of hiking. Once we officially got on the AT we headed Southbound. Taking in the view and enjoying the horses grazing around (we didn’t go near them and respected distance of course). There weren’t a lot of people on the trail given it being the Fourth of July but the people we did pass were very respectful with social distancing and trail etiquette. They’d stop and step to the side if they had a wider path to let us pass and we’d do the same.

A couple miles in we found a nice camping area that I really want to come back to. Went looking for the bear box just to see where it was and ran into a few horses grazing in the pasture nearby so I took some photos. We stopped and ate a snack. I Had peanut butter roll ups which are really just peanut butter rolled up in a tortilla instead of using bread. It was my first time trying a peanut butter "sandwich" this way and it surprisingly wasn't that bad. I enjoyed watching a group of section hikers, with their kids, pass by from our shady spot in the meadow.

After our little break, we carried on towards Thomas Knob Shelter. I didn’t want to stop at the shelter since the group of section hikers we saw walking by earlier chose Thomas Knob Shelter as their lunch spot. But because my brother's three liter water bladder busted before we even hit the trail, he was working with 2 Nalgene water bottles to hold his water supply and they needed to be refilled so we stopped anyway. It was getting to be the heat of the day so we found a shady spot about 30 yards from the shelter to drop our stuff and hiked the .3 mile spur trail to find the water source where we saw a few others doing the same. We patiently waited our turn and then hiked back up to the shelter to filter our water. (We just collected it in our bags and decided to filter at the shelter so others weren’t waiting on us)

We said goodbye to the Thomas Knob shelter and found a side trail to Mount Rogers. Virginia’s highest peak. We weren’t really in a hurry so it was nice to take breaks and find side trails with good views. I was expecting this gorgeous view once we reached the top of Mount Rogers and was a little disappointed to find more rocks and trees with no view. I guess I’m so used to climbing Georgia mountains and seeing for hundreds of miles from the mountaintops.

I took my picture of the placard to prove I had actually climbed Mount Rogers and then headed back down the mountain towards the AT. We continued southbound a ways and ran into this meadow mixed with tall grass, big boulders and friendly horses kindly welcoming us into their space. At this point we had hiked about 4-5 miles and I was ready for lunch. Plus an excuse to take my shoes off for a short time didn’t feel too bad either.

I watched the horses while I ate a kind bar and some goldfish. We basked in the sun for a few minutes then packed up and headed into the rhododendron forest that bordered both sides of the trail until it turned into soft rolling hills of pastureland that ended at the Elk Garden parking lot. We crossed the not so busy road and tried to use the bathrooms but they were locked. Closed for covid. Bathrooms are just going to have to wait. We continued on as we only had 2 more miles until we hit our destination to camp for the night. The last mile was the longest mile.

We were in such a rush this morning to get into town that we had missed breakfast. We hadn’t really been hungry all day and lightly snacked at each rest stop. But it’s been hot and we’ve burned so many calories that we were really feeling it. I so wanted to just get there and set up camp. I zoned out, put one foot in front of the other, and continued on.

Around 6 pm, after what seemed like an eternity, we found a little campsite with a small trickling stream. We dropped our packs. Happy to finally be at home for the night. We were hungry but needed water first since we purposely passed the last 3 water sources so our packs wouldn’t be so heavy. We knew there was a pipe just up the trail so I grabbed the bags and headed towards the trail we would be trekking tomorrow. I got about 300 yards when I saw an even better campsite and called to my mom and brother that we should move. They agreed so we put our packs on our backs one last time.

I finally found the water source and it was gushing out of the pipe! The water was cold and delicious. I was tempted to put my head under the water but I didn’t. I walked the bags of water back to camp so we could filter it for our water bottles and dinner. My brother immediately got our jet boils out to prepare our food because I needed to eat and he knew this! Not enough food all day was getting to me that i was even struggling to set up my tent, usually a simple task.

I ate chicken and potatoes for dinner and an electrolyte drink and slowly started feeling like a normal person again. Once I felt 100% I made a second trip for water so I wouldn’t have to do it first thing the next morning. I snacked on some gummy bears for dessert while filtering water for the three of us. A chore I don’t ever mind doing.

Our Camp For The Night

By this time it was a little after 8:30pm and staying awake was getting difficult. We quickly checked the map to figure out how many miles we had hiked, cleaned up camp, hung our bear bags and said goodnight all before 9:30.

It is July fourth so there are fireworks and a small get together in the parking lot down the hill near the trailhead. It was a little noisy for a bit but I don’t think any of us had a problem falling asleep at all. Exhausted and happy, I ended my first day on my first overnight section hike of the AT.

The Sun Set On Our First Night On The AT

Total miles of the day - 9.8 miles

AT miles of the day - 8.8 miles

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