Trail Log: Day 3 - Saunders Shelter to Damascus
The birds were singing their morning songs early today so I was out of my tent drinking my coffee before the sun even started peeking out from behind the mountains. Being the first one to wake, I was thankful for the bear box provided since that meant I just had to grab our food bags from the locked metal bin instead of hike 500 ft from camp to retrieve them from the branches high above. I ate some malt-o- meal for breakfast and waited for the others to wake so we could get our day started.
By the time we did the usual camp things and repack our gear, it was 9:30am when we headed for Damascus. We took extra water this time since we had a water source and read on our app that almost all water sources between Saunders Shelter and Damascus were unreliable or not flowing. Extra water means extra weight but we didn’t want to take any chances.
Immediately leaving the spur trail from the shelter back to the AT, we started a steep downgrade on switchbacks that lasted a few miles. I was SO happy we were going down the switchbacks and not up them!
We didn’t find a good water source until we came to a campsite near Feathercamp branch so good thing we loaded up on water! We stopped to take our packs off and eat a snack where the AT crosses the Virginia Creeper trailhead and Highway 58. I ate a Kind bar, some goldfish, and made sure to consume some electrolytes before we started up the last mountain to Damascus.
As we got closer to Damascus with each step we took, I started thinking about everything we had accomplished over the past two and a half days. We were really going to have hiked thirty plus miles! I finally did an overnight backpacking trip for more than a night. The AT has been calling me and for so long I’ve stayed away because I was consumed with work. Not anymore. I started feeling bummed our section hike was almost over. We only had a few miles left.
I wasn’t ready to leave the trail. Hiking 9.5 miles in four hours would still leave half a day to kill by the time we reached Damascus. I mean, my legs were thankful we would be getting off the trail in a short while. My heart, on the other hand, wanted to keep going. Keep going through this small trail town towards the Tennessee State line.
I’m already planning my next section hike. Do I want to start where I’m leaving off or try to do a few days in Georgia that way I’m close to home in case work calls? I love living so close to this trail. This trail that I’ve fallen in love with. Hopefully I won’t have to miss the Appalachian Trail for too long. I’ll be seeing the white blazes soon enough.
By 1:30 we entered this little trail town called Damascus. The end of our 30 mile stretch. I actually made it! I actually hiked 30 whole miles of the Appalachian Trail! I loved every single mile. The hard inclines and getting caught in a rainstorm. Hiking in soaking wet clothing and that hiker hunger you hear about. I enjoyed it all. It’s exhilarating and depressing at the same time.
We approached the car to drop our gear and headed inside Sun Dog Outfitters so I could buy that AT sticker I feel I finally deserve. This place named Mamma Mia’s pizza was highly recommended to us by one of the outfitter employees (Anna) so after purchasing my stickers and a coke I drove us the 20 minutes to the next town over for some “real” food. Food not cooked in a JetBoil. Delicious Woodfired pizza with all the meats and extra cheese. I could already taste it before we even got there.
I’ve been eating so little on the trail I didn’t think I’d eat that much. But between the 3 of us, we quickly devoured two large pizzas and a cheese bread basically the same size as a pizza. It was the best pizza I’d ever had. The perfect way to end this hike.
After stuffing ourselves with carbs and cheese, we decided to camp out at Bear Tree Campground. It’s where we stayed the first night before getting shuttled to Massie Gap. We found a campsite we liked and set up tents for my mom and Aaron while I decided it was a good night to sleep in my hammock. Plus, this gave Aaron a chance to try my sleeping pad and see if he likes it.
After showering for the first time in days, we drank beer and played Uno next to the fire. Using headlamps to see and a cheap styrofoam cooler as a table. Uno didn’t last long. We were exhausted.
We called it a night and sleep came easy for all of us. So far this has been the best trip ever.
Daily AT miles: 9.5
Total AT miles: 30.3