Leaving Erwin was difficult as usual when leaving a town. Spring was coming out in Erwin and the town was one of the bigger towns we’d been to thus far, complete with a Sonic and Walgreens. We left out and the weather was just beuatiful.
After climbing up Beauty Spot, a beautiful bald that you can drive to, we went up Unaka Mtn. At 5,180′ you run into a stand of red spruce that is incredibly beautiful and smells wonderful. We were planning on camping up there but did not find the water that was mentioned to be .3 from the summit so we decided to push on for the night.
and made our way to Greasy Creek Friendly, one of the best hostels that you haven’t heard about. It’s .6 miles off the trail at Greasy Creek Gap but it is well worth the hike off. In fact, I suggest resupplying in Erwin and continuing on to Greasy Creek and taking your nearo or zero there. The owner is super friendly and will make you just about anything and it is incredibly peaceful, but she does have a crank for a neighbor. Just follow the rock cairns down the path to her place.
We met White Jeep, the support crew for his wife, Seminole, down at Hughes Gap before we climbed up Roan Mtn. Roan Mountain is about 6300′ and is notorious for not having switchbacks, though we heard some were put in this year after Trail Days. It’s just straight on up the mountain. Little did we know that the majority of the northeast operated in this manner and we were just being wusses at the time, but it was pretty difficult. We made a few stops on the way up and set up camp a little more than half way up at Ash Gap.
This next morning we finished climbing to the top and it was pretty beautiful up there.
Remnants of the snow…
We came down off the balds and finally into Tennessee. We’d been bouncing between NC and TN for the past several weeks and now we were firmly on Tennessee soil at the Apple House shelter. We’d heard from some people that this was not a good shelter being that it was .5 from the road and the locals did not appreciate hikers so much. Much to our surprise we arrived to find trail magic in the form of chips and salsa and other goodies! What a welcome sight!
The following morning we decided to detour to the Mountain Harbor B&B/hostel for breakfast. Good thing, too, since it had been raining that morning. This is the BEST breakfast on the trail, hands down. You might hear about Shaw’s in Monson, ME, but that does not compare. For $9 you get the best breakfast buffet of your life! Think Thanksgiving breakfast or Christmas breakfast…oh it was wonderful! The hostel was really nice too, we took a peak inside.
Making it to 400 miles! WOO! The rest of that day was pretty rough, I think we did 19 miles, one of our longest days thus far. The last bit to Moreland Gap shelter was rough, lots of ups and downs that were not listed in the book that wear you down more than anything.
The next morning we cruised into Kincora Hostel six miles down the trail where we locked in the treehouse! SCORE! This was much better than staying in the main part of the hostel. Honestly, Kincora was not what I had imagined; it had been talked up and perhaps it was better in past years. There weren’t too many people there that morning but by the evening the place was packed! We also ran into Turkey and Thrasher here for the first time. They’d started in February and I’d followed them on TrailPhone for awhile.
I met up with my friend Amy here and she took us to eat lunch and get some resupply. Very thankful for her and to get to meet her! We met on the internet years ago and it isn’t often you get to see someone in person that you ‘know’ online.
After leaving Kincora we began making our way for Damascus. The Pond Mountain part is kind of a misnomer. There is not pond on the mountain! The book mentions a Pond Flats and one would expect a pond on top, but there wasn’t. But before we climbed up that #*&*#$ mountain we had to go past some beautiful falls.
The part along the river was beautiful and even the initial ascent to Pond Mountain wasn’t too terrible with some nice switchbacks. However, the last part was steep and frustrating and wore me out. Luckily the rest of the day to the Vandeventer Shelter was relatively pleasant.
Near the Watauga Dam is the Watauga Lake Shelter where many thru-hikers begin their “40 into Damascus”. Yes, people really walk 40 miles all day and night to get to Damascus in one day. Most regret it and end up taking several zeros to repair blisters or hurt legs, but some don’t and reap the benefits from jumping ahead basically two days. We didn’t do this! We aren’t that nuts!
The walk from the Vandeventer Shelter to Damascus is the entry into the ‘easy’ part of the trail. Well, easier, because Virginia does present some difficult sections, but this is where things become ‘flat’. More on that ‘flat’ later. Anyway, we passed the recluse Nick Grindstaff’s grave…
and walked on one of the very few places that are handicap accessible on the trail. It started acting like it was going to rain at this point and we had three miles to the Double Spring shelter so we booked it and made it there just as it started to rain.
The next morning all we had to do was walk 18 miles to Damascus! First we had to pass the Queen’s Knob shelter, built in 1934 and one of the oldest on the trail. It is listed for emergency purposes only because otherwise you wouldn’t want to stay in it as it is very leaky and small.
The next thing we knew we were walking into Damascus at 3pm and ended up staying at The Place, a house/hostel run by a local church. We loved staying there but they are very strict with their rules, so if you plan on partying or have pets do not even bother going there. Also, your donation is very much needed so don’t skip out on the donations! Damascus was an awesome trail town and I don’t know why we didn’t take a single photo. Lots of good places to eat and resupply and three different outfitters.
Next up: Damascus to Pearisburg!