Carey Kish is currently thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, a distance of 2,200 miles over a period of 5-6 months. Entries from Carey’s trail journal are presented here (read them all). You can also follow his journey on his Facebook page.
May 2, 2015: Double Springs Shelter to Damascus VA, 18.5 miles, 9am to 5:30pm.
Virginia at last! After 45 and 475 miles through Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee, I have arrived in the Old Dominion State. Yeah!
A beautiful if somewhat unremarkable hiking day, the last in TN. Cold and damp at the shelter this morning. Refused to go far until the sun, which I sensed was out there somewhere, got high enough into the morning sky at 4250 feet to throw down some warmth.
Struck off in a windbreaker but soon changed out of it. Wonderful, easy ridge walking. Note sure what this mountain ridge is named, the map doesn’t say. But I could see across to the long ridge of Iron Mountain opposite across the valley.
Not much for pointless ups and downs, just great striding. After US421, climbed easily up to McQueens Knob, the site of an old firetower. Treetop view only. Not far below was an old old log shelter dubbed the Love Shack; it had bunks for just two. Arrived at Abingdon Gap Shelter where I’d stayed in ’94 and enjoyed lunch in the sun at the picnic table. Drop Bear and Just Mike pulled in too, then a southbounder named Loch Ness.
Plan was to pull up a couple miles short of Damascus and camp at the last water source before town. But that plan went awry when I had the crazy idea of going all the way into town, then hitching a ride west to Abingdon to grab a cheap room out at I-81 somewhere. Have a hostel bunk booked for Sun and Mon nights in Damascus but not tonight, and from all accounts, the town is full up on this Sat night.
Drop Bear was good with this plan, but Just Mike wanted still to camp. Roy was all tented out when we passed so he was set. Everybody else had cruised into town. But I’m ahead of the story…
Three miles shy of Damascus is the Tennessee–Virginia state line. Reached there about 4:30. Can’t believe it, 3 states down, 11 to go. Was on top of the world. From there I just flew the final miles into town, completely high on life and the trail.
Out of the woods I walked through the beautiful back streets of Damascus with Drop Bear, who’d caught up. Lovely homes, well-kept yards, really nice. Then brought the famous AT arch and along through the town park out to the Main Street, which is also US58. From here we hitched a ride, which took about 15 minutes. While standing there I got my first view of downtown, which hadn’t changed much since ’94 or ’77. And the main drag was shorter than I remembered. I’ll see it all tomorrow.
Finally a guy in a old beater pulled over. He rolled down the side window and looked at me rather serious like and said, “I’ve got a .357 magnum under the seat so there won’t be any trouble. You look like nice folks. Hop on in.” Yep, you can’t make this stuff up.
So off we rode the 11 miles to Abingdon with William R., who I wasn’t sure for a while was going to kill us en route or what. He gave us his unabashed view of politics in the US, making it clear that the country was going to or maybe already was hell. Drop Bear and me, we kept the rest of the conversation as light as possible, hoping to God for the best.
Turns out the guy was really all right, a hiker and a hunter, a regular local out for a fun Saturday in beautiful Damascus. And now he was headed back to Abingdon to meet his girlfriend for dinner, ostensibly at a restaurant nor dear from the hotel I’d booked. Sometimes in the hitching situations you just never know.
So William pulls into the America’s Best Value Inn. We get out and grab our gear. He’s insistent we take his cell number to let him know later on up the trail how we’ve made out. Fair enough, and quite genuine. Must say we’d warmed up to the guy by now. Then the kicker. I ask him where we should eat and he mentions Cracker Barrel and some other place nearby. I ask him if they serve beer and he says no. But he’s got a cold one in his trunk if I’d like it. Would I?! Pops he trunk, opens a cooler and out comes a PBR pounder. Oh my. Then he looks at Drop Bear and asks if she’d like one too. Yes, please!
And so ends my William hitchhiking story, a happy ending for sure. With beer no less. So now we’ve got two smelly hikers splitting a room and hiker trashing it but good. Great shower, then outstanding meal at Cracker Barrel. The country fried steak dinner was the balls. Picked up a six at the gas mart next door. And there we have it. Into Damascus tomorrow via thumb. Will there be another William adventure? Then a couple days in town at the Hiker’s Inn to resupply, get the pack fixed (broken buckle), get food and fuel, and use the town-wide Internet to get lots of writing done.