It has been quite a week since my last update. I have hit all kinds of milestones. The day I left Erwin was my one month anniversary on the trail. I thought it was fairly appropriate that I was once again leaving a town on that day. Also this week I crossed the 400 mile mark (I'm currently sitting at around 460 in Damascus I think) and as the title of today's post suggests I made North Carolina and Tennessee my second and third states bagged by moving on into Virginia. Now I'm facing more than 500 miles of VA terrain until I get to claim another. For those of you who don't know Virginia has more of the AT than any other single state. It actually contains about a quarter of the trail all by itself. Oh, and I almost forgot I also did my biggest single day this week at 22.2 miles. But enough about milestones and onto what actually happened this week. Unfortunately, the first day back on the trail after Erwin was pretty hard for me. It started out with some very pretty woods along a stream, but I started getting really tired shortly after I actually started heading uphill. I was actually kind of wiped by the time I stopped for lunch, where I discovered the gluten-free waffles that were to be my bread for the week had started to get moldy. Awesome. I don't think I got the right combination of calories that lunch because I only got more sluggish as the day went on, and I actually had to cat nap on the side of Unaka Mountain just to make it up. That was to date the only day I really didn't feel like being out there. The only day that I found to be really tough. On the other hand the top of Unaka was very pretty, with a lot of snow still on the ground among some very imposing conifers. That night I ended at Cherry Gap shelter with Waffle, Tapper, Dre, Chicago, Ziplock and Nitro, Frito, Silver, and Yorkie. Fortunately, the next day was a lot better. I had slept like the dead and was thus full of energy. Also, the day just seemed right it was breezy and sunny and I knocked out miles pretty easily in the morning. The afternoon was quite a bit tougher due to the fact that I was climbing Roan Mountain which was more or less straight up and still had a good amount of ice on it. Even that wasn't really enough to daunt me however. I was just happy to be out. Incidentally, upon summitting I learned there had once been a hotel for rich people up there in the early 1900's. What a cool idea. I can't even imagine what that must have been like. I imagine they thought they were roughing it up there. I must say though the idea of having the surroundings with a little warmth at night did sound somewhat appealing. The sign up there said that hotel actually had a golf course at the hotel. I have no idea where it might have gone. Anyway, I spent that night at Roan High Knob shelter which is the highest shelter on the AT. It was actually a little cabin. It had four walls and a door. We didn't know what was going on, but it was quite welcome and I imagine it would have been more so if the weather was worse. I spent that night with Frito, Silver, Yorkie, Mr. Easy, and No Problem (sans goat). The next day started out promising enough. There was some beautiful mist and clouds rolling through the mountains that made for what I think will be some very nice pictures. However, I was so focused on this scenery that I missed the turn when the trail split. Thats right folks my amazing sense of direction and I got rather lost. I ended up going on what turned out to be the Grassy Ridge Trail about a mile and half out of my way, which in turn cost me an hour and a half or better. I was not a happy man. I think my swearing was likely reverberating through the valleys for the rest of the day. As I result I ended up taking lunch at Over Mountain Shelter, several miles earlier than I wanted too. Over Mountain is a pretty cool shelter however, its a old barn that has been converted and it sits in a very nice little valley. I would imagine that its a drafty place to spend the night though. Anyway, after that it was up and over Little Hump and Hump Mountains and wouldn't you know it, rain started just as I was leaving the shelter. This rain turned fairly serious as I was crossing Hump Mountain to the point where I was starting to get a bit nervous, but fortunatley nothing came of it. I wish I had been able to appreciate those mountains a bit more. They had some nice views and their terrain was kind of unique. The rocks, trees and grass on them made me feel like I was crossing a plain in Africa, except..you know...more vertically. The rain continued for the rest of the day but I crashed at Mountain's Rest Hostel that night so it wasn't a big deal. I also thoroghly enjoyed the Ben and Jerry's I ate that night as well as the company of Yorkie, Stealth Blew, Nobo Hobo, Dorothy & Toto, Frito, No Problem, and Mr. Easy. The next day was thankfully much drier and more direct in route (though I did lose the trail early on and had to be called back by Yorkie, go me). There were some very pretty sights that day. We passed Jones' Falls which was quite a wonderful waterfall and I tried to kill myself by climbing a bit to get a better location for a picture. Fortunately, I did not succeed. Shortly after that we walked along the Elk River which seemed fairly idyllic in the heat and sunshine. I think I would very much like to go back and camp there sometime when I can hang around for a while. Yorkie and I ate lunch at the brand new Mountaineer Falls Shelter which was quite excellent and then pushed onto Moreland Gap Shelter for the evening. As the sun was going down The Owl showed up with a dog who had apparently followed him from the hostel he had stayed at the night before. He left that dog with some sectioners who were also staying at the shelter to return on their walk south the next day. I must say I kind of freaked out on the dog when it wouldn't stop barking in the night, but what can I say I was tired. Yorkie thinks I scared the section hikers, but I think he exaggerates. Next morning I knocked out about 8 like it wasn't even there and got to look at another very pretty waterfall, Laurel Falls. Incidentally the entirety of the Laurel Fork River that I have seen is really pretty. I would like to hike around it some more if I ever get the chance. While taking a long lunch I thought I discovered that I had lost my money and ID. This turned out to fortunately not be true but it sort of tainted the rest of my day nonetheless. As a result pretty much all I remember from that afternoon was a lot of uphill until arriving at some fairly spectacular trail magic on the backside of Lake Watauga. This particular trail magic was run by the wonderful former hikers Dead Bear and Moonbeam. I ended up camping there even though I was about a mile from my goal for the night. It simply looked like too much fun to move on. That evening was spent with Yorkie, Beat Box, Bus Driver and Secret Lover, MA, Marshall, Tattoo, Drip Dry, Dead Bear and Moonbeam, Mr. Easy, No Problem, Twiglet, and One Third. It was a very surreal evening. I don't think I can fully express the feeling that was around that night but just to give a general idea some of the events were as follows: three hikers mooning the party on the other side of the lake, the threat of possible police arrival (turned out to be nothing), a trail runner who had stopped to talk coming back later that evening with a keg IN A KAYAK, and lastly but certainly not least a drunk guy riding out of the dark on a horse at about 10 o' clock to hang out with us for the rest of night. Oh and I almost forgot the Karaoke chorus of Roxanne performed poorly by myself, Bus Driver, No Problem and I'm not sure who else. Like I said it was quite a night. I pushed out early from that site the next morning and had a very pretty walk along the lake as the sun was rising. There were several good climbs that morning, but I took about 2 hours for lunch and a nap, and after that the day was a breeze. Almost all of it was completely flat ridgerunning, which I consequently really enjoy. You can throw down miles like they are nothing. That was incidentally my big 22 mile day. I spent that night with Terrapin Flyer, Granite, Yorkie, and Beat Box. Yorkie and the Box didn't show up until it was basically dark, I really hadn't thought they were coming. I also had the pleasure of having a really good Crew chat with Granite, who as it turned out was an oarsman for UMass. I honestly don't have much to say about the next day because I was more or less focused on getting to Damascus and nothing particularly interesting happened beyond moving into Virginia. So there it is. I'm here in Damascus waiting to see if the weather is going to turn nasty and prepping to head back out tomorrow. Thanks for tuning in. Until next time.
-The Breadless Horseman
PS- Since the post with the link to the Columbia Center for Celiac Research has rolled over, I think I will post it again here for any newcomers. http://www.celiacdiseasecenter.columbia.edu