I'll start out by saying that we had originally planned to backpack from Fox Creek to Damascus (40 miles) . Here's the story about how it got cut short to 17 miles.
We drove down to Abington and stayed at a hotel off of i-80. The next morning, bright and early, we drove to Damascus and met our shuttle driver. He drove us 45 minutes to the Fox Creek trail head. He stopped on the way to show us some rocks on the side of the road. Apparently they were like super old rocks. I took one home as a souvenir.
We started hiking in a beautiful rhododendron forest and it wasn't long before we came upon our first trail magic. Leap Frog Cafe, run by this guy named Fresh Ground. He was the nicest guy and had an interesting life story. So his spring and part of summer is taken up hanging out on the AT making food...
for hikers. Starting in March, he sets up on the trail and kind of follows the thru hiker crowd. He leap frogs up the trail continuing North until he runs out of money. He operates totally on donations. We got banana pancakes and orange juice. I was a bit nervous / excited for this backpacking adventure that I couldn't eat it all, but it sure was delicious. Onward we continued through the forest on this hazy and gray day.
We reached a bald before noon where the wild ponies were. They were a really neat thing to watch. Hiking through balds is my favorite thing about the AT. There were the blue Appalachian mountains in the distance. Reached the Wise Shelter for lunch and a nap. There is a beautiful creek here. We came across another bald- Massie Gap. There were many day hikers here and also a few backpackers. I saw a mom and daughter having a good time backpacking the opposite way. The next part of the trail felt really strenuous to me. We had already hiked 10 miles and the elevation was going up up up at this point. The scenery was gorgeous as the sun came out and the skies cleared.
After a long 13-mile day, we reached the Thomas Knob shelter at about 5pm. We took a short side trail to a mountain-side spring. Yum. We pitched our tent within some trees, but it still wasn't enough to cut out the wind. Using foam sleeping pads, we blocked the wind to boil water and make dinner. The sunset was beautiful over the de-forested hillside. During the evening, the rain started up. I love our Big Agnes Tumble- it has ALWAYS held up in wind and rain with no moisture inside the tent. I learned a lesson about my new Ursak Allmighty. Its not waterproof at all. So when I hung it up in a nearby tree overnight, it was soaked the next morning. Our food wasn't soaked so bad because I has a plastic liner in it. Retrospectively, I would have put the Ursak in a dry bag before hanging it in the rain.
I hate rain. The next morning we were just hiking in a rain cloud. Our socks and shoes were soaked within the first hour. Another lesson learned on this trip: As much as I love trail runners for long distance hiking, the AT requires good waterproof boots. Neither Mason nor I had boots on this hike. We were freaking out because our feet were soaked and the temperature was supposed to drop below freezing by the evening. Mason didn't have an extra pair of socks and we didn't think his 35 degree sleeping bag was going to keep him warm overnight. We started to think about bailing on this trip. We hiked 5 miles to Elk Garden and were lucky enough to get cell service to call Mt Rogers Outfitters to come pick us up. Wah wah....
We learned some lessons but still had a great time. Grayson Highlands State Park is a really nice park. Beautiful scenic views, great facilities, and charming ponies. They also have bouldering and offer bouldering pad rentals. That is what we did the next day after the skies had cleared up. Guess we'll have to go back and do Elk Garden to Damascus.
Hi I'm Vicky.
I'm currently a weekend-warrior (pharmacy technician) in the lovely midwest city of Cincinnati. I've been an avid hiker and backpacker since 2012. You can most often find me on the Sheltowee Trace Trail in Kentucky and Tennessee, but California has my favorite places to backpack.