Day 28 – Mountain Harbour B&B – Moreland Gap Shelter — 18.4 miles
Waking up in a nice warm bed was amazing, but after about 5 mins of laying there I was ready to start hiking. I took advantage of the shower and took another one before I went down to eat breakfast. The owners served breakfast through a food truck and when they asked what I wanted I replied “all of it”. I got two plates with biscuits and gravy, two blueberry pancakes, home fries, quiche, sausages, and a breakfast taco. It was one of the best breakfasts I’ve had on this trek. After I ate I resupplied for the next couple days and then was back on the trail around 9:15. I was excited because not only was I going to hit the 400 mile mark after about 6 miles, but the sun was shining and it was looking like it was going to be a beautiful day after a couple days of downpours. Within the first few miles I met a southbounder named Calamity who was headed to the place I stayed last night. We chatted for a minute and then went back to our hikes. I wasn’t sure the exact spot the 400 mile mark was at, but as I was walking I spotted some sticks on the side of the trail that said 400. I was pumped. I continued walking for a few more hours and stopped at a shelter for lunch. There were two hikers there already and one of them was about to leave. The one who stayed was named Pizza. He is german man who lives in Israel and took 3 months off of work to hike as far north as he can get. We had a nice discussion as I ate my bagels with tuna and he gave me a fist bump as I continued on for the day. It was another 9.8 miles to the shelter I was going to stay at for the night. On my way I was casually walking along and mistakenly thought a black snake was a root on the trail. I jumped back as soon as I realized what it was and waited for it to continue moving before I went on. I also saw an owl fly right in front of me and land on a branch about 30 feet away. I stopped to look at it and it turned its head 180 degrees and looked at me straight in my eyes. I made some “who” sounds at it and it just continued to look at me like I was a freak so after a few minutes I decided to hike on. I finally got to the shelter at 6 and there were already a lot of people here. Some were tenting and some were already in the shelter, but I was happy because there was an open spot I could have. I went to get water and wash up at the river and came back and started talking to everyone. They’re a “trail family” who met when they started the trail around the same time. They are all so nice and were all pumped when I brought out my tiger tail. Two people are from Massachusetts and there are also people here from New Hampshire. It’s cool meeting people from close to home so far away. I’m excited to sleep and get back at it tomorrow. Going to hit 24 to the next shelter!
Day 29 – Moreland Gap Shelter – Vandeventer Shelter — 24 miles
I woke up around 6:30 and by that time only Tar was awake and getting ready. He’s an older man, probably in his late 60’s or early 70’s. I got my bag ready and said goodbye to Tar. As I was leaving he stuck out his hand for a bump and he said good luck as we tapped our fists. I stopped at the first water source about a mile down the road to fill up my water bottle and eat some breakfast. I mixed my protein with a carnation instant breakfast, drank it, then ate some pop tarts. It was a beautiful day. The trail was pretty pleasant with a lot of down hills and some subtle climbs that made me work up a sweat. About 5 miles in I came to a road crossing and talked to this hiker named Big Sky from Montana. We talked about our shoes and what kinds of food we like on trail, then I kept on walking. About 2 miles later I passed the nicest waterfall I’ve seen on the trail yet. The water flowing down had some power and I stood there and watched it for a few minutes minutes. The trail continued along a rock wall right next to the river and I had to be careful to not fall in. The next climb was pretty steep and for a long time and before I reached the top I felt like I needed to stop and eat some food to get my energy levels back up. I had been snacking all day, but could use some more fuel to keep me cruising. I had two packets of tuna with bagels and a bag of fruit snacks. I felt refreshed right after and the rest of the climb felt a lot better. Just an hour after that there was a food truck at a road crossing. I got excited when I saw it and ordered a steak and cheese before I kept going. For most of the afternoon I hiked next to a huge lake which led me to a dam that I walked across. I finally got to camp around 6 pm and there wasn’t anyone else there. As I was about to go get water so I could cook, I could feel the temperature drop, the wind picking, and saw dark clouds rolling in fast. Thunder and lighting started out in the distance. A hiker named George rolled in right before it started to downpour. George is actually from Worcester and just came on the trail for 3 weeks. He was a big baseball and football fan, so it was cool talking about our favorite teams and what’s happening in the leagues. Two more hikers showed up and the thunderstorm continued for a while. George ended up giving me some water so I cooked some pasta, ate a snickers, crushed more tuna, and then called it a night.
Day 30 – Vandeveter Shelter – Damascus, Virginia — 33.7 miles
Yesterday was a long day, so I decided to “sleep in” and give myself some rest. I woke up about an hour more than usual, packed up my bag, and was on the trail by 8:15. I walked to the first water source to fill my bottles and eat breakfast. I had the same exact thing as yesterday. I was excited for today because the elevation change all day wasn’t going to have anything crazy. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day outside. The trail started out in the woods and then went through some wide open pasture lands. I met an older couple and chatted with them for a bit, but besides that I didn’t see anyone until I met Second Lunch at one of the shelters I passed 11 miles in. He and his girlfriend Unbreakable hiked the PCT last year and are attempting their second thru hike. I kept on hiking, feeling pretty good and making good time. I wanted to get to the shelter 22 miles away and then see how I felt. About 16 miles in I felt the air get cooler and the wind started to pick up. The sky got dark and before I knew it rain started pouring down. I stopped to throw on my pack cover and continued hiking. It’s crazy how fast it can change from sunny and beautiful to rainy and ugly. Luckily, the rain stopped after about an hour and the sun came out. My clothes and shoes were soaked, but at least they had some time to dry out. I got to the shelter 22 miles away from the start of the day around 3 o’clock, got water, and decided to hike the 11 miles to town. On my way there I passed the Tennessee/Virginia border! I’m excited for Virginia and all that is has. It’s around 550 miles and the the longest state on the A.T. I got into Demascus around 7:00. It’s a cool little trail town and you hike through the downtown. I found a place to stay at the Broken Fiddle Hostel and there were already a ton of hikers here so I got a spot on the couch. I was starving so I went out and got some nachos, potato skins, and a Caesar salad and then went back to the hostel to hang out with all the other hikers. Today was the longest mileage day out here and it feels good! I’m happy that I’m feeling strong both mentally and physically and I hope that it continues for the rest of my hike. I’ve been taking time for self-care everyday and I think it’s been paying off. I’m ready to take on Virginia and keep getting closer and closer to Maine!