Damascus, VA : 466 miles in!
We planned out our days so that we were lined up to do the Damascathon, hike 26 miles into town from the Iron Mountain Shelter. The terrain has become so mild in relation to what we were used to that this particular 26 miles wasn't too much of a strain. To make it even better, about half way through a hiker was set up at a road crossing doing trail magic. His name was Nomad and when we were in Erwin, Tn we had heard that he had bought a van off of Grim, who helped run the hostel we stayed at in Erwin. Nomad now had this van packed with all the foods a hiker could want and was collecting signatures of the folks it fed. We stopped for a good, long break with him before we moved on.
We had woken up at 4:30am that morning to get going, started hiking at 5:30am and after our long stop and many other breaks we made it into Damascus at 6:30pm. Immediately we realized how friendly this town was to hikers. People gave us directions and smiled and waved at us from car windows and apposing street corners. We weren't in Tennessee any more. The first thing we did was get food at the blue blaze cafe, maybe one of the only places in the world you can walk in after not showering or changing clothes for a week and have people still smile at you. It's also the kind of place you can eat a bunch of tacos, then an order of garlic knots, then a brownie... And I did. It also had a juke box with our group's Smoky Mountain Theme Song on it, "Big Rock Candy Mountain", which we most definitely played. Then we all got bunks at a hostel, showered and slept inside as a thunderstorm raged outside. It was grand.
Right now I am sitting in a laundromat, avoiding the still falling rain. We are taking a zero day here and I could stand to take a second but I don't think I'll be so lucky unless I want to loose the group.
I haven't looked into what town is next or what is coming up, but I do know that we will be in Virginia for 550 miles, which is more miles than we have even hiked yet.
Also, if I've forgotten to mention it, my trail name is Rainbow Braid. Many, many miles ago, someone found a technicolor children's, knit hat with eyes and a mouth on it. He wore it for a while and it was too small so I took it off his hands because I have a thing for weird hats. It has braided teasels on it and alongside my own braided rattail, my name become Rainbow Braid.
Lastly, I am constantly surprised by my feelings towards the trail. I am quite often miserable. I've been battling a cold and hiking straight up an endless mountain bald in rain and fog with a sinus headache and a ear ache really, really sucks really, really bad. But overall, wildly overwhelmingly, I dreamt so long and prepared so much for this experience and I can not express how fulfilling and magnificent it has been over all my expectations. It's difficult no doubt. I am deeply exhausted all the time from all I do but it's just all to good in the end.