When Joe and I left Damascus, we started into the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, one of the busiest parts of the AT in the south. It was an early spring weekend, Trail Days was happening just a few miles away, and hundreds of hikers were swarming into the woods for the weekend.
We hurried into the highlands surrounding Virginia’s two highest peaks– Whitetop and Mt Rogers– just after a cold front had moved through and dumped a few inches of snow. Hikers everywhere were bundling up and hunkering down with the cold and wind. We just hiked a little harder over Mt Rogers and the Grayson Highlands.
After the open ridges and wide views of the highlands, the trail through VA turned into more rolling mountains at slightly lower elevations. We also entered the notorious green tunnel, with no open views for days. For many people, that would kill the fun of the hike, but there was plenty of gorgeous scenery, even if it didn’t come from the top of a mountain. Blooming rhododendron groves, quiet mountainside pastures, and long stretches of deep forest were plenty scenic in my book.
We kept up a blistering pace along the trail, passing dozens upon dozens of through-hikers, but the blistering mostly happened to my feet. More specifically, five days in a row of huge miles pounded my feet until they were swollen and bruised, which made walking agonizing. It turns out that my leg muscles get in shape much faster than the bones of my feet, so while my legs felt great, my feet did not. Luckily, we were able to take a restful day off high in the mountains at Woods Hole Hostel, one of the most relaxing and idyllic trail stops I’ve had. It helped that there was no cell signal or internet access, so I was able to spend an entire day lazing on the porch, icing my feet, and eating. It was perfect.
After plenty of rest, I had another hundred miles through terrain that I remembered as being uneventful, but it was anything but. The long ridge walks with rocky outcrops and mountaintop meadows had plenty of views, and the rhododendron groves continued on. The company along the trail was pretty great, too. I’ve been hiking off and on with several through-hikers, getting a taste of the hiking community. (Shout out to Aloha Niceshirt, since I hear his wife reads this blog)
Unfortunately, the heat and gravelly trail didn’t let up on my feet. Maybe they hadn’t healed entirely during the stay at Woods Hole, but I think that even if they had they wouldn’t have done so well with these conditions. The day before reaching Daleville, the temperatures were in the high eighties with humidity so high I couldn’t see more than five miles from the mountain vistas. Now that I’m in town, it’s time for some more rest before the next stretch. I’ve got a new pair of shoes, a full belly, and a stack of New Yorkers to read. Life is good!