Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Day Hike on the Appalachian Trail-Damascus Virgina

Since moving to my new residence, I've really became compulsive about the Appalachian trail. I never knew existed until this move. I've heard of the Pacific Crest trail, but when living close to it, I wasn't very active I quickly dismissed the idea of even finding it. I feel as if I've gone to the library and checked  out almost every book on the Appalachian trail as well as buy one book every 2-3 weeks on amazon that hikers have written about their thru hike. Those books being:

AWOL on the Appalachian trail -David Miller
A Walk in the Woods- Bill Bryson
A Journey North- Adrienne Hill
Backpacking for Women-" "
Day Hiking on the Appalachian trail- Louge & Adkins

There are more out there...but I've been slowly devouring them, one at a time, since March.

After going to the local city information desk, I found that I was a very quick drive to Damascus, Virgina. One of the biggest, and sought after trail towns on the southern side of the AT.

This past week was one of the warmest days it had been so, I jumped on the oppourtunity to go!

The city itself is a very sleepy summer town. I was expecting there to be me more of a town. However with a few gas stations and one stop light, unless you were there specifically for the AT or the Creeper trail (more on that later) would blink and dismiss the city as very comparable to the small town of Mayberry from the Andy Griffith show.

Upon arriving we decided to drive through the city and get an overview ( this took about 5 seconds). Of course we arrived at a park that was the southern entrance of the city. I jumped out of the car, I was so excited to actually see the evidence of the trail!

It's not an extremely exciting entrance but I'm sure a very welcoming one to a thru hiker ready for a hot meal and a day of rest.

There are 2-3 hostels/hiker's inn's I saw as we drove along the city streets. Next we hit the 2 outfitter stores just to drool over, over priced hiking items. It was neat to see.

At the edge of town we saw our 2 options for food, a local coffee/sandwich shop at Mojoes or a Hamburger at Jeepers Creepers. I'm really sad that we didn't see the Jeeper's Creeper's stop first. I had watched the National Geographic documentary about the AT and they feature the JC hamburger place in the show. However our sandwiches from Mojoes were amazing...AND we had the pleasure of conversing with a thru-hiker. He was retired and had started hiking from GA March 1st. We were very impressed with his speed! He had taken a 0 day yesterday in town, leaving at noon the next day, aiming to make it 15 miles .

After loading up it was time to hike! I had found a PDF on the Damascus website that had offered 4-5 4-8 mile hikes around the AT. I had seen a bridge coming into town marked with the AT on it, I was dead set to start with it, plus it was the beginning of the AT heading north out of town.

We parked our car at Mojoes and hiked on the side path that is part creeper trail, part AT.
                                                        (turned around and took this picture) This is what the thru-hikers coming the North would have been greeted with.

                                                                       And....we're off!

The first 2 miles from this bridge..were pretty killer. Other than a hike I had done in Hawaii, this ranks as one of the HARDEST climbs . It was a consistent incline with lots of rocks you had to avoid slipping on. I had to take 3-4, 5 second breathing breaks.  But I couldn't help shout WHITE! and slap every blaze we had passed

                         I was so excited to finally be on a part of this trail I had read and read about

                                                        It was a beautiful day!

It's still not quite spring up here in the mountains, I can't wait to revisit some of the trails, just to see the blooming of the flowers and trees!

I had great directions I had found on the PDF and the trail was very well marked. We hiked for another 2 miles on the trail and turned right to loop back to our car, back on the Creeper trail. I was sad to say goodbye to the AT but was very excited to hike on it.

The Creeper trail is a 33-34 mile trail that seemed more famous/ advertised in Damascus. Local bike shops/rentals will shuttle you and your bike/rental, on this gravel path that starts around Abingdon, VA and intersects Damascus. This trail is very pretty, and does run beside a river, but It's more for the bikes, less for the hikers. It seemed to be a long, slow, and flat 5 miles back to the car.

I ended up getting knee high in the river and cooling off my legs. I was having some shin pain from the constant hiking that week.

We spent the last mile of the hike discussing a smoothie choice from the Mojoe's cafe but was sadden when we saw it was closed before got back. We drove to another ice cream place and was also met with a "closed" sign. After talking to some local's we found the Dairy King and rewarded ourselves with a chocolate/Vanilla twist cone. It was amazing!

So excited to set foot on the historic and iconic AT trail. It won't be the last time we meet!

Trail Info:
Loop hike on the
Appalachian and VA
Creeper trails (8 mi. easy
to moderate):
Beginning in Damascus,walk east on the Appalachian and VA
Creeper Trails (white blazes). At the “Appalachian Trail” sign, turn left, cross Rte. 58/91 and ascend a set of steps, following the white blazed A.T. four miles, across ridges with views. Cross a small log bridge and turn r ight on the Beech Grove Trail (unblazed woods road) to reach Rte. 58 in ¼ mile. Cross and descend to the Straight Branch VA Creeper Trail parking lot. Turn right on the Creeper and walk four miles, with views of the creek, to return to Damascus.
The beginning of the hike was more moderate while the end was easy. With a pace of 3 miles per hour, we had, we found out it was more like 9 miles. 

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