Brian's Hike on the Appalachian Trail(8)
February 20, 2000 until ????

brianshike8 : Mar 28 to April 6

Brian's Journal

The Place
The Place
March 28, 2000 hiked 18 miles today to "The Place"
in Damascus, VA.
454 from Springer and 1709 to the Big K

I'm writing this from The Place in Damascus. I crossed into Virginia today, so I've hit my first big milestone. Hard to believe I've come about 25% of the way. Anyway, I woke up to cold and snow, and hiked 18 miles of pretty easy trail, but when you want to be somewhere where your not, the miles tend to seem a lot longer than they are. Around noon the snow stopped and the wind picked up, and I had spots of sunshine.

Damascus is a good size town. Kind of like how I imagine Clinton used to be 50 years ago. There's a lot of good, cheap food, so I'm happy as I get! I'm here tonight with the French couple, Mickey, Shadow and Pigpen (3 HS buddies from Bristol, TN), and Cosmic Joe. I love this hostel. It's just an old, rundown, abandoned house basically given to thru-hikers to live in and take care of. A bit like a crackhouse in a way. Or like an old hippie co-op. Nice though. Down here in the low lands it looks like spring. The grass is green and the trees are blooming.

(E-Mail Sent March 28, 2000 from Damascus, VA)

hello everyone, hard to believe i crossed into virginia today, having more or less completed 25% of the trail. the hike from erwin was phenomenal. the roan highlands in tennessee have been my favorite area of the whole trip. from roan mt. the trail followed a bald ridge for about 2.5 miles at around 5,500 feet. then the afternoon sent me over little hump and hump mountain. i had beautiful weather and could see everything for miles. the trail is getting easier and easier, partly cause i'm in better shape, but mostly because it really is getting easier. i did 22 miles yesterday and 18 miles today without wearing out my legs. damascus is a great town. kind of like what clinton used to be 50 years ago, when everyone shopped at the 5 and 10 before wal-mart came around. the place, the hikers hostel, is an old run down house behind a church that is basically ours to use and care for, and at only $2 a night it's like a paradise. ok. i'm about 4 or 5 days behind my original shedule, and i'll probably fall farther and farther behind as i get into virginia. but i'll keep you all posted. i met up with raphael again, but he hurt his ankle coming down from roan in a snow storm, and terapin, basco, and sara are still in boone. i met a great guy named dolphin, who is 42, even though he looks like he's 25. he's using the trail to sort out his life, and he says his trail is already done. he thought he was always supposed to marry a girl named mary, but when he was in the smokies, he was looking down at the lights of a little town, and asked someone if they knew what town it was. a woman told him it was marryville, so he figures he misunderstood his destiny, so when ever he gets all the bugs out of his life, he's going to live with a friend in mississippi who'll teach him how to drive a truck. then he's going to make some money, then move to marryville and buy a house and some land. he's meeting his sister here, and they're going to philly to root on the lady vols. but anyway... all is well with me, and i hope you all are doing well. take it easy, no worries, brian aka billy goat

The Methodist Church technically owns The Place, even though they would prefer it got torn down for a parking lot. As I was talking to the folks, a bunch of 15 or so church members stormed though here like the Gestapo. Looking through all our stuff....looking for alcohol, and treating us like we were lower than dirt. I think the locals are a bit overwhelmed by all of us, and no one is as friendly as they were in Hot Springs. I can't say I blame them though. What used to be novel hundred or so hikers a year has exploded into thousands each spring. It is nice to have a phone in a living room like spot, so I can talk leisurely to Jaimie and the folks without getting cold or rained on. I'm going to take a day off tomorrow to rest my legs and try to do some planning. I haven't even looked at the Virginia section in the data book; Damascus was always my goal before now. I'm proud of myself for getting here. It's reassuring to look at that map and see how for you've come. On the other hand, I think I'll have more miles in Virginia than I've had since Springer. But I feel good, and I am enjoying myself. Great news from home!! Oliver has had hips, so he's moving back to Tewksbury! Maybe he'll want to hike some with me. OK. Time for bed. It's only 10:30, but it feels like 3 in the morning. I guess time is relative. No worries. BG

March 29, 2000 0 miles yesterday

Well, I'm about ready to head out into the rain and go back home. Damascus has been great, but I'm getting a little stir-crazy, and I'm ready to move on. The place filled up yesterday. I had dinner with Granddad, who is a pretty amazing guy. He's a retired gym teacher/principal/track coach who was a star distance runner in his day. (He's about 65 now) One time he ran 40 miles home from a track meet after telling his team he would if they won. Another time he ran 80 miles in one day. Out here he's going pretty fast as well. He plans on doing 25+ mile days through Virginia, and hopes to be at Harper's Ferry in 24 days. Nice guy, real friendly. Anyway, I got everything I needed to get and have done everything I've needed to do, so I'm going to pack up and head out. No worries. BG

March 30, 2000 15.8 miles today to Lost Mtn Shelter 147 miles till New River

Today ended up being a great day of hiking. I spent the morning rambling over little hills, and then I started following a river for several miles. I love the Virginia trail so far. It's really very nice. I'm at Lost Mountain, which is at the base of Whitetop Mtn. The difference between here and Tennessee is here I know which mountain I'm going to, since it looks big compared to the surrounding mtns. South of here, all of the mtns look like they could be the biggest, so you couldn't predict which way you were headed. I'm here tonight with Beetle, and the 3 buddies from Bristol. I'm realizing as I'm watching them that they're all pretty dumb. Amusing though, they make me laugh. It's good to be back on the trail, or "back home." I wasn't able to sleep well either on my nights at the hostel. It seems like every little noise got magnified by all the bare walls and ceilings. But anyway.....I'm looking forward to the next 2 days going through the Grayson Highlands. I saw a lot of pictures of this area in Damascus, and it looks beautiful. Fortunately, I should have a good day tomorrow. Around 4 the clouds cleared out, and it's been mostly blue skies ever since. OK. All is well, and I'm looking forward to a good sleep tonight. No Worries. BG

March 31, 2000 18 miles today to Wise Shelter and 129.6 till New River
Grassy Hills
Grassy Hills

Today ended up being just a really fun day. This section of the trail was like nothing I expected anywhere in the Appalachians. I woke up and hit the trail around 8. From there it was a lazy climb up to Whitetop, through a lot of forest that looked to be very young. There were 2 sections of pine where you could se the diagonal rows of trees planted like corn in a cornfield. But all the trees were real young, and it got me wondering what this place looked like before all the old growth forests got logged away. It must have been a sight; all the trees looking like that giant poplar we went to see with Tom in N.C.

But anyway....Whitetop Mtn looked a lot like the southern balds, just not as impressive. From there the trail would duck into a young forest for a while, then jet back into a grassy section, then duck back into the forest. Real nice walking. The grassy sections felt like walking on thick moss. After a few miles more of this, the trail went into the forest for good and wound its' way down to a road crossing at Elk Park. From there it was a 3-mile up through bald and forest getting up to Mt. Roger's. This was a very odd section. It would switch from young deciduous forest to old, thick coniferous forest and back and forth, with no logical transition section. It was nice smelling the balsam in the mossy pine forest sections.

The climb maxed out near Thomas Knob Shelter, and let out into the Grayson Highlands. I've never seen anything like it in the East. It's a lot of wide-open grassy meadows, interrupted by severe sections of big rock piles (up to 30-40 feet), and bordered by pine forest and alpine terrain. It reminded me a lot of the golden hills of Northern California, but maybe that's because the grass wasn't green yet, or because it reminded me of Steinbeck's imagery. The other awesome thing is the wild ponies. They just sort of meander around up there, eating the grass and hanging out. I asked one if I could "get a ride," but I think it knew I was really wondering, "what does pony taste like?" So he just stared at me blankly for a while, then returned to munching on some grass. These beautiful animals, sort of funny looking, but with long blonde manes that dance with the breeze and real pretty big eyes. I ate lunch up at Thomas Knob, then had a great afternoon going from grassy sage, to rock hopping over the outcrops, and back to a grassy sage.

Today has definitely been the most unique day I've had, and I wonder how much longer I'll be in these highlands. OK Time to eat. No Worries. BG

April 1, 2000 20 miles today to Trimpi Shelter and 109.6 till New River

After waking up and laughing with the Bristol boys (who showed up around 8 last night), I got myself ready and started my feet a walking. The morning was very nice---going back up to a grassy ridge and sort of circling back toward Mt. Rogers. At one point I saw a trail sign saying Mt. Rogers->3.2 miles. I had to laugh since I had been there about 15 miles before. It just sort of reminds you that the Appalachian Trail is not the most direct mode of transportation from Georgia to Maine. But it definitely is a beautiful walk, and the 15-mile loop it took me on was one of the most unique and remembered of my trip. The Grayson Highlands are another section I'd love to come back and see when the rhododendrons are in bloom. I also climbed Pine Mtn. this morning, which was really beautiful. But anyway, climbing down from Pine Mtn I passed hordes and hordes of weekend hikers. It was nice to have that area more or less to myself before the weekend crunch. From there though, I've just been rolling over the Virginia hills. The trail did change fast; I'm already seeing the typical Virginia farm in between two mountain ranges. Nice though. I'm here with Beetle and a young kid called Youngblood. He has to be done by June 5, so he is pretty much flying. He's also a bit high strung, and he talks loudly, so I'm hoping he passes by pretty fast. Anyway, tonight is daylight savings, and although it seems pretty ridiculous out here, it also adds some excitement. So I'll wake up at 7:30 instead of 6:30, and go to bed at 9:30 instead of 8:30. I hope I can handle all that. I'm looking forward to seeing the Partnership Shelter tomorrow, and maybe even order a pizza. Ok. Good night for now. No Worries. BG

April 2, 2000 17.6 miles today to Chatfield Shelter and 92 till New River

AT Laundramat

Today was another nice day of walking. After being too hot to get a good nights sleep, I woke this morning to light rain, but comfortable temperatures. The mornings walk was very nice. Right from the shelter I rambled down to a farm field. It reminded me of the Smith's farm, and I remembered that the Sheep Shearing was yesterday. Hope it went well. It's funny---down in the valley (which I guess is between 1,500 and 2000 feet) spring is almost in full bloom, with rich green fields, daffodils, irises, those big yellow Easter bushes, and the beginnings of buds on the trees. But once you climb into the mountains that all disappears. I guess in a week or so I'll be low enough and April will be far enough along to really turn everything green. Although I have to admit, I did enjoy the views thru bare trees from the mountain ridges down onto the farms. Very picturesque. With such lush fields interrupted only by the little white squares of a barn roof or homestead, and lit with extremely dramatic light creeping through the open spots in the cloud cover, it looked like some modern version of a Winslow Homer painting. Just very romantic. I could have taken a picture and given it to the Christian Coalition to be used in a good old American family values propaganda pamphlet.

Partnership Shelter
Partnership Shelter

Anyway, after such a nice morning, I got to the Partnership Shelter which is amazingly beautiful. Brand new with that new log cabin fresh cut pine smell. It had an airtight upstairs, an open downstairs, and a side room just for a warm water shower. It was/is phenomenal. Wouldn't mind copying the design for my own house, it's just really, really, nice. Sadly, the rumor about the busted phone was true, and since the Information Center is closed on Sundays, I couldn't call Pizza Hut for a steaming, large, pineapple pizza, so I had to settle for a bagel half completely covered with peanut butter and topped with trail mix. It just didn't compare. But now I'm only 5 miles from a truck stop at Atkins on I-81, so I'm looking forward to breakfast----"I don't care what it is, as long as it's deep fried..." that seems to be the Southern mentality or style of cooking. Since I'm currently hiking, I don't mind, but any other time I think it would induce vomiting. Since it was rainy/overcast all day, I just ran from shelter to shelter, so I got here around 3 and am getting restless. In Virginia 17 miles is an easy day. I like that.

OK. Time to go waste some time, try to do some planning (the dreaded P-word!), and hopefully fall asleep, and dream of truck stop dining.

no worries. Billy Goat

April 3, 2000 7.2 miles today to Davis Path Shelter and 84.8 until New River

An AT Breakfast--good stuff!
Nice, easy day today. Woke up to clouds, but they dispersed on my walk down to Atkins. Real beautiful walk in the damp morning. Real thick rhod.. bushes (a complete tunnel in some spots), following a stream through the forest before letting me out in a great valley meadow. I could see the fog rolling off the mountains in the distance; and the intense greens from the grass and even more intense golds from the wheat could have made a nice postcard photo. Then I rambled through some horse/cow pastures before getting to I-84 and the truck stop.

It's funny how loud everything seemed. Jack brakes from the trucks, whining from the high tension power lines, roaring of souped-up pick-ups, and hot rods... everything was just really loud. You could also smell all the chemicals from the fields. Even now, 3 miles away, the highway is louder than the songbirds, just not as pleasant to listen to.

Anyway.....the truck stop ended up being just like a Mobil Mart, so I was a little disappointed. I ate breakfast at the village motel (French toast and bacon), lunch at Dairy Queen (cheeseburger and fries), and dinner and dessert at Cumbow's County Store (roast beef club, cherry cheesecake.) All within about 2 hours.

Beetle and Granddad (who caught us at the last shelter) had extra food for me, so I only had to buy $3 worth of groceries. Granddad is something else. He did in 3 days what Beetle and I did in 4 good days. The man runs on diesel. I saw him filling up at Exxon. He's taking today off, then doing 30 miles tomorrow. I hope I move as well as he does when my hair's as white as his is.

OK. Still early, but nothing else to write about. Finished The Sun Also Rises last night, and couldn't find any books or magazines in Atkins. Oh yeah, I had a good conversation with two truck drivers at Cumbow's. They told me I'd save myself 200 miles by walking I-81 instead of the AT. I laughed at them . They laughed at me. All was well. OK Check you later. No Worries. BG

April 4, 2000 20.6 miles today to Chestnut Knob Shelter and 64.2 till New River
Chestnut Knob
Chestnut Knob

Now that I'm lying warm in my bag, hearing the wind whipping around this solid cabin, I'm realizing that today was one of the most bizarre days I've ever seen. I woke up to rain for the third day in a row. I actually woke up last night to a drip-drip-drip on my head. It rained harder last night than I've ever seen while hiking. With the tin roof, you just heard a huge roar as pools and pools of water just dropped. no wind, just water.

But anyway, after a restless sleep, I woke to rain and went back to bed. I woke again around 9:00, and finally decided I'd go crazy if I stayed in that shelter without a book for another day. So I got up and walked. The morning was spent first in the forest, going over some mountains and wading through some valleys. Then it let out into a section of about 6 miles of farm walking thru private land. One part was incredible, just a little right of way between two huge fields. The whole floor was green, interrupted only by glints of purple and white from the wildflowers. At this point the cloud cover was beginning to break, but the temperature dropped to about 40 and it started snowing. I rambled over some more farmland, being watched by herds of curious cows. I made friends with one little roan calf who was getting sad because it was cold, but then her mom came and scared me away. I like the farm sections. They're really beautiful, and a nice change of pace; I just get tired of all those A-frame ladder things to climb over barbed wire fences.

VA Farm
VA Farm

Anyway, by the time I got to Knot Maul Shelter for lunch, I was freezing. I threw on all my clothes and cooked up some Ramen. When I was done I bundled up for the cold and headed out. 10 minutes later it's sunny and warm, so I strip down. Half an hour later it's hailing. Then sunny, then hailing. Back and forth all afternoon. It seemed like the moment I stopped to take off my coat, it would turn to winter. Then I would get cold, stop to put it on, and the sun would bust through. Very odd.

When I got up to the semi-bald Chestnut Ridge, it got really cold, really windy, and half the sky looked like T-storms while the other half was still clear skies. I ran up here to be met by a really nice enclosed stone shelter. To the north is Burke's Garden, a really weird geological depression. And to the south I can see Mt. Rogers and Whitetop. I'm here with Beetle and Grandad again listening to some nice classical music from Grandad's radio. Unfortunately a row of clouds blocked the sunset, but the sky looked incredible about an hour earlier. The radio says it may get down to the 20's tonight, so I'm sleeping with my water.

We figure there's only 11 people ahead of us, all but four a day or two north. Surprising. People are starting to vanish. I guess since it's a bit of a pride thing, no one says farewell to anyone or writes anything in a register. They just sort of disappear. OK. Time to crawl down in my bag and battle the cold. Goodnight! No Worries. Billy Goat

April 5, 2000 24.4 miles today to Helvey's Mill Shelter and 40 till New River

Long day today over some fairly unexciting trail. Woke up to clear skies, 2 inches of snow, and freezing wind. I thought the whole shelter would blow-off the mountain last night. Anyway, spent the afternoon with sun and temps in the 60's, after heading out w/frozen water and colder air. Guess that's what spring is like in the mountains. I'm here with Grandad and Beetle again, and I caught Kimber and Caesar, who are out in a tent. They're not as obnoxious as I imagined they would be. Caesar actually is quite nice. OK--I'm going to bed; I have another big day tomorrow, then I'll have pizza and a shower waiting for me in Pearisburg on Friday. All is well. Oh yeah, I had a nice talk with an old man who lives 5 feet from the trail where it crosses I-77. Says he's met 6 hikers ahead of me, but he's looking forward to May when he can meet them all. Real sweet guy. OK. Goodnight! No Worries. BG

P.S. I thought of my poor sister as I woke up to brave the frozen privy. Only 3 sides and no roof. Would have been nice in the summer; rather unpleasant with snowy, 50-mph wind gusts!
VA Views
VA Views

April 6, 2000 23.7 miles today to Wapiti Shelter and 16.7 from New River

Long day today. Spent the first 14 miles dreaming about a pizza, then the last 7 dreading the effects. I went 0.8 miles to Trent's Grocery which was a trip. Another one of those multi-purpose all-in-one stores. This one was a deli/taxidermist/gas station/bar/grocery, but most importantly a neighborhood hang-out for the local old timers, correction officers from some nearby jail, and lumberjacks from the mill across the street. It's odd to see an ornate deer head and paw gun holder displayed over the ice-cream cooler, and a stuffed white fox perched up on the cold meat display. I ended up chasing down an oatmeal pie, a Tasty-cake, a honey bun, a quart of chocolate milk, and 2 sodas with a fully loaded 12" pizza. I was already feeling a bit dehydrated, and my $20 snack almost put me over the edge. When I got back into the 75-degree sun and hit the trail, I thought I was surely going to boot. I initially thought I should turn around, projectile vomit, and be thrust up the mountain by the ensuing explosion. I then calculated the weight to caloric value, and realized it would be in my best interest to hold the food in grips where it was. I thought my stomach agreed with me, but since it was actually carrying all the weight, it would throw some chunks of mangled foot bits up with every cough, cackle, and burp. When all was said and done, I still have about 80% of the consumed food slowly wreaking havoc on my inners. Oh well...

Va Sunset
Va Sunset

Anyway...Good hiking today. Up on a ridge all morning, then down following the Dismal River up to its headwaters in the afternoon. I was glad to see this shelter though .. The last 7 miles seemed like 14. I'm here with Granddad and Beetle, who just rolled in a half-hour past dark. Granddad told me he used to fly an airplane. Showed me his license to prove it. He has more stories and experiences than anyone I've ever met. Truly an incredible person with a love for life.

Pearisburg tomorrow, after only a 16 mile day. My legs and feet are letting me know that 24-mile days are TOO LONG! I know, but the shelters were oddly placed the past couple of days. I'm looking forward to shorter days and longer lunches and many breaks. But onward to the promised land of Pearisburg, pizza, laundry, mail, everything I'd ever need. Sounds good to me. Another journal full. Not to shabby.
OK---Goodnight, No Worries. Billy Goat

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