Well it's been a week since I last checked in. After a short residence in Damascus I got some very incredible hiking in with a friendly welcome from some wild ponies...
Damascus is called the friendliest town on the AT and it certainly holds true to that. Not only was the town a great place to spend some time but I certainly have to thank my good friend Renny for his generosity and genuine friendship. Taking me and 2 sticks fishing, treating food and beverages and most importantly providing the excitement of seeing a familiar face really. It really meant the world.
People at times ask me, "When am I jumping back on trail?" and if I take a day or 2 off, "Why am I not hiking?" Obviously the focus is to get from Georgia to Maine but just as important is the experiences that are all around me during the hike. Just as there's a trail I walk, there are people I meet, towns I see, events I enjoy and being surrounded by so many things I have never experienced. The AT is a teacher. All it provides is something I soak in and learn. I intend to do so knowing that the overall lesson will give me more knowledge than I could ever receive in most other situations. This isn't to say stop asking me why I'm not hiking. I actually embrace all that's asked because it gives me the opportunity to tell you what's behind my decisions as I make my way north. It's a wonderful world out here and I'm enjoy all of it while I hike along.
Leaving Damascus, I finally started seeing what Virginia was gonna provide. As I mentioned before its a long state to hike but the beginning was nothing short of breath taking. In a five day span I logged over 65 miles highlighted by the Grayson Highlands.
Much different than the high mountain views I've seen the highlands gave 360's of the most breath taking landscape scenery. Though the hikes themselves were difficult due to trails made up of rocks, I couldn't help not stopping every 30 min or so to take in the views. The most amazing addition to the hike were the wild ponies that roam the land. It was enjoyable having them come up and welcoming me to their home.
Miles are coming much easier now. Lower altitudes and less strenuous climbs makes a 15 to 18 mile day a lot easier.
I've broken from the boys now. I have close to 70 miles on them so it could be weeks or more until we see each other again on the trail. This gives me some time to be on my own. Solitude is welcoming. Time to reflect and time to continue to plan on what's next in life for myself. It's great I have so much time to think it all through.
All the details that come with hiking, setting up camp and planning the march forward is the norm for me now. I have no one counting on me for anything so I literally decided what I'm doing as the day goes by. I take a look at my trail guide and pick out a few options that sit well with me and Im on my way.
Staying at a church hostel 2 days ago in Troutville lead to a slack pack of 16 miles. I rolled along honestly feeling more fit than I have in years. I got through the last 8 miles in just under 2 hours. It's really lit a fire in me feeling this good. I'm truly excited about what it leads to for the rest of the hike.
Steve,who is overseeing the hostel, took me back to Damascus for trail days. This is the biggest trail fair in the country. I was on the fence on whether I wanted to return for a day or 2 but in doing so not only did I have my pack fixed to fit me correctly due to shrinking but I had my hiking poles serviced, received all types of free gear that replaced some things that could use replacement. I ate plenty of free food, got new shoes and socks and mailed winter gear home!
Not only that but I've been able to have a small reunion with some trail family and walked in the trial days parade. I've spent a lot of time with Mountain Dew whom I met early on in the hike. He wasn't able to continue his thru hike due to injury but he's back out doing sections. I've thoroughly enjoyed his company and some wonderful talks about life. A retired minister, he shares the many roads of life he's walked and it's just one more of those many lessons I've spoken of that Im soaking in.
Dew and I are rising early to get out of town before the huge bubble of other hikers do so. He's gonna give me a ride back to where I got off and do some hiking with me. Soon after Im back on my own. I have this feeling much like Christmas Eve for a small child. With my fitness and focus I literally think about hiking all the time. Yes I love the overall experience but the hiking is what drives me. There are so many parts of myself I forgot existed. The AT is resurfacing each of those along the way. When you feel this good. When you see what you're capable of. When you know you are bettering yourself you don't want to look back.....
Tonight I'm being inducted into the Cambridge MA high school athletic Hall of Fame. I'm honored in so many ways but a bit saddened that I won't be there to accept in front of my family. I've had a bit of an emotional up and down day thinking about this but I'm glad knowing that my brother Scott who will be accepting on my behalf will read the words of thank you I've expressed to those who have helped me along the way.
I'm lucky in so many ways for those who have been by my side for so long. I'm sure I've frustrated many of you in different ways from time to time but you're all still here showing love and support. Without you there's no hiking the good hike.
Tomorrow morning I'm back out there hiking it good. Learning more and going north. Stay with me ya'll. I love you for it.....
Jesse AKA the Boston Mule