AT 2017: Day 39, Hurricane Mountain Shelter to Mt. Rogers Visitors Center

And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

Trail through a meadow

For the last three days I have passed a steady stream of hikers walking in the opposite direction. Fewer hikers have passed me lately, but on Tuesday and Wednesday I walked by dozens of southbound hikers.

It was as if I was going the wrong way. It felt like I was missing out on something big.

While it's true most of the hikers were headed to something big, I won't miss out completely. I am headed there too, only in a more round-about way.

Our destination is Trail Days at Damascus, which has been likened by some to Woodstock or Burning Man or some other large bacchanal.

DateSaturday, May 20, 2017
WeatherCloudy with a couple light showers in the morning, thundershower in the afternoon, then partly cloudy; warming to the upper 70s
Trail ConditionsSections of roots and/or rocks; not as well maintained as previous sections
Today's Miles19.2
Trip Miles532.6

The event starts today, which explains why I didn't see as many southbound hikers yesterday. Everybody hiking to Trail Days was trying to get there by last night or this morning.

I, on the other hand, still needed to hike all day today so that my wife could pick me up at the Mt. Rogers Visitors Center. Kim had to work today and it would be about a three-hour drive to reach our pickup point. Late this afternoon would be the earliest she could be there.

Because I slept in a shelter last night, I wasn't slowed down in my departure by needing to pack up my tent. I packed up quietly and quickly, so as to not disturb the four young men who shared the shelter with me.

Just before I left the shelter at 7 a.m., I heard a loud "CRACK!" which was soon followed by a "thud!". I knew a large tree or tree limb had fallen nearby, but I couldn't pinpoint where.

Then, as I walked a short distance down the trail I saw where it had fallen. It would have fallen on me if I had been hiking just a couple minutes sooner.

Based on what I remembered from the time several years ago I hiked this section southbound, I knew this would be the easiest day in my push to reach the visitors center. There weren't going to be any difficult climbs today to slow me down. Keeping close to an average of two miles per hour, I should be able to get there by 6:00. That means, however, I can't take many breaks.

The trail started with a long but easy descent from Hurricane Mountain, then crossed over several small rivulets and brooks.

It was cloudy today and a light rain fell a couple times this morning, but the rain was so short I didn't stop to put on any rain gear.

Comers Creek Falls

After hiking a couple hours, I crossed a footbridge at Comers Creek Falls. This was the only spot today that I would classify as a scenic place to stop. Although there were some other nice spots today, they weren't particularly stop-worthy.

There were few hikers on the trail today. A couple of times I met up with Funky Stuff and Jared. Funky Stuff had recently taken time out from his hike to go on a mission trip to Guatemala.


The trail trail continued to alternate between large meadows and dense forests, but was mostly the latter.

By the time I reached Dickey Gap I was feeling good about my chances of reaching my pickup point. This was one of my fallback spots for meeting Kim, but I'm glad my backup plan wasn't needed. It is on the same road as where she will be later today, but much farther off the main highway.

As I arrived here, however, I realized I was no longer carrying my bandana. I usually carried it tied to one of my pack's shoulder straps so that it could be easily reached.

It would seem that it would be easy to notice when something hanging directly in front of me had fallen, but I failed to see it fall off.

Although I could have just left a bandana that costs $1.50 behind, I hated that thought so I started backtracking. I remembered using it a short time ago to wipe sweat from my face, so I was hoping I didn't have to walk far before seeing it.

I was right, the bandana was lying on the trail about a tenth of a mile away. Though I was glad to find it, I had wasted a few minutes, which was time I didn't have to spare.

Another time waster happened a short time later. A brief thunderstorm came through with heavy rain. I stopped to put on my rain gear, but as soon as I got it on, the rain stopped.

As soon as I took off my rain gear, it started raining again.

I put on my rain gear, and yes, it immediately stopped raining again.

This little episode ate up about 30 minutes of hiking time, but once it stopped raining it didn't rain again.

And now I was soaking wet.

To make up some time, I decided to not stop for a break at Trimpi Shelter, which was about four miles past Dickey Gap.

The weather was turning hot and humid after that thunderstorm and a little break would have been nice. Thankfully, though, the trail was getting flatter. Taking a break wasn't as necessary as it might have been on some days.

Tree down on the trail

The trail today was not as well maintained as it had been for the last several days. There were a number of trees down on the trail, and it was obvious they had been there a long time.

The trail went over a slight ridge and I was able to get a cellphone signal here. I checked in with Kim, who told me she was on track to arrive at the visitors center at about 6:00.

Our plan was falling into place.

Broad trail through rhododendron

As the trail neared Partnership Shelter it became broad and flat. It must have been at one time a logging road. This allowed me to turn up the pace and push harder to the road.

I stopped briefly to chat with a couple hikers who were stopped at the shelter. This is a popular hiker stay. Because it's so close to the visitors center and the highway, it's possible to order a pizza and have it delivered here. The shelter also features a free shower and lots of sleeping space in two levels.

As I rounded a corner past the visitors center I saw Kim standing near our truck. She had parked along the road because the gate to the visitors center was closed. She had arrived only ten minutes before me.

Jared and Funky Stuff were also there, standing across the road. They were attempting to hitchhike into town. That was in the same direction as we were headed, so we offered to give them a lift.

On the drive to Walmart, we discovered Jared and Funky Stuff were from a part of Indiana where Kim and I used to live. In fact, Funky Stuff had done some substitute teaching at the same school Kim got her start in teaching.

Funky Stuff and Jared

When we arrived at Walmart we offered to wait for Funky Stuff (pictured left) and Jared, but they said they would be able to find their way from here.

Kim and I drove to Abingdon, Va., where we had made hotel reservations for the weekend. This was going to be a bit more comfortable than camping with the multitudes at Trail Days.

As we checked in, the desk clerk mentioned he was a former hiker. He gave us a nice, corner room.

More trail magic.

Well, I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, Tell me, where are you going
This he told me

Said, I'm going down to Yasgur's Farm
Gonna join in a rock and roll band
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.