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  • Writer's pictureRobert Moore

The Road to Damascus

Paul famously had a 'come to Jesus ' meeting on his way to Damascus. I didn't have anything that epic but it was a fine 4 1/2 day hike into the social hub of the trail. Iconic Damascus - home of the annual Trail Days festival. Damascus is on top of the 'Famous Trail Towns' list. Similar to Hot Springs it has more hikers than townies. And more outfitters than grocery stores.

After the Roan Highlands, we were ready for a zero so we checked into the Mountain Harbor Hostel in Roan Mountain, TN. Home of the 'Best Breakfast on the Trail' - a monumental understatement.

We decided to try something new to mix things up. Known as slack-packing, a shuttle would drive us north and we would hike south on the trail. Additionally, we would only be carrying food and emergency gear. About 20 pounds less than normal. Sounds great! Big let down. Instead of giving our exhausted bodies a break, we inadvertently sped up with less load and ended up feeling worse. Oh well, live and learn.

We had an encounter with a real trail pest while at that hostel. Bedbugs! Two of our hiking buddies that stayed there with us got bit up pretty badly. One had to leave the trail due to an allergic reaction. Cornbread and I escaped unscathed. Just another hazard of the trail.

After a 19.5 mile hike we arrived at Boots Off Hostel on the shore of Wautauga Lake. Spent the night on an ridiculously sloped prepared tent site. Then there was a strong rain storm so our tents took on a little water but no big deal.

We set out the following morning and were met again with a downpour - for about 6 hours. The only shelter in that area was understandably full so we pushed through to the next road for a pick up from a supporter. We ended up logging 21 miles in the storm - our biggest day yet. We spent the night at the supporter's house where we were fed and dried out.

Two and a half more days of easy hiking and we arrived at Damascus and we passed into Virginia (for about 600 miles). I say easy but not without a lot of pain. I pushed my shoes too far and the cushion was completely gone - my feet were trashed. So, the first order of business was to replace my worn out shoes. To be fair, they had 500 miles of hard miles on them. Just another hazard of the trail.

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