October 24
Damascus, VA

Visit: I drove up to Damascus this weekend and hiked a couple of days with Laz. I went to exit 54 on I-81, the place where the AT crosses back to the east side of the freeway, about a 6 hour drive. Murray got in in the afternoon and got a room at the Relax Inn. I got in at 11 pm. We went into Marion for breakfast and then paid the Relax Inn manager to shuttle us to the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area Headquarters on Hiway 16. We started north to the Relax Inn at 11. It was an 11.5 mile walk. About 5 minutes down the trail, we run into Finn, Steady, and Spork, and the biggest surprise, Loot. He had made Damascus the week before and then hiked back north to meet the group??!!

We had a great hike, about 5 hours worth. The fall colors are about peak in that area. The last mile or so of the trail was through hilly pastureland with cows. It was very scenic.

Friday night, we went to the SOBO gathering at the group camp at Grayson Highlands State Park on Mt. Rogers. The gathering was organized by Jack Straw and there were about 12 SOBOs there. I grilled trout and salmon, boiled corn on the cob, and had a salad for the backpack food weary hiker. I made 2 apple pies to take up and the group wiped out one of them. We slept in the car to avoid the wet heavy fog.

The next morning, many of us went into Damascus for a hiker breakfast. Loot had rented a pickup in Marion and we dropped my car off at Dickey Gap and caught a ride to the Mt. Rogers Headquarters. We left at 12:20 for the 14.6 mile hike to the car. There were a lot of hikers around the visitor center. We met 3 SOBOs. The hike was very pleasant with a couple of climbs and chilly temps. We arrived at Dickey Gap at 6:20 and gave a ride to the SOBO from Tallahassee. He stayed at the hiker hostel at the church in Troutdale. We opted for The Place hiker hostel in Damascus. We had a $100 meal of trout almondine and bourbon salmon, wine, beer, and cheesecake and key lime pie at the Mill Restaurant in town. Very satisfying after a long hike.

I got Laz and the Tallahassee guy on the trail at 8:20 on Sunday morning and headed back to Dahlonega. I stopped off at the AT crossing at I-40 and Hwy 64 and talked to some hikers. Stopped off at the Rainbow Springs Campground at Standing Indian and found that they are closing for the season on the 31st. The register there showed that several SOBOs have passed thru, including Rain Man, who was just ahead of us in Maine, and Oatmeal Stout, Megan, who had camped with us on our 4th night in Maine.

Murray's plan for the Sunday walk was to do 34.8 miles from Dickey Gap to the Lost Mountain shelter and he did it in 12 hours of hiking! He had left his pack and food drop box at The Place and was hiking with just a daypack with a sleeping bag slung underneath. He did 17 miles on into Damascus on Monday.

He is now off to Irwin, Tennessee and Miss Janet's. Vivian and I will drive to Hot Springs on the 5th to deliver the next to last drop box and soak in the spring.

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