Climbing out of town is always rough. I suppose it is some sort of penance to atone for the gluttony of food and libations in which we indulge while enjoying civilization. But the more likely reasons are that towns are often located at lower elevations near rivers, and our packs are extra heavy due to a fresh resupply of food. Whatever the case, today I struggled.

It was raining when I woke up this morning, which made it hard to motivate myself to get going. The little devil on my shoulder was saying, “Just stay here one more day and the weather might improve.” The little angel on the other shoulder was saying, “Get up you lazy bastard! No rain, no pain, means no Maine!” I thought, “Some language coming from an angel,” but this time the angel won, so I crawled out of my nice warm bed and started to pack.

I really enjoyed my stay at the Woodchuck Hostel, and thanked Woodchuck for his hospitality as we were settling my account. He asked me if I was ready to go, and I told him no, but that I was leaving anyway. He understood completely and jokingly told me that during his thru-hike, had he stayed one more day waiting for the weather to clear at Shaw’s Hostel in Maine, we could have become a Maine resident.

After putting on my rain gear, strapping on my boots, and weighing my pack (a record high 29 pounds!), I said goodbye to Chunky Monkey and Survivor. They have decided to get off the trail for a while to allow Survivor’s foot to heal, and are renting a car to go tour Gettysburg. We wished each other luck, and I headed down the road.

The A.T. goes right through the town of Damascus and follows the Virginia Creeper Trail for a half mile before turning towards the woods (via another beloved set of stairs). From there, it climbs an unnamed mountain for a 1,000 feet, and then comes back down to join the Virginia Creeper Trail again for about 100 yards. From there, it climbs another 1,100 feet to Saunders Shelter, to once again descend to the Virginia Creeper Trail and follow it for about a mile. There are a lot of thru-hikers who let sanity prevail and just stay on the easy grade of the Virginia Creeper Trail, bypassing the two climbs, and return to the A.T. at the final junction. I came here to hike the A.T. (every inch of it), not the Virginia Creeper Trail, so, naturally, I took the insane route.

Appalachian Trail

Virginia Creeper Trail

With my backpack feeling like it weighed a ton, and my legs feeling lethargic from two days rest, I gutted it out over those two mountains. On the bright side, it stopped raining shortly after I started that first climb, so the trail was in pretty good condition. At 5:30 pm, I stopped for water at a stream, near the end of the second descent, to assess my situation (I didn’t get started until 10:15 am because that angel wasn’t persuasive enough). Because it was getting late, I decided to camp on the Virginia Creeper Trail, two miles short of my intended destination.

Appalachian Trail

The Climb to Nowhere

Now I am at a lovely campsite tucked in among the rhododendron along the bank of the Laurel Creek. The white noise from the rushing rapids of the river should provide me with a restful night’s sleep. For Easter, Kate lovingly slipped some Peeps and a Reese’s chocolate bunny into my resupply package. The Peeps disappeared instantly, but I carried that bunny over two mountains today and devoured him for desert. I suppose I will atone for that gluttony tomorrow.

Appalachian Trail

Home for the Night