Connecting the dots of a trail by way of a section hike to complete a long-distance trail is a rewarding but difficult experience. As a section hiker, you end up basically starting from scratch
every time you go out - with the aching muscles, blisters on tender feet not used to the strain of hiking every day. For longer distances, and if you can manage it, staying out there, you eventually adapt and the aches and pains subside. But for many that is not practical with work and other commitments. The journey of section hiking a trail really is a monumental experience of fortitude and determination.
I am endeavoring to complete a third round of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine and doing so by way of section hiking. It began back in 2008 and is ongoing to this day, though I have had to curb it quite a bit due to a prior accident, the 2020 pandemic, and other issues that have affected the ability to hike for a length of time. But when I am able, I test myself and attempt a few days out on the trail. This most recent time saw me wandering along a modest portion of trail spanning three states: NC, TN and VA from Rt 19 E to Damascus.
Day 1 – On the first day, coupled with travel, I usually do shorter miles. This day saw me ascend from the road and into the NC woods of which the glory of Jones Falls greeted me with a good waterfall, considering some of the dryness out there.
Day 2 ended up being a longer day hiking along with the simplistic Mountaineer waterfall greeting me, as the trail traversed some of the wetter seconds that required footbridges and wandering through vast patches of rhododendron. I ran into a fellow hiker that told of an available campsite that night and glad for the intel, which is very important on a trail as it can help you plan and provide an excellent place to spend the night.
Day 3 – I journeyed across Dennis Cove road – home to several popular hostels including Bob People’s Kincora where I stayed with my son back in ’07 and stopped by again on my sobo hike in 2010. The trail took me to yet another impressive waterfall at Laurel Fork, and some confusing trail as for about 20 minutes I had no idea where the trail went and began wandering aimlessly along the banks of the river before realizing that most definitely was NOT the trail. The AT ascended Pond Mtn then, quite a good climb and appropriately named with frogs of all sizes greeting me along the trail, reminiscent of what one might see in a pond! The night was a stay at Boots Off Hostel for resupply and a night of tenting.
Day 4 – A lovely early morning jaunt around Watauga Lake made for a pleasant morning walk and then obtaining water early which the added weight did not feel good at all on my sore back. At Vandeventer Shelter I hung out as a strong thunderstorm roared on by until I was able to sneak out and make it to camp for the night.
Day 5 – Passing by the old Nick Grindstaff grave, I thought about the man turned hermit who lived by himself for years on Iron Mountain. I noted from the dates inscribed on the stone he had spent his impressionable teenage years during the terrible Civil War, and I wondered if that experience had any bearing with his decision to live as a hermit later in his adult life. And I thought too of the teens bearing the current Covid crises as I write this and wonder how it will affect them, which is sad to consider.
The trail then took me through lovely pastureland of Shady Valley and a prominent AT symbol on the barn until a return to the woods. I barely had time to set up my tent and partially cook a meal when a terrible storm rolled in, and I endured some of the hardest rain I’d ever been in my tent. I wondered if I would float away. But by a miracle the tent hung in there and I did too.
Day 6 – The after effects of a storm yielded me the beauty of a fiery sunrise and so many different mushrooms it was like earthly flowers of different kind along the trail and I headed for my destination and crossing a state line of Virginia to end in Damascus and the conclusion of this interesting wander.
For more adventures check out Blissful Hiking Adventures for my new podcast and my Hiking Adventure Series of Books!