Day 91 (Wilbur Dam Rd to stealth site near a rhododendron bush)

My awesome little sister hiked the Appalachian Trail this Spring/Summer. She comes home tomorrow, and I am so excited to see her and hug her skinny little guts out. She went solo and literally had the time of her life. I am so proud of her. She has always been my hero, so this propels her into Super-hero status. Welcome home Sooz. You’re da Bomb!Claudia Franks

It rained all night and I woke up to a light rain. Ironically, I was out of drinking water because the rain storm forced me to stop early. It was going to be at least a 2 mile hike to a good water source.

As I was leaving my camp site and crossing a through road, a young man pulled up in a pick up. His name was Scott and he had a lot of bottled water. We visited while I filled up my water bottles and drank a couple of bottles. He said he used to be one of those local teenagers that would party at the campsites on the trail. I laughed and told him I had been one of those teenagers too. Fun way to start the day.

It stayed overcast and rainy a lot of the day. I had to wait out a thunderstorm mid morning at the Shook Branch Recreation Area on Lake Watauga. It had restrooms, water, and electricity to charge my phone. Not a bad place to wait out a storm. It rained off and on during the afternoon and evening but no lightning and thunder so I kept hiking.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 90 (Double Springs Shelter to Wilbur Dam Rd)

This Just In...
Dan’s Top Ten Memories of AT hike with Cashmere!
10. Skittles are a Girl’s best friend.
9. Wild Blueberry munching.
8. Fern Carpeted Cathedrals
7. Cold August morning atop Mount Rogers
6. Rocky PUDs
5. Wild Ponies of the Grayson Highlands
4. Sleeping to the sound of tinkling streams
3. Biscoff wraps
2. The apple pie greeting from my supportive wife.
1. The many miles of pleasant banter!
and the top memory from the weekend is….
The enthusiastic consumption of “2” BLT’s
Thanks for allowing me to share a small potion of your grand adventure! Dan

I had breakfast and visited with the two men that had arrived at the shelter late. They were father and son (probably mid 60s and early 40s). It was the first time the father had been backpacking in 20 years so he had all new equipment. I answered some questions they had about my equipment. Both were really nice guys.

It had rained during the night but the skies were clearing up as I started hiking. I saw a bear (#16) on the ridge. I had hoped to hike a longer distance today but I got caught in a thunderstorm again. I considered hiking through it but the next couple of miles involved walking over the Watauga Dam and then walking by Watauga Lake. So I set my tent up at a site near the road and called it a day.

day-090-01

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 89 (Damascus / Old Mill to Double Springs Shelter)

I’m finally out of Virginia!!! Thru hikers often talk about the Virginia Blues because the trail has so many miles in the state. Also, so much of the trail is a “green tunnel” with limited views. For me, I think it was particularly tough because I did it right after summiting Katahdin. My family and friends that have visited me on the trail in Virginia have made all the difference. Thank you so much to my mom, my sister, and my good friends Martha and Dan. You guys are so awesome. Also, thank you to everyone on Facebook that has clicked “like”, written comments, and posted encouragements. You will never know how much you have meant to me. Bring on Tennessee!!!!

The alarm went off at 6:15 this morning. Dan and I had a plan to meet for breakfast at 7:00 so I got up and got moving pretty quickly. The breakfast at the Old Mill was really good. The Blueberry muffins were particularly tasty. 🙂

After breakfast, we went grocery shopping and then went to Mount Rogers Outfitters (MRO) for my resupply that Martha had mailed a couple weeks ago. They didn’t open so we used the time to walk the section of the AT that goes through town so I could start at the train caboose on the southern edge of town. When I was ready to go, my pack had 6 days of food in it so it is heavier than it had been in a while.

day-089-01

I said goodbye to Dan at 9:30 and started the climb out of town. I had so much fun with Dan and his support was awesome! I passed the Virginia-Tennessee border within a few miles. Yay! Two more states to go. The guy at MRO had said that there was a lot of bear activity on the ridge south of town and I totally believe him. I saw one bear almost immediately and then a momma bear with three cubs a little later. I was finally able to get some pictures of bears. Yay! This makes 15 bears I’ve seen on the hike.

3 bear cubs up a tree

Look carefully and you will see mommy bear

Look carefully and you will see mommy bear

I got to the Double Springs Shelter about the time a thunderstorm started. I decided to wait it out in the shelter. Unfortunately, the storm lasted until it was dark so I stayed at the shelter for the night. I tried to sleep in the shelter but the mice were keeping me awake. So about 10:00 I set up my tent. Two other hikers arrived at 10:30 so I’m really glad I’m in my tent.

Going to try to take a nap in the shelter during the evening thunderstorm.

Going to try to take a nap in the shelter during the evening thunderstorm.

Day 88 (Thomas Knob Shelter to the Old Mill)

Thomas Knob Shelter is at an elevation of 5430 ft. It was windy and colder than it has been at night. It is the first night I kind of missed my sleeping quilt but I haven’t missed carrying the weight in my pack.

Dan slept well in his sleeping bag under his tarp. He woke up first and headed out 25 minutes before me because he wanted to hike the blue trail up to the summit of Mt Rogers. This added 1 mile to the daily mileage so I decided to sleep in and meet him at the trail head. He said it was a wooded summit with no view. So glad I didn’t add it to my day but Dan felt good about his decision to add it to his day.

Our day included plenty of climbing to get to Damascus. The trail was beautiful. The Mount Rogers ATC does a really good job with trail maintenance. Early afternoon the AT merged with the Virginia Creeper Trail for a couple miles here and there. It was fun seeing the families riding mountain bikes on the VC Trail. The rivers made me want to go fishing.

Dan did great on his first 28+ mile day of backpacking. That is a huge number of miles for someone that hasn’t been hiking almost everyday this summer. Typically only thru hikers are doing those kind of miles with a pack.

Once in Damascus, Wolf shuttled us to Dan’s car. We had a so-so dinner at Bobo’s. Then we got a couple rooms at the Old Mill for the night. This was a really cool hotel/restaurant that is in a remodeled old mill. It was good to get cleaned up and sleep in a bed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 87 (Pugh Mountain Road to Thomas Knob Shelter)

School, schmool. All of your students have smart phones, email them their assignments and just keep hiking!Janette Maas

We had an awesome camp site up on the ridge last night. This morning Dan fixed oatmeal for our breakfast. Then we packed up and hiked 2.5 miles to where Dan had parked. I unloaded all the things from my pack and took off on a 13.5 mile slack pack. Dan parked a couple of times and ran in to meet me so we could run together. Each time he brought me food and drinks.

I’m definitely getting spoiled. 🙂 At mile 16, we met a shuttle driver named Wolf and Dan arranged to leave his car there to backpack the 40 miles into Damascus (12 miles today and 28 miles tomorrow) with me. Then we were off. We had fun hiking through the Grayson Highlands State Park. Incredible views and we saw lots of ponies. We tented near the Thomas Knob Shelter surrounded by fur trees.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 86 (Knot Maul Branch Shelter to Pugh Mountain Road)

We woke up at 6:00 and Dan made us oatmeal for breakfast. Yes, I’m quickly becoming spoiled. 🙂

We hiked the 2.1 miles to his car and then I slack packed the next 12.2 miles. There were a lot of pastures in the early miles today and some of them had cows in them. Cows are scarier than bears to me. At least bears run away typically.

day-086-02

Dan drove to the end of the 12.2 mile section and ran back to meet me. We met up with about 5 miles to go. Once back at the car, we ate a very yummy lunch at The Barn. Then I slack packed the next 11 miles and Dan ran in to meet me again. The last 5.5 miles of the day I did with loaded pack. Dan hiked in from VA 670 and we camped close to where we met up. I got in 30.8 miles and Dan got in 23 miles today. We will both sleep well tonight.

It was a really fun day. Awesome to have Dan on the trails with me.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 85 (Laurel Creek to Knot Maul Branch Shelter)

It was a nice climb up to the ridge to start the day. Some ridges can be very rocky and technical but not this one. It was nice smooth single track which was great for the early morning.

I stopped at the creek near Jenkins Shelter to do laundry and clean up a bit. Dan will be meeting me this evening so I don’t want to smell too bad. Haha. Then I climbed up to the next ridge which was a lot more rocky than the first one of the day.

I saw a bear and an opossum. I believe that is bear #10 and opossum #1 for the hike. From that ridge I climbed to the Chestnut Knob Shelter. This is a really cool shelter that is made of stone and has 4 walls and a door. I ate lunch there and enjoyed the view. I probably stayed a bit too long so I had to kick it in gear to meet Dan 9 miles away at the Knot Maul Branch Shelter. It was so good to see his smiling face as I neared the shelter.

Dan cooking dinner with his Kelly Kettle Stove

Dan cooking dinner with his Kelly Kettle Stove

We decided to camp near the shelter. Once we were set up, he gave me a bag from Subway and said he had brought me a sandwich. However, when I opened the bag it contained 3 Dunkin Doughnuts! Sweet!! I sat and ate all the doughnuts while I watched Dan cook our dinner using his Kelly Kettle Stove. Thank you Bev for the yummy spaghetti. It totally hit the spot. I’m going to sleep tonight with a very happy tummy. 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.