Thomas Knobb Shelter -> Damascus, VA!
We got an early start and since we actually got some sleep (finally wasn’t freezing), we said our goodbyes, and began the journey to our final destination in the good company of Slingshot (super cool dad, superfit trail runner, and all around great dude). We had 15.6 miles ahead of us, and were blessed with the best weather, bountiful energy, and thrilled adrenal glands keeping us well supplied. The three of us took a 1 hour lunch break, stopped to check out gorgeous bridges and river views, and hiked along the Virginia Creeper Trail for a bit. We founds many places deserving of their own future adventures, hopefully in the Spring of 2015.
The Virginia Creeper Trail is part of the Rails to Trails project, something I never knew about before this hike. The Rails to Trails Conservancy is an organization that works to transform retired railroad tracks into hike/bike trails – all over the US! The Virginia Creeper Trail (New Virginia Creeper – my favorite bluegrass song) is 17 miles long and I think traverses beautiful land from Damascus to White Top Mountain. I sooo can’t wait to check this out, and all the others too!
With about 5 miles left to go, and having made excellent time so far, some hikers high kicked in; and that with the exhilaration of completing something so immense and deeply felt, we finished our 15.6 mile hike by 2:13 PM, surpassing all the goals we’d set and breaking my own hiking PR. We did it in 5 hours 13 minutes of actual hiking time. Arriving in Damascus (the trail runs right through town) I choked back tears stemming from a huge sense of accomplishment, of actually FINISHING something for the first time ever, of seeing all the positive changes in every single part of my being, of witnessing my own evolution and that of my hiking partner, of feeling higher than ever before. No words can really do justice to what I felt and still feel about having done this.
We had originally planned to camp in town but I longed for a real bed. So we stayed at Crazy Larry’s Hostel – he did our laundry, fed us high calorie junk food, gave us a comfortable place to sleep, hooked us up with hostel clothes, new toothbrushes, and how showers. We went to the only bar in town, The Blue Blaze Cafe, and met up with a friend of Turtle’s who lives not to far off in NC. I read a little bit from Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, and we were probably out by 9:30. Oh the hiker life!
Next morning Crazy Larry made us a stellar breakfast and we were picked up by Woodstock and my younger brother who hasn’t a trail name yet. The journey back to civilization was pleasant despite the weird discomfort of really leaving the woods. My home. My spirit’s home. But I sure as hell found my roots…that was it. The purpose, the goals, the mission. I found everything I was looking for and much that I wasn’t. I know Turtle felt the same way, and I wonder how his reintegration is going.
My roots…were growing deep in the fertile and rocky, somewhat acidic soil next to the mountain streams. All along. There is no need to dig them up for harvest, to get any use out of them. No reason to try to transplant the roots becasue they know where they grow best. Deeper, bigger, into the Fertile Soil of the Motherland, Virginia is where I belong.
It’s time for me to be there again, to ground firmly next to the that stream and let my branches grow high toward the sky, where I can dance in the wind with the Maples, Oaks, Chestnuts, Hickories, Hemlocks, Elms, Birch, Beech, Rhodies, Firs, Spruce, Walnuts, Cypress, Magnolias. Where I can nurture the Ginseng and Goldenseal and Solomon’s Seal. Where I can fight the Kudzu and Adelgids with good intention and resist the pipeline’s, fracking, and mountain top removal. Where I can help my fellow outcasts learn to get healthy and empower women and girls in the wilderness. These things, all I have to do, and I have to do it in Virginia, the place for lovers and hikers and moonshiners and self reliant rednecks who have a thing or 2 to teach the self professed hippies in the world.