Day 42 – Wednesday, April 20: Damascus, VA (Zero Day), 469.0 total AT miles.

I woke early and made my way outside to the patio. The breeze coming off the river was refreshing. If I wanted to leave Damascus before dusk, I still had a lot to accomplish.

8:30am – After a quick (leftover grilled meat) breakfast, I went back to my room to start getting ready for the day. I noticed the charging light on my external battery was unlit. I unplugged it from the wall – it hadn’t taken any charge since I plugged it in yesterday. I immediately tried a new outlet and was happy to see it still worked. I guess the outlet by my bed was out.
9:00am – I walked down to the Food City to supplement my mail drop resupply. While I received enough beef jerky, almonds and other assorted snacks to last me for at least a week, I still needed to buy a few Pasta Sides and salmon packets to last me the 3 to 4 days until I reach Atkins, VA.
I bought some Jif peanut powder. It’s got 8 grams of protein per scoop and looks to be a low-fat way to add protein to my dinners.

I also bought a huge box of mini banana Moon Pies. Every since I had one (trail magic) over a week ago, I’ve been craving them.
And on Shaggy’s recommendation, I bought some powdered Gatorade. It’s been getting very warm out and I need to start thinking about replacing electrolytes as I’ll soon be sweating a lot.
Oh yeah, more kale too.
Food City: $33.81
10:00am – After dropping my groceries at the lodge and checking my external battery (25% charged), I headed back into town to visit the outfitters.
I purchased two Sea to Summit 7 liter waterproof dry bags to replace my bulky 20 liter food bag. It was my hope that two smaller food bags would ride better in my pack than one large one.
Adventure Damascus: $38.98
I walked next door and bought a pair of Outdoor Research lightweight gaiters. While they aren’t waterproof, they will prevent debris from getting into my shoes and giving me more heel blisters.
On the way out, I snagged a box so I could ship my winter sleeping bag and old boots home.
Mount Rogers Outfitters: $22.00
11:30 – With new food bags in tow, I began organizing my mail drop and recently purchased food. I condensed my beef jerky into three Ziplock bags to save space. I put all my pastas in one bag, my dinner proteins (bacon bits, salmon, chicken) into another – this just makes it easier to find what I need when I get into camp.
It took a while to get my food bags balanced, but they ride a whole lot better in my pack than the one big bag.
1:00 – After boxing up my winter gear (and some birthday gifts to ship to my mom and sister), I walked back downtown to the post office. While waiting in line, I chatted with a local about my hike. Damascus really is a friendly town.
2:00 – I made my way back to the lodge to grab my keyboard. There were only two places in town (that I knew of) that served food and had wifi. I headed back downtown to Hey Joe’s and had a burrito while I updated the blog, paid bills, etc.
I was unable to fix my camera lens last night and started pricing out a replacement online.
5:00 – And done. I was excited to have finished all my town errands and wanted to get back on the trail. My plan was to hike only two miles to a campsite. This would give me a great head start on tomorrow.
When I got back to the lodge, I checked my external battery – it was only 50% charged.
This posed a huge problem. With my digital camera out of commission, I’d be relying on my cell phone more. My next scheduled zero day would be in 8 days (Pearisburg, VA). I needed a full battery to go the distance.
I was stuck. But this wasn’t a bad thing – everyone else had booked a second night at the lodge.
And Moon Boots baked a ham – it was delicious. We spread some slices on a sheet pan and dried them in the oven in an attempt to make ham jerky. It was better than you’d think.
7:00 – Instead of eating from my food bag, I headed back to Food City and bought some pork chops and peanut sauce – Savage had also been planning on tenting tonight (further up trail), but decided to tag along.
I walked through the bakery and was drawn to this giant sheet cake, airbrushed in a crazy neon rainbow pattern. It was hideous. 

I put it in the cart.
Food City: $26.15
8:00 – I walked back to the lodge and found Medicine Man, Moon Boots, Canuck and Clutch all playing poker – I asked if I could jump in as dealer. I had a blast.
9:00 – The chops went on the grill and I was soon enjoying dinner.
10:00 – I wanted to test out my new summer bag and decided to sleep on the patio – it’s going to get into the low 50s tonight.
I’m tired, and a little frustrated I wasn’t able to leave town. But I’m thankful I got to hang out with everyone tonight. Moon Boots and I discussed the probable reality that the seven of us likely won’t be able to continue hiking at the same pace. We are one of the larger groups I’ve run across out here – most hikerS team up in groups of three.
Medicine Man will probably need to take it a little slower with Summer, for instance. Canuck and Clutch were talking about going to a music festival and Shaggy’s going to visit family in a few weeks.
It’s a little sad to think that this “trail family” might not get to share another place in town again – or even another campsite for that matter. Everyone here is hiking their own hike. I’m just glad I’ve had the opportunity to share it so far with some genuinely good people – I sincerely trust each one of them. I have to.
Staying this second night in town (or third, depending on how you look at it) doesn’t really effect my timeline moving forward. My goal is to hike about 10 miles out of Damascus tomorrow – I’ve found it’s never a good idea to put up big miles after a day off.
If all goes according to plan tomorrow, I’ll wake up the following morning with about 155 miles until I reach Pearisburg, VA – I’d like to be there in 7 to 8 days.
On lodgings: most hostels charge around $20 for a space in the bunk house, maybe $30 for a room. While it’s fun to hang out with other hikers, I’ve largely stayed in hotel rooms. It’s usually just a few bucks more (after I split the room), but the amenities are so much nicer.
I paid $33 a night at the lodge to use a full kitchen and grill. We all ate so much better cooking at home than if we had gone to restaurants the past two days. It was well worth the extra $13.
Breakfast – leftover sausage, homemade granola (it’s got pumpkin seeds and almonds)
Lunch – vegetarian burrito with chicken added, chips and salsa, about 4 sweet teas
Dinner – grilled pork with spicy peanut sauce, rainbow sheet cake

Author: Chris Kummer

Hey y'all - Cool Dad here. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to thru-hike the AT. It remained a nagging thought for nearly a decade - then it got loud enough to warrant my attention. So I quit my unfulfilling job(s) in Seattle and commenced hiking north from Springer in the spring of 2016. And I'm exceedingly thankful I did. The people I met, the things I saw, the gross foods I ate - not a day goes by without fondly remembering life on the trail. If you've already thru-hiked a long trail, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're thinking about tackling a long-distance hike, do it. Do it now. I'm probably gonna do it again...

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