Day 67 – Sunday, May 15: Damascus, VA to US 60 (Buena Vista, VA) to Hog Camp Gap, 6.3 miles, 812.4 total AT miles

.I woke up ready to go. I mean ready. Trail Days really took a lot out of me. Instead of relaxing as much as possible, I was constantly on the move for two days straight. I stretched out on my new inflatable sleeping pad and started packing up. 

The four of us were ready to go by 8:30am. We cleaned up our small camp and took the trash over to Tent City before heading over to the rental car. On the way, we ran into Push – she was also ready to go and waiting for her ride to pick her up.

She’s about a half-day ahead – we all planned to meet up sometime after reaching Waynesboro. And that was it – Trail Days was officially over for us. The four of us hopped in the car and Black Santa started driving north. I fell asleep in the front seat.

We stopped twice, once for gas (and a sandwich) and again in Roanoke to mail my winnings home (McDoubles also sent his new pack home). We arrived in Lexington, VA at noon and dropped off the rental.

I walked over to the Food Lion to buy a few snacks for the days ahead and eventually met Black Santa and Savage at a Pizza Hut (McDoubles chose to go to McDonalds). The three of us charged our phones and ate.

At 3:00pm, the four of us headed outside to hitch the 10 miles to Buena Vista. It took about 20 minutes, but we finally caught a ride. We were dropped off just outside of Buena Vista and immediately caught another ride to the trail head. We started hiking at 4:30pm.

We were all ready to be back on the trail – it felt like I was coming back from a vacation of sorts and ready to get back to my normal life (of hiking on mountains and sleeping in the woods).

The trail continued with the difficult little ascent of Bald Knob I started four days ago before hitching into Buena Vista. It was brutal – my legs were killing me. I could tell I hadn’t been hiking in a while. It took me two hours to climb the four miles to the summit. I stopped at the top and enjoyed a snack.

Savage had been hiking in the lead all day – she’s getting off trail for a few days next weekend and wants to get ahead of us before doing so (it’ll make it easier on her to catch up when she gets back). Black Santa and McDoubles were also ahead of me as well. I made the quick hike over to Cole Mountain all alone.

Cole Mountain is a bald – the first I’ve run across in quite a while. The weather was nice – maybe a little cool and breezy, but with nice blue skies. I slowed my pace and really enjoyed hiking through the tall grass.

I eventually made it down to Hog Camp Gap. I had been hiking well ever since summiting Bald Knob and felt like I wanted to press on. I walked down to the campsites and didn’t see Savage, Black Santa or McDoubles – they must have pushed further. It was already 7:00 and starting to get colder. I decided to stop there and set up. I didn’t want to get caught hiking in the dark with the temperature dropping like it was.

I quickly set up my tent and pre-hung my bear bag before cooking dinner. After dinner, I chatted with a small group of hikers by the campfire before returning to my tent.

* * *

Tomorrow, I’d like to put up some big miles. I’m 49 miles outside of Waynesboro and would like to arrive Wednesday morning for a quick resupply.

I like my new pack a lot – the Osprey AG is a lot more comfortable than my Gregory Z65. And I’m beginning to enjoy my tent. It’s a little heavier, but is a lot roomier. 

Right now, I’m wearing my Walmart sweatpants and my rain jacket over my hiking shorts and t-shirt – I’m typing all bundled up in my sleeping bag. The forecast calls for high winds and temps in the mid-30s when I wake up. I’m plenty warm now – I hope this new sleeping pad works out.

The next few days should be interesting. While the majority of hikers got off the trail for Trail Days, many didn’t. I didn’t recognize a single hiker on the trail or at camp today. I suppose I’ll have an opportunity to meet some new folks.

I’m really happy to be back on the AT.

Breakfast (Kroger): Ham and cheese sub

Lunch (Pizza Hut): one “giant slice” with pepperoni

Snack: Sierra Mix Clif Bar, one everything bagel, smoked almonds

Dinner: Mac and cheese with two tuna packets

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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