Hello to our faithful followers! We're sitting on a worn-out green leather sofa in 'The Place'--a hostel owned by a church here in Damascus--digesting the 14" calzone that we just downed at the local pizza joint, and listening to the wind sling the rain against the window behind our heads. And let me go ahead and point out that the rain sounds much better against a window from inside a dry room than it does on the fly of Tentville! Oooh, Mc would cringe at my epic run-on sentence up there! But Mikey's got control of the keyboard, so I can write pretty much whatever I want. Allow me to catch y'all up on the last few days of walking...
Tuesday AM, we wake up in the rain that never blew away during the evening like the radio predicted. After cooking breakfast in Tentville (while still snuggled in our bags--we've found that this is a great way to do breakfast!) we break camp and walk four miles to Dennis Cove Gap with plans to pay the Kincora Hostel a visit and hopes of a dry place to have a snack and something proper to drink (like a Coke!). After a short trip up the road, we pulled up to the hostel and found our friends Over the Top, Battlecat, Hazard and Burly sitting around a table playing a game of cards. It's crazy how much a smile/hello from a friend and a dry porch can completely change your outlook on a day of walking with wet feet. We drop our stuff and make lunch while chatting, taking our time since neither of us is eager to step back out into the rain to finish the 18-mile day that we have planned. All of you math people know that as the limit of spending time in comfort approaches infinity, the likelihood of returning to discomfort is zero (this is a proven theorem...feel free to be impressed with my calculus skills). Our day of hiking was over the second that the proprietor Bob Peoples came out and mentioned the wood stove that we was on his way to crank up. We spend the evening in a warm den with our friends and watch as more and more soaking wet hikers trickle in. Bob drives us into Hampton, TN where we purchase and eat 3 large Little Caesars pizzas (Megan will appreciate me noting that she only had four pieces). Before evening is out, I count 22 hikers in the 18 person capacity hostel--don't tell the fire marshal. Mc and a snuggled into one bunk to make room for a German guy named 'Cologne'. End Tuesday.
Wednesday AM, we're up and out by 7 to attack a 24-mile day. We have dinner arrangements in Damascus, VA (51.5 miles north) on Thursday evening and no intention of missing food and kind hospitality. The terrain proves to be more wicked than expected and we move slowly up the steep elevation gains, traversing the rim of lake Watauga all day. We make camp at Iron Mt. shelter as light fails and go to sleep with stiff legs/sore feet. End Wednesday.
Thursday AM, we're slow to get out of bed even after snoozing thru our 6am wake up and 7am move out alarms. After polishing off the dried fruit and a few granola bars, we hit the trail with light packs (unencumbered by large food stores) and high spirits--a new state is a comin' round the mountain when she comes. Today we encounter the first stretch of the Virginia miles of legend--dreams of rolling hills and easy climbs come true and we increase our speed without trying. Miles melt away and before we know it we're looking down on the green valley where Damascus lies. We pull into town just in time for dinner, and are greeted warmly by Eugene Blevins and his wife Linda. They lead us to their home and after a quick shower we join them downstairs along with their younger son Barrett and his girlfriend Christie for a huge dinner of fresh veggies, fruit, Dominoes pizza and the grand finale--angel food cake! We immediately feel like part of the family and conversation is so enjoyable that we keep our hosts up past their bedtime. We sleep like two worn out hikers should in a cozy guest apartment.
This AM, we awake to the smell of Bacon frying, and head downstairs for a breakfast of the southern gods--eggs, bacon, country ham, sausage and biscuits and Gene's homemade gravy. BOOM! We spend a lazy morning reading and washing clothes, and the Blevins take us for a spin around town to give us the low down on all that is Damascus. We are joined by their older son Brian. We say our farewells mid afternoon and head into town with the intent of putting a few miles behind us before end of day, but once again decide to bend our plans to the impending bad weather. We figure we've got plenty of rainy nights in Tentville to come and feel no pressure to add onto that number when we've got a perfectly good hostel nearby. So here we sit on the old green leather sofa with the rain tinking on the glass behind us. God is truly prodigal in his provision for us.
Special hello and thanks to our 'drop box' senders! BD and Megan, OD and Cat, Pee and Em, and all of you fine ladies and gentlemen at Jack Porter (the notes and pictures from home were especially encouraging)! We're so blessed to have such generous and uplifting support.
Eugene and Linda--your hospitality to two strangers was above and beyond. Thank you again for everything!
Grace and peace y'all. And good night from the sweet sweet trail.