Friday, February 15, 2019

AT- Grayson Highlands to Damascus

Day One: 3.5                                                 Outcasts Total Miles: 2358.9
Connector trail 0.5
Massy Gap to Thomas Knob Shelter 3.0
Day Two: 6.6
Thomas Knob shelter to Whitetop Mountain road

Day Three: 9.8
Whitetop Mountain road to Campsite by pond
Day Four: 12
Campsite by pond to Damascus
Total Miles: 31.9

This hike we used Sundog Outfitters for our shuttle service.

Day one started out in a forty mile an hour wind and rain. We had a hard time just getting our poncho's on. Troy's pack cover blew off from under his poncho. In the tree line it wasn't as bad and we did get to see one herd of ponies. Once we got up on the rocks and flat land out of the trees, it was on. We had to walk at an angle against the wind on the way to the next rock formation. At one point while Marco and I were standing behind a rock formation, we saw Troy coming at us with his poncho over his head. He had to regroup before heading out again. The trail was under water most of the way one to three inches. It was a tough walk to the Thomas Knob Shelter and we missed all that beautiful scenery. Just before the shelter we saw two deer standing in the cloudy field next to the trail.

Once we got to the shelter and got the tarp across the entrance, we started unpacking and figuring what to dry out first. The temperature dropped fast that night calling for 23 degrees, but water froze instantly on the wood surface. We all slept cold that night and the wind shook the whole shelter every time it gusted. Part of the roof slammed as well. 

Day Two:
We got up to extremely cold temperatures. After the bathroom break, I headed down to the water source sliding on the ice. We had icing issues with our filters. As long as you were actively filtering it was fine, but if you ever stopped it froze solid. 

After breakfast we started out on the frozen trail. Slipping and sliding along the way. The wind never let down until sometime the during the night. Walking across the balds was a battle with the wind not to fall over and stay on the trail. There was lots of beautiful views as the sky was clear and we could see forever. We made it to Whitetop Mountain and set up camp before the road. The wood was wet so we had a hard time getting and keeping the fire going. We did start drying out boots and socks. That night the stars and moon came out in the calm and all was well.

Day Three:
With the wind gone, the hike turned out to be nice. Lots of views today. Even got warm. We met up with the Virginia Creeper trail today for a short spell. 

We ended up camping next to a pond on the mountain. The only place for three hammocks was right at the edge. My hammock was actually over the edge of the drop off to the pond. We got a good fire going tonight and Troy actually got all of his stuff dried out. 

Day Four:
I woke up to Marco getting out of his hammock. Then I heard something sliding down the bank and splash into the water. I just knew that my pack went swimming. I sat up and took inventory of everything. I looked down at the pond and didn't see anything in the water. I laid there wondering what it could have been. Then I heard a loud commotion and then a duck flew low level over my tarp. It must have been next to my hammock when Marco got up and headed down to the pond. 

Today's hike was good with lots of views. We did walk a little while in the cloud mist. We saw the Creeper trail quite a few times. I had finally got a signal to talk to Lora and she warned us of the storm coming in. When we got a snack break, Marco said that he had lost a crown. Not a good time for that. 

We continued on until we got to Hwy 58 where we made a decision to cross over to the Virginia Creeper trail and head to the car. We finished the last six miles and then headed to the 7 Trails Grill for some dinner.