Great weather and a great day to leave Damascus. Gorgeous scenery, relatively easy terrain, and nice temperatures made for a good hiking day. I’m glad to be out of town and hiking again.

Since I knew I had to wait on the post office I didn’t bother to get up before 7:00. I literally got up and then headed out about 8:00 to go grab breakfast. It was a pretty chilly morning so I was wearing my fleece.

I went to the diner again to have breakfast and had a huge meal of fried chicken biscuits and gravy, eggs, hash browns, and grits. Halfway through the meal I got the text notification that my package had arrived at the post office. I got there right at 9:00 and got the package and headed back to the hostel to get packing.

It didn’t take too long to get ready. I was packed and out of the hostel by 9:45. The trail leaving Damascus follows the Virginia Creeper Trail for about a half a mile and then turns abruptly up a mountain. In ’89 I had taken the Creeper Trail for several miles because the AT and Creeper is exact back and forth for about 12 mi. This time I decided to take the official route.

The trail did do quite a bit of climbing but after two or three miles when it rejoined the Virginia Creeper Trail again there was hardly any descent. So even though the trail may have been steeper I guess it had more flat sections because it was all about the same in the end. At this point the AT just crosses the Virginia Creeper; it doesn’t follow it again.

Further up the trail there is a side trail that leads down to the Virginia Creeper Trail that some people take as an alternate to bypass the two mountains that the trail is just about to cross over. It’s over 4 miles worth of climbing and I know it’s well over a thousand feet but I didn’t bother to look it up. I did however count that there were 16 switchbacks on the first mountain. 4 hours later the AT joins the Virginia Creeper for about a half a mile before it turns off again. I am betting that this 4 hours of AT trail would take only about 2 hours on the Virginia Creeper Trail. If I do this section again I might take the Virginia Creeper again because it is definitely more scenic but also more crowded with bikes. I wouldn’t do it on a weekend.

The rest of the trail afterwards was pretty tame. There was still more climbing but nothing ridiculous; it was just normal AT trail.

Just after 6:00 I came across a shelter where two guys were cooking an entire pork tenderloin over the fire. They invited me to stay and have some but I wanted to hike some more since I got a late start today. I just ate a quick snack and chatted with them for about 10 or 15 minutes and then headed on. I passed two other hikers heading south after leaving the shelter so maybe they got to have some of the tenderloin.

Not too far after the shelter the trail crossed more pastures. These pastures were pretty active; I could see and smell fresh cow patties. It was pretty but it was a small pasture probably less than a quarter mile across.

The trail turned into the woods again and is the beginning of a two and a half mile climb up to Buzzard Rock. I kind of wanted to make it there before sunset so that I could cowboy camp on top while the sun was setting. The terrain is just a little too steep to be able to make it before sunset though, so I opted to stop at a campsite only about a quarter mile from the pasture.

 I found a great tree to hang the bear bag. There have been signs ever since leaving Damascus about bear problems in the Mount Rogers and Grayson Highlands area and that all the shelters have bear boxes that you’re supposed to put your food in. Apparently the bears in this area have learned how to retrieve bags from trees so let’s hope mine is secure enough to last the night.