Location: Double Springs Shelter, Tennessee
I left Damascus today in the hot morning. I was dragging all day. Having slack-packed for two days, I felt that I wasn’t going to reach the top of the first mountain with a full pack pulling down on my shoulders. Shortly after leaving town, I met Cold Feet slack-packing towards Damascus. She is closing another section of trail between Erwin, TN and Damascus. I didn’t reach the shelter at 25 miles like I had planned, but I did cross into Tennessee. I completed the 535 miles through Virginia in 29 days. Maine, my first state, at 280 miles, took around 35 days to complete, so I have more than doubled my speed.
This evening I had a miserable hike. Darkness closed around me before I expected it to, and a storm swept over the mountains from the west. I put on my headlamp, but the moisture was so thick in the air that the glare from my light blinded me and I couldn’t see anything. I walked along a rocky path that had been flooded. Water rushed down the slope at me, rushing over rocks and pulling at my weary ankles. The glare from my headlamp obstructed my vision so badly that I could barely see the ground. In the rain and the fog, I didn’t spot a white blaze for miles. I just continued to push through the nasty night, with a growing sensation in my stomach that I was terribly lost.
I came to glen at high elevation, and I felt that I was near the trail. I couldn’t see further than a few feet because of the mist. I hollered, ‘Shelter!’ But I did not hear a response. If a person had been nearby, I suppose they would have answered. I decided that I must be near the shelter because I had hiked for so long, but I could not risk wandering into an open field of unknown size and risk losing my bearings. It happens easily enough when the sun is shining. I scratched an X at the entrance to the trail that had brought me to the field, and then I proceeded to follow the tree line all the way around the field. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I had luck on my side. I came across a fork in the path. I chose to walk left, and after a few steps I was inside the shelter. It had been ten feet from me and I would never have guessed it to be. The fear that had been developing in my belly subsided after I felt the shelter with my hands. I rolled out my damp gear in the back corner of the shelter and cooked a much needed hot meal. I was too afraid to wander away from the shelter in the mist and night to find water, so I drew water from a fresh puddle by the shelter and boiled it before I drank it.