I have new boots. Mom brought three pairs from REI in Raleigh, and one pair fits me. I decided I needed to switch from trail runners to boots because of the winter weeks ahead. My shoes no longer kept water off my socks and they poorly insulated my feet, so I beefed up my footwear to a pair of low cut boots that should fare better in the upcoming cold and ice.
I slack-packed again today. I left my pack at the Mt. Rogers Outfitter hostel in Damascus, and Mom drove me twenty miles out of town so I could walk back into town. After dropping me off, mom returned to Raleigh. I wore my new boots today, trying to break them in. When the AT met the flat, paved Virginia Creeper trail, I decided my purposes would be better served by breaking in the boots on the paved path than climbing back into the mountains. I walked the last thirteen miles into Damascus on the bike trail. My boots wore no blisters on my feet, so I think I made the right decision to stay on the path.
While walking on the bike trail, groups in bikes constantly passed me. Occasionally I would catch up to them while they played in the creek or visited different sites, but then they would pass me again. Seeing how quickly and effortlessly people passed on bikes made me realize that biking across the country next year should not be too time consuming. I will be covering more miles than on the Appalachian Trail, but not by much more than 500 miles or so. This year I will have walked 2200 miles in less than six months, so cycling should take something in the neighborhood of two months, maybe less.
When I walked back into Damascus, I found the Pi and Laces had not left town, so I have caught them on the trail. I have been speeding down the trail in the last months, and few people are still ahead of me. Cold Feet had driven into Damascus this afternoon, and I met up with her tonight. By chance she had parked her truck in a church parking lot that would be hosting an event for families tonight. Members of the church park their cars in a circle with the trunks facing the center and decorate their cars with spooky Halloween decorations and the town’s children can go trunk to trunk to trick-or-treat. The cars and pickups were well decorated. Cold Feet’s was not, but I went to the Dollar General at the edge of town and purchased several bags of candy. Cold Feet, Pi, Laces, and I sat on the tailgate of Cold Feet’s early 1980’s red Ford pickups and handed out candy to the circling children.
After we handed out all of our candy, we all returned to the hostel in the middle of town. The Appalachian Trail runs directly through the middle of Damascus, as it does through many towns, and the sidewalk in front of the hostel is the Appalachian Trail. I got in trouble for bringing a six pack of Yeungling to the hostel, but I put it in my room and drank a couple while I flipped through old issues of Backpacker magazine. Seeing the pictures and reading the articles in the magazine reminded me that I am not a backpacker. I am a thru-hiker, but this trip has been and probably will be the extent of my backpacking career. I’ll probably hang up my boots and pack after this trip.