Tuesday, June 6, 2017 (Day 34)
It was past 7 pm before I headed out of town. I sat at a coffee shop utilizing the wifi and watching the flow of hikers that came in and out. The ones I knew and had a repor with joined me at my table and we chatted a bit. I enjoyed the town and it’s people.
I finally set out for what was to be a night hike.
The Appalachian Trail and the Virginia Creeper Trail (a local trail that runs through Damascus) merge for a brief period.
According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation: “The Virginia Carolina Railway which is now the Virginia Creeper Trail was originally built to haul timber cut from what is now Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. It is estimated that between 1907 and 1930 approximately 15 million board feet of lumber were removed in a typical year. In 1912 National Lumber Magazine reported that Washington County, Virginia produced more lumber than any county in the United States and more than the entire state of Pennsylvania. The forest, unlike mineral resources, is renewable. As the once clear-cut forest regenerated into a mature woodland, it’s recreation potential was recognized. The rail-bed which was the means of removing huge amounts of wealth from the forest is now returning ecotourism dollars to the region. The economy of Damascus was severely hurt when several factories closed during the 1960s. Tourism related business based on the popularity of the Virginia Creeper Trail, have played an important role in the towns economic recovery. Today the 17-mile portion of the Mount Rogers Recreation Area are jointly owned by the towns of Abingdon and Damascus. The US Forest Service manages the balance of trail between Damascus and the North Carolina state line.”
I did not plan to go far. Every time I passed a campsite, however, it either didn’t feel quite right, or was occupied.
Once I reached the Creeper Trail trailhead I smelled many campfires. At one point I heard a female voice say in the darkness “You thru-hiking? You need a place to camp? You can camp with me if you want.” I kindly told her that I planned to head on, just got a bit turned around in the dark was all. I had the feeling she might be living on the trail. Maybe she was lonely.
I continued on. The trail began to climb–switchback after switchback along a ridgeline. No place to camp in sight. Finally I came to a spot flat enough to camp. After only 7 miles it was nearing midnight. At least I was back on the trail. I was happy to call it a night.