Written April 11, not sure when I will be able to send it.
As the title implies, I’m in Virginia! After a 25 mile day the day before yesterday I finally made it into Damascus, probably the premier trail town. It’s the last major waypoint on what is usually considered the first portion of the hike. As one past thruhiker put it, if you’ve made it to Damascus you’ve proven that you have the physical ability and desire to make it to Khatadin, after that, it’s a test of will, planning (so you don’t run out of money), and a little bit of luck (so you don’t get injured).
Speaking of injuries, I found out yesterday that one of the group I started with is off the trail for at least a month with a stress fracture in his leg. There are things that make me scared out here, as I’ve mentioned before, but the thing I fear the most is an injury of that kind. There’s basically nothing I could do to prevent it and in one fell swoop it would ruin my hike.
Since leaving Damascus I’ve climbed into the Virginia highlands and I’m just shy of my 500th mile tonight. We’ve had a coldsnap and it’s COLD out here. Probably the coldest it’s been yet, even colder than in Georgia early on. The water in my water bottle even froze while I was cooking dinner. So I’m in for a cold night. I picked a kindof silly camping spot, it’s too windy here, because of the beautiful view, so I’m using all of my ingenuity to stay warm. I’ve wrapped the outside of my sleeping bag with my rain jacket and trash compactor bags to act as a thermal barrier. And I’m using the old hiker trick of stuffing the inside of my bag with any and all extra pieces of clothing. If it gets too cold, I’ll just have to get up and hike through the night until it warms in the morning. I think I should be okay though (I hope).
Another reason I camped up here is the ponies! I seem to be the only one who didn’t know this starting out on the trail, but this section of the trail has wild ponies living on it. They amble about in decent sized herds ignoring the hikers for the most part. I believe that they’re the descendants of escaped ponies and have since then become feral.
Not too much else to report. The past few days have been tougher, as I sortof expected. As wonderful a time as I was having the section before I wrote my last post, I knew it would be inevitably followed by a low bit. But it’s all part of the trail. As they say, the AT gives the highest highs and the lowest lows. I’ve mainly been feeling fatigued and a few old maladies (blisters, foot pain) have flared up again, right when I thought I had overcome them. It’s hard, but as with so much else out here, I know it will pass if I just keep walking.