Tennessee Turnpike

When I got up in the morning at Kincora, I got a chance to meet Bob Peoples. He’s a well known trail maintainer for the Tennessee Eastman section. I chatted all morning with him and other hikers. He even gave me more Aqua Mira drops since I had run out. When I finally was ready to leave, I hopped over to Black Bear Resort just down the road. I finally got my fix of hot food. I didn’t get a start until the afternoon.

Shortly into the hike I got to Laurel Falls, a popular local swimming hole and view point.


I stopped for the night at Pond Flats after a big climb. It wasn’t very far, but it was quiet and I thought I’d be alone. Also, the next several miles had a closed shelter and prohibited camping. Unfortunately a few loud ladies happened upon and decided to stay also. Oh well, have to share the woods.

Daily mileage: 5.2, AT mile: 422.2

I got an early start the next morning. Today was the day I’d been thinking about. Not only did I want to get my first 20 mile day, I wanted the whole marathon! That’s right, I wanted 26+ miles. The area is known to be pretty flat and is dubbed “The Tennessee Turnpike”.

Pond flats was a good starting point because it was at the top of a hill. I’d have time to warm up before any big climbs. Once down at Watauga Lake I found TK about to get started. He slackpacked the day before.

I don’t remember if I mentioned this before. Slackpacking is when you only carry supplies for a day hike. Your backpack is mostly empty, so there is lots of slack. If its short, it may only be some water, a granola bar and your phone. That’s much less than a typical 30+ lbs pack. Some people consider this cheating, particularly those rule-following Germans. Personally, I don’t care what anyone else does. For the time being, I’ve decided not to slackpack.

TK hiked with me until Vandeventer shelter and then caught back up at Iron Mountain Shelter. I hung out there and dropped off another log book. The Highs and Hopes group was going to do a front page TMZ. I didn’t get a chance to see it, but here is issue one:


This is probably funnier to a hiker, but should at least elicit a smile.

TK decided to hike with me that evening. I stayed a bit longer for him to eat dinner and then we headed out just before dark. My goal was 7.6 more miles to Double Springs Shelter.

We had our headlamps on shortly after leaving. The terrain was pretty easy. We came up on some goodies left for hikers (Trail Magic) left by a local church at TN 91. I had an ice-cold soda and a small snack. They also had a log book there and we checked up on our friends that were ahead.

After the road had to be some of the easiest walking on the whole trail. It was a handicap accessible path through cow pasture. I never quite made out why it was some sort of public park. Why would anyone want to walk through a cow pasture? Silly city slickers… The first few fields had no cows. While I was waiting for TK to cross a fence I looked out into the open field and had about 30 eyes glowing back at me. That was unexpected and disconcerting. I finally decided they were indeed cows, but it was still bothersome to be watched. Soon we were back in the woods.

We hiked quite a while and the elevation changes didn’t match what was in the guidebook. We discussed it and decided that we had probably passed the shelter and would just camp at the next available spot. Funny enough, the next spot was at the shelter we were looking for. We set up away from the shelter so as not to disturb other hikers. I was in bed just before midnight. I did it, I got the marathon.

Daily mileage: 26.7*, AT mile: 448.9
*This mileage is according to the 2014 AWOL guide, like all miles on this site. The 2015 guide says it should be 27+.

I was up and out early for my last day into Damascus. In the morning I took a short break by Low Gap and shortly after Burl and Treebeard came up. I was both excited and confused. I had not seen them since Hot Springs when they got ahead of me. Apparently they had camped at Double Springs the same night and I had left before they got up and moving. They hiked on and I caught them again during lunch at the Abingdon Shelter.

The water at the shelter was ridiculous. It was “0.2” miles downhill. You can bet it was down! I’m also fairly certain that 0.2 was rounded down because it was pretty far.

After lunch we could hear the thunder in the distance. TK had caught up and was hiking with me again. A mile or two later ice cold rain cut loose. I mean ice cold literally as it was intermixed with hail. My hands were going numb and it was cold enough to hurt. We grabbed out my Tyvek and waited under during the worst of the rain. Once it lightened up we trudged on in the drizzle, completely miserable. We barely even paused at the Virginia state line.

Finally, we reached Damascus. It seemed like every¬† place was fully booked. We got in at The Place, which doesn’t take reservations. It does have this rather odd caretaker though. A couple of hikers came in past the latest check in time and the guy threw a fit. He wouldn’t let it go either. The next day he repeated the story constantly, to anyone he saw.

Daily mileage: 18.7, AT mile: 467.6

I was ready for a zero day and Damascus was a good place for it. TK and I both got a spot in the teepee at Woodchuck’s. The inside was still full. It worked out great though because I had full use of the kitchen. I wanted to cook! We went to the movies that afternoon and saw the second Avengers flick. We stopped at the store and I grabbed everything I needed for a double batch of Penne Arrabiatta. I made four pounds of pasta, but I was disappointed that all the hikers couldn’t finish it off. We gave a bunch of it to Hoff, Britches, Tinkerbell and Still Phil. Still, I think TK packed out over a pound of leftovers (uncooked pasta weight only) for the trail.

No miles this day.

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