April 20 – I woke up early today and got out of the hostel by 7:30 so I could try to avoid the rain for a little. Once back on the trail, I began walking along a river which led far down into a gorge. Rock walls bordered my path until I made it down to the Laurel Falls. This is one of the spots I’ve been waiting to see since before I even started the trail and it lived up to my expectations. It was tall, probably over 100 feet and you could see a whirlpool in the right corner where multiple people have drowned. As I marveled at the falls, the sky started to do that thing where water falls from it again and I quickly headed on my way. From here, the trail became a narrow and rocky path squeezed up against a rock wall on one side and the raging river on the other. It’s been really awesome to see more waterfalls and rivers lately than just views of mountains all the time, the terrain is really starting to change and I love it. After making my way around the river I climbed up until I came to a side trail to town that was only a mile long. With McDonald’s in mind, I quickly took it and got myself some lunch, eventually returning to the trail and making my way to Watauga Lake. By then it has become a gorgeous spring day and it was almost warm enough to jump in. After a break, I headed on my way, circling the lake until I crossed the Watauga Dam, the second and I believe final Dam I’ll cross on the trail. Once back in the woods it was a long climb up to Vandeventer Shelter. There’s an awesome view here and I have my tent set up out back. Just had one of our hardest rains and I stayed dry so that’s good. Heading into the “Tennessee Turnpike” tomorrow which is what people call the stretch between here and Virginia because apparently it’s extremely flat. Possibly be back in my home state tomorrow? We’ll see.
April 21/22 – I was way too beat last night to record my thoughts so I’ll give a recap of my past two days here. I did about 25 miles yesterday making for my longest day yet, and even though it was a lot of miles the terrain was extremely flat as I hiked on the Tennessee Turnpike. I basically walked on a flat ridge for most of the day with gentle ascents and descents here and there. Views of mountains are starting to mix in with rolling pastures and farmland. Part of the trail even went through a private farm that I had to open a huge gate to get into.
I didn’t quite make it to VA last night so I set up camp on the ridge and woke up to extremely windy and cold conditions. I packed up as best as I could but ended up throwing everything in my bag in no orderly manner and hitting the trail. After about an hour I came to the sign I’ve been thinking about for weeks now: Tennessee/Virginia State Line. Getting to this point is such a huge milestone for me, it feels so great to be back in my neck of the woods. Virginia is the unofficial 1/4 marker and I’ll be here for over 500 miles which will get me to just about the halfway point. Being in a new state feels like such a fresh start and I’m so excited to truly experience my home state. I’ve been meeting a lot of new people and even catching up to some familiar faces the last few days! Geared up and feeling rested after a day in the lovely town of Damascus, spirits are extremely high and I’ll be back to it first thing tomorrow morning. Onto the Grayson Highlands where views are plentiful and wild ponies roam free!