Tag: TransAm

7/17 Day 61 – The Ghosts of Damscus

7/17 Day 61 – The Ghosts of Damscus

7/17 day 61

Breaks interstate parks to Damascus VA

77 miles

*Note* – I know I have missed about a week’s worth of entries, I’ll be updating them hopefully in the next 24 hours, including my entry to VA, the last state. In the meantime this one was more important to me than those.

I’m sitting in The Place in Damascus, VA. Appalachian Trail town USA. The sign on the door said “closed for group” but I came in anyway. It’s empty of people. Well. Real people at least.

I’m here with ghosts. The ghosts of my memories of this place. Of a hike 5 years ago.

There’s the madness of packing going on. The day after Trail Days and we spent a night recovering. It’s now Monday morning and we’re trying to get a move on. The group is going to slack pack the miles they missed into town. I’m going to try and climb the 10 miles out of town. We’ll all see each other a little farther down the line.

Thunder and Burgundy are making jokes and funny faces at each other. They are like a pair of old shoes, well matched and worn together. They’re married now, they were together before the trail started – this is Thunder’s second hike.

Saga and Delorean are sharing a happy special look. The unsure kind of where things will go, but thrilled to have them happening. They were eyeing each other when I met them. I’m glad they were happy then. Everyone should be happy. They are joking back and forth with everyone but keep sneaking furtive glances at each other.

Pee Wee Germans stomped back in, the angry/funny grin that only he was capable of. He found the brick I had stashed in his pack before he even left. I shouldn’t have tried when it was already stripped down for the slack pack. Next time I’ll get him. Talker of course thinks this is hilarious and his mouth is open in a giant grin, laughter howling out. Who knew someone so young could do something like this on their own. He never told us he was only 17 until much later, but he has the poise and maturity of someone twice his age. But he’s always quick with a joke. Keen too – he didn’t miss much.

Skittles is torn on taking his rain jacket or or not. He has been having fun, but he seems tired. More than just the long weekend of partying tired. He gives up and leaves it at the hostel.

Rambo has been sulking. Her friend got arrested and charged during Trail Days. She hasn’t been too into things since. It wasn’t an easy thing for her. It’s never an easy thing for anyone to see someone they care for like that.

Gnar is napping. Well sorta. He’s sitting upright and staring into nothing. He’s amusing himself with his mind.

And I’m there. Watching. Joking. Packing. I feel kinda hungover still from the weekend. The whiskey last night didn’t help. I’m going to climb out of town and gate every second of it. At the top of the pass I’ll puke, mostly water but also a beer I drank out of the river trail magic stash. Probably shouldn’t have done that – my blood was still probably more alcohol than water at that point.

I’ll summit Katahdin with 3 of these people. 2 of them will go home. 4 others will summit 2 weeks before the rest of us. We go our separate ways, sometimes in alone and sometimes together. But we have these moments.

This is what comes back to me as I sit down on the bare bunks in The Place. Whispers if the conversations in those moments, flickers of the world 5 years ago. I couldn’t imagine the things ahead, for myself or for the others. I still can’t believe some of the things that happened.

I came into Damascus and all I wanted was one thing – to see the sign that welcomes northbound Thru-hikers as they enter town. To see that white blaze upon it. It’s a special thing. It marks the footpath from Georgia to Maine and back again. It leads weary footsore hikers to a place in my heart. It conjures up ghosts in daylight for me and dreams so real I can smell them at night.

Welcome home to Damascus. Appalachian Trail town.

6/12 Day 26 – leaving Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons and hail

6/12 Day 26 – leaving Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons and hail

6-12 day 26

Grant Village to Hatchet Campground

57 miles

The thunderstorms in the night shook the campground for an hour. I laid awake for 10 minutes of them at 2am, listening to the Thunder and lightening get closer and closer. There was a strike that has a second between flash and thunder. Less than a mile right?

I spent a little extra time trying to dry out my tent. Nothing worse than a wet tent being packed away. Martjin did the same and I eventually got myself out of camp with the intent of getting to the campground at the very least and possibly going over the 9600ft pass. If I could manage to beat the weather and get to Dubois I wouldn’t have to worry about snow/sleet/rain that was in the forecast.

I stopped at more than a few little spots again, enjoying the volcanic and geological wonders of Yellowstone before I started the descent out of the park. The path took me on a winding rim road above one of the rivers flowing out of lake Yellowstone. Truly amazing. Except for the fact that it was all blind corners on the road. Oh and it seemed like I’d hit the sweet spot of people trying to leave the park. Whoops.

I stopped at the gas station/store at the start of the Rockefeller parkway for a snack. While there a cyclist showed up on tour with a guitar strapped to his bike. Now I thought I’d been pushing it by taking this ukulele… but this was something else entirely. He has welder a second rack to his first rack and had strapped the guitar to that. Ingenious! He was on his way into the park and was eventually heading to a wedding in Oregon.

From the store I traveled into the Grand Tetons. Mountains rose up again on the outskirts of my route and they all had angry large clouds on them. You could see the rain coming down off their sides.

And then the rain started coming down on me. The wind kicked up and the drizzle started. I just managed to make it to a gas station and was eating, of all things, an ice cream bar when suddenly hail started coming down. Not just small hail. This hail the size of marbles. Looked like no pass for me today.

Also stuck there were several TransAm racers. This is the back third of the pack, but still folks gamely going on. They too were not happy with rain and wind. The dropping temperatures meant that it would be a cold damp afternoon. Not something anyone enjoyed and potentially dangerous for anyone trying to go over the pass.

Martjin and I pushed on to our campsite where we set up tents and immediately went to the bar at the resort next door. The locals there told us to expect snow on the pass currently, and the weather advised at least 6 inches of fresh snow tomorrow along with wind and rain and sleet. Not ideal weather at all. We decided that it would make more sense to stay in tents the whole day reasonably warm rather than attempt to go over and freeze.

A tent zero day is planned then for tomorrow! Not where I really wanted to take a rest day but sometimes that’s how these things work out.

Day 10 – Baker Bike Hostel rest day

Day 10 – Baker Bike Hostel rest day

Talked with my folks this morning and they both made the point that I’d seen enough people blow themselves out too early on the trails to do that to myself. So I took a zero. And filmed a video update for y’all.

Statistics though!


567 miles bikes so far!

3 8oz blocks of cheese eaten.

3 inner tubes changed

0 blisters

Now I’m watching the moon rise with a fading sun. The Oregon high desert is behind me. In front is the path to the Big Sky of Montana.

And to more popsicles.



Day 9 – 3 hills and 90 miles

Day 9 – 3 hills and 90 miles

Day 9 – 5/29

Up, out and early. I had goals today. Big goals. The town of Baker City and the end of map section 2.

But to get there I had to travel 90 miles and go over 3 hills. Horses generally don’t go that kind of distance. I did.

The first half of the morning was pretty good. Cranked out an easy 25 through the flat lands. Feeling good. First hill. My legs went “why are you doing this?”. The only thing that kept me going was the promise of a diner on the other side of the hill and delicious lunch. Buckeye had mentioned this one and circled it in my map. He was right. Delicious. I had hoped to catch Eric by lunch but hadn’t seen him. No matter. I now had a bacon cheeseburger and 2 cokes in my belly. Time to assault the last two hills.

Wait what’s that? Eric? Behind me?! He pulled up just as I was getting ready to go. And right as I discovered my rear tire was feeling flat and mushy. The same tire i had changed the night before.

Back inside for AC and another coke. He told me he’d gotten a late start and pushed the night before. We committed to Baker City. We’re going to do it! It would make this an 80 mile day for him.

I pumped up my tire and pedaled up the hill. And pedaled. And pedaled. Yes it was only a thousand feet of elevation gain. But it felt like forever. Finally the top. And another stop to put air in the tube. I had decided that short of it not taking air I wasn’t going to change it on the road.

Down the hill. Up the next. Shorter climb. Cursing on my part. Then a summit. More tire air. And down.

I met Eric again at the start of a 27 mile finishing stretch. All gently sloping downhill. Easy riding hopefully. And it was. Until the wind came full force front again. But it was only for a short bit. Just enough to make us groan. We wound our way along a river, matching it’s bends and curves with the weekend traffic. Finally ending up on the 10 mile flat stretch into town.

Eric stated, and I wholeheartedly agree, that no matter how far town is, when you get that mentality of “almost done” you just get tired. And tired we were as we pulled in to the Baker City Bike Hostel. To find a full house. 4 cyclists on a weekend tour, another pair on a 2 day ride and a motorcycle rider touring for several weeks. And us. Tired. Smelly. Sweaty. All we wanted was a shower, laundry and food.

So we got it. An outdoor shower is amazing when you have birds chirping around. A laundry machine is magic. And the local brewpub served us lobster Mac n cheese (Eric) and chicken parmigiana for me. We ate. And reflected that we had traveled 567 miles in 9 days.

And then I slept. The deep sleep of accomplishment