June 4th 2018
Iron Mountain Shelter – Damascus (mile 470)
26 miles
Total miles: 480.8

I had a pretty bad nights sleep again. When I lay down I was so congested I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt like my throat was closing up. I thought it may be because we were on a slight tilt and my head was going downhill. I thought about turning around to see if it made it any better but I didn’t want to make a commotion. 

When the old man next to me started snoring literally in my ear I had enough and turned around. It didn’t help the congestion at all, and now it meant that I was lying with my top on the narrow part of my sleeping mat. It got really cold in the night and I was woken with a start when Moon fired up his stove at 6:10am. I had overslept. I wanted to get a good early start in today. 

It was so cold I could see my breath. It was really strange considering how hot it has been, and I’ve even been considering sending some things back, but not now. I packed up as quickly as I could. The last thing I did was put on my wet clothes and wet shoes and socks. Gross. I started with my waterproof coat and my buff on to try and keep warm. 

The sun was shining through the trees but it was still low with it being 6:45am. But at least it looked like it was going to be a nice day. I powered on through the forest, wanting to put some distance between me and the shelter. It was a surprisingly nice trail, the ups and downs were gentle and it wasn’t as muddy as I was expecting it to be. I got spat out on to a road where the trail goes through some open meadows. 


It was wonderful. The sky was totally blue without a cloud to be seen. It was warm but not too humid. And there were views! I hiked on past a big barn where there were some people camped and then over a style into a field of cows. These cows were chill. There was no following or trying to bite stuff off my pack like I had in NZ. Just mummas chilling with their babies. 


Then I was back in the forest and I was trucking along nicely. My aim was to just keep going. The problem was that by 11am I was out of food. I had eaten my fruit snacks, a cliff bar and a Twix. Now I had to do 20 miles with no fuel. 

I was just lucky that the trail was so nice today. The weather helped too. I wasn’t pouring sweat from my face and I didn’t have to use that stinky gross rag to wipe my face. I did however get the opportunity to practice many snot rockets. Something I’m still, after all this time, not very good at. 

I passed 4 or 5 people in the morning. One man who was coming towards me was hiking in a top hat. I was too surprised to capture it. I had hiked 20 miles before I took my first break. I had needed to stop for my fourth wee of the day, which is unusual in itself. I normally only have a couple of wees in a day. And I stopped once to get a bit more water. This time on the fourth wee I sat on a log and took my shoes off because they felt like they had bits in. I think the cream on them helped a lot, and of course it was a lot drier today, by this time I had walked my shoes and socks dry. It was nice to take them off for a moment though. 


Just as I was getting ready to get going again a couple of hikers passed me and I ended up walking behind them for a bit. They started mid April. I’m meeting a few people now who started mid April. I don’t remember their names. I was too hungry by now to concentrate. I mentioned that I had run out of food but the hint wasn’t taken! I had been listening to podcasts for most of the afternoon to take my mind off being hungry. I was listening to Desert Island Discs and Paul Hollywood was the guest. He is a judge on the Great British Bake Off. All I could think about was bread and pastry. I really wanted some fresh delicious bread. Not the kind of stuff you get on rubbish American supermarkets. The type you could get in that giant supermarket in Hiawasse. 


I was planning on doing something daft at the Tennessee/ Virginia border but the other two hikers were right behind me. So one of them took my picture and I just carried on. I could quite believe that I only have 3.5 miles to get to Damascus. It was pretty much all downhill but it was a struggle. I was hungry, dehydrated, tired and sore. My legs felt like they were numb and just moving on autopilot. When it came to some stairs built into the trail with logs it hurt to bend my legs that much. I slowed down a bit on that last couple of miles but I still made it to town at 5pm which I was really pleased with. That was a good pace 26 miles in 10 hours. I had thought this morning that I would get there about 7pm. 


The trail passed right through the middle of town and it was weird to be walking through normal civilisation. As normal as a tiny southern American town can be. I was taking a picture of the welcome sign and a car drove by and everyone shouted ‘welcome to Damascus’. Nice. They are obviously really used to hikers as this is where they hold Trail Days every year. 


I walked up the road and found Woodchucks hostel. He said he didn’t have any beds left but I could have the sofa. That’ll do! Then he said he was about to do a supermarket run, the supermarket is a little out of town. So before I’d even had time to think about anything I was in the car and heading to the supermarket, not really knowing how many days I was resupplying for.

Whatever I bought I was going to buy more than I got last time. There were a bunch of deals in the supermarket and Woodchuck gave me his deal card which mean I got 6 Twix for the same price as I paid for 3 in the last resupply at the hostel. I also got 1.5l of chocolate milk and a sandwich from the deli. 

This is one of the stranger encounters I have had in America. There was a very strange man at the counter in front of me. I was trying desperately not to make eye contact but I could see him staring at me. He was a definitely a few sandwiches short of a picnic I think, and then of course he started talking to me. He tried to shake my hand but I avoided it. I moved away. There was something I didn’t like about him. 

I came back and ordered a sandwich with a lot of meat and cheese in and some tater tots to go with it. I got a fountain drink which I went around the corner to fill. The weird guy was there with a girl who had obviously been crying. When I went back to the counter they were talking about how he was a well known shop lifter who beats his girlfriend. I got that vibe about him. 

My sandwich took ages and I felt bad that Woodchuck had been waiting so long but he was fine. Back at the hostel I shovelled it into my mouth as quickly as I could. It was disappointing if I’m honest. It was made with what I think is eggy bread and it had a distinct whiff of cinnamon about it – the worst food in the world. I tried to ignore it. 

The best British biscuits!

I had a much needed shower. Hung my tent out to dry. Got my laundry done. Drank my chocolate milk. Relaxed for 5 minutes. Tried to upload some videos. Nope. Not happening. 

There were so many other people there, most of them in a big impenetrable group. They call themselves Tramily, which means trail-family. I hate this word. I know I make up a lot of stupid words but I just can’t get on board with this one. I chatted to a couple of them. A guy from Luxembourg, Terminator, and a girl called Dirty Face. 


At one point everyone went out to a diner and I was left there by myself, along with a couple of old blokes. It was nice to get some peace and quiet. I looked through the hiker box and came up with some treasures. My hair, having not been brushed for a month, was turning into dreadlocks so I found a comb and spent a good half an hour removing all the knots. I got some ziplock bags, a half tub of Vaseline. A few wet wipes and some athletes foot cream. I have a bit of athletes foot between my little toes. I was a bit weirded out about using second had athletes foot cream but it was brand new. Result. 


Woodchucks hostel is really nice. It is his home, which makes it really homely. He also knows exactly what hikers need. He has snacks and loaner clothes, a very well organised hiker box and amenities inside and outside. Loads of sockets. Very comfy beds. And as usuals it’s now 22:45. Way too late. I should have been asleep ages ago. Those town days really mess you up. 

I forgot to get decongestant at the supermarket. I still feel really bunged up. I’m worried it’s going down to my chest. 

And there is a cat here. Great hostel. 


Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 27




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