June 6th 2018
Damascus – Lost Mountain Shelter (mile 486.1)
16 miles
Total miles: 496.9

It took me an age to get to sleep, what with all the coughing and dry throat and the whole not being able to breathe thing, but I probably managed about 6 hours. I still felt really rough when I woke up, but I wanted to hike out today. 

Woodchuck made breakfast and I loaded up on blueberry pancakes with banana on top and some syrup, plus a chocolate milk and an orange juice. I wasn’t in too much of a rush because I wanted to visit the pharmacy on the way out of town and it didn’t open until 9am. There were quite a few of us  around for breakfast and I met Salty and Pi, and they gave me a Buzzy update. In Erwin he borrowed a bicycle and managed to crash it and gave himself a concussion. Of course he did. So we think he is behind us. 


I saw the cyclists packing up their bikes and they had the same yellow ortleib panniers as I have and it made me all nostalgic for cycling. My German friends are having a great time cycling through Mongolia right now. 

The cat jumped on me while I was trying to put shoes on, the temptation to just stay in the rocking chair with Goldie was a big one. Eventually I tore myself away and headed out. I walked through Damascus and called into the Dollar store to fill up my water bottle with Gatorade, then I went to the pharmacy with the hope of getting something stronger to get rid of whatever it is I have. They weren’t that helpful really. They said the stuff I was taking was the strongest over the counter stuff I could get. The lady asked if I thought I had pneumonia. I bloody hope not I thought. Don’t people die from having pneumonia? We don’t know if it’s a cold or if it’s allergies. There is nothing in my head. It’s purely snot clogging up my nose and chest. 

So I ended up buying a nasal spray which I was hoping was going to have some kind of menthol in it. It didn’t, and I can only use it once a day? I squirted it up my nose and I immediately began sneezing over and over again. 


I already needed a wee and I wasn’t even out of town. I called into subway to use the toilet and I resisted buying a sandwich. I think I have too much food anyway. 

After a short walk down the road I was back on the trail and it was every bit the struggle I knew it was going to be. Uphill was harder than usual because it was so hard to breathe. I also had to stop to wee twice in the first half an hour. This seems to be the case when I’m not feeling too well. I was passed by three people and then Gatsby passed me. Today was going to be a slow day. I wasn’t really sure how far I was going to get, I would just keep walking and see where I ended up. 


I’m not sure if it’s because I’m mouth breathing more than normal but my throat is getting really sore. All the coughing isn’t helping either. I didn’t have enough tissues to keep blowing my nose so it was a day of practising the snot rocket. I’m not very good and I didn’t get much better. The first one ended up all over my hand. Gross. And another one ended up landing on my shoe. I had a lot of it on my face, but all of it was better than having it inside my body. 

I stopped to have something to eat, not that I was really that hungry but I forced some bread and cheese down, and some crisps. 

The day went by in a bit of a blur. I couldn’t tell you what most of the trail was like, in the trees for the most part. I stuck some music on, put one foot in front of the other and concentrated on breathing. The trail wasn’t hard. It was quite a nice grade and a nice terrain, but today it felt hard. Any minor incline felt hard. I definitely had peaks and troughs today. Moments where I felt ok and moments where I felt absolutely terrible. At one point I had a little cry just because I was feeling sorry for myself. 


Nearing the end of the day the French guy, Bones, caught me up and we leapfrogged a bit. I had just got water from a stream and I slipped and dunked one of my feet into the stream. Bugger. I also cut my shin on a rock. 

The trail joins the Virginia Creeper trail for about a mile which is an old converted rail trail. Rail trails are generally nice because they are well graded. Some people choose to hike the Virginia Creeper trail out of town instead of taking the AT. 


The last 1.5 miles was an uphill to the shelter and by this time my chest was really hurting. I was only taking shallow breaths because I was getting a pain when I tried to take a deep breath. I got there eventually at 5:30pm. Still time to carry on further but my body was done for the day. I had already made the decision to pitch my tent. Not good etiquette to stay in a shelter when you’re sick! Thankfully it’s nice weather and it’s supposed to stay nice overnight. 

There were a bunch of people already there, and a load of people had pitched their tents. I had met some of them already, they were at the Broken Fiddle yesterday afternoon, but my brain has been mush for the last couple of days and I couldn’t remember anyone’s names. There was Send It, Happy, Awesome and a couple of others. Gatsby rolled in as well as a few other people. 

Awesome took pity on me that I was sick and gave me an Emergen C which is vitamin C drink powder thing, and some Worthers Original sweets. I forced down some ramen and a cookie. Definitely have too much food with me. Everyone here was really nice and it was a lot less exclusive that a lot of the groups I have come across. Some people are like this is my group and there doesn’t seem to be room for anyone else. These guys were like hey new hiker! Come and eat with your family! 

They had a camp fire going and there was a lot of smoking of various thing going on and all of it was drying out my throat. There were some big characters around which provided me with enough entertainment to not have to contribute, so I could sit back and observe. 


I’m looking forward to sleeping in my tent tonight. I struggled to stay awake until 8:30pm which I thought was an acceptable time to go to bed. I signed the hut book and a conversation I was having with someone came back to me – the hut books are probably the most germy things at the huts, and the pens are pretty gross too. I wrote that I had a cold, and I’d just touched the book and the pen…

At least when I’m lying down now my throat doesn’t feel like it is closing up. I used my nasal spray again. It’s once a day but I thought another spray couldn’t hurt. I immediately started sneezing. Maybe I have an allergy to the spray! 

I’ve been coughing a lot but there is another guy here, a really disgusting guy who is coughing more than me but at the end of every cough he’ll do that hawking it back thing and then he’ll spit on the ground. The noise of this is literally my least favourite thing in the whole world. Now he’s belching and spitting and generally being a gross human. And it appears he has a girlfriend. Not sure how he managed that. 

It’s now 9:30pm and it’s a struggle to keep my eyes open. 

Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 29