April 1, 2018
Destination: Damascus, VA Today's Miles: 0
Start Location: Damascus, VA Trip Miles: 470
It was hard to wake up this morning. It was Easter Sunday and that meant that Gillian would head back to Atlanta today.
Maybe if I shut my eyes it would slow things down and she would somehow stay longer. I wanted to get up though, specifically so we would have as much time together as possible before she left. The more I started thinking about it, the more I wondered if maybe this wast a sign. My heels were in horrible shape. Would I even be able to hike this week? As we got ready for breakfast, I felt more and more like this was a sign that maybe I had had enough, that I should perhaps just look at next year for another section hike. I told Gillian how I felt, and of course she said it was up to me. She told me that only I had to live with the decision and she would support me no matter what. Way back at Fontana, Squatch had said there would come a time when I wanted to quit. It wasn’t so much that I felt like quitting, it just seemed like the right time to be done. That was that. I decided right then that I would live to fight another day and drive back to Atlanta with my wife. I know that will disappoint some of you, but a thru hike is a very physically and mentally taxing challenge. It’s hard to understand if you have not attempted something like this before.
After breakfast, on the way back to Atlanta, I reflected on a lot of things. It was a somber ride as I thought about the trail, how I never had the chance to pass on the trail karma necklace, how I tried to listen to the trail but was stubborn a lot of the time. I felt off. It just wasn’t sitting right, just like writing this ridiculous gibberish isn’t sitting right at the moment, because it’s not true. April fools!! Sorry, I had to........ no, I’m not quitting!! No way! At this point you will have to drag me off the trail. No, this isn’t how the day went. Let me start over.
We woke up and went to Mojo’s, lest they forget their biggest fans, for breakfast. Gillian had the bagel with lox and I had the French quarter omelette and a cinnamon bun. The cinnamon bun was truly incredible! We speculated at how they warmed it up, how they made it. It was like a roll of heaven. After breakfast we went back to the Inn and chatted a bit more, but soon it was time to say our goodbyes. We talked with Lee, one of the inn owners. She and her husband Paul are truly awesome and we were thoroughly enjoying the inn.
As Gillian drove away back to Atlanta, my heart sank a bit. Suddenly I wanted to flee Damascus. I wanted to keep on hiking. If I’m hiking, I focus on moving, looking, seeing, survival. If I’m sitting in Damascus, well, let’s just say I have a hard time sitting still. I went upstairs to journal and read a bit and felt a little better. I needed the rest. My heels were a mess. Staying in Damascus a few more days would be fine. Yes, I missed Gillian, but I would no matter where I was. I knew she knew I wanted to finish this journey. She knew I hated having to take a break to heal, but that I needed to do it. So I would do it. Get ready Mojo’s - I’m going to be bringing my appetite for a few more days!
I took it easy the rest of the day and researched trail running shoes online. I wanted to put my boots to rest and get into something that would breathe better. My boots were too hot for warmer weather and I feared that was part of the reason for my blisters. Tomorrow I would see about trying on some trail runners at one of the local outfitters.
Mojo’s was closing at 5, so I went around 4 to get something to go. As I walked in I heard someone say “hey Hungry Cat!” I looked over and Transformer, Nomad, and Willow were drinking beer at a table with one other guy I had not met yet. They were surprised to see me thinking I would have gone already, so I told them about my visit with Gillian and then about my heels. They said they were going to go eat at the Pizza Plus pizza buffet. I told them maybe I would see them around the next day. I went back to the counter and I ordered the turkey reuben and a slice of coconut cake to go. I went to pay and realized I had forgotten my wallet. Ugh! I was trying not to walk that much!
I hobbled back to the inn as quickly as I could and grabbed my wallet. I also grabbed Gillian’s trail magic cookies, figuring the hiker crew would still be there when I got back. I shuffled back up the Virginia Creeper trail towards Mojo’s and saw Nomad and crew walking my way. I offered them the rest of the cookies, and they seemed very excited. It felt good to make good use of Gillian’s trail magic, and I knew those guys had been pushing pretty hard and needed the calories. Mission accomplished Gilly! I continued to Mojo’s, where my food was already ready, paid and headed back to the inn.
Back at the inn I sat alone at the common table and ate my sandwich while reading. I made a cup of rooibos tea to have with my coconut cake. The cake was again incredible. I tried to eat every visible molecule. Then I remembered that I had another treat waiting for me. The night before, Lee and Paul had gone to a potluck and Paul had made chocolate mousse. They had extra and gave Gillian and I each a serving. It was delicious (Paul is quite the cook!). Today, Lee had said she had a bit more leftover and would leave it in the fridge for me. I peeked inside the fridge and, sure enough, there was a little post-it note on a Tupperware that said “Hungry Cat.” Even though I’d just eaten dinner and my cake, I devoured the mousse. It was decadent and wonderful. Gillian messaged me to let me know she had gotten home ok, and that she missed me and our fur kid Lucy the cat was doing fine.
I went upstairs to wind down and thought about how lucky I was to have a supportive wife and that she could come visit me. I was grateful for such a nice inn to at which I could rest and heal. It was quiet and I knew I would sleep well. I did.