Going Native

April 2, 2018

Destination: Damascus, VA Today's Miles: 0

Start Location: Damascus, VA Trip Miles: 470

Interesting bus in the church parking lot next to the Hiker's Inn, Damascus
Gooooooood mooooorning Damascus!! Remember that movie Good Morning Vietnam with Robin Williams?

I feel like that is my morning Damascus greeting style now, as I become comfortable in town and familiar with the whereabouts of Charlie. I’m like a Damascus concierge now. I can point out the post office, library, the major hostels, the shortcut to Mojo’s. I know which outfitters have the best selection of Mountain House meals and who sells what brand of shoes. I even know Smokey the Cat, a fat grey cat that lives around the corner and makes the rounds getting hand outs from the neighbors. He took a shining to Gillian and followed her for a while on Sunday. I’m like the Charlie Hustle of Damascus. I was called a “regular” at Mojo’s the other day.  

I need to get out of here!!!!!! It’s a great place to rest, but I’m antsy!

I slept in a bit today. Well, I woke up at 7:30, peed, texted Gillian, ate a bag of cookies, and then went back to sleep for an hour or so. Today is my actual wedding anniversary day, so Gillian and I wished each other a happy anniversary from afar. We both commented how quickly the year seemed to go, and what a great year it had been! I stirred back awake and decided to get moving.

Today I was on a mission to try on trail runners. My heels weren’t feeling great, but if I patched them up they would be ok to try on some shoes. It was pouring outside. I patched myself together like Humpty Dumpty,put on my hiking socks and gingerly out my boots on. It was raining to hard to wear crocs. I donned my raincoat and headed to Mojo’s. I would eat, then drop next door to Sundogs, an outfitter, to try on shoes. 

I went into Mojo’s. They probably think I moved here at this point. I ordered huevos rancheros, but they were out, so I went with my backup - the breakfast quesadilla. I also ordered a cinnamon bun because, well, why not? I sipped my coffee and read a little bit on my kindle app. I finished all of that in good time, and went back for a coffee refill and another cinnamon bun. Hungry Cat nom nom nom....

As I sipped on my coffee and read, I saw a familiar face walk past. It was Gazelle, who had hiked with Nomad and crew for quite some time. She was there with her partner, who had hiked a section with her. We caught up a little bit, and then it was time for me to go. I wanted to take care of my shoe fitting business so I could get my shoes off and chillax. 

I went next door to Sundogs outfitters and set about trying on some trail runners. I quickly realized that my feet had already become a full size bigger. This is common with thru hikers and something I expected, though maybe not so fast! I tried on a bunch of different shoes by different manufacturers. My main goals were comfort and breathability. If I got a breathable shoe, versus something leather or goretex, I knew it would help to speed up the time it would take for my shoes to dry when wet. There is no such thing as a waterproof shoe on the trail. My boots were water resistant, but once they got wet, without some kind of fan they took forever to dry! Going into this exercise I was sure that I would end up with Salomons. I had read reviews on two different types and they seemed really good. I also wanted to try a pair of Brooks Cascadias. The one shoe I didn’t plan to give a chance was Altra. I had tried the times in Atlanta and they did not fit well. The Lone Peak by Altra fit well, but at the time I was convinced it wasn’t “enough shoe” for backpacking. Guess what I ended up getting..... I now own a pair of Altra Lone Peak 3.5s. I just couldn’t get the other shoes to fit as comfortably. I was close with the Salomon Odyssey (or something like that), but I actually liked the lack of slope in the Altras from heel to toe. I felt like it took pressure off my heels. The toe box on the Altras was the only one that didn’t feel like it was somehow pushing my feet into some kind of foot girdle. In the end, it was the best fit and had good breathability, and I had to get out of my boots that were hot, squeezing my swollen feet, and getting worn down. I guess we’ll see how these Altras do. If I hate them, I’ll just have to order different shoes farther down the trail. Hopefully they will work out! I’m definitely excited to get something lighter on my feet! Brad at Sundogs was super patient with me as I tried on tons of shoes and sizes. I was in there for over an hour. Shoes are everything on the trail. Well, not everything, but almost everything.

After I got this settled, I went back to the inn to get my boots off and get back into my crocs to rest my feet and let my heels get air. I packaged up my boots and my old pair of gaiters (I picked up a new pair in hot springs) and went to the post office to mail them back to Atlanta. I figured it was worth keeping them for later, and worst case maybe I could donate them back home versus just throw them out here. I got to the counter and realized I’d done it again - I forgot my wallet. I shuffled back to the Inn and then back to the post office. Done! It was kind of sad to see those boots go. They had gotten me almost 500 miles - technically over 500 miles counting the approach trail, walking around towns, and side trails, not to mention the couple of years of hiking prior to the AT! 

After the post office I walked down by the old mill conference center. I wanted to see the dam there by the mill. It was a low head dam, meaning it is basically a small dam created by a seamless wall that pools the water but allows it to flow overhead. I know about these structures simply because they are quite dangerous for paddling, and of course swimming. The lack of break in the dam structure creates an unbroken wall of recirculating water at the bottom of the dam. It basically creates a vacuum of recirculation that sucks anything that goes over the dam, or is beneath it, back into it. Lots of people drown in these not knowing of their danger. Anyway, I wanted to have a look. I did, and the. Walked back to an outfitter across from Dollar General to return some Super Feet inserts I had purchased the other day. Once my feet could spread out in the Altra toe box, I realized the super feet inserts would be too narrow and my foot would hang over the ridge. I hoped my feet would be ok without inserts. Reading online, it’s a controversial topic. A lot of runners advocate for zero drop from heel to toe and no inserts. Others say that inserts help to prevent the foot from moving in the shoe. I’ve used them and also not used them. I hope the Altras will be ok without them, because I am not sure if even the super feet wide version (which I would have to order) will fit. I emailed superfeet with the question and after two tries, it’s clear they aren’t going to answer me directly, which tells me that the inserts probably aren’t a great match for Altras. I’ll give it a whirl without them anyway.

I went back to my room and read for a bit, then walked down to subway to get a sub for dinner. Two guys were talking inside. One was a corrections officer at the local prison. The other was asking if they were hiring and whether in was true that they had to get pepper sprayed and tased to get a job there. The corrections officer said yes!! They had to be both tased and pepper sprayed to work there as part of their training. Not that I was interested, but that definitely took Corrections Officer off my list of potential future jobs!

I took my sub back to the inn and ate it at the common table while reading. I had talked with Lee earlier and would stay in the same room tonight that Gillian and I had been in, but tomorrow I would move to the bunkhouse out back to save money. It was only $25/night for a bunk and the bunkhouse room looked clean and nice. I knew I might be there for the rest of the week depending on how fast my heels heal. As I finished my dinner, who arrived at the inn but Slow Joe!  Joe was in the bunk below me at Johnny’s Nolichucky hostel and had been at the shelter at Cherry Gap with Starbucks and Pritch, and then disappeared. Apparently he got off the trail for a few days as his feet were hurting. He was now back. He ordered a sandwich from Pizza Plus and we chatted a bit at the table. We talked about gear and cold weather. He also said that he had attempted to summit Everest three times previously but had not yet, although he had climbed some other big peaks. I though that was crazy. I told him it sounded really dangerous from what I read in Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air.” He said it wasn’t and that Krakauer exaggerated and was full of it. Just when I was getting interested and was going to ask him to expand on that and explain, his wife called. Maybe I will get that story tomorrow or farther down the trail! 

I went upstairs to retire for the night and catch up on journaling. In other news, I exchanged texts with Bear Meat today and he and Clooney should be rolling into town Wednesday morning. If timing works out, I will grab breakfast with them. It will be awesome to see them again and hear about their adventures!

I’m grateful for this lovely inn to rest at and that I’m starting to be able to accept that I have to rest and to enjoy puttering about. 

Time for sleep as it is part of the healing process! Good night all, to all a good night!

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