Day 54: Playing catchup with a 20+ mile day, or why slack packing is amazing!

Miles Hiked: 21.7
Miles Left: 1717.7
Ending Location: Damascus, VA at the Woodchuck hostel

Owl and I started the morning good and early catching a ride along with Pooh Bear back to the road junction where we originally got off two days ago. What’s been shocking to me has been the amount of people skipping this section. Once you get into town it is real hard to build up the motivation to go back and finish these “easy” miles with 17k “newer” miles still ahead of you. From talking to people this is the first section where yellow blazing, (skipping sections by riding in a car), becomes popular.

I was actually curious what this part of the trail was like since the high milage hikers had been reporting it was so easy. Also both Owl and I were slack packing with us leaving a majority of our gear back at the hostel. Getting a chance to hike with a five pound pack vs. a forty pound pack was something I couldn’t pass up! The downside was that meant we had to finish 21 miles that day as camping was no longer an option and we only had enough food for lunch. All that gear does serve a purpose…

I knew hiking with a lighter pack would make a difference but I wasn’t ready for how much of a difference that would be. It felt like we were flying along the trail. Now admittedly today was mostly ridge line walking without any sustained ups or downs, but this was the first time I really started reevaluating my fundamental gear setup. Did I really need a tent or could I get away with a simple tarp like a lot of the ultra light hikers… I’m at the point where I need to start making these decisions since food, water, tent, and a sleeping bag make up a majority of my pack weight. If studying computer science taught me anything useful for the trail, Amdal’s law on optimizing code says that those should be the areas I look into for lightening my load.

The actual hike itself was fairly anticlimactic. It was long but with us averaging close to a whopping three miles an hour we arrived back in town before six even with a lunch break. For the second half of the hike we met up with Sunshine and Young Beard so we crossed the TN/VA border with them. We’re now officially in Virginia and will stay there for a while as the VA section is over 500 miles long. Yup, all our hiking to day has only been 470ish miles so expect the next state crossing to be over a month and a half away. On the plus side, with wild ponies and getting to visit our old college town of Blacksburg right on the horizon I couldn’t be more excited to be in Virginia!

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These brambles cover the trail. My favorite term I’ve heard to describe them is “Wait a minutes” as they will snag your clothing and you’ll have to pause to untangle yourself20140415-004758.jpg

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