Journal 92-ODYSSEY 2021: Bama to Baxter-Hike On!

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Saturday–May 22, 2021
Trail Day–092
Trail Mile–17.0/892.7
Location–US-58, then to Grayson Highlands State Park, Chestnut Hollow Campground, AT Mile 487.7

A most restful stay in the Queen’s Suite at Lady Di’s. She’s really running a hostel for hikers, but in true B&B fashion, she serves her guests breakfast. And what a delicious, tank-stoking breakfast it is, a heaping plateful of her special sweetened breakfast recipes–plus brimming cup-after-cup of coffee.

Joe Jenkins, a friend from the Nature Conservancy hard working control burn crew (who often stay at Flagg Mountain) is coming to hike some with me, and he arrives this morning–just in time for breakfast, kindly offered by Lady Di (and quickly accepted by Joe).

Lady Di has my first book, Ten Million Steps, and she brings it to me to personally sign, “After reading your book I was determined to hike the AT, which I did in 2019.” How very special, hearing this, Lady Di! Your kindness and generosity, your contagious smile; ahh, and your friendship extended me–blessings I’ll never forget. Thanks, sweet Lady Di…

It’s a beautiful new day as Joe and I hike the streets of Damascus–to the Virginia Creeper Trail, and out of town. As usual, the climb begins immediately, up to the ridge line then around and over to the ever-climbing Virginia Creeper Rail Trail. Plenty of climbing for us too, a difficult section of the AT.

Joe and I hike off and on with a happy fellow, trail name, Snake Bit. He and Joe talk snakes–and today I see my first snake on the trail, a six-foot-long rat snake. Couldn’t get close enough for a picture. Well, actually, I didn’t try! Oh, and smiling back at us, another little gnome sitting on a rock ledge by the trail.

Late afternoon, still more climbing before the gentle descent through more rhododendron hells, to arrive US-58 right at five.

Stanley loads us after a long, wearisome day, for the long, tiring drive all the way back to Damascus for Joe’s car, then to turn and return the incredible winding road back up the mountain–to Stanley’s pop-up camper at Grayson Highlands.

Shower time to soothe these tired old bones, a wonderful hot, nourishing meal prepared by Stanley, then journal-writing time–and bed…


People and creatures and worrisome miles,
Storm camps and pinnacles…how will it end!
Somehow the joys seem to balance the trials
Found in the future around the next bend.
(Earl Shaffer)

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