Friday, August 21, 1981

61. Damascus, Virginia

Day 61:  Friday, August 21, 1981
Breaks Interstate Park to Damascus:  80 miles

I awoke at 6:30, beating Jack up once more, for a change.  This was to be a long day - not much lodging would be available until Damascus, 80 miles away - and I wanted to get an early start.  The sky was overcast (red sunrise), and soon after our pancake and sausage breakfast, it began drizzling.  Even though I was up first, Jack was on the road first, at 8:00.  I telephoned Dad to wish him a happy 81st birthday, and by the time I filled up my water bottles and made it out of the park, it was 9:00.  Once again, Choo Choo was left in her tent.

At the park entrance was a good overlook at the rock formations which gave the park its name.  The Clinch River has worn a canyon several hundred feet deep through the layers of shale under the sandstone caps.

We are really into the Appalachians now.  The mountains are higher, up to 3500', and the grades are getting longer.  We climbed two four-mile hills and a two-miler today, with several grades of a mile or so.  The downhill on the second four-miler was tremendous, with good roads and great scenery.  One overlook gave us a beautiful view of Hayter's Gap, through which we would pass ten miles later.

Just a cow
That's not Hayter's Gap - just a cow.

Hayter's Gap?
This must be Hayter's Gap.

In all, the scenery was superb today.  The forests are probably 98% deciduous, in contrast to the west, but they are still beautiful, although they lack that refreshing pine scent.  Grades are shorter and steeper than in the Rockies.  We haven't walked any hills yet (not counting yesterday's washboard), but we're sure thankful for those granny gears.

Damascus has a hostel - sort of.   It's a house that's owned by the Methodist Church, and just sits there and waits for hostelers.  The only people permitted are Bikecentennial bikers and Appalachian Trail hikers (the AT goes right through town).  Once again, we had the place to ourselves.  Just reading comments in the log book from "ikers" over the past season made for an absorbing evening.  A grocery store clerk said she wouldn't recommend eating any place in town except for the Dairy King, but log entries attested to the good food and low prices at the Gateway Restaurant.  But we read that after we gorged ourselves on chicken, french fries, and milk shakes at Dairy King.  Too bad there weren't any AT hikers here tonight.

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