12. Faith Restored

Day 41

Damascus (Trail Days)  to Saunders Shelter.  9 miles.

I was ready to leave, I needed to be back on the trail surrounded by mountains and serenity.  I hiked out with a trail friend I met in the Smokies, we both have a similar hiking pace and social anxiety which meant she was equally ready to get out of town. We didn’t leave until 4:30pm and had 9 miles to hike. We knew we would get into camp late but nothing could stop us leaving.  It was amazing to be hiking again but my trail vacation meant that any fitness I had built up got left behind in my beer cup. The hike was hard and when we rocked into the shelter at 8:15pm I was a mixture of very proud that we made such amazing time but also very very broken. My feet felt like I was walking on broken glass,  I had hoped that resting them would of given them a head start but they were worse than they had ever been, all I could think was that if they felt like this in the morning I’m not going anywhere.

Day 42

Saunders Shelter to random campsite. 12.3 miles.

It was freezing in the night, the temp dropped to well below freezing, when I first woke up there was a frost so I promptly went back to sleep. Goods news was that my feet recovered a reasonable amount overnight and with some massaging I coaxed them into my shoes. Oh yeah, I bought new shoes, I’ve ditched my big boots in favour of trail runners, basically, very light trainers with a few extras. They have pros and cons, but I’m willing to try anything that might help me walk the next 1700 miles. So far I like them, they are comfy and so light in comparison to my boots,  but they definitely don’t offer a much support. I’ll keep you posted.

New shoes

The morning hike was very nice, a well behaved trail meant we did great mileage before lunch and the weather,  even though it’s chilly is great for hiking. The afternoon saw a huge 4 mile ascent. I was beginning to get pretty bad trail rage when I looked around and realised what a view I had, no one can be angry at that kind of beauty.


We arrived at a stealth campsite, set up our tents and started layering up, to bed tonight I am literally wearing everything, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of leggings, 2 long sleeved tops, hat, scarf and gloves, my down jacket and sleeping in a down sleeping bag, I’m warmer than last night but not by much.


Day 43

Campsite to  The Scales campsite. 15 miles.

My hiking buddy decided she needed to get off the trail today as she wasn’t feeling well so I’m back solo again.

Today was one of my very favourite days on the trail so far. I busted out since great miles first thing in the morning then bag a long climb up to the highest peak in Virginia, Mt Rogers. It was hard going over difficult terrain but I stayed upbeat, hiked at my own pace and actually enjoyed it. From the top I was rewarded with magnificent views.

From the top I entered Grayson Highlands State Park, I had been looking forward to this section since this whole hike idea came about. It’s beautifully rugged and best of all it’s teaming with wild ponies. The whole day reminded me of hiking on Dartmoor, only much steeper and much higher.

It was a very technical descent, lots of rock climbing, squeezing through tunnels and caves and for over 4 miles it was a boulder field.  I twisted my ankles in every direction possible and impossible, slipped, shunted and tripped but I still have yet to biff it. Every mile or so I would come across a little family of ponies,  one even followed me for half a mile, it was so amazing, I loved it so much.

Big milestone today, the 500 mile marker, I didn’t stop for long, seeing it made me just want to keep hiking, it was very inspiring.


When I got to the shelter, my destination for the night, I found it already full and due to state park restrictions got cannot camp in the park. I was forced to hike on. I hiked for another 2.5 miles and came across as few tents set up in a field,  they were a trail maintenance team and had a great set up with a campfire burning,  a primitive toilet with toilet paper and everything. They were very friendly and offered me snacks and fresh water, since things turn out great on the trail.  It’s still very cold tonight but it’s supposed to rain, I’m very much looking forward to assume more summery weather,  everyone is very surprised at the unseasonably cold weather this year.

Day 44

The Scales campsite to Hiker Hostel. 14 miles.

I woke up periodically during the night to lashing rain against my tent,  I stayed dry and warm,  thank goodness, I love my little tent home. The forecast called for rain all day so I decided to not drag it out and got on the trail the earliest to date. It was a head down and hike the miles kind of day. It was slippery and frustrating being so wet and I could feel the trail ripping my feet up, I decided to get off the trail after 14 miles and dry out at a hostel which was a great choice because my feet couldn’t of taken much more. Just as I was crying out in despair I came across a loud and cascading waterfall that got me though the last several miles.


Ripped up feet

For now I’m resting up for a day but can’t wait to get back on the trail. Life is good.


2 thoughts on “12. Faith Restored

  1. Nicky & Paul Johnson

    Dear Sophie, great to learn on how you are doing but sadly your feet look very sore. Perhaps you should have mounted the horse and finished your trek on bare back. I am enjoying a nice glass of wine at the moment and will raise my glass to you for your courageous effort. You will be able to do the same when you are also only one month before I retire.
    We will continue to follow your progress. A GREAT BIG WELL DONE and keep going. We will be thinking of you. Love Paul & Nicky XX (the two old people you met at Heathrow when our SAS flight got cancelled and we all travelled the next day with United airlines to Chicago)


  2. Andy & Claire

    Well Sophie what can I say, just reading through your brilliant updates on your ‘ blog ‘ I’m so proud of you & fighting spirit to keep on going despite the very unusual weathers conditions for May. Long may your feet, body & wonderful ‘ gungho ‘ personality keep you on track? I kind of know you will!. Thinking of you always, keep your pecker up love & keep looking ahead!. Xx Claire, Andy, Jody & Gemma xX

    Liked by 1 person

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