We enjoyed our most violent storm yet last night. Explosive thunder that made you jump, blinding lightning that seemed way too close for comfort, and rain that fell like marbles for most of the night. The camp was saturated with frowns and water. Luckily every one had a town day today.
The last few miles of Tennessee were a breeze and ended nicely with 3 miles of downhill into Virginia which put us smack dab in the middle of the Trail Days AT festival. Trail Days is held in Damascus VA, a town with a great reputation for embracing the trail.
Trail days is the time to find your friends that are in front or behind you.
With my first foot on pavement two nice ladies gave us some cracker snacks and water. After a brief orientation we were off to the large free camping area. The conglomerate of churches that organize a lot of trail magic got access to relief resources used during disasters. Thanks to two nice trailers we could shower and get out clothes washed. I wouldn’t call thru-hikers disaster victims, but much of civilized society seems to make that impression.
All over the town people posted up to feed, clothe, pray for, and help hikers. There’s even a place to get free hair cuts if you were so bold. The next day gear companies opened their booths and enjoyed an onslaught of hikers needing repairs or just trying to find the swag. There was a whole row of vendor tents with several sewing machines whirring away at much-loved equipment. It was AWESOME!
The highlight of the weekend was that my partner in crime and business (in that order) Ryan Alexander Stolp drove down from Vermont to attend. He even brought one of our old coworkers from Husky Works Mushing Co., Dawson, an all around great guy. Dawson or “D-man” (his snowy trail name), retired the day before and packed up and moved south. He’d always been known for his soul peering eyes, wise demeanor and damn good looks. We welcomed him with lots of belly rubs to the DSM team.
All of a sudden I could introduce Thru Tang to my family back home and point to the guy with the mullet (aptly named Pacman two years ago not just for making packs but for ferocious eating and a crippling fear of ghosts) who was nice enough to make my backpack. Ryan fit in immediately. Some, like Rockman, clearly preferred him to me.
The rest of the weekend was filled with gear talk, free food, and fellowship. Trail days is the time to find your friends that are in front or behind you. I ran into K-bar who caught up and hiked into trail days, Monkey Man and Pearl, a couple on their honeymoon whom I hadn’t see since Erwin, and Black Dog and Doc since the start in Georgia.
Saturday was the hiker parade where the locals line up on the side walk and squirt water at the hikers as they parade down main street. They must have been ill-informed that a majority of us had already showered that week. Myself, being terrified of crowds and water pistols, napped in my hammock while alumni, section, and current hikers split into hiking classes based on our year on the trail. I heard that even Ranger Danger made an appearance. I’ve been told he never flinched when hit with water no matter how cold or even if it was in the face or superman parts. We need all that fearless stubbornness in land stewardship that we can get.
The weekend concluded with hang overs and hugs. Ryan and Awesome Dawson rode fully packed (minus a few new trail toys) back home to the heart of the finest state in the Union. Other hikers caught rides back to where they got off trail leaving those who walked in free to take a leisurely pace.
With the passing of the outfitter on the main strip of town I surpassed my previous thru hike attempt. I now walk into unknown trail and towards Virginia’s highest peak, the Mountain Rogers.
Thru tang departed Monday afternoon after 3 full zeros in Damascus. Before the weekend I hadn’t taken 1. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt our momentum at all. With the passing of the outfitter on the main strip of town I surpassed my previous thru hike attempt. I now walk into unknown trail and towards Virginia’s highest peak, the Mountain Rogers.