Appalachian Trail: Day #68
Damascus, VA (Again)
Total AT Miles: 589.9
Kodak here signing in from Damascus, Va. Mountain Goat, My Shadow, Firecracker, and myself caught a ride here late Wednesday night to attend the Trail Days Festival. Trail Days celebrates hiking with the town swelling from a population of ~800 to an estimated 15,000 people. The main event of the festival is a hiker parade. Current and former thru-hikers tramp through town while locals bathe away our smell with water guns. The town also fills with vendors competing for business, repairing worn-out gear, and hosting gear give-a-ways.
After vendors vend their wares, hikers party around their fires. A field fills with tents so close walking becomes a gnarled maze of tripwires. The woods fill as well with two separate areas: quiet and chaos. We camped in chaos not entirely sure what we were getting ourselves into. Our tents happened to be right next to the largest bonfire I’ve ever seen with hundreds of nearly naked hikers tribal dancing to the thrum of a drum circle.
Tent city Sunday morning after clearing out. All that grass was packed with tents.
The blog being a month behind my current where-abouts, I’m posting some photos from the last thirty days. The hike is going well, better than I ever imagined. In fact, when people ask me how it is I tell ’em, “Everyday feels like the new best day of my life.” While this isn’t totally true, it isn’t too far off.
I am still hiking with Dr. Kool-Aid, My Shadow, Mountain Goat, and Finch. Firecracker is a recent addition, but has been with us for a couple weeks now. We are all eating better than ever with the occasional cookout.
Here we are grilling sirloin skewers at Woodchucks Hostel in Damascus the first time we were here (two weeks ago).
We arrived at Watagua Lake a few days before to find former thru-hikers performing trail magic. They were grilling burgers and had coolers filled with beer and pop. We stayed put that evening and the next night as well. A kind family lent us their kayaks and paddle boards. We fried bacon, beans, and eggs on a charcoal grill adding wild onions for extra flavor.
We crossed another border! Three states down, eleven to go.
We crossed the 500 mile markers – there were three with one made of pony poo – in the Grayson Highlands with it’s wild ponies.
We’ve entered the rainy season. I’ve been soaked through a couple times now. It’s actually a nice change and I often enjoy the rain.
Lots more hitchhiking.
And bellies full of pizza.
Wheeling carts of backpacks as we purchase food for days to come.
And then feasting with the addition of wild foods. Those are ramps in the backpack and all diced up. Firecracker is holding Solomons Seal, a root we’ve decided needs too much cooking to be worth our while. We also eat stinging nettle and wild garlic with the occasional green salad. We are all eagerly anticipating the arrival of berry season.
My shoes died a horrible death as I walk them to shreds. My friends all tell me they were dead weeks ago. Maybe they were right. My feet were sore for a time. I replaced them today tossing my poor old shoes into the trash where, I hate to say it, they belong. You definitely do NOT want a whiff of ’em. They smell bad enough to kill an elephant. I can hardly imagine how a recently bathed, clean-laundered person would fare. You know those movies where noxious gas touches a person skin causing them to convulse, blister, and boil…
And frightening night hikes.
And pony poo??
And wild animals.
And hikers blowing their seeds across grassy landscapes.
Our hair grew long but then was cut by friendly church-folks here in Damascus. My shirt is in the wash if you were wondering.
I’m hoping to prepare some new posts for the coming days but first must heed the call of the bottomless pit that was once my stomach. Tomorrow, we catch a ride back to Bland, Va then hike a few days to the town of Pearisburg, Va where you’ll hear from me next. Take care everyone and Happy Trails.