I’m posting descriptions of my past favorite trip – the Appalachian Trail.
There has been a bit of an email drought here in VA – apologies to folks who have written and I have not been able to respond. I am writing (hurriedly) from a motel office in Pearisburg, VA – about 500 miles into my journey. I am doing well and having great fun. This email describes Trail Days which took place about 10 days ago – the next email will describe some insights on the trail a few character sketches.
To paraphrase the folks at the 24 Hour Church of Elvis in Portland, Trail Days was a wonderful monstronsity. About 5000 hikers descended upon the town on Damascus, VA, a town of 800 dubbed the friendliest town on the trail. Most folks camped along a river in a massive tent city. Hikers are remarkably clean as well – so if a hiker refugee camp suddenly appears on your lawn – do not be alarmed. They may look mangy, but they are mindful of those around them. It must be the “Leave No Trace” ethic.
It was a wonderful reunion as hikers hitched both North and South to attend trail days. I did my best to follow some Girl Scout wisdom – make new friends but keep the old, one is silver, the other gold.
Trail Days focused on April 17-19 although events were planned. It included hiker events, gear manufacturer shows, and much fun and frivolity. A hiker talent show displayed some impressive (and not so impressive) feats. I played bingo at the firehall with some hikers and the elderly ladies in town. Saturday included a hiker parade that brought out the whole town. Little kids derived significant joy from shooting squirt guns and water balloons at hikers. It was a simple pleasure and reminded me of 4th of July parades in elementry school. One friend, Disco, led some hiker cheers many folks could identify with – “I am 28 years old, and I use my parents as my return address. I got laid off from my job. I got a Dear John letter from my girlfriend saying if I loved her so much why was I taking five months off. Thank you Visa, Mastercard, and unemployment for sponsoring my hike….” Fortunately, I could appreciate those chants while not experiencing most of them!
Many gear manufacturers came to showcase their latest wares. I felt like a kid in a candy store. Note a plug follows. I have had my Gregory Backpack for 11 years and it has logged many miles. Unfortunately, it was on its last leg for the past 50 miles and had a tendency to rest 30 degrees to the left. I bumped into many trees. Gregory replaced the hip belt and straps for free on my grizzled backpack – for free! I met Wayne Gregory, the owner, as well, and he was quite nice. So if you need a new multiday backpack, buy a Gregory!
For those Duke basketball fans out there, I consorted with the enemy. Lurch, aka, Serge Zwicker was spotted in the mts of VA. He had hiked a section last year and returned to trail days. Once I spotted him, I put on my Duke 6th man t-shirt and was on a photo safari for the elusive beast. For a guy 7’2″ 300lbs, he sure was elusive. I managed to corner him in the cafe and take my picture with him with my Duke shirt. I do not think he realized my allegiances – maybe because his hip came up to my torso.
The hobo central people were also out in force. I spoke with papa again, the 84 year old thru hiker. He told me about surviving Pearl Harbor, the finer points of Bourboun, and the tricks of alligator wrestling. He even produced some alligator wresting pictures from the Everglades.
Trail Days was a wonderful time (spent zero days there) but I was ready to leave! The people and events overwhelmed my senses. It also reminded me why I was out here and made me appreciate the outdoors that much more.
Trail Days also marked my midway point on this adventure. It made the trail much more finite than an unfathomable 1000 mile trek. “Real life” also intruded on Trail Days as one friend, a fast go-light hiker had to return home to help with the family business. I also had some issues with my Phil apt lease. Thank you Mom and Dad for resolving that. But realities do puncture the bubble of the trail at times. I just value my time out here.
I need to leave this fine motel office (they are nice as I did not even stay here). I look forward to sending my next note out – let me warn you now – it will be a good one. Hope all is well and thank you for all of your kind responses. It helps inspire me on the trail.