Saturday, May 15, 2010

Trail Days, Damascus, Virginia

I want to make some censuring comment like TV and movie ratings--for around the bend audiences only--or something like that.  The story I am about to tell and the pictures posted will seem like something from another planet to most of my readers.  Let me just say that the RV lifestyle is not anything like the long-distance hiker lifestyle.  Viewer discretion may be advised.

As a point of reference, like RVers and their rallies, hikers have their special events, as well.  There are several, of course, and the different long trails have their own events.  Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia is one of the primary events along the Appalachian Trail.  It is scheduled each year in the middle of May to coincide with the time that most thru-hikers starting at Springer Mountain in Georgia would reach Damascus on the Virginia state line.

Three of the hikers we gave a ride a couple weeks ago
Just like at the RV rallies, the hiking gear vendors are here--Leki (trekking poles), Gregory (packs), Granite Gear (tents, packs), Etowah (stoves)--set up to sell you something new or fix what is broken.  There is free food and door prizes, a parade, talent show, and free showers behind the Baptist church.

Warren Doyle telling his stories

Many of the people in attendance have walked here from north Georgia, but there are also many, many thru-hikers from former years, as well as any Joe Blow with an excessive compulsive interest in the AT.  And we’re here.  What can I say.  Most people, including those hiking or who have hiked the Trail think you have to be just a little (or maybe a lot) crazy to be out here.  That would explain a whole lot of what you see in the photos.

The latest and greatest in light weight tents
We arrived about mid-morning Saturday and finally found a parking place.  Unfortunately, we were far too late for a free space.  High on Gene’s list of attractions was the vendor area.  At the very first booth, he answered the trivia question correctly and won a Crazy Creek chair.  We fingered all the merchandise in all the booths and looked at all the tents.  We saw Skywalker at a table selling his book.  He was on the trail in 2005 when we did our section from Hot Springs, NC to Catawba, VA and we saw him several times in the vicinity of Erwin. It was nice to see him again.  We made our way down the vendor area, through the “food court”, then up the main street in town.  We slipped into Mt Rogers Outfitters, one of our favorites, and looked around a bit.  There was a crowd of people in there so we didn’t stay too long.  We found lunch at the Fire Hall.

T-shirts for sale

The vendors "tent city".

At 2 PM the Hiker Parade started.  That was the highlight for me.  This event had your basic parade elements--police cars, fire trucks, color guard, and horses.  The main body of the parade, however, consisted of the hikers.  There were hikers who are on the trail currently, as well as hikers from previous years. Most just had on their hiking clothes, but there were a few who took the opportunity to dress up.  Sometimes their costumes reflect their trail names; sometimes not.  You never can tell with these folks.

The parade is more than a parade--it is a major water fight.  The spectators came armed with water guns and balloons.  A few hikers were armed, as well, but mostly they just got soaked.  Thankfully, the weather was good--sunny and hot--for such and event.  We just happened to pick a spot along the parade route that was 2 storefronts from the gang that was on the roof.  Somewhat of an unfair advantage, I’d say.  About the time the parade marchers got in front of my camera lens, they could see the rooftop gang which included a water hose.

Ready for the parade to start
Following the parade, was the talent show down at the food court.  We went from there up to hear trail stories told by Warren Doyle. This guy is making a legend of himself.  He is currently hiking the trial for the 16th time (more than anyone else).  It is my understanding that he runs the Appalachian Trail Folk School where he teaches classes on hiking and every 5 years he leads a group on a thru-hike.  For a real job, he is on the faculty at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina.  Speaking of legends, we also saw Gene Epsey--the second person to ever thru-hike the trail.  He was signing his book out in front of Mt Rogers Outfitters.  Also running around in the crowd were a few Tennessee Trails members.  We saw Model-T from the Clarksville chapter.  It was good to see him looking completely recovered after recent surgery.

This guy is a little more serious
We got tired and hungry, so we moseyed on over to our hotel room in Abington and didn’t stay for the evening entertainment.  This morning, neither of us were enthusiastic about going back to Damascus.  No other events were going on today that we hadn’t seen yesterday.

Except for the long drive there and back, it was a fabulous weekend.  Tomorrow, we’ll be back on the trail again, ourselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment