Last Wednesday (5/12) Gregg & I headed to Damascus, Virginia for Trail Days. It is the largest single gathering of Appalachian Trail hikers anywhere, and draws in excess of 20,000 tourists. (Wiki)
I guess I should explain why we went! Gregg hiked the entire trail in 1999 (2175 miles!! 6 months!!), and ever since I found that out, I have been asking millions of questions about it. What did you bring? Where did you sleep?! What did you eat? He suggested that we could go to Trail Days so I could find out all about it, experience the trail and meet some current thru-hikers.
We got there on Thursday afternoon after stopping to spend the night at his sister’s house the night before. We loaded up a cooler on the way in with beer, (Yes! They sell 30 packs there!) cokes for hikers, and ice.
Once we got to the campgrounds, I helped Gregg set up the tent. We got a really nice place right next to a river/creek.
Another important fact, I’ve camped maybe 3 times in my life. Usually, I’ll go with the idea of sleeping in the tent, but usually head home after a few hours next to a bonfire. A real bed always wins! I also am the type of girl to shower, blow dry my hair, and put makeup on every day. I had decided beforehand that I was going to try for the next 5 days not to be that girl, try to be open-minded, embrace the wilderness and dirt that comes along with it.
Once everything was set up, we got back into the car to check out Damascus & see what was going on. After checking out all the outfitters, we had pizza at Quincey’s Pizza, which is on the main drag. Gregg had told me that it was amazing pizza, I joked that it was only good because he was hiking when he had it, and thru-hikers are known to eat a ton, and everything tastes good compared to ramen. In the end, the pizza was amazing.
Once we got back to the campground, we walked around & checked out “tent city”. I sticked my legs in the backyard creek and it was ice cold, my feet went numb after a few minutes.
This is really the only picture I got of the tent city. There were hundreds of tents, and people. Pretty spectacular! That evening we ended up going to the “city” of “Muff Cuts” (People had named different camp sites) for a drum circle and a huge bonfire that looked like a dog bone. We met up with a guy we had driven around earlier, Wallflower, and talked and watched a guy play this crazy PVC tube Blueman Groupesque musical instrument. After awhile, we were exhausted and headed back to our tent and went to bed. (River/Creek noises while sleeping?! Amazing!)
Friday, we woke up early and I scrambled to take a shower at a hidden bathroom. The water was freezing, but I managed to wash some of the dirt off me. We headed off to find the Appalachian trail so we could hike and find one of the shelters so I could see what they looked like.
1.5 miles later (all uphill, in a skirt and flipflops…) reached Old Orchard Shelter. When the hikers stay there for the night, they all lay side by side. Also, there was rope with twigs tied on them hanging from the roof. Gregg informed me they were there to hang your food, so rats didn’t eat it. He then told me that hearing rats scurry around while sleeping is completely normal, and you are so tired from walking you don’t even care.
At the shelter, we found two hikers who were in the mood for burgers. They has heard of a place a few miles away, and we offered to drive them. We ate lunch, and then headed to Grayson Highlands State Park, which Gregg had said was awesome and had wild horses.
The park was completely empty! It was like we had the whole place to ourselves. Here is a ton of pictures:
Little flowers that danced in the wind
I’m so stylish & poised.
After a long time walking around & exploring (DO YOU KNOW WHAT A PIT TOILET IS?!), we headed back to camp. That evening we ate ravioli that Gregg cooked outside on a propane burner. Gregg said it was the fanciest meal he’s ever had on the trail. ;)
YUM! We had olive & tomato sauce.
After dinner, we cracked open beers, and sat outside our tent for a little bit saying hi to everyone walking by. (We were right on a main path.) We shared beers with people, and made a friend named Lauren. Lauren had mentioned a band from her home town Boone, NC was setting up and playing a set. We headed up there and met a guy named “Fast Eddie” and jammed out and danced. After awhile, Wallflower, showed up and we danced more! After the set, everyone migrated to the HUGE drum circle going on. On the way there, I slipped in fell into mud and didn’t care the least bit! (It rained for awhile earlier in the evening.) I eventually ended up going around the bonfire in a congo line.
We then headed to “Alcatraz Island” another camping group that was set up on an island. I must have slipped a million times, at this point it was after 9pm, and so so so dark. Navigating the woods with a headlamp is crazy. After hanging out there for awhile, we took a walk around the entire campground, and made sure Lauren found her tent. Then we headed to bed, after talking to our camping neighbors a little bit.
Saturday morning, we woke up and packed up the campsite. People kept passing us and thanking us for sharing our beer. After packing up the car, we took quick (still) freezing showers, and headed up to the gazebo in the main part of town to check out the vendors and hippie wares being sold.
We bought some silly stickers from Low Rider Press & Gregg got a shirt from The Outfitter at Harpers Ferry‘s tent. We then looked around the main street again, found Wallflower, I gave him my card so I could send him a book or two down the trail. Then we headed off to Charleston, SC…. which I’ll post about tomorrow. :)