I’m spending the weekend in Damascus, VA after completing 470 miles and 3 states on the trail (Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee). In a couple weeks, the small mountain town of Damascus will be host to Trail Days, the biggest and most eagerly anticipated AT festival every year. There will be music, gear vendors, a talent show, trail maintenance events, reunions of hikers from past years, and a tent city fit to hold hundreds and hundreds of visitors. Hikers have been talking about it since day 1. I’ll be further down the trail at the time but will certainly catch a ride back to Damascus for the fest if I can. Sounds like it’s gonna be insane.
Washbear and I recently stayed at Kincora Hiking Hostel in the mountains outside of Hampton, TN. A shower, laundry, bunk, and ride into town for Mexican food for only $5! The proprietor is Bob Peoples, an almost cartoonishly charming outdoorsman in his 70s, long revered for his trail maintenance and advocacy, and acts of generosity for the AT community. 11 cats, 3 pseudo-domesticated racoons, and an obese opossum live on the property. Bob speaks with a rich southern-drawled Boston dialect and his lower jaw bobs up and down when he laughs (which is often) like the world’s friendliest ventriloquist dummy. Bob is fantastic. He is a wealth of hiking tips and subtly expressed life lessons. The walls of the shelter about 2 miles past his hostel are scrawled with statements like “Bob Peoples is the definitive argument for cloning”, “When Bob Peoples hikes, mountains take notice”, and “Bob Peoples can make Communism work”. Hard to argue with any of that.
A couple days ago, one my barely 4 months old (and quite expensive) trekking poles shattered into pieces while hiking, slamming my full body and pack weight onto my bent right ankle. Thankfully Washbear was around for moral support as I guzzled ibuprofen and bandaged it up. Whenever I’m in sizable pain or feeling particularly challenged, I ask myself “Well buddy, what the hell did you think was going to happen out here?” It helps get me back on my feet. The injuries and struggles–more specifically, how you respond to them–are all part of the experience.
I will be hiking in Virginia for over 500 miles, nearly a quarter of the entire trail. Popular knowledge states that you can rack up massive daily miles in the state because of its comparative flatness, but I have heard this refuted enough times to be doubtful. Some hikers fall into the “Virginia Blues” because the state seems to stretch on forever without as many intermittent milestones fueling you (crossing a state line, the newness of your 100/200/300… mile markers, etc). I see this being an issue for the more checklist-oriented hikers out here, though I am curious to see how my psychological mechanisms handle the (already happening) transition of the hike feeling like a fresh undertaking to the reality of it being my daily life for the forseabble future. 3.5-4 more months feels like a long time. But when I think about this experience ending, of it being something I “did” rather than “am doing”, I feel a tangible pang of longing for something that has yet to pass. This line of thinking seems fairly pointless, but it also pointedly makes me appreciate the present moment. The dualities of the trail abound.
Until next time!