( written on May 18, 2008)
Back in Damascus, VA, exactly one year, to the day, after being here in 2007 for Trail Days, or Trail Daze, a 25,000 person backpacking party. I’m here tonight at the Biker Barn, in the company of my wife Auntie Mame, and her twin sister, V8. Both are part of this year’s crop of Appalachian Trail thru- hikers, having racked up 624 miles to date.
We are in an apartment right on the side of the Creeper Trail, one of the country’s premiere rails to trails conversions, famous for the gentle 16 mile down hill that attracts bikers from all over the country. No skills are really required to accomplish the trip other than being able to keep yourself from falling off the bike once it starts rolling.
I wanted to meet old hiking friends. Three minutes after walking in downtown Damascus brought a, “Hey, Uncle Tom!” from Robo. We walked and talked a while.
During the day, I ran into Serial, Poontz and the female M&M, the guy M&M, Grasshopper ( who gained 40 pounds back), Grin, Pogue, and Crazy Horse. On Sat. I ran into three members of the infamous Dung Beetles: Evil Eye, Kiwi, and Tom B. I also ran into Hemlock, Hungus, Dozer, Megan, Bama, Lipstick, and Slinky Dog.
I thought that I’d score some real finds at vendor alley, but ended up buying just one $4 bag of five small plastic squeeze bottles, that I’d use for liquid soap, hot sauce and tamari.
However at Mt. Rogers Outfitters, I dropped some serious cash. I spent $65 on a sleeping bag coupler that allow me to mate it to a 40 degree Western Mountaineering down bag. That converts it to a two person bag, with the thin coupler on the bottom and the full rectangular bag on top. I also bought two “2,175” (miles from Maine to Georgia) decals for my cars, and an A.T. patch that I’ll sew onto my backpack, so I can then attach beneath it the “2,000 miler” bar that I earned for thru hiking.
On Sat., I was back on vendor alley where I bought $48 worth of freeze dried suppers from Antigravity Gear, plus they threw in a complimentary t-shirt and an insulated cozy to hold the meals in while they are rehydrating. I also bought a newly released DVD entitled “Walking the Great Divide”. www.flagerfilms.com . I needed to replace my Inov8 ( www.inov-8.com) Terr-Roc 330 hiking shoes. I now have a pair of newly released Rocklite 295’s. They are lighter, made with a wider forefoot, with more cushion in the foot. The fellow that sold me on them was the pro rep, and wanted me to get back to him after I told him I wore out two pairs on the AT last year. “Check your landing gear” is Inov8’s motto catch phrase right now.
It was a solid packed couple of days, with my only regret my inability to connect with Queso and his girlfriend Angie. I would have loved hanging out with them.
Tomorrow I leave here for three days of backpacking with the Speedy Sisters. Watch out. After I backpack in VA on the AT with them for three days, I go back to Maine for two days, then head out for another three days of backpacking, this time on the AT in Western Maine, trying out the new Grafton Loop Trail. My friends General Tso and Rangoon will be with me. I’ll be posting here, stay in touch.