Trail Days! The largest event on the Appalachian Trail that occurs every May, and I am excited to walk into town and grab a much needed beer and some grub only, no. The town of Damascus, although a very cool small town, has about the wonkiest business hours I have ever experienced.
We were hoping to enjoy their brewery, but they’re closed Mondays through Wednesdays (we arrived Wednesday). We walked downtown to check out their restaurant scene. How about Bobo McFarland’s? – “Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.” Hey Joe’s? – Open Wednesdays, however they ran out of food, so they closed early. Beer to go at the Dollar General? – Closed. A highly disappointing arrival, but we get over it and head to the Woodchuck Hostel to get a spot in the bunkhouse for the night.
It’s Thursday and it’s a new day! The crowds of hikers start to arrive as “Tent City” is finally opening up for the event! After paying to stay for the weekend and getting our bracelets, Frisbee, Crank and I find a quiet, shady little spot by a stream to set up camp.
We eventually coin it “Camp Fragile Eggs” after our delayed resupply box back when we were hiking through Georgia. We hope to reclaim our “camp” and reunite with some old friends in 2017, but I digress. Trail Days didn’t actually kick off until the following day, so our itinerary consisted of grabbing freebies from the vendors who were starting to set up, gathering more of our “Tramily” (trail family), as they arrived so they could set up near “Camp Fragile Eggs,” a lot of beer drinking, and a lot of wandering around town.
As for the event itself, there are vendors who have free giveaways, raffles, and gear available if you’re trying to switch it up. There was even a tent for gear repairs. The community sets up free or cheap meals around town that are available at certain times of the day to keep your calorie count hefty for the months ahead. They also provide free services such as laundry and showers. There are events throughout the weekend as well. Some of these events include presentations, live music, and a talent show.
There’s also “hiker prom.” A few of us went to the local thrift store called, “It’s a God Thing” (reminding us that this is the South!), and put together the most ridiculous outfits we could possibly create.
We attended the event although we were a bit disappointed. The beer was pricy and they didn’t even provide a pale ale or an IPA (boo!). This surprised me because I had seen their “Beaver Rage IPA” advertised everywhere. We made the best of it though, and danced the night away to the prom entertainment which was a country cover band. It was a hootenanny, I tell ya!
I can’t leave out the hiker parade! It includes thru hiker alum who reunite each year, as well as all the current hikers in the tail-end of the march. The tradition includes the locals, who participate by using hoses and water guns to spray the hikers as they pass by (a “cleaning off” of the hiker scum and stink)!
There was a little excitement as the parade was coming to a close. Someone in a car decided to drive down the same road the parade was proceeding on, and drove over a hiker’s foot in the process. What shocked me more was after the guy removed his tire from the man’s foot (which took a solid 3-4 seconds), he made a U-turn and hauled ass out of there. Fortunately, the guy whose foot got run over was ok and walked away from the incident.
Trail Days was over by Sunday, but a lot of hikers hung around town afterwards. It was bittersweet, since a number of hikers that we had gotten to know and love along the journey were either calling it quits or were only planning on hiking to Damascus in the first place. We had to say goodbye to a lot of great people that weekend, but the hike must go on… eventually!
Like the town of Franklin, NC, we got a bit caught up in Damascus and ended up staying there a while before getting our butts back in the woods. We splurged on a night at the Old Mill Inn as it rained, and then got distracted briefly at “Camp Wok” (our buddy Wokman’s stealth camp site right outside of town). After a couple beers we left Wok and Strider, and hiked out with Waterbug. Hiking out of town half-buzzed is not fun, but I never seem to learn!
Total AT Mileage: 454.6 miles
Number of Hiking Days: 37
Number of Zero Days: 13 <-notice how much slacking we’ve been doing?
Average Mileage per day: 12.3 miles
Average Mileage this Chapter: 0 miles (0 hiking days)
Longest Hiking Day: 26.2 miles (Groundhog Creek Shelter, NC/TN to Hot Springs, NC)
Shortest Hiking Day: 4.3 miles (Erwin, TN to Curly Maple Gap Shelter, TN)