Addie’s take on Trail Day is a little different in perspective and context than Doc’s, because for me, it’s not only the event itself, but the long drive to it and from it. There’s no really separating them, as it sort of all blurs into one semi-sleep deprived adventure.
So here’s heading down (after dealing with a possum crisis, the ongoing Momma Kitty chronicles, the GPS glitch… work, packing, and the critter shuffle of who’s gotta stay and who’s gotta get in the truck!…).After we (the dogs and I) found him at Bill’s restaurant/bar/a little bit of everything in a small town called Little Orleans (which is always fun finding on a GPS), we put his stuff in, and put him in, and started the journey to Damascus, VA.
Since we had a long time until we thought the Trail Days Tent City would be opening, we figured we could take a scenic route, and swung over onto Skyline Drive, and saw the sights… well, the fog, and clouds, and trees. And some other wildlife.
And we stopped at a few of the gift store type stores, talked to a few hikers (wet ones) and Doc said a lot of things like “I hiked there,” and “I remember that spot.”
I thought it was fun to get a picture of the dogs in front of a dogwood tree in bloom, in the rain.
I don’t know if we’ll be putting the bear video up, but I spotted a bear along the road, and we were able to turn around and loop past the same spot, and lo and behold, there were two-one for me to spot, and a second one for Doc to spot (so we were even, how nice). I was using my camera to take a video with my left hand in case we had just a fractional glimpse of fleeing bear without time to snap pictures, and snapping pictures with his camera in my right hand, so we could get actual nice pictures if we had time. Oddly, the dogs didn’t react to the bears, so I’m betting they didn’t see them.
After the bears, we continued along Skyline Drive, since we were going north to south on it, it was over one hundred miles. That gave us a lot of time to see a lot of spectacular views of fog, if you like fog (I do). The gate lady did warn us it would be foggy, and we didn’t mind.
Ralf and Kyle fit in the back seat of the truck ok, but they both enjoy sticking their heads up between the seats when they get the chance. And they both specialize in their own “this is the life” smug/happy face. Here are a few of Ralf’s demonstrations of the face.
We stopped to get some nachos and ice cream at another gift store, and I got nice picture of what I think might be a chipping sparrow. I’d bet money it’s a sparrow, but haven’t had a chance to narrow it down from there. And after we sort of crossed sideways over to the other side of the mountains (I think) the cloud cover shifted a bit, so we were below it, and once and a while, you’d see more distance and less fog.
And we arrived that early evening/late afternoon at Tent City in Damascus, VA. And of course, there was rain there, too. Anyone, if you plan to go to Trail Days, expect it to rain a lot, plan for it, prepare for it, and also plan for it to occasionally . clear up, get hot and humid, and rain down enough sun to give you sunburn. But also, Trail Days is fun, and worth it.
Plus, there’s a place in Damascus called Pizza Plus. I think they’re part of a franchise (Ryan pointed on out at home after we got back…but even if it is the ‘same’ franchise, it’s not Trail Days Pizza Plus so it’s not quite the same.. if you know what I mean). We ate there last year, it was THE BEST PIZZA I had of the places we ate each time I visited him along the trail. This year, we got the pizza buffet option instead of ordering take home pizzas like last year, but both options worked well for us.
If you’ve been following Doc since last year’s AT hike, you might have heard about “Trail Magic,” but for those who haven’t, here’s what it is: Trail Magic i when someone does something unexpected and nice for hikers. Maybe it’s leaving a bunch of bottled water at a shelter, or buying hiker lunch while they’re in town, or handing out munchies or snacks to hikers where the trail crosses the road. As a hiker, Doc experienced it once and a while, and as you can guess, sometimes something like that can put a smile back on your face after a pretty crummy day or two. So, we figured we’d pass along some of those smiles to this year’s ‘class’ of hikers. We brought some snacks and drink mixes (like cocoa and coffee and fruit punch—not something alcoholic!), and when we were going be in one place for a while and it wasn’t raining, we’d put them outside the tent or in front of our truck, with a sign saying “Trail Magic” so hikers would know the stuff was free for taking. The cool thing about hikers, in general (as always, there are exceptions) is they help each other, and they are considerate of each other… so nobody just filled their pockets and pack and took it all, leaving nothing for anyone else. Ryan’s toy bubble maker frog also got a little action, blowing bubbles when we set it up near the snacks. We decided to name the frog “Rabies” because it foams at the mouth.
Ryan did get a chance to do some staff spinning with sparklers on the end, but only during the day. We have a video, but may or may not end up posting it.
We survived the rains, and I packed sunscreen so I only burned a tad on the top of my shoulders, where I don’t usually get sun so I am pretty sure it burned through the sunscreen—I lobster easily. On Saturday, we decided we’d leave later in the afternoon, but had managed to pack up the tent and stuff earlier in the day as it dawned clear and sunny and dried things out nicely. We hung around the vendor area for a while in the rain, and talked to a few people. Especially, we talked with a couple who were visiting their son on the trail. Friday, Ryan and I, and Kyle and Ralf participated in a get your wild on howl thingy at the REI booth. People would stand on a small wooden platform (like small soap box but wider) and then howl, hoot, roar or whatever, then the REI people would give them something. Ryan and I decided to show them how it’s done, and let some real howls go, so he and I and Kyle and Ralf got up there, and did a group howl. Ralf tends to aroooo roooo aroooo rooooooo insead of really howl, but Kyle is great at howling, and we’ve all practiced this at home. It didn’t take long for the dogs to know what we were up to, and put on a pretty good show. Ryan and I got hats, and Doc has a picture of me trying to hold the hats on the dogs… who didn’t really care about the hats. So we had 2 hats, and I’d quickly taken to wearing mine.
So going back to the couple we were talking with while waiting for one of the raffles and enduring yet another rain storm mentioned getting the husband a hat. We said go to REI they’re giving them away, and it ended up with Ryan back by the raffle with the wife and the dogs, and I went with the husband to show him the REI place. We checked to see if they were still doing the give away, but turns out they ran out of hats and were down to stickers and bananas-oops, sorry bandanas. He decided he’d just go down to the other booth selling hats, and I said, well hang on, I don’t think Ryan is wearing his hat, and I don’t think he’s likely to, so let’s see what his plans for the hat are. I ended up giving the guy my hat, and I just snagged Ryan’s when we got back in the vehicle. I’m glad it worked out, ‘cause the hat has an AT blaze on the front with generic mountains in the background, and on the underside of the brim, it’s got the AT stats for distance, height gained, and a rough map of the trail from Georgia to Maine. So it just seems to fit, and it’s got a lot of blank-ish space on the front he can write his son’s name and the year or whatever on the front to personalize it. Coolies.
Also that afternoon, we hit a bit of the AT where it is sharing the same trail with the Virginia Creeper Trail, and did a bit of walking. We didn’t do a lot, because Ralf’s hips get sore and he gets tired fast, he’s an old boy. There were some cool temporary interpretive materials along the trail, which was interesting to see. I like the idea in a way, because it means people don’t just start ignoring them because they look old and are always there. Oh, and that cool vine is poison ivy, I think.
And then we headed out of town, synchronized with the Hiker Parade…which meant taking a few back routes which didn’t prevent a bit of waiting. On they way out I grabbed a picture of one of the Trail Angels’ vehicles, it’s covered with stickers across the back doors. Ryan now has a sticker on there. We brought eggs down last year and this year, and gave them to this particular Angel, Just about everyone on the trail in this area has heard . She and other Trail Angels are kind of like trail magic, in that they help hikers, but they’re more like call us and they give you a cheap or free ride places, or help you get to town or whatever.
After the parade passed our area, we headed out of Damascus towards the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area W. Pat Jennings Sr. Welcome Center, and stopped in there. Partnership shelter, where I dropped Ryan off last year to continue his hike, is right near the visitor center. We went in, looked at a few of their exhibits and chatted with the staffers about the weather and stuff. Ryan made friends with a bear…sort of. We split the last of our snacks with one of the churches which does a LOT for the hikers while they’re in town (for free, they’re super to the hikers) and the last bits in a bucket at the shelter for hikers. We talked to a few hikers there about Ryan’s hike last year and their hikes this year. I’ve also told Ryan that I want a shelter like the Partnership Shelter in our yard, and if possible, with its view, it’s on my x-mas list.
And then it was heading back towards home, through some tunnels and a lot of rain.
We made it home safely, and everything was fine at home, so hooray.
I do want to say best wishes to the folks we stopped to help after they had an accident. if I remember correctly, we had just passed into West Virginia, on I 77 Northbound. We saw the just-after accident, and rendered aide to one of the people injured in the event. I want to say that I was happily surprised by the way other people handled the event, nobody stopped to video and just stand there, many people stopped to just generously give things like coats and towels or blankets, as of course it was raining and the injured person was unable to be moved from the wet, water draining median. Nobody did anything stupid or callous, and people were very careful and helpful. Thanks to those who helped, and best wishes to the injured people. Obviously, we didn’t take pictures but I figured I’d mention that seat belts are useful, drive carefully in the rain, and help people when you can but be careful!