Trail Days, Damascus, V.A.

After having spent 2 nights at Hungry Mother State Park we decided to lock up the camper and head a few miles south to Damascus, Virginia. Damascus was having their annual Trail Days Festival, celebrating current and past thru hikers of the Appalachian Trail. This town gets together to throw a big party, and their hospitality was unreal.

Hikers were hitching rides into town from every direction. The town baseball fields, and sections of woods behind them, were temporarily turned into “Tent City”. The Damascus fire department, library, and local church were doing laundry for hikers, feeding them, giving free haircuts, foot massages and even had a movie night. There were two small strips of vendors scattered throughout the festival, all outdoor companies showing off their latest merchandise and fixing and replacing everyone’s gear for free.

After setting up our tents we took a walk around the festival, Purdy dropped his backpack off with the manufacturer to have a zipper replaced, and we got to meet his trail family. Everyone we met seemed surprised to know that Purdy is a ball busting, movie quote junkie not only on the trail,  but off the trail too. Everyone of Purdy’s trail friends that we met were really awesome, we had a great time hanging out and talking, they were all hiker hungry and we sat and watched them eat for most of the daylight hours.

After the sun went down things started to get crazy in Tent City.

As the sun started to set people began howling throughout the festival, echoing off of one another. There were a few people set up in Tent City making food for everyone, and before long everyone had full stomachs and were well into their share of alcohol and other things. We took a walk onto the woods once the sun went down and witnessed a Alice in Wonderland/Mad Max party winding through the paths of the woods. As we walked through there were small groups of people huddled around fires singing, dancing and eating. As we went further into the woods the camp set ups became more elaborate and crazy. People had huge tents set up blasting techno music, with large bonfires. At the end of the path of parties we came to the mother of all bonfires where there was a drum circle surrounding it and people dancing and chanting around it. At one point I asked Purdy where he had taken me and his only response was a giggle, haha this place was unreal.

After having our fill of debauchery for the night we decided it was time to head back to our tents. In the morning we had a $5 all you can eat pancake breakfast from the church, picked up Purdy’s pack and before leaving gave one of his friends and her dog a ride to the food store to stock up for another night of Trail Days. We knew that one night was plenty of Trail Days for us, so we headed back to Hungry Mother State Park for one more night in the lap of luxury.

Hungry Mother State Park, Marion, V.A.

After a slow drive down to Virginia we arrived in Marion where we spent 4 nights at Hungry Mother State Park. For the first 2 nights the campground was very quiet with only about a quarter of the sites filled. The park isn’t too big, but it has a some nice trails, a beach for swimming and a boat ramp for non-motorized boats.

After a quick set up at the camp site we drove about 20 miles west to pick up our friend Purdy at a general store that seemed to be in the middle of no where. Purdy is thru hiking the Appilachian Trail and just passed the 500 mile mark on the trail. Paul and I hosted him for a few days in the camper. We cooked him hot meals, watched movies, and gave him a bed to sleep on, making him a very happy camper.

Our fist two days were spent hanging around the town of Marion and relaxing at the campground. Friday we decided to head down to Damascus, Virginia for a thru hiker festival called Trail Days (post to follow). We spent our last night in the camp enjoying their hot showers and laundry facilities before we had to pack up and head south to the Smokey Mountians!

We did it!

We started living our version of the American dream this week. Wednesday was an emotional good bye and we spent the first few hours of our trip pretty quiet, processing the fact that we are actually doing this. It wasn’t until we started to see the mountains of Virginia that we actually felt like it was real. 
Our drive down to Virginia was thankfully uneventful. The camper and the truck handled the ups and downs of the mountains well.