This past week we were in Damascus and it was so much more fun and restorative than I could have hoped for. I'm actually kind of surprised I was able to tear myself away.
Backing up, let's do a rundown of how the week went. Last weekend was a trail festival called Trail Days. It's arguably the biggest trail gathering of the year and many hikers find their way to town, even if they are somewhere else on the trail. We were in Hampton, TN at the time of the festival so our friend JT came and picked us up. We spent a night at the Letter People Farm and Rooney got to play with his doggy friend Runner.
The next day we moved to a house in town to stay with our friends Brian and Christine (Trace and 1/3) who met on the trail in 2003. They're such a loving and awesome couple and it was so nice to spend time with them and their two dogs, Bear and Chief.
We wandered town and did the traditional Trail Days stuff like going to the gear booths and walking in the parade. The parade is basically just hikers walking down the main road in town and getting pelted by water balloons. Locals line the streets with balloons, super-soakers and hoses. They really don't hold back and I was soaked by the end of it all.
After the weekend, we moved to our friend Dennett's house. He has an amazing yard right on the water and the Creeper Trail and he very generously allows hikers to camp in his yard. At the high point of the weekend, he had over 30 tents set up in his yard - it was crazy. The weather was kind to us and there was a lot of lazy hanging out during the day followed by big bonfires and live music at night. The perfect scene for a bunch of hippie hikers. Thank you, Dennett, for being so patient and kind to us all. You really made everyone's Trail Days a great experience and we're lucky to have you as a friend.
After three much needed zeros we finally decided to get back on the trail for some slackpacking. Slackpacking is when you take only what you need for the day and leave the bulk of your pack contents behind. I carried a pack with just snacks for the day and an empty water bottle to drink at water sources. It couldn't have been more than 5-6 pounds and it felt glorious. We were able to do almost 45 miles in two days which let us get from Hampton to Damascus quickly. JT shuttled us (have I mentioned how fantastic JT is?!) and our friend Angie lent us her car so we were able to easily make the miles happen.
After the slackpacking we took one more day off to take advantage of bad tv and having a kitchen, then it was back to the trail and goodbye to fabulous Damascus. After some serious tears and goodbye hugs, we were back in the woods. It wasn't hard to leave town comforts, I actually missed the trail, but leaving our friends was really difficult. I know we will see them again, but we won't be living there again which is hard for me to come to terms with. I really loved my home there and will miss seeing our friends regularly. There are some really special people in Damascus and they will undoubtedly be friends for life.
Once we were back on the trail, we had some really amazing spots to enjoy. The Grayson Highlands was my first hike when I moved to the area and it is home to the most amazing trails I have experienced to date. The Highlands are beautiful and we took our time through this area, just enjoying the views. The weather was perfect and our campsite was fantastic. I couldn't have asked for more and it felt great to be back on the trail.
Yesterday we hit our 500 mile mark on the trail and it felt great! We are in Virginia and ready to take on the trail's longest state. We'll be in VA for 500 miles and many find this state to be the most challenging mentally, but I am really looking forward to it. There are so many amazing things to see in VA and when we're done we will be almost halfway through our journey. Plus we are in pretty great physical shape now so it will be nice to crank through the miles and really see what we are capable of.
But first, we are taking a day off to visit with Serial's parents. They picked us up on the trail and we're spending two nights with them in their RV. They live full-time in their fifth wheel and travel the country just exploring and having adventures. How cool. Last night at dinner the four of us were reflecting on our current journeys and how lucky we all felt.
Tomorrow it's back to the trail for us. My next "big" goal will be Harpers Ferry, WV where we will meet back up with Serial's parents AND my parents. It will be our unofficial halfway celebration and a little family reunion - lots to look forward to!
Until then, we will be back to our trail/town routine and keeping you guys updated whenever we can. A BIG thank you to all of our Damascus friends. We love you more than we can express and we can't wait to see you when we come back to visit after the trail. :-)
Minutes, Serial and Rooney