May 16, 2009

AT Trail Days!

One of the most enjoyable parts of doing any hike on the Appalachian Trail is meeting a variety of interesting souls who are all out here with at least one thing in of the trail!

Along with the hiking, the town of Damascus, VA sponsors a yearly event that brings together hundreds of hikers - especially large numbers of 'thru hikers' (hikers who hike the whole A.T. in one swoop). Vendors of specialized and lightweight hiking equipment, past hikers and writers, those just interested in the trail or hiking, and the folks who venture into this piece of American History.
Most are attracted to the numerous displays of gear, like the display of ultra lightweight tents and shelters. We spent the better part of two days wandering through the booths, watching demos, tasting meals and treats, etc.

And no festival would be complete without some good local music, and in Virginia that's bluegrass of course!

The highlight of the festival is the Hiker's Parade. It's amazing just how many folks line the main street of this small, sleepy community for this unique event.

Along with all the interesting folks we found a few other things that caught the eye.

The parade went on for quite some time with this year's thru hikers leading the parade. Following were the groups that had done thru hikes in years past, a reunion of sorts of old friends made on the trail.

Another highlight are the water fights. Yes, according to the townsfolk, this is an old tradition of the parade. A nice sampling of the squirt-gun action can be seen in this video clip on our YouTube site.

Educational talks were available all weekend. Perhaps the most interesting was Gene Espy, who was the second person to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. His talk focused on the difficulties facing the hiker in the earlier years, and included many humorous tales of his adventure.