Thru-hiking festivals are a great way to witness first hand the bonds that are forged through moments in peoples lives that come to define some, and live on in others memories as the time of their lives. While hiking the PCT in 2011 we were never able to attend any of the festivals along the trail that year. Because of this, attending Trail Days in Damascus Virginia for the Appalachian Trail was something Becky and I were greatly looking forward too.
Our Backpacker booth that we manned stood smack in the middle of all the gear repair tents adjacent to tent city. For three days we talked gear, gave away sponsors swag and witnessed some of the best people watching available this side of the Mississippi. Trail Days is a hodgepodge of past hikers reliving their glory days and visiting with old friends. Present hikers who are immersed in a life long dream, midlife crisis or post/substitute for school quest of enlightenment. And future hikers getting their fix before the day comes where they venture into the wilderness themselves. The array of people who attend this festival is vast and humorous. Its a wildly eclectic group of people.
The first day as we set up our booth hikers started wandering out of the woods. You could smell them long before they were within sight. On day two the smell lessened significantly thanks to the local Baptist Church and their disaster relief mobile shower and laundry facilities. On day three I couldn’t tell either way, but by day four the smell returned.
By the end of the festival Becky and I were thoroughly exhausted. Four long days of being on our feet, talking to people, sun, heat, late nights, early mornings and admittedly a little alcohol. The rainy weather that was supposed to hamper the weekends festivities held off until the last night. It held off until the hour where we as the Backpacker Ambassadors held a massive gear giveaway. Standing on chairs we addressed the sweaty mass of hikers. Yelling at the top of my lungs I’m sure the further reaches of the 300+ crowd couldn’t hear me. We tossed out hundreds of socks, camping utensils, shirts, water bottles, and a mix of gear from all our sponsors. I strained to throw gear to the back of the crowd so that everyone could get something. When all the boxes of giveaways were gone we raffled off the bigger items ending with 18 Osprey packs stuffed full of gear. It was an exciting weekend full of new experiences and new friends. We can’t wait to go back next year!