Damascus, Virginia is known as the friendliest town on the Appalachian Trail, and I stand corrected, not the only town that the AT crosses, according to the Grand Pu Bah AKA my dad.
This weekend, in Damascus, I saw more hikers and bicycle stores than ever before at the Trail Days festival. There were more bike shops than Downtown Orlando! I could spot the hikers a mile away, walking hunched over and lugging large dirty packs. Young men wore full beards and women had walking sticks. Their body odors sent me sideways. It was as if I had just gotten t-boned.
I just could not imagine actually living my life on the trail for four to six months at a time. That’s how long it should take the average person to “thru-hike” the 2,165 miles of the AT from Georgia to Maine. Nearly everyone starts their journey in the south. Some say only twenty percent of them actually make it.
It seemed nearly impossible to me as I sat in the cafe looking at the people sitting at the table next to me. I noticed their Crocs and the dirty cracked bottoms of the girls’ feet. It was weird; they looked quite normal. One of the guys at the table could have seriously been a model with his starry blue eyes but he was ragged and worn out with his full dirty-blond beard of nappy hair. Why on Earth were their feets’ so dirty and how bad was it that they did not seem to care? They told war stories from the trail and I eavesdropped.
They had chosen to do this?
I could not, for the life of me, wrap my head around the reason why hiking thousands of treacherous miles through the cold wind and rain with wet blistered feet and living off Little Debbie cakes without taking hot showers was FUN. I did not want to give up my life for that long. I could not imagine it.
True, the majority of the hikers were young heirs to their throne whose parents sent them all care packages way in advance, but still. Life on the trail was tough every second of the day. I came to appreciate it in a way even though I still have no desire to ever hike the AT end-to-end because there are no bicycles allowed on the trail! But, everyone needs their own spiritual journey, and maybe their lives should be experienced alone out on the trail. Not everyone can ride a motorcycle for four hours, or run a marathon. I feel it.
Note to self : have to check out the famous Creeper Bike Trail in Va.