Trail days.. where thousands of sore, dirty, tired some current, most past hikers converge on a small town at the bottom of Virginia and the town goes into party mode.
Tents spawn wherever the grass will accommodate them, especially in a lawless (apart from the sniffer dogs and cops in hummers) region called ‘tent city’. Infrastructure becomes stretched to the limit with the churches and portable facilities filling the void, whilst emergancy services such as the fire brigade become large mess halls to fill the hungry masses.
Sheila (Suzanne) and I rode into town on the Friday a bit apprehensive about camping in tent city as we were looking for something a little quieter. Luckily as we drove through I spotted LadySlipper (now renamed Thirsty) and he and BushGoggles had found a nice camp spot by the river behind the Lazy Fox which turned out to be a perfect spot as it was close to town, fairly secluded and the running water provided a nice background accompaniment which drowned (hoho) out the snorers.
Me and the Redneck (at the jukebox)
The rest of the day for us was spent walking around checking out the retailers of which there were plenty. A theory that one of the hikers had was that the retailers see the thru-hikers as an opportunity market as they put the equipment through extended wear and tear and then act as good advertising, both on the trail and when they get back home. In that regard they tend to treat AT hikers as VIP customers and are more than happy to fix or replace gear for them. I’ve heard stories of people getting worn shoes and hiking poles replaced multiple times from some people which makes me a bit sad that most of my gear is Katmandu and I doubt they would be so forthcoming about shipping replacements to the US.
We also went to a medical station where I found out that my heart rate and blood pressure had risen to much higher levels (probably due to being stuck in town with thousands of other hikers) and that I’m down to 85 kgs which means I’ve lost 10 kilos so far. That was pretty much it for the day apart from catching up with people and going for a few drinks later that night.
AWOL (author of the main guide book) and I
Saturday was the big day however. It began with ‘Mountain Mocha Bourbon’ which was a hair of the dog starter created by ‘Pops’ with fairly obvious ingredients.
Sheila and I then went to a talk by Jennifer Pharr Davis who is the current holder of the speed record of the At (46.5 days) http://blueridgehikingco.com/ who spoke very eloquently for about an hour and didn’t seem that crazy despite walking 47 miles a day on her last hike.
After that I went and saw the ‘Lion Kings’ 2003 movie – Walking with Freedom which was great as it was a bit of a snapshot of the trail so I could reminisce over the ground that I recognized and quake in terror when I saw what was up ahead. At 2pm the ‘Hiker parade’began an it is the main event for the weekend where all the hikers walk down the main street and get bombarded with water balloons, pistols and cannons by the waiting public. I managed to catch a couple of balloons coming my way but sadly I didn’t get to nail the kids who threw them at me instead my aim was off and I watered some concrete in try greek fashion.
We had some food and then watched the Hiker talent show where it seemed most of the contestants where hikers from previous years as I didn’t recognize too many current hikers out there. This probably was a good thing as in all the talent wasn’t too bad all things considered.
Finally to cap off a big day we went and saw the premiere of the ‘Lion Kings’ new movie ‘An Ocean to Ocean’ which was his hike along the American Discovery Trail. We timed our arrival well as the filmmaker turned up in a limo to a makeshift red carpet entrance which I caught on camera. The movie itself I didn’t rate as good as his first because even though it was a little more polished it was much more of a solo endurance hike so it didn’t really capture the essence of a trail like his AT movie did - http://walkingwithfreedom.com/ if you want to find out more on the movies.
The 'Lion King' red carpet entrance
In all Sheila and I enjoyed ourselves, taking it easy, catching up with people and seeing the trail from other viewpoints.