We all departed for trail days with Dions parents early Thursday morning and took the 9 hour drive down to Damascus. We had nice weather and were there before the sun set. We arrived at a rather small parking lot half filled with cars where we saw tents set up on the grass behind it. This, we later found out, was the main part of tent city. Dion scoped out the area and set our tent close to the portapottys, away from the main area hoping it would be a little quieter and Christian wouldn’t be woken up from the partying. It was a bit smaller than I expected, but people were friendly and it was the hiker vibe we’d become accustom to.
We drove around Damascus a bit looking for somewhere to eat and decided upon Blue Blaze, mostly because it was the only place that was open. They were very crowded, very busy and not quite what we were looking for. They had a small menu for Traildays weekend which consisted of 1/2 portions for double the price. The service was good and we understood they were busy, but I don’t think we will be going back. We headed back to our tent after that and went to bed. We did not go to sleep though, the drunken guy who finally passed out when the girls who were tripping face came back played a symphony of sounds to fill our ears all night.
We finally left the tent around 7 in the morning and headed to the firehouse for breakfast. It was advertised as free breakfast for the hikers but ended up being a $5 box of breakfast, this didn’t matter too much to us as we enjoyed seeing all the hikers and hearing there stories of how they had gotten there. We wondered around town and ended up at the One Way Ministries for their free breakfast. This is a new church in town and the people there were beyond amazing. We later had free lunch there that was prepared by these wonderful people, Dion also had his pants sown and fixed up at one of the free gear repair areas they had. We walked around and enjoyed the festival though it was not what we were expecting. This was more of a local town event than we had expected, when we heard 30,000 hikers we were thinking more along the lines of Woodstock. This was more of a weekend carnival with gear tents set up.
We met up with some friends Dion had hiked with two years ago and moved our tent to their area. Seeing them and getting to spend time with them made the whole trip worth while. We were disappointed that the trip was not what we had expected it to be, the festival wasn’t what we though it would be but even more so it didn’t have the trail vibe we were use to. There was a lot more hardcore partying and local people who weren’t or haven’t hiked the trail than thru hikers and our family wasn’t that impressed. We think of the trail and the people who hike it as our home and our friends, this was unfortunately not the vibe we got although there was plenty of hospitality from One Way Ministries.
We ate dinner the second night at the Inn the Country Diner and it was just what we were looking for, country style food with small town hospitality. The food was good and the people were really nice. Dion’s parents dropped us off after dinner to our new tent area, down the road from tent city and we met back up with our friends. We went back to One Way Ministries for live music and desert and had a really good time. Everyone that worked there and that went there were happy, they had the thru hiker spirit. This was what we had come down for.
We met a lot of really nice thru hikers who told of their stories, we got to listen to Jennifer Pharr Davis speak about her amazing record setting thru hike and we got to spend time with our family. So, even though it was nothing like what we had expected, we are glad that we went, glad Dion’s family came, and glad to be heading back to the trail. We feel rejuvenated, encouraged and back on track. We’ve been able to take some time to relax and reflect on our first two weeks on the trail.