This year was the 25th annual celebration of the Appalachian Trail that as of 2012 has been going right through the center of Damascus, Virginia for 75 years. The festival started back in 1987 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the trail going through what is known as ‘The Friendliest Town On The Trail’. Thru-hikers attempting to hike the entire length of the trail are in this area about this time of year and they are joined by thousands of other hikers who have either hiked the trail in previous years or wish they could hike it or are friends with someone who has. This year there were about 20,000 people who filled the small town of Damascus which has a population of about 1,000. This was the 22nd year since I have been attending the event since 1990, only having missed one or two years during that time. I have many friends who live there and even more friends who I only get to see there during this time of year so for us and I am sure many others, it is more like a hiker family reunion. This year there were a few of us that could not make it and they were certainly missed and we hope they can find a way to get there next year but due to the great distances that must be traveled along with the high cost of gas, then add the hard economy, it is understandable why some could not make the trip. We did make some new friends this year that I am sure will be coming back for years to come.
My son Tyler decided not to go this year but my daughter Rita and her boyfriend Mitch did drive my car and follow me in the van, along with my hikertrash daughter Cora who has been attending Trail Days since before she was even born !! Due to my obligations to the Jones Boys Band who I now play for full time, I missed out on some of the good times as I had to leave each evening on Friday and Saturday in order to play gigs at local venues, returning each night around 1 am, however, I am known for being the last one to crash out which is usually when the sun comes up just after the ‘doodle-doo`s’ start singing their warnings of the coming dawn. This was a tradition started by me and a handful of my oldest friends from the early years, which I keep alive in honor of those of that group who are no longer with us. This year was no exception as I partied all night until daybreak. My biggest regret was not being there for the 2nd annual ‘Hairnt Off’ contest but I am proud of ‘Bean‘ who won the trophy for this year. I placed 3rd in last year’s contest and can only hope I get another chance next year (providing my band schedule allows for me to be there). I also missed out on being in the group picture.
For more ‘Fire Art’ photo`s please visit the photo gallery here.
I was able to hike in the hiker parade this year which is always a blast despite the fact that ‘Cowboy’ (owner of Cowboy`s of Damascus) did not see I was carrying a camera and proceeded to soak me with a 5 gallon bucket full of water as I went by his store ! Luckily the camera was not damaged and it was all in good fun. I ended up near the rear of the long line of hikers, proudly hiking alongside my new friends we met at the 21st annual Brown Gap Hikers Feast that took place 3 weeks earlier. Unfortunately since I had to leave not long after the parade, I was unable to stay for the Hiker Talent Show. My friend ‘Lowrider‘ had his sticker booth in the park again which is one of the most popular booths there, so I made sure to spend as much time there as I could.
Sunday is mostly spent saying goodbyes and dealing with the feelings of the dread of having to leave. For many years I stayed an extra day or two just to prolong the good times and perhaps have some attempt at recuperation but due to my job and other obligations I am no longer able to do that so, I had to leave that evening to get home in time for work. Saying goodbye is never easy especially when you know it will be another long year before you will see many of your closest friends again. We have lost a few comrades in recent years which only makes us aware of our own mortality making the time between years take even longer, not knowing if we will get another chance to see our loved ones or not. I am already looking forward to next year.
To see the complete set of photo`s for this year`s even, please visit our Photo Gallery here.