Trail Days Plus (2016)

I survived my first Trail Days! I was on the fence about going this year because the bulk of my trail family came to Houston to visit the weekend before. In the end, I decided to go since I didn’t go last year. It was a blast and I got to pay it forward a bit by helping out as many hikers as I could. I must be getting soft though because I somehow managed not to sleep in my tent for any of the five nights. I slept in Miss Janet’s van the first two nights, in my rental car at Beauty Spot the second two nights, and on a bed at the Hostel at Laughing Heart Lodge the last night. Even though I didn’t set up my tent once, I did get in some great hiking and had a wonderful time.

Trail Days, Damascus, VA

I missed my flight on Thursday and was absolutely devastated. I had signed up to volunteer for all sorts of things with ALDHA for the hiker reception and wasn’t even going to be there. I was reassured they had plenty of help but I felt terrible anyway. I rescheduled my flight for Friday and was determined not to miss it. My checkbook and my heart couldn’t handle it if I did. Once I landed in South Carolina, the drive from the airport to Damascus, VA wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was comforting to see mountains on the horizon again. I hugged as many people as possible once I got there. You know, after they forgave me for having no idea who they were. I don’t know what you look like without a beard unless you’re on my Facebook! Sorry, guys.

I got there in time to see Joe Mitchell from Four Pines confess his love. I think they were already married but they had a little ceremony for the hikers. Surrounded by laughter and love, every anxious thought I had about missing my flight and going there by myself without any sort of plan disappeared in an instant. I spent the rest of the weekend being silly with Bo-Line, watching the talent show, marching in the hiker parade, and hanging out by the fire. I’m glad I went.

Beauty Spot, Erwin, TN

After Trail Days, I filled my rental car up with smelly hikers and drove them from Damascus to Erwin. One of them is from Austin and two of them actually only live about 45 minutes from me in Houston! I thought it was funny that I didn’t know any of them were from TX until after I’d offered them a ride. Once we got there, High Tech (sp?) chose to hike with his pack but Mayfly, Simple, and The Dude took me up on an offer to slack them from Uncle Johnny’s to Beauty Spot. They packed a single day pack between the three of them, put their full packs back in my trunk, and I went in search of beers to surprise them with at the top. I was in a grocery store parking lot, looking at three fully loaded packs in my possession, and jokingly told my husband on the phone that I had just found a way to fund my CDT hike. I almost started crying. Not because my joke wasn’t as funny as I thought it was but because at no time during that morning did any of us think it was a bad idea to give a complete stranger virtually all of their current possessions. I miss that world- a world where genuinely trusting someone is seen as normal instead of naive.

I got up to Beauty Spot before everyone else and went for a run. It felt amazing. There were Trillium and May Apples blooming, and I saw tons of chipmunks and rabbits. I was all smiles! I hung out there for a couple days with Jester and Sly dishing out trail magic and taking in sunsets. I met a bunch of hikers and I wish them all the best.

Hot Springs, NC

After Beauty Spot, I wanted to get in some more miles on the Trail so I drove over to Hot Springs and did the hike NOBO out of town. The fire has definitely left its mark. A place I once sat and ate a snack over the French Broad river is covered in soot. The green Rhododendron tunnel I went through last year is now brown and black. It wasn’t all bad though. There were still mountain laurels in bloom and I took a moment to appreciate the contrast of life and death in a place I once felt was familiar and now looked so different. Then I turned around to run down the mountain and fell on my face and laughed like a crazy person. Some things never change!

I met some awesome hikers at the Hostel at Laughing Heart Lodge and gave them the rest of the sodas, fruit, and chocolate leftover from Beauty Spot. I admit I wasn’t as social as I’d been the rest of the trip but I was getting tired and needed a shower and a soft bed.

 

Max Patch

I didn’t have to be at the airport until the evening so I left Hot Springs and made my way to Max Patch. It was a long winding drive around mountains and miles and miles of gravel road. I wasn’t sure my rental car had the strength but it did. Last year, I literally just ran across it because of the weather.

Max Patch

Max Patch in the rain. Womp womp!

This year, I was happy to find beautiful views in beautiful weather.

Not as many hikers here but enough to get rid of more snacks! Trail magic is really a blast. There were some kites being flown at the top and I just laid up there all afternoon. I was bummed to leave but ready to go home after that.

Max Patch Panorama

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