Monday, May 16, 2016

Trailside in Damascus

I wrote this in my journal Wednesday as I relaxed in Viriginia...


It's raining today -- started about 10:00 last night and has been steady since. More to the point, my head started pounding about the same time and kept on aching until ... well, it's still aching. So there's that.

Between the weather and my head, we got a late start. Mr. Rogers hit the trail after 8:00; I got back to the hotel at 8:45 and had a helluva time keeping myself moving. Breakfast, a long shower, a little more loitering, and it was after 10:00 when I hit the road.

Damascus, Virginia, sits at the crossroads of a lot of long distance trails. The Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses into Virginia here from Tennessee. The TransAmerica Trail -- #76, the one Mr. Rogers is riding -- passes through here, as does the hilariously named Virginia Creeper Trail, a cross-state bike trail. As such, it's a surprisingly bustling square mile of locals, hikers, bikers, hostels, and one lone weirdo from South Dakota in a Ford Fusion.

I found myself at a cafe for lunch -- Mojo's Trailside Cafe & Coffee, where the coffee is as good as the people-watching (and the food is even better). A group of ATers hiking southbound -- a fresh group that's "only" doing Virginia -- a whole mob through-hiking northbound, still looking relatively comfortable and unbeaten. Crazy Larry's hostel must be pretty good-sized; there's an entire crowd behind me that's staying there but doesn't appear to have known each other prior to yesterday.

There's a striking different between the young (under 30) hikers and the older ones, and it's all in the attitude. Lo and behold, the twenty-somethings are filled with vigor and enthusiasm and indestructibleness. There is no doubt in their minds that they'll make it to Maine and no doubts about their experiences so far. The intensity of it all rolls right off of them.

The older set has some choice words about their joints -- but they're also more laid back. It's not do-or-die for them. They all seem happy simply with being out on the trail and spend their lunch trading stories and tips. They're a bit less driven, but they're also friendlier and less judgmental of the folks they've seen along the way.

And the bikers? They're all insane.

I want to linger. The AT is a long-term dream of mine and I'm enjoying soaking this all up. My food was fantastic and I'm so full it's hard to move.

Alas, duty calls. Mr. Rogers' next stopping point is two hours away and it's almost noon. After that, maybe I can talk him into finding a sunny spot for a hammock and a break.

Assuming the sun comes out, that is.

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