Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Trail Days

The New York Times ran an article on May 12 introducing the reader to this weekend's festivities of Trail Days in Damascus, Va. From the article:

From May 19 to 21, Damascus will stage what has become probably the largest single gathering of hikers anywhere: an annual festival called Trail Days. Last year, despite a steady rain, an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people showed up for the celebration in a town with an official population of 1,094.

It is during Trail Days that Damascus, a place shaped by the walkabout spirit of the Appalachian Trail and all the nicknamed hikers who pass through, puts on its brightest display. The festival is a backpacker's Mardi Gras. It's an alumni reunion for anyone who has ever hiked the 2,159-mile Appalachian Trail, a moment in time when America's most famous long-distance footpath goes nonlinear.

It starts with a townwide yard sale. After that, there's the Trail Day Pageant. Then comes a tarp-raising contest; Appalachian Trail Jeopardy; presentations from the Whittling Club; a homemade gear contest, followed by a useless gear contest. Bands play. Gear manufacturers set up shop. Tents of all shapes, colors and sizes are erected a foot apart in a makeshift campground of 2,000 campers. The weekend culminates with the hiker parade, often consisting of more than a thousand participants marching through the center of town as onlookers soak them with squirt guns.

If you decide to take in Trail Days, be sure to attend the lectures and readings. This is where you'll get a better understanding of what it is like to hike any trail for an extended period of time. I would recommend taking in Dave Miller's "Why We Through-Hike the Appalachian Trail", Friday at 11:30am, at the Rock House School, the Hiker Parade at 2pm Saturday on Main Street, Warren Doyle's (30,000 mile hiker) storytelling at 5pm Saturday in the Rock House School auditorium. Lastly, take in the Big Blue (undercover name for Acoustic Syndicate) at the town gazebo at 8pm Saturday. Other than those "must-sees" enjoy the weekend in the friendliest town along the A.T.

No comments: