Friday, May 11, 2012

Loner - Roan Mtn, Hampton, TN,Trail Days

I received an email from Jeff aka Loner who has now passed the 400 mile mark.  He took a welcome break from four days of slogging in the rain with shoes held together with duct tape.  He said the going was slow because the trail was so slippery and he had to watch every step.  A number of other hikers sprained ankles or twisted knees - not good.  He finally took a break at Black Bear Hostel ($10.00 a night bunk, with towel and soap, not a bad deal.  Odd, how hostels along the trail have "bear" in the title don't they - not a good sign. I'm sure he was glad of the chance to dry himself and his gear out. 
He did mention that he enjoyed Roan Mtn.  I did a little research and it's another big one, over 6,000 feet of elevation so in the category of Clingman's Dome at 6,643 feet.  Roan Mtn is also known for it's many lovely rhododendron bushes which I gather are so plentiful that they hold a Rhododendron Festival in June at the Roan Mtn. State Park each year.  I guess we won't find out if they're blooming until Jeff gets to upload his latest videos and photos.  
I'm glad I had a chance to email Jeff and he had a chance to read them before he left his stopover in Hampton, because he'd totally forgotten that I'd sent a mail drop there with a replenishment of food.  No town food this time, just trail food.  So luckily he was able to get notice in time to pick it up before he left town.
His next stop will be Damascus, Virginia, which has a huge history along the Appalachian Trail.  They are known as the "Friendliest Trail Town" located at the cross roads of four trails: Trail Town USA due to the convergence of four scenic trails in the town, including the Appalachian Trail, U.S. Bicycle Route 76, The Iron Mountain Trail, and the Virginia Creeper Trail.
Each May they hold a festival called Trail Days, which draws over 20,000 visitors each year from all over the country. It might look like a re-located Woodstock, A Grateful Dead concert or Mardi Gras mountain style but it's a massive gathering of outdoor enthusiasts - previous thru-hikers, future hikers, hikers, cyclists, naturalists and current thru-hikers like Jeff who'll amble into town.  Jeff will arrive a few days prior to to the May 18th official start date but from what I've read, people start arriving by May 11th.  Many past AT hikers go to Trail Days to enjoy a reunion with fellow hikers they met on their journey and future At 2013, 2014, 2015 thru-hikers who are just no planning their trips will come to check out the new equipment. Campgrounds, hotels, hostels fill up with tents overflowing on grassy sports everywhere.  They have a huge outdoor vendors market with outfitters and other vendors from all over the country showing their latest, lightest, ultra cool hiking, biking and camping gear, as well as related gear, t-shirts, crafts, food and other offerings.
They also offer lectures and talks from master hikers, even on trails in other countries.
There's lots of free goodies for hikers, such as free showers, free medical care, free medical tests, free gear repair, free Wi-Fi, free coffee shop, free concerts, a library book sale, a whittling club,  indie films,  even a few free dinners sponsored by local fire stations, churches etc.and a whole lot more.
And they hold a huge Hiker Parade with notables from the hiker world, even old timer AT thru-hikers.
I don't know how long Jeff will stay in Damascus and enjoy Trail Days because I don't know how he's looking at the miles he wants to do, but I hope he gets to enjoy some of it.  It may be a once in a life time experience.  

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