Damascus is a revelation. It’s sort of a halfway house for hikers recovering from injuries, both acute and overuse. Blisters and tendinitis seem to be the prime culprits, with a side order of stress fractures, shin splints, and sprains, strains, and insect bites.
The number of old friends I’ve caught up to here is astonishing, not to mention just plain happy-making.
I didn’t have a plan for where to stay (and I couldn’t have called ahead anyway, what with the dead battery), so I basically turned it over to the trail gods. (The lodging plan was ‘hopes and dreams’ as a passing hiker said back on the way into Hot Springs.) There are none of my favored cheap little motels (Damascus: population 1072), and I wanted to avoid the hostels if I could—but there were a bunch of B&Bs. That struck me as a good compromise.
One corner had two B&Bs, so that seemed to be the place to start. On the way there I was looking at my map, and a hiker asked if I needed help finding something. We chatted. Aquaman, his name was, and he was just leaving the Lazy Fox B&B. He highly recommended it. So thank you, trail gods, and off I went.
(The weird thing is, he knew who I was. Somebody in his bubble had mentioned me. We finally figured out it was Quaker, talking about the plague. This whole trail is like some awesome game of Six Degrees of Separation… only it’s never more than two degrees. At this point, a lot of people have heard about a lot of other people, so it feels like this enormous interconnected web.)
The Lazy Fox. What a beautiful place. It’s run by a very senior lady out of a big Victorian house. My little room is gorgeous: four-poster bed, an antique atmosphere (and probably quite a few genuine antiques). And get this: On the dresser, a book called A Woman’s Journey. And on the nightstand, one called Expect a New Miracle Every Day. That’s my kind of room!
But get this other thing. I was starving. I’d packed up camp, hiked six miles in, and found lodging and still hadn’t eaten. On the way to the diner I met DB Cooper (now Clark Kent) and Two Socks! I’d really missed those guys! I thought they were a week ahead of me and I’d never see them again. I was thrilled to talk with them a while. They had some good stories about the crazy guy and another crazy guy. They were on their way out of town, but at least I know they’re only a couple of days ahead of me.
I saw Hikerboy! And 50/50, who’s just a day ahead of me now! Wander was in the outfitters. And I saw Coach and her crew. In the diner, I saw Banter and Evenbeard, who, it turns out, know Aquaman. So they’re staying at the Lazy Fox, too.
The diner was full of hikers. I recognized Zen Master and Canadian Bacon from the Greasy Creek and various points since then.
On the way to do laundry, guess who I found? Blackhawk Bob (now just Blackhawk; he said hikers can’t manage three syllables, LOL). He’s been laid up here for a week with a huge infected blister. We’re heading out on the same day at the same projected pace, so I hope to be in his bubble.
I also saw Quaker and got a chance to thank him for his help when I was sick. Today in the outfitters I saw Sparky and Casey. Blackhawk said they were off the trail because Sparky had a stress fracture; turns out it’s not a fracture, so they’re heading back out again.
Sadly, Snowman and Escargot are now off the trail. Escargot strained a tendon four days ago and she can’t walk. This was their third attempt as a couple. The last attempt ended in Damascus, too. I’ll miss them! They had some great advice.
I’ve heard twice now that after Neels, the biggest chunk of hikers leave the trail in Damascus. I don’t know if that’s true (I know half leave in Virginia), but it’s certainly an eye opener to see how many are getting off the trail here—mostly with injuries.
Damascus! Great people. Yesterday when I was grocery shopping, a random lady asked me if I’d like a ride back into town. Trail magic! And she had a beautiful Airdale named Angus. Thank you, Phoebe and Angus!
This morning at breakfast we got some low-down on the town’s history from the son of the 88-year-old innkeeper. (And a bonus discussion on how with different tactics at Gettysburg, the South would have won the War. LOL. Somebody once told me that the South never really stopped fighting the Civil War. I do think it’s funny that so many of the streets here are named after Confederate generals.)
Anyhoo… the town isn’t really a hiker town; it’s a bicyclist’s town. They make their nut on bikes because of the major bike trails that roll through here. Also, the locals hate Trail Days. It’s nothing but 35,000 pot-smoking, beer-swilling degenerates, and what does throwing water balloons have to do with hiking? Just a few years ago, somebody threw a water balloon at a 97-year-old resident and nearly hit her, and broke her plate glass window!
A lot of hikers move here. Then they find out it’s a lot different to actually live in a town with a thousand people when it’s not May and full of hikers. Hey, I could be one of them!
This morning’s breakfast was phenomenal: eggs, bacon, sausage, special cheese grits (which were delicious and may actually have sold me on grits), biscuits, gravy (and I’m still repulsed by the idea of putting those two together), blackberry pancakes, fruit, scrambled eggs, baked apples and prunes, home fries… all cooked by this little 88-year-old who also does everything in the house. Now that’s a hero.
I was planning to leave at 6 AM tomorrow, but damnit, I’m staying for another one of those breakfasts.
So, the pack! Greg at Mt. Rogers Outfitters was very gracious. He spent two hours with me, fitting and sizing and measuring. My pack was too big. I mean my whole pack, not just the belt. It was no doubt too big when I bought it, but my extra padding masked the problem. I actually ended up getting another Circuit—which is either godlike salesmanship or perhaps the stupidest decision I’ve ever made. But with the properly sized pack and under full weight, the shoulder issues vanished. And the Circuit was more comfortable and more familiar than the corresponding Osprey. What the hell—this is an all-or-nothing kind of proposition. Take chances! I let myself be guided by an expert. Fingers crossed!
What else? Nothing, I guess. Still need to hit the post office and get my food sorted out and repackaged, which I loathe. And figure out if I have enough toilet paper, which I forgot to buy when I resupplied.
Oh! My base pack weight is 14 to 15 pounds. Call it 15. That’s good. I only have one shirt I might send back after the evil Mt . Rogers, and I might even just keep it.
Tomorrow: Mt. Rogers, and back into the high elevations. Dislike. The weather’s supposed to take a turn toward the shitty, too—days of rain and temps in the 40s (30s at night). But that’s how I roll! In town when it’s nice and on the trail when it sucks! Hiking my own hike, baby!