I have been trying to figure out how to condense this weeks adventures into one entry and decided to give you a glimpse of each day.
DAY 1: Within 5 minutes of my parents dropping me off at Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia, I met “4Be”, a 66 year old thru hiker who happened to set up his tent next to mine. He introduced me to a bunch of people and we walked the hiker parade together. After the parade I met Red Barron who showed me back to where he and his friends were hanging out/camping. An area known as (wo)MAN camp. They welcomed me in, did a shakedown of my pack, then gave me food and free alcohol. Once we were sufficiently intoxicated we went to the bonfire. The only word I can think of to describe it is “insane”. It’s a giant fire with entire tree trunks burning and hundreds of hikers dancing around it. The inner circle was doing tribal dances while the people on the outside were playing drums. I imagine a lot of these people were on drugs.
DAY 2: 4Be and I grabbed a quick breakfast in town before heading for the trail. He has daughters close to my age and one that passed away a few years ago from cancer, so he was very kind to me and took care of me those first few days. We ended up doing 11.7 miles my first day out and I am very proud of that.
DAY 3: The day started with us doing a 2000 foot climb almost straight up. It was hard, but 4Be kept me at a good pace. When we got to the top, there was a perfect view. I could tell I was slowing 4Be down and wanted to enjoy the view, so I told him to go on. After hiking a bit more, I set up camp. Minutes after getting in my tent, a bunch of people showed up. They brought hot dogs, baked potatoes, bananas, marshmallows, filtered water, soda, made a bonfire, put up tarps to stop the rain and started playing instruments. It turns out they are past thru hikers in a group called “Riff Raff” who do trail magic (which basically means doing nice things for the current hikers). It was an awesome night filled with awesome people.
DAY 4: This was basically the best day ever! It started with “Riff Raff” making us breakfast and then I was off. A few miles in I saw a baby calf right on the trail. To its side was the mama and a few feet on the other side was a giant bull with giant horns. It didn’t seem interested in me, but I was very careful walking by. Later on, my friend Cotton and I found a cave to explore. A 50 foot rock cluster to rock climb, and stunning 360* views. Not long after that we started seeing the ponies of Grayson Highlands. They were the best! We pet them for a while and took many selfies with them. After many hours of this we made it to the shelter. There were signs that said no tenting, but I decided to ignore them and set up camp. Just as I was about to fall asleep I heard noises outside my tent. It was terrifying until i heard munching and realized it was the ponies. Then, they tried to munch on my tent. The whole situation was hilarious and something I’ll never forget!
DAY 5: This was the day I got lost. After hiking a little over a mile, I realized I hadn’t seen a trail marker in a very long time. Many prayers and an hour and a half later, I found my way back. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen again for a very long time.
DAY 6: That morning, all of the talk at the shelter was about how you can order pizza from the shelter 20 miles from where we were, so guess what we did? The first ten miles were done in the freezing rain. Then after lunch Spriglet and I made the final push to the shelter. Our legs felt like jello, but that pizza was worth every step and I slept great that night.
DAY 7: we got a shuttle into the town of Marion, VA for 50 cents. Right as I was getting on the shuttle, 4Be was getting off. It was great to see him again and he even gave me donuts. Spriglet, Castaway, Cotton and I all went in on a motel room. It felt amazing to take shower, wash my clothes and eat real food. Later on we were drinking beer at the motel room and I stepped outside to call Claire (my college roommate). While I was talking to her a van pulled up in front of me, so I walked away. A few minutes later a girl drove up and followed some guy into a motel room. I’m pretty sure he thought I was a prostitute. Well that’s one for the books!
That’s it for week one. Oh, and I guess my trail name is “Hollywood”. I don’t really know how it happened, but a bunch of people are calling me that now. I’ll let you now if it changes.