Day 65 – Friday, May 13: Damascus, VA, Trail Days, 806.1 total AT miles.

Note: I’m writing this post from a Pizza Hut near Lexington, VA. We just returned the rental and are about to hitch to the trail head near Buena Vista.

I woke up wet – not just a little wet, but absolutely drenched. My phone was laying face down in a puddle. Apparently, I accidentally left a vent open on my rainfly and the rain water ran down my tent walls and started pooling on the floor.

I grabbed my phone. Despite the fact that it was in a Lifeproof case, it was obviously wet and wouldn’t turn on. I plugged it in to charge and threw it in a bag of couscous to help it dry out. Not a good start to my day.

After a good half hour of cleaning up the puddle and drying off my gear, I finally stepped out of my tent. I was surrounded by tents – it kind of reminded my of some of the campsites I made early on in this hike. Aside from the trail that wanders through the woods, there wasn’t a single space left to pitch a tent.

Savage was already up and jogging. Shaggy grabbed my wet clothes (he still needed to do laundry) and Black Santa and I set off to explore Trail Days.

I walked past Mellow Camp and made my way to the toilets next to Tent City. After a quick bathroom break, Black Santa and I walked over to the gear vendor tents. It was so cool – nearly every major manufacturer was present. I chatted with the rep from Gregory (we actually met on the trail just shy of Max Patch). Shaggy met up with us and the three of us started entering contests – it seemed like everybody was trying to win free gear.

I started chatting with a rep from Mammut, a clothing manufacturer, and Klymate, a sleeping pad company. I told him about my website and who I was hiking with. He gave me a brand new hiking shirt and sleeping pad after promising to send him some photos of us hiking in his gear once we get back on the AT. Awesome!

I returned to my tent to change and check on my phone. No dice – it still didn’t turn on. We met Savage back at camp – she had exciting news. Push, who was originally 99% sure she wasn’t going to Trail Days, had just gotten a hitch and was heading to meet us.

I left camp and walked over to the food vendors – I was getting really hungry. After lunch, I made my way over to another section of gear vendors and entered more contests.

Throughout the day, I kept running into hikers I knew. I hung out with Moon Boots and Canuck for a while – they’re still hiking together and are doing pretty good.

As afternoon drug into evening, the parties really started ramping up. I walked from campfire to campfire meeting people and hanging out. It was starting to get late when I realized I was lost. Trail Days is that big. I wandered around in the woods looking for Mellow Camp for about an hour.

I finally found a police officer and asked if he knew where I was. He pointed me in the right direction and I soon found my tent. I instantly checked my phone – it still wasn’t turning on.

After chatting with Black Santa about our plans for tomorrow, I fell asleep.

Breakfast: 20 gram Powerbar protein bar (peanut butter flavored)

Lunch: gigantic grilled chicken burrito

Dinner: the rest of my grilled chicken burrito

Day 64 – Thursday, May 12: Buena Vista, VA to Damascus, VA, Zero Day, 801.9 total AT miles.

I woke up fairly early for having stayed in a bed last night. I didn’t sleep well. Sometimes, I’m surprised at the quality I find in cheap motels (The Grand Prix in Gatlinburg comes to mind) – the Budget Inn in Buena Vista, VA sits on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m pretty sure I slept on a cot.

Savage, Black Santa and myself were packed and ready to go by 8:30. Our car would be ready between 10:00 and 11:00 – we had a few hours to kill. After a quick stop at the post office to mail home the very last of my winter gear, I walked across the street to have breakfast at TNT’s, a friendly neighborhood diner.

The food was exceptional – I ate heartily and had a homemade donut for dessert. After breakfast, the three of us waited outside for a shuttle to the rental car facility. It didn’t take long for the shuttle to arrive and, before I knew it, I was driving to Trail Days.

But we had to make a few stops first. I first drove south to Glasgow, VA to pick up Shaggy – he had just eaten and was very excited to see us. He threw his pack in the rental and we began the long drive to Richmond, VA to finally go to an REI.

I was excited – we arrived at 3:30pm. I only spent an hour in the store, but was able to get a lot done. I returned my Black Diamond trekking poles (broken tip), Outdoor Research hat (too hot), REI brand puffy jacket (too heavy), REI Dash 2 tent (broken rainfly) and Gregory Z65 pack (broken buckle and too big for my torso).

I ended up getting new Black Diamond poles (this time with cork handles), an REI Quarter Dome 2 tent, and an Osprey Anti-Gravity pack – this pack is awesome. It fits well and actually packs better than my Gregory.

We left at 4:30 and started driving to Damascus. Because we drove all the way to Richmond, we now had to backtrack back to Buena Vista before heading south to Damascus.

About two hours of driving later, we stopped at a Wal-Mart near Waynesboro to buy a few things for Trail Days. I needed a cheap pair of sweat pants and a sweater – the forecast called for overnight lows in the upper 30s with rain. This would be the third time the weather got cold after having sent the bulk of my winter gear home.

By 8:00pm, we were back on the road and finally heading towards Trail Days. It was raining and I was getting tired – Black Santa ended up driving the last leg of the journey. At 11:00pm, we arrived. Black Santa parked the rental and the four of us set off in the dark to find campsites.

We finally found an area big enough just behind the baseball fields and made camp.

I’m in my tent and listening to a light rain fall. I’m really glad I bought those sweats – it’s really cold out tonight.

I have no idea where I’m at – all I know is that we hiked past Tent City and followed a trail to a sign that said Mellow Camp. I turned right. Hikers are tenting in the woods all around us. Tomorrow looks like it’s gonna be a lot of fun.

Breakfast: 3 pieces of French toast, breakfast burger (with an extra sausage patty), one donut, coffee

Lunch: burger and tater tots

Dinner: almonds, 20 gram Powerbar protein bar