Leo and I are over half way done with the trail. I was lucky enough to get to go on a vacation to New York City and Washington DC with my family. When I came back to the trail my mom helped me “slackpack,” hiking without your gear, for 5 days. It was a blast! I ate well. Did huge miles. Got to hang with my mom- even though she beat me at Boggle- it was fun. Leo and I are in it for the long haul. Still chipping away with our 15 mile days. Making a point to stop and enjoy ourselves. Second half of this adventure, let’s do it!
This last week has been utterly soul crushing. Rain all the time, several inches. Flash flood warnings. Icy cold rains just seeping into your bones. This video is me last night feeling my soul slightly breaking. It was projected to be more rain today, but the trail gods must have known we needed a slight break (projected to rain till Monday) and today was beautiful. Leo and I crushed out miles and felt good. For a brief moment I forgot about the souls crushing past week of setting up a cold wet tent in down pouring rain and icy wet bras in the morning and couldn’t remember why his past week has felt so rough and today has felt so great. The sun is truly life giving. I’m thankful for even a brief respit.
Festival scenes aren’t really my thing. Neither Leo or I do grreat in a crowd. There is a big festival in Damascus VA each year called “Trail Days”. It’s a big chaotic festival celebrating hikers. I had meant to skip it. I had no intentions of going. But….
I had found myself in Rural Retreat VA, standing under the I-81. A little over 50 miles earlier I had accidentally poured boiling water on my inner thigh. I had been doing my best to keep it clean but I knew I should have someone look at it. I was in a lot of pain and looking at a map I was only going to get more Rural if I kept hiking and I might not have cell service. As I was trying to figure out whether to keep walking or try to hitch to urgent care a guy in an old mini van pulled up.
“Need a ride?”
“Maybe. Yes. Hmmmm I’m not sure. You know where I’d be able to get medical attention?”
“Yeah hop in!”
As we rolled down the freeway I asked where we were heading.
“Trail Days. They have free medical for hikers.”
So, despite saying I wasn’t going to Trail Days for 500 miles, I ended up at Trail Days. First thing I did was visit the medics who were there to attend to hikers who had ODed. Stoned and black out drunk hikers kept walking by as I sat there in booty shorts with my leg held up by one medic and the other one got in between my thighs to have a look.
They were the most attractive men I have seen in months, and they seemed to have showered recently, so I tried to get my flirt on. Just unbathed and burnt– don’t look for any wedding invitations anytime soon.
The next morning I visited the doctors where I was told I had done a good job keeping it from getting infected (pat on the back) and I was payed out on a couch in a church basement as they dressed my wounds.
So, despite my best efforts I ended up at Trail Days. Full hiker Trash.
I don’t know much about wild ponies and their behavior. Shortly after the photo above these three ponies came after Leo. They had their heads down low and were just walking towards him. Leo was too scared to bark and I didn’t know what to do so we just kept backing up. The more we backed up the more the ponies were coming towards Leo. In panick and fear of my puppy being kicked by a pony I grabbed Leo by the handle on this backpack and started running away. The ponies started a gentle Trot following us up the mountain. I shouted, “back off ponies! We don’t want any trouble!” I showed how tough I am in the face of ponies.
Oh, and we passed the 500 mile mark.
Wanted to give a shout out and a big thank you to everyone who has contributed to getting Leo and I this far. We appareciate it and we owe y’all a big hug, hope we’re making ya proud. We couldn’t do it without your help!
Pam and Pete Bontekoe
Robin Jones and Taylor Bones
Maxwell and Mary Streeter
Tara DeFransisco & Rance Rizzutto
Mavis and Al Streyffeler
Damascus is kinda THE Appalachian Trail town. They have a huge festival called “Trail Days”. However, someone in the town must have a bee in their bonnet about hikers. There has apparently been a no camping ordinance in place since the 80s but has only recently been enforced. This has the hoste owners in upheaval.
The town also has a rail-to-trail bike path that goes through town- Creeper Trail. There seems to be a push towards becoming more of a cycling town. I didn’t take this push as personally as many other hikers. Hikers are far trashier than cyclists. They spend less money at spots, and seem to have a higher theiving rate.
I just follow white blazes. Those are the mArkers for the Appalachian Trail. Leaving Damascus I didn’t know it was common practice for hikers to throw out the “pass every white blaze” rule of thru hikers and instead take the Creeper Trail (bike path) to skip some miles and more importantly some steep climbs. Leo and I took the AT. We held true to the Appalachian Trail. Hopefully she stays true to us.