The Appalachian Trail. Damascus, Virginia. Trail Days. For a few days every year, that's all that will matter to the hundreds of people who crawl out of the woods to congregate in one of America's great trail towns to share tall tales and victories of all sizes.
Has anyone ever said to you, "What? Were you raised in the woods by animals?" If not, you might not fully understand Trail Days and what it means to those who prefer living in forests than Mighty Cities with people who wear goofy strings around their necks and walk on painful shoes on frail stilts.
Trail Days is just about the only time when Appalachian Trail thru-hikers would rather be in town than walking a narrow rocky path with stinky strangers who call themselves "Killer" and "Lost."
It's tough on Trailers to be in/around civilized folks for an entire week. That's why Damascus must impose what they call "rules" for how hikers should behave during, say, the annual Hiker Parade.
Water balloons are prohibited due to safety concerns. Water guns are still ok, but the town asks that participants use caution and common sense.
Please do not spray water on anyone preceding the hikers, including those in uniform such as the Honor Guard and police. Please do not spray other parade participants such as trail maintenance clubs, beauty queens, and scout troops.
Thank you for your understanding - the Trail Days Committee.
Seriously. What other town ANYWHERE has to post rules about not squirting water guns at beauty queens, Cub scouts and the police?
Nothing else, however, can define Trail Days so succinctly.
Gentle mayhem. Hiker heaven. Woodstock for walkers. Trail Daze. The Most In Tents Trail Party. They all come close to explaining the draw to Damascus. But the only way to truly get it is to come and define Trail Days for yourself ... and let Trail Days define you too.
The Friday, May 15th schedule for Trail Days 2015 includes free haircuts, free gear repair, free food and free showers. See? What did I tell you? Hiker Heaven, indeed.
That's nothing compared to Saturday. You get all that and you get to be in a parade! (Not that starting your northbound hike at Springer in spring isn't a parade. This is an official parade, that's all.)
Damascus in a small town, not far from where Virginia meets Tennessee and North Carolina, southeast of Abington, VA. The official population in 2010 was (ready?) 814.
The Trail Days Hiker Parade from Railroad Avenue to Town Park begins at 2 PM. Even if it rains, there will probably be more than 814 people in the parade. Not sure how to find Railroad Avenue? Easy. Just go downwind from town and follow the hiker scent into town. Done. Bam!
Not enough fun for you? Pffft. Head for the Hiker Talent Show at the town gazebo at 4 PM to experience all that you have missed by not watching TV for the past month. Sorry, mooching, pink blazing and using pine cones for personal grooming are not considered "talents."
Face it. Most of us are never going to hit the Trail for six or seven months at a crack. Our backs hurt from sitting in comfy cars. Come get close to the Trail. Come to Trail Days 2015 in Damascus.
You might not smell like a Real Hiker, but if you don't wash and you wear grungy clothes and don't shave (anywhere) for a week or two you can at least look like a hiker for a little while.
Live it up. At Trail Days 2015.
Tags: Attractions, Events, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Community, News, Festivals, Appalachian Trail Festival, and Robert Sutherland Travel Writer
Robert Redford & Nick Nolte portray the characters in A Walk in the Woods well, probably. That doesn't guarantee rave reviews of the Appalachian Trail film.
Damascus, Virginia, hosts the Appalachian Trail and several other pathways for adventurers.
Published Aug 16, 2014.
This year's Biggest Party on the Appalachian -- Trail Days 2014 -- is ready for herds of hikers to take over the town of Damascus, Virginia.
Trail Days 2016 in Damascus, VA, begins on Friday, May 13th. Trail Days is the Appalachian Trail's biggest, best and happiest party.
The Appalachian Trail film, "A Walk in the Woods" starring Robert Redford, debuts at the Sundance Film Festival, 1-23-15, adapted from Bill Bryson's book.