AT Day 77: More Virginia, But Not The Same

The past few weeks have been “fluid,” to put it kindly, but more fairly have been the most by-the-seat-of-my-pants yet. I write this from mile 740, just past the 1/3 mark of the length of the trail, in Daleville, VA. While it may seem like good progress, in the grand scheme I’ve slowed down a bit, but all for good reason.

Since my last update, the MOTHRA SQUAD upped our mileage in preparation for Trail Days, the weekend-long hiker festival back in Damascus, VA. The long days were a strain on the legs and feet, and hiking through the rain took a toll on morale, but even at its worst it’s been a thrill to be out here. Along the way I was also was treated to the best Trail Magic of my hike so far: thanks to a ride into town from a kind stranger, I went from disheartenedly missing being a part of my sister’s engagement to a beaming face via satellite outside of a Chinese buffet in Marion, VA. Thanks to future brother-in-law AJ for including me! It’s said often, but is so true that “The Trail provides.”

Trail Days was an amazing time, but less of an unbridled bacchanalia than I expected. The hiker “tent city” was situated in baseball fields just outside of town and in the neighboring woods. Old and lasting trail families provided food and drink for current and past hikers alike, beneath great canopies that protected us from the rain. A massive bonfire persisted against the rain, home to a muddy circle of drums, dancing, whoops and hollers deep in the woods. In town, vendors came by the boatload to raffle away new expensive gear, hand out sitckers, and repair broken hiker gear. I didn’t win anything, but got my boots cleaned, shined, and “aged” – let’s just say it’s a good thing I switched to my hiking sandals.

We dried out in town after Trail Days, and the next week of hiking was filled with new faces and reunions with old ones. The “bubbles” of hikers became a jumble after folks skipped, stalled for, or jumped ahead after the fest. We met back up with some old friends the MOTHRA SQUAD had long passed, and after a couple days none other than Uncle Ya himself caught up with the lot of us, just in time for a visit from his girlfriend Theresa and my parents on Memorial Day weekend. It was good to see them, and a real treat to hike with them on The Trail for a couple days. I always have enjoyed hiking with my ma for her vast plant knowledge. Learning more about the flora we’ve passed each day brought new meaning to the familiar, helping to delay the “Virginia Blues” I still have yet to feel, despite some homesickness after seeing my folks and drinking a Peacemaker or five.

Wizard and Spinelli continued on while I took time to visit my folks, and Uncle Ya got a bit of a head start back on his hike, leaving me travelling alone for a spell. It didn’t last long, however, and I’ve been running with a new group, called “The Snooze Crew.” They are a ‘Mountain Collective’ rather than a trail family; a group of three trios, to which I make an even ten. While I miss the MOTHRA SQUAD, this group is a lot of fun to hike with. It’s wild how quickly friendships can be formed out here.

On trend with my spot of spontaneity, we’ve decided to take a week-long canoeing trip on the Shenandoah River starting tomorrow. I’ll have to come back and up my mileage to make up for the lost time, but it’s an opportunity I know I’d regret passing up.

See you soon,

Read the Rest!