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[at-l] Trail Days, Part 1

Oh, bother. I wanted to write something creative but Felix beat me to it.
Guess I'm doomed to be a non-fiction writer forever...

Fri May 16
Headed out at 6:15am for a long, long drive through West Virginia, stopping
for caffeine frequently. Most of it a drowsy blur except the 24-mile-long
blast and construction zone near Sutton on US 19, where trucks big enough
to crush my house were toting around rocks big enough to crush my car, and
I had to sit in a traffic jam to wait for them to inch across the road and
buckle the pavement. Thought briefly about helping them out by piling loose
sandstone into my wagon, then figured I'd have no room for hikers if I did
so. Stopped at the New River Gorge to try out the staircase halfway down
the gorge to a scenic view. It's always closed due to ice when I stop on
winter trips. Great climb, great view. None of the timid believed me when I
came back up and said it was worth the excercise. 

Found Pearisburg without any problem, had a harder time finding the
Rendevous Motel. Whizzed right through the little town and didn't see it.
Came back and asked directions at the post office. Found it! Picked up Ian,
an ATMLr from Penn State, a prof who's working on a book about literature
written in and about trail locales (Thoreau, Dillard, etc). Stopped at the
Dairy Queen for lunch, met two thru-hikers and offered them rides, both
brushed by quickly and said Trail Days was a waste of time. Well! Didn't
even get their names. Drive to Damascus was much longer than I expected,
but Ian was interesting company. He's been sectioning for 10 years or so,
closing in on the goal. His plan was 2 weeks from Damascus to Pearisburg, a
segment he was missing.

Rolled into town about 2:30 to see hundreds and hundreds of tents, no idea
where to park. The Place was all parked up, so we went down by the creek
and I parked in front of the P.O. Not sure what to do next, got my pack out
and scouted a tentsite in Tent City. Right next to a group with a gorilla
mask on a pole. Not sure if it was a good choice at the time...bongos to
the left, gorillas to the right.

Saw a big colorful sign in a car nearby, had to check - Chase! Not the
truck I remembered from Harper's Ferry. No one there, so I left a note and
grabbed a nametag. Chase did a nice job printing full color AT-L logo
nametags, and had a bunch under the wipers. I saw a space nearby, so moved
my car over there, and then met Woodelf aka JR. Chase returned from looking
for my tent. Wandered over to the vendor booths, and saw an AT-L sign on
Mountainsmith, with a register. Sleeper showed up, as did Wirlwind and his
Dad (whose name I forget, sorry!). We BS'd for a bit, waiting for others to
show up. Went to get some stuff out of the car, came back and immediately
figured out the guy in the loud floral shirt must be Felix...with Mrs.
Felix tagging along. Mike, Raven, "Waterboy," and Snail-No-More appeared,
as did a few others, tough to remember who all now. But we did a small
group picture nonetheless, then broke off into smaller groups to meander
around town. A trip to the park by the VA Creeper Trail proved that
thru-hikers are cheap -- the only vendors getting any business were the
food and outfitting vendors. Picked up a thermax top for cheap. 

Didn't want to jones any thru-hiker free food, so wandered off with Felix,
Julie (Mrs Felix) and Raven to Abington to use an ATM, buy beer, and eat.
Grabbed some brew to take home, since we can't easily buy 6-packs of
premium beer in PA. Rode in the back of the "Ace of Spades" truck, and
Felix kept apologizing for the digs. Did the BK thing. Got back with time
to spare, wandered back to Mountainsmith, where many AT-L folks kept
gravitating...Mike did his slide show, just as moving as the first time I
saw it last fall. The amazing thing is he started with about 40 people, and
by the end, easily 200 people were standing around with tears in their
eyes. Quite the scene. Spent some time talking to Solophile...she looks
great! Gave her some dehydrated goodies for the next leg of the hike. Plan
to meet up with her in PA for a few days on the Trail...

Foolish me, I tried to go to the tent and sleep, but the drums and the
drunks kept me up. Not that I don't mind a beer or two, but I *do* mind
people taking a whiz within earshot of my tent. I wandered over to the
bonfire and talked to a Brit lady and a fellow who were thru-hiking, didn't
get the names, but both went on and on about the spiritual benefits of
walking the trail...went back towards my tent and stopped in on the Gorilla
guys, all of whom were mega-wasted. Among them, an ATML fellow who could
hardly put two words together...I dived in my tent and followed Solophile's
advice -- earplugs! Despite the cold night (glad I bought the thermax)
slept soundly then 'til the fishermen started sneaking thru tent city
around 5am for the Trout Rodeo. 

Coming soon, Day 2...
GA->ME 1999	<downs@nb.net>	Visit Cyberwall! http://www.nb.net/~downs
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