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[at-l] Trail Days, Part 2

Sat May 17
After stumbling out in the morn, saw Chase & Woodelf cooking breakfast in
front of their tent. Said hellos, then off to town hall before anyone else
got on the PC! And I couldn't remember a single address except Pete, so I
said hi. Also met the mayor, a nice old lady. PCs, potato chips and pepsi
-- what a town hall! 

Didn't feel like cooking so I headed up the street to the pancake breakfast
at the Methodist Church next to The Place. Still wearing my AT-L tag, got
stopped by Lamar Powell, said hi. Waited forever in line, then even longer
at the table for food. But right next to me was Rockdancer (Arthur Gaudet).
He says hi to everyone, he's having a "relaxing" trip ... working on
philosophical musings, stopping to visit communes and bag peaks ... sounds
like The Life. Across from me, Tinkerbell and a male thru-hiker talked
about encounters with bears -- seeing them, not fearing them. Sounded
great. Didn't take long for anyone's pancakes to vanish!

Wandered up to the pool to look for Raven, Felix, et al and discovered a
cool island behind the pool. Decided to move my tent there, and walked back
up to find Chase & Woodelf. We went down to the church to get a free 1996
guide from ALDHA and saw Gweeneth's car by The Place with a big AT-L sign
in it, left a note. Sighted Warren Doyle. Then bumped into Gail & Dan and
Gweeneth. Moments later, I knew the SLACK PACK t-shirt dude had to be
PITTSBURGH! SUNSHINE was there too, and a couple others. Spread the word to
meet at 5pm for a picture. Gail & Dan came along to help me pack up and
move to the island, they wanted to camp there too. With them, met Snore
Bear, an imposing fellow.

Set up the island camp, then back to wandering. Damascus only has about 21
small blocks, but I think I set foot on them all. Back at the park, more
non-hikers had shown up to keep the trinket and craft vendors busy. The
prices were killer but I kept limited funds on me so I wouldn't be tempted.
Tried to meet up with Mike at the Parade but Schulyer and I moved a bit too
slow, so we took a shortcut, just in time to see the Scotsman in kilts
piping the hikers along. Waldo carried a homemade flag: "Class of 1996 ...
We upped the standards ... now up yours" Plenty of familiar faces. Lots of
water balloons and water cannons! Followed 'em down the street. Warren
Doyle was at the end of the parade, walking along smiling a shit-eating
grin and eating out of a half-gallon of ice cream. 

Went to Dairy King with Gweeneth (and Casey, her adorable little she-dog),
Felix & Mrs., Mark & Janet Holmes. Sorry to hear they won't be in town the
week I'll be near Troutville! Perhaps next year. But they're looking
forward to the next AT section in PA. Spotted Larry Luxemburg at the next
table, said hi. Fed some of my beef jerkey to Casey and now she's my friend
for life.

Got a MUCH larger crowd at 5pm for pictures, including the infamous Waldo
(what a tall guy!) and Needles. Gar-Bear from ATML and Mrs Felix took
pictures with EVERYONE'S cameras, which took some time. Then off to the
talent show. It was funny to watch the locals' reactions to hiker talents
... singing, standup, dancing, eating raw eggs, that sort of stuff. While
it was amusing for a while, after an hour it got tiring. Went back to
aimless wandering, checking out the comemmorative ceramic tiles on the AT
(it goes down the sidewalk in town), Mt Rogers Outfitters, The Place, and
other spots. Returned to the pool to catch fellows with congo drums using
the excellent acoustics of the men's shower. Felix disappeared in there and
someone had to pry him out ... back to Mike's show for another longing sigh
and cry, and the winner was ... Waterboy! with his most excellent guess at
the weight in the Mountainsmith Frostfire pack. Mountainsmith started
throwing stuff out to the crowd. I got bonked on the head by something, but
I think Chase got a water bottle. Mike gave away all the Royal Robbins
clothing to thru-hikers without any difficulty. Got back into wandering
mode with a group, and cruised tent city looking for interesting
conversation. Talked to Bull Moose, thru-hiker from NJ, whose brother
worked for a museum I do work for ... met quite a few odd people, and folks
who asked "how do you all know each other if you aren't thru-hikers?" Hmmm...

Tried to get a late dinner at Quincey's but they'd barred the door. No luck
at Dot's or Cowboy's, either. Or Dairy King. Town shuts down tight by
midnight. The cops scoped us out as we wandered around and eventually back
to the pool, where I departed to the island while the others hung out to
cook a very late dinner. 

Sun May 18
Wrapped it all up the next morning with several meanders and many goodbyes,
then hit the road for a 7.75 hour drive home, more awake this time. Did my
duty by going around town trying to find hikers that needed a ride north to
Bastian, but no takers. Oh well. Then, near the PA turnpike, a bracket fell
off my exhaust pipe and it broke in two pieces, both dragging. I was
kicking up enough sparks to cook on. The good news is, my gas tank didn't
blow. And it was under warranty and fixed for free this morning.

Whew! Now I have to write some "offical" accounts of the trip to make all
that mileage a business expense. <G>. A few magazines are interested...

Most important for those of you going next year: it's a people thing.
Unless you like to hang around, spark conversations with total strangers
(OK, well, some of us weren't totally stranger...) and generally BS, don't
bother. It's more like a family reunion than a festival. But it was
certainly fun to meet so many people! Good chance I'll be back next year.

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