Day 73 -May 19 2017 – 13.5 Miles – Bobblets Gap to Bryant ridge shelter.
Stoats leg was feeling much better in the morning. Still, we didn’t want to risk over working his leg and stuck to our plan to make it a shorter day.
Early in the day we crossed the blue mountain parkway several times. At one of the the road crossings there was a police car parked nearby. When the cop saw us he got out of his vehicle to talk to us. He asked if we were thru hikers and told us he and his wife had thru hiked several years ago. Then he asked us if we had seen anything suspicious or if we had seen any sort of vandalism. We hadn’t. Then he went on to tell us about how he tracked down some vandals after they got off trail. I let him know that he might have a light couple of days because most of the party crowd was at trail days. He said, “Is that this weekend?” He sounded a little disappointed. I couldn’t tell if that was because he wanted to be at Trail Days or because he would have a slow workweek.
Trail Days is a yearly festival that is held in Damascus Virginia. Thousands of past and present thru hikers get together and have a several day celebration. Some of the festivities include:
- -The hikers have a parade down main street while onlookers shoot them with water guns.
- -There are a lot of gear manufacturers there that will repair your gear or sell you new gear at a discounted rate
- -There is a giant field that the town lets everyone camp in called tent city.
- -Food Vendors
- -Live music
- -A craft fair
- -Various workshops on different aspects of hiking
It was basically a giant several day party.
We didn’t go to it for several reasons. The biggest one was that we were 280 miles north of Damascus. If we really wanted to go that would have meant having to take 4 to 5 days off. The other main reason that we didn’t go was that we liked hiking better than partying. We could party any time. We were there to hike the Appalachian Trail.
We discovered one of the benefits of abstaining from trail days was that the trail was a lot less populated. We hardly saw any other thru hikers. That’s not to say that everyone went to trail days. It’s just that a large portion of the hikers within a day or two of us had gone there.
Over the last several days the trail had a south-western feel to it and today was no different.
By mid day it had become hot and humid. Thankfully we came across a swimming hole. The water looked inviting. Zeus and Flashfire preferred to lay on the worm rocks. Stoat and I were ready for a swim. Right before we went in Scarecrow showed up. The Tramily was complete.
The water was cold and refreshing. We swam in our clothes not out of modestly but because it was the best way to clean the sweat off them.
After swimming in the deeper section Stoat and I sat in a shallower section and let the current massage our legs.
We were there for a long time. After swimming we ate lunch and just hung out. We may not have been at Trail Days but that didn’t mean we couldn’t relax a little.
Eventually we pried ourselves away the the river and got back on trail. We only had about three miles left to hike for the day. After we went over a 1000 foot mountain we called it a day at the Bryant Ridge Shelter.
The Bryant Ridge shelter was a huge shelter capable of holding 20 people. At the shelter we met 2 thru hikers. Momentum and Socks. Momentum had just recently retired from being a ER nurse. Technically we met her first at the swimming hole but we weren’t formally introduced until we saw each other at the shelter.
Socks was a ulralight hiker. He had been averaging between 20 – 30 miles a day and he had just stopped in at the shelter to take a break before going on. He was wearing the only clothes he had and he was hiking in sandals. Having stubbed my toes at least once daily I couldn’t imagine how uncomfortable that could have been. At one point he said, ” I can’t wait to be finished. I just want to go home.”
After having a snack Socks got back on the trail. When he said see you down the trail everyone looked at each and said ,”No you wont.” We had no inclination to average 20 to 30 miles a day.
I forgot to mention that for a good portion of the day we were being bitten by small, no-see-ums. Around the shelter was just as bad. There was nothing we could do about it so we just had to try to get used to it.
Because the trail was so empty I decided to set my hammock up on the front porch area of the shelter. Stoat setup his hammock on the other side of the shelter. Flashfire tried out my hammock for a few minutes and decided that hammock camping was not for her. “Good to nap in, but not to camp in”, she said.