After much delay we finally left Damascus. The plan was to wait around town and avoid a thunderstorm. What it turned into was early morning drinking at the laundry mat that ended in hiking out as the storm approached. The day before we had taken a zero and had gone to a bluegrass show, Larry Keel. It was amazing to see some really legit bluegrass while on the trail and we all enjoyed it very much. So much so that walking back to our tents camped on the trail was a little difficult. The next morning we didn't know what else to do besides sit in the laundry mat and finish off the case of beer from the night before. I, for the record, don't drink day old Budweiser, so the guys finished off the beer. Until a local came in and started griping about so many hikers drinking in the establishment. "I know that's. not Budweiser you're drinking in here!! And we don't sit on the dryers! It ruined the alignment." The owner of the laundry mat had warned us of the "local trash", as she called them, during a previous laundry mat drinking session and was fine with is watching the TV as we drank. But this particular old woman hollering at everyone at 11:30am for drinking in the laundry mat had a real affect on everyone.
By 12pm about ten hikers were walking out of town into the oncoming rain. Most of us took the creeper trail out of town, a bike trail the repeatedly meets up with the AT and is much more easy as far as terrain. We hiked 14 miles in the rain to a shelter, many hikers still toting unopened beers from the laundry mat. All it takes to motivate some hikers is a little nip in the butt that reminds the they are drinking in a laundry mat in front of a TV before 12pm.
The next day we hiked over the Greyson Highlands. Right before we hit them there was a Boy Scout troop doing trail magic. Among hot dogs and chips and beans and brownies, I had my first hamburger on the trail yet and it was loaded with all the most wonderful parts of a home cooked burger! After this excellence t lunch, we passed through the small state park that is the Greyson Highlands. Everyone talks about how great this part of the trail is. In my eyes, balds are a terrible part of the trail and I strongly dislike them. So many people love them though. They are definitely pretty, but they are always rocky and eroded and incredibly windy and cold. There is only so much beauty that compensates for all the other suckiness of a terrain. The highlands is all balds all day long, so it was a rough day for me. But there were wild ponies and the end of the day did mark 500 miles!
As a group, the 5 of us each packed out an extravagant food for a 500 mile party. Maineiac brought a cake and icing, movie star brought wine, I brought mangos, genie brought baked potato stuff and duffle miner brought ravioli. We made a feast and share it with a lot of other hikers we were with.
The next few days were simply pumping out miles until we hit partnership shelter, right at Marion, Va. I hitched into town with Duffle Miner and Mr. Frodo and got Mexican food, which I had been craving so. A very long time. Particularly a margarita. Then we resupplied with a ton of other hikers and went back to the shelter to spend the night. Since the shelter was so close to town, it is only proper hiker thought to bring as much alcohol back to the shelter as possible. Pizza was also able to be delivered by Pizza Hut because of the close by Mt. Rogers Visiter Center. It turned the night into a hiker party. Raging fire, so much food and beer and whiskey, but everyone still is in bed by 10 pm. It's the way all parties should be.
So far Virginia is a beautiful state. I can see why they say Virginia is for lovers. It makes you want to love everything. Or maybe spring is just finally coming!