Goodbye and good riddance! I practically screamed to myself as I finally escaped the Fly Trap, The Vortex as it’s so unaffectionately called.
Damascus, Virginia. Hiker Town USA.
May you rest in peace far away from me.
I’ll be back I suppose, Trail Days is May 13-15th every year and who in their right mind would miss that? Otherwise I’m never setting foot in that town again. I spent FAR too many days sitting in the lowered concrete-box back porch of the Broken Fiddle overlooking an ever ebbing and flowing sea of tents on too-new grass doing absolutely nothing of consequence.
I couldn’t even say why I stayed so long! I’ll try but don’t expect any Earth-shattering revelations. When I got to town I was ready for a hearty break — a day or maybe two — it was Trudy’s (aka Rainbow Mama aka Insert Real Name Here) birthday on June 20th (today is June 28th) and she was dead set on having a ball in fabled Damascus. We did have a ball! No doubt about it. The frisbees flew and hacky-sacks bounced joyously from foot to foot. We drank copious amounts of beer, as one should on birthdays, and retired late in the night feeling we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Then we had a proper recovery day and should have left the 22nd. Trudy and Captain left. I stayed. I was deep in Ready Player One and besides, I was sick of hiking with people for awhile. I intended to give them about a day’s head start and would have been able to catch up by Saturday at the latest, no big deal.
If only that’s what happened.
The 23rd rolled on by. I sat on my arse. Most of the 24th flew past and until 10pm I was still glued to a chair in my concrete prison. Finally, I found salvation in the form of a new friend, Shatterproof, with a bright red rented Ford Fiesta and a wild scheme to chase down an adventure and escape Damascus. I left with an old friend, Waffles, and we were finally sailing free of The Vortex.
We drove to some state park or another to sleep outside and take in the fresh, non-Damascus infected air. The following day our journey began. There were waterfalls and god-made swimming holes, mossy green-glazed steppes and more crayfish to catch than you could shake a kettle at. Finally, freedom. After a cook out and an impromtu night spent on the disc golf course of Warrior State Park (don’t ask me why we decided this was a good idea) it was time to head back to Damascus to tie up loose ends and finally FINALLY hit the trail. Though to me this whole journey was wildly entertaining it pertains very little to my self-imposed lock-up in Damascus, my chief concern and antagonist at the moment. Upon reaching the Broken Fiddle once again at 5pm I was dog tired from our excursion and promptly made my nest on the couch until nearly midnight, regardless of my now squatter status on the premises. At 1am Monday morning I threw my laden pack over my shoulders and bravely struck out into the night.
Here I sit, June 28th as I’ve said, outside of a shelter infested with Boyscouts while I write for the THIRD time about my Damascus, “experience.” This is the third because there are still libel laws in this country that prevent me from publishing my first two hate-filled diatribes on the subject. I know a lot of people love the place and, quite frankly, I certainly could under better circumstances but as things stand it burns like hell fire in my mind. It was my own fault of course, I sat still and let the world revolve around me for awhile as if in a daze. I guess you could say I had a relapse into lethargy or something like that. Anyways, I’m free and feeling proud that I managed NOT to write what I originally intended about the place. Small victories, right?
I suppose I did accomplish a thing or two during my stay. I finished Ready Player One, an absolutely fabulous book; updated the table of contents in my journal (yes, I’m THAT breed of nerd) and began working on my backgammon/chess set made from Tyvek sheeting and tongue-depressors with white-out painted bottle caps as dual-purpose pieces. When I think about it now the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song come to mind, “…you just kinda wasted myyy precious time, but don’t thiiink twice, it’s alllright.” That about sums it up.
What’s next? Well, according to the log books at the shelters I’m days behind my friends, with any luck I’ll catch them sometime before I reach Maine if I strap on my rocket boots and knock out 20+ mile days until I run out of fuel. So be it. I asked for this and I’m getting exactly what I wanted, regardless of what I may now want. I’m alone. I’ve been hiking mostly at night since I flipped my sleep schedule on its head by leaving Damascus in the middle of the night. It’s crazy out here at night. The spiders loom like prehistoric monstrosities in their crystal spindle webs stretched across the trail where no one bothered to walk through them during the day, the deer have fangs and so do the cows. They also growl and charge at me bloodthirstily unless I roar at the top of my lungs while brandishing my knife which shrinks to the size of a tooth pick even as I hold it. Deer and cows and probably squirrels are deadly dangerous, you know. The trail markers are miles farther apart than they were in the sunlight and even the rocks themselves scream with devilish vampirical cries no one from the Sun World would believe in. I’m slowly but surely righting my ship and adjusting back to normal-people hours as I trudge on, nothing filling my time but sleep and hiking, hell-bent on catching up to my trail family before the end of the century. My mum is coming out in a couple days, hopefully that will be the final shove it takes me to wake up before noon and stop hiking before midnight. Until then, I live in the twilight and it’s eery, ghastly creepily eeeeeery.
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We met you on your first or second day. I’m the crazy woman that was out there with 3 kids. We had so much fun at the shelter with everybody. I was following Pringles’ posts and yours popped up next. Happy to see you are still going. I wish I could be out there. Maybe someday. Hope your experience improves.