Damascus, VA and Biking the Creeper Trail

Day 129

Yesterday was a great day. Despite getting turned around and hiking the long direction, the ponies, views, and my campsite all made up for it. And now, today was another great day. Today is the day I hike into Damascus, VA.

Damascus is famous on the AT because it is the home of Trail Days, a yearly celebration of the AT. Trail Days is practically one massive party that takes place in March, so most NOBOs get to be a part of it. Thru hikers from all years will come to Trail Days, and they have a massive parade of all the thru hikers from throughout the years. I didn’t make it to Trail Days (I was in Argentina), but I hear that hikers take over the entire town, camping in every crevice in and around the place. Damascus also has the slogan “Trail Town USA”, so you can understand why I was excited to finally get to see the place for myself.

When I hiked into Damascus, I didn’t have a hostel booked already. I wrapped up my 20.8 mile day relatively early (around 2pm), so I decided to treat myself by stopping off at the local ice cream parlor where I got the LARGEST scoops of ice cream for SO CHEAP I was in heaven.

Then, as I walked on, I decided to stop by the local distillery. Immediately I was met by Shannon and her family (who are from Roan Mtn) who wanted to hear all about my time on the trail, and they bought me a drink.

Then I walked to what I thought was a nearby hostel, The Woodchuck Hostel. Upon knocking on the front door, Rheda (the owner) came out and informed me that the hostel was, in fact, not open. Sadly I smiled, thanked her, and began to walk away. As I did, a thought popped into my mind “any chance I can set up my tent in your backyard anyway?”

“Sure!” She responded (you see its always worth asking)

Rheda and I

She then proceeded to show me the bones of the hostel. You can tell it used to be a great place for hikers. There was a bonfire pit in the backyard, and there were tent platforms along with a washer, dryer, and shower set up in the backyard.

“And here is the private room,” Rheda opened the door to what appeared to be a shed, but in fact, revealed a nicely furnished room with a Queen-sized bed, TV, and air conditioning unit, “unfortunately, it’s currently full of all the laundry I haven’t folded yet.” That was true. You couldn’t see the bed for all the quilts, sheets, and pillow covers blanketing the room.

“I’d be happy to help you in folding all of those as thanks for you letting me camp in your backyard: I told her.

She slowly nodded… “you know, if you want to, you can fold all the laundry in this room then I’ll let you stay in it”

“Really?!” I asked in disbelief.

“Yeah! I have a good feeling about you. I am getting good vibes. Plus, I could use the help folding all these.”

Excited, I took her up on the offer. It took me ~1hr of non-stop folding and organizing to get everything in place as I wanted it to be. As far as I could tell, it was all the bedding for every size and shape of bed for an ENTIRE hostel. However, once I was finished, it was worth all the effort.

As I learned, Rheda had purchased the hostel but in the more recent years, she was no longer sure if it was worth keeping open. Later on, before I left, Rheda told me that interacting with me made her want to ice again open up the hiker hostel. I am really happy if that is the impact I had on her, because she truly was an extremely nice person, and as I said, I think the property was great for hosting hikers.

One more note on this night before I move on to the following day: that evening I decided to check out Damascus Brewery. I LOVE live music, and I read on their website that they had it that night. I also developed a love for Sour beers while on trail, and they said they had those too. Well, I am so glad I went that night. I arrived and a band of 2 were singing there and they may have been my favorite live music. The band is called The Unknowns (@thunderbirdjess) AND to top it off I met another really great couple, George and Veronica, who shared with me their dessert and also bought me a pint of a Damascus Brewing Sour. Then, because I had walked to the brewery (which took me along a relatively busy road with no sidewalk), they offered to drive me back to Rheda’s.

Day 130

Initially I had only planned to stay a half day the following day. But, needless to say, one half-day in Damascus was not enough.

The morning of my 130th day on the AT, I woke up and did something different. I didn’t hike. I biked. You see, the town of Damascus is known for more than its affiliation to the AT. It is also a popular place to go hiking. You see, Damascus was originally a railroad town in the lumber boom of the early 20th century. It then reinvented itself through outdoor recreation and tourism in the 1990s. One example, is that many of these old railroads became trails! Damascus’ big claim to fame is that seven nationally known trails intersect within town limits. One of these is the Creeper Trail Bike Path.

A fellow thru hiker, Chestnut, who had been to Damascus before, and knew how much I like biking, highly recommend that I bike along the Creeper Trail. And it was not just him, as I enjoyed my way through Damascus this first day, almost everyone I met recommended I take a day to bike along the Creeper Trail.

So I did it. This is one of the few times I really splurged to treat myself along the trail, and it’s because, as anyone who knows me can vouch for, I LOVVVVEEEE biking.

The day started off a bit cloudy, which made me sad. I thought the bad weather would take away from my experience along the Creeper Trail. However, it actually did the opposite. Because the weather was bad, there were far less bikers on the trail, which meant I could have the time of my life, biking fast, biking slow, messing around as I biked with no hands, or planking on my bike seat. Along the way I stopped at one of the outposts long the trail, The Whitetop Station, which in the past, used to be a post office. I met the kindest lady there, Irene, who runs the Whitetop visitor center.

I then proceeded to have the best time biking down the trail, enjoying myself. If you want to watch a video I made about the trail, you can watch it on my new YouTube Channel, here!

Once I got into Damascus, I biked past the bike rental place, past Woodchuck hostel, and to the local grocery store, where I once again resupplied for food (by this time on the trail I was getting much better at buying an appropriate amount so that I had eaten everything by the time I arrived at the next town, a skill I lacked when hiking NOBO).

I had initially planned on leaving that afternoon, because I had to get to Roan Mountain where I was meeting Chestnut! However, the thing was that Roan Mountain was 75 miles away and I was supposed to meet him on my day 133… but the room at Rheda’s was just so nice and the bed was so comfortable… that I convinced myself I could stay another night, and that if I left the following morning I would make it in time (keep in mind that up until this point on the trail I had never gone 75 miles in 3 days).

That night I heard music playing through the town. Seeing as I love live music, I wandered toward it. And that was how I discovered that there was a concert and bbq in the park. I walked up and ask one of the volunteers there what was going on and learned it was the local church. They then offered me food 🙂 P.S. If any of you know someone who may be interested in hiking the AT, I am currently working on compiling a bunch of documents such as spreadsheets that will help them budget, plan their mileage, their food, and more… I will continue to keep you all updated! If you have any questions, you can email me at [email protected]

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Comments 2

  • Daktari : Dec 12th

    Fantastic story, thanks for sharing

  • Daktari : Dec 12th

    Fantastic story, thanks for sharing
    Sadly, If the Management at the ATC had their way, that would NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN, theis words,, Wr want to route the AT from Damascus BECAUSE DAMASCUS is TOO HELPFUL TO HIKERS,


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