Dazed and Graysed
Thoughts and ruminations from the front porch of Long Neck Lair Alpaca Farm and Hiker Hostel (damned right they have alpacas here).
It’s an enticing thing, to be heading down the final descent of a long, long day and hear the sweet sounds of live music and bustling crowds in the not-so-distant future. Myself and two others made the 26 mile marathon-length hike into Damascus and could hear the Trail Days festival already in full swing from nearly a mile off.
And who do I spot after stumbling out of the woods with shaky legs and a healthy heaping of sweat salt lines in my shirt? Why, if it wasn’t Zach, editor-in-chief of this very publication, and Chaunce, co-host of Backpacker Radio with Zach. It’s uh…it’s hard to make a good impression on people you kinda sorta work for when you can barely stand or, ya know, form coherent sentences.
”The party is in the trees” they said, and that’s definitely true! The grassy area of Tent City? Fairly chill! The woods? An increasing bacchanalia the further one ventures, capped off by a giant bonfire with a massive drum circle (they were…mostly on rhythm).
Leaving Damascus was way, way harder than most town stops. For one, there was way more walking around then resting. Walk from Tent City to the vendor tents, then to town, then back to vendors, then back to Tent City and rinse and repeat a few times per day. For another, I was a little hungover. Sue me.
Luckily, not far from Damascus is the Grayson Highlands – lots of grassy views, wild ponies, and longhorn cattle. The novelty of the ponies, lovely as they are, wears off a bit when you have to constantly dodge their poop on the trail. At least they were cooler than the horses in The Rise of Skywalker. Ugh.
Other highlight – passing the 500 mile mark! Cool!
How much trail magic is too much?
Many people would say “the limit does not exist!” But the day I walked out of Grayson, there was a couple grilling hotdogs a couple miles in. Then, around noon, another group had hot dogs and mac and cheese set up. Then, in the evening, a local church shuttled over hikers for a giant picnic with burgers, pasta and potato salad, and (sensing a theme here?) hot dogs. I could’ve gone the whole day without eating a thing from my own pack. I love trail magic as much as anyone, but that was too much. Didn’t feel like much of a camping trip when there’s fresh hot dogs every seven miles.
I also feel uncomfortable with trail magic from church groups or mission groups sometimes. Most of the time the food and generosity is accompanied by some sort of prayer or speech about loving God. In the case of the church hosting the hiker picnic, it was a full forty minute sermon on Remembering our Creator. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, because the generosity is so wonderful. But as someone who doesn’t share those beliefs, I often wish they could conduct trail magic purely to help hikers, and not as an opportunity to proselytize.
I’m currently at a hostel that doubles as an alpaca farm. There’s just no llama-tations to the creativity of hostel owners.
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