No Good Norovirus, Trail Towns, and Other Observations

No Good Norovirus

Norovirus is a stomach flu that can be quite serious.  It is a major problem on the trail, so much so that several hikers have been hospitalized due to dehydration.  There are warnings in every shelter and every privy in the trail.  It is nasty stuff; moreover, the capability of the Norovirus to inflict vomiting and diarrhea simultaneously on its victims is well known.  

When we left Hampton, I had been without symptoms for at least 12 hours.  I made the decision to go ahead and push.  It was a mistake.  The temperature rose to 88 that day, and after 12 miles, everything on me was completely soaked.  It hadn’t rained a drop.  A wet tent sucks.  A sweaty tent is another level.  To complicate matters, Ma Wampus started to get sick.  We slowly ate through our imodium, and our love for the trail was diminishing at an alarming rate.  We needed a town and one that could give us a room with our own bathroom, probably not a hostel.  

Trail Towns

Damascus VA

Grandma Gatewood’s shoes can be found at the Mt Roger’s Outfitters in Damascus.

Grandma Gatewood’s shoes can be found at the Mt Roger’s Outfitters in Damascus

We crossed the Virginia state line and walked into Damascus.  Damascus’ history is similar to Hampton TN.   Lumber and railroads created infrastructure and both industries moved on.  Damascus is the quintessential trail town.  They have no less than three hiking outfitters and several hiking hostels.  Damascus holds a great deal of trail history here, including the shoes of AT hiker legend Grandma Gatewood!  They also conduct the annual “Trail Days” celebration, which is recognized as the official AT multi day party.  If you want to grab dinner there though, you should aim to eat before six or cook it yourself.  Lovely town but we needed something else.  

Abingdon VA

Abingdon had the lodging we needed to fix ourselves.  It also had incredible history.  There was the visitor center, situated in an old historic house on the main street through town.  Here we were given a heads up on several interesting places.  

Abingdon Muster Grounds

Abingdon Muster Grounds

First, the Abingdon Muster Grounds was the field where some of the Overmountain Men gathered before heading off to the Battle of Kings Mountain and other engagements, like Cowpens.  It has a small museum and is the start of the Overmountain Victory Trail.  

Barter Theatre

Barter Theatre

Next, the Barter Theatre is a live venue that goes back to the Great Depression when the local actors took payment via a barter system.  The actors purportedly gained a collective 130lbs their first year in business, during the Depression!  

The Tavern

The Tavern

Another gem was The Tavern, currently a restaurant and bar, which happens to be one of the oldest pubs in Virginia.  Built in 1799, it was the meeting place for many revolutionary war activities that shaped our history.  

Black’s Fort

Black’s Fort

Near the Creeper Trail, a rails to trails initiative featuring on of the prettiest hiking/biking trails you have ever seen, is the former site of Black’s Fort.  This fort was a palisade with a couple of cabins, and served as protection for early settlers in the mid 1700s against native american attacks.  With Cherokee Chief Dragging Canoe and his Shawnee allies attacking settlements, it was actively used several times.  

Finally, we were able to see an original Tiffany in the local courthouse.  Created to honor veterans of WW1, this piece of art is an original piece and a one of a kind.  

Marion VA

Just before Marion, my strap broke on my Osprey backpack, so into town we went.  One of Marion’s claims to fame is its responsibility for a product we now know as Mountain Dew.  

Lincoln Theatre

Lincoln Theatre

Ma Wampus Behind the Curtain

Ma Wampus Behind the Curtain

Here we also saw the Lincoln theatre, one of three Mayan Revival style theaters left in the United States.  It’s an amazing venue built toward an initiative to turn Marion into another Hollywood; unfortunately, the visionary behind the project, C.C. Lincoln, died of pneumonia before completion of his dream.  His son completed the theatre.  

Relive the Age of Jazz

Relive the Age of Jazz

We stayed at the General Francis Marion.  Built in the height of the jazz age, there is art deco throughout.  One can imagine the cigar smoke rolling out of the card room and the sound of the flappers’ heels in the grand ballroom.  

Incredible House Museum

Incredible House Museum

We also saw the Settlers’ Museum.  This great museum is also a statement on life in rural Virginia, both present and past.  Located right off the AT, this sprawling venue has a couple of old (ca. 1890) farmhouses, with outbuildings, a one room schoolhouse – all chocked full of antiques from the time period.  We were able to see most of this venue without seeing any staff.  A local Methodist Church even set up some unmanned trail magic, leaving large tubs full of gatorade, chips, fruit, and even rolls of trail gold (toilet paper) in the one room schoolhouse.  

Enjoying Trail Magic in Historical Setting

Enjoying Trail Magic in Historical Setting

Other Observations

Grayson Highlands State Park

Lincoln Theatre

One of the most gorgeous parks in Virginia, this mountaintop retreat has beautiful rock formations, alpine streams, and, of course, the ponies.  The ponies were introduced in the early 1900s to keep the vegetation down on the balds.  They continue to do this job as well as entertain AT hikers and other visitors.  A volunteer group looks after the ponies to ensure herd health, which may include feeding, shoeing, and even relocating or selling off some of the stock.  The ponies themselves run the place.  At least one hiker relayed that while she was sitting at the shelter having lunch, a pony came up and started licking her legs much to her delight – apparently, they figured out we hikers are a source of salt.  

Seriously, you decided to sleep by the bear box?

Seriously, you decided to sleep by the bear box?

Public Service Announcement

”Waterboy” is a recently retired employee from a water utility company.  We ran into him several times, the last being at a diner in Damascus where he relayed his last trail adventure.  Waterboy was on the trail and needed to take care of some number two business.  So, he found his spot, well off the trail, and began doing what one does, when he heard something big scratching the bark off a tree behind him.  He turned to see a full grown mama bear not 20 ft from him up in a tree – just looking at him.  With his shorts around his ankles, in the middle of a movement, he took out his camera and photographed the bear.  I have a new hero.  Marvel has nothing on Waterboy.  Anyway, again, PSA – Pooping on the AT is a 3D experience.  Please check your surroundings!  

That’s it for this week – hoping to get back on trail soon if Ma Wampus and I will ever stop passing our germs to each other.  In the interim, we are getting to see a lot of beautiful rural Virginia.  I am slowly understanding the phrase “the journey is the destination”.  

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Comments 2

  • Richard : May 10th

    I’m enjoying your posts and especially appreciate that you mention the history of the interesting history of the places.

    Reply
    • MaPa Wampus : May 16th

      Thanks Richard. This has been a great experience for seeing different parts of the country in slow motion, which allows us to soak it in a bit more. Thanks for joining us!

      Reply

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