Trail Days 2024 Hiker’s Stories – John B.

Some might describe Trail Days in Damascus, VA as time when AT hikers, both current and former, gather to share stories and the camaraderie of the trail community. It can be like a family reunion where thru-hikers, section-hikers, and others reconnect with trail friends and meet other hikers. I heard this sense of community and shared experience of the AT echoed by many of the hikers I recently met at my first Trail Days in 2024, and I will attempt to share some of their stories here. I will begin with John B. From Georgia.

It was late Thursday afternoon. My friend Dave and I had been in Tent City less than a couple hours and the smell of skunk weed was already wafting through the air when John B., a 2007 thru-hiker from Georgia, approached our tent, appearing anxious to talk and make some new friends. He sat on the ground in front of our tent as we conversed.

He said that while he was originally from The Peach State, he now considered his car and the AT his home. When I asked him what drew him to the AT and compelled him to attempt his thru-hike, he mentioned, as many others would, that Scouting and his experience of becoming an Eagle Scout both originally sparked his interest in and helped prepare him for his trek.

“I Started my thru-hike on March 18, 2007 at Springer Mountain and reached Mt. Katahdin on October 1, 2007, a hike of six months and ten days” he said. I was impressed that he was able to rattle off both dates and the total time in what seemed like an instant, as if they were indelibly blazed into his memory even fourteen years later. He recounted that back then he saw probably no more than two hikers along the AT carrying and using smart phones, and we both lamented the fact that with the advent of smart phones and navigation apps that fewer and fewer hikers seem able to navigate just by compass and paper maps.

When I asked John B. what his favorite section of the AT had been during his through-hike, he quickly started talking about the majestic beauty of the White Mountains and the Presidential Range. He remembered the worst section being the endless rocky sections in Pennsylvania, a memory shared by many other thru-hikers. Although John B.’s favorite memory was of The Whites, he also spoke fondly of nearby Grayson Highlands, especially its wild ponies, and he looked forward to going back there soon after Trail Days ended.

I regret that while we talked, I failed to ask, and John B. failed to tell me what his trail name was. I saw him walk by a few hours later but never saw him again over the next few days as more people arrived at the festival and moved into Tent City, but I will always remember him as the first thru-hiker I met at the Trail Days 2024. Maybe someday we will meet again on the AT, or at Trail Days 2025.

Stay tuned for more Trail Days 2024 Hiker’s Stories as the days and weeks pass. I hope and plan to post at least eight in all.

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