Trail culture spreads way beyond the actual hikers themselves, it’s a community of people that embrace the trail lifestyle, philosophy and attitude. The Appalachian Trail is as much a social experience as it is a wilderness experience. A typical thru hike consists of spending about a half of a year, walking approximately 10-20 miles up and down mountains all day, just to reach a mountain in the middle of nowhere and receive no material reward. I think the physical demand and mental obstacles force hikers to embrace their true essence. The reward is the experience. The bonds and camaraderie between fellow hikers can be strong, very intense, and just as beautiful as the scenery around. But also very fleeting, so any amount of time spent with someone you enjoy being around is savored. It’s amazing how natural a connection can feel when societal guards are let down. Instantly like a butterfly the person disappears out of sight with the possibility of never seeing them again. The feeling is alright though because the beauty of the experience you had is always there and never changes.
Trail Days is an annual hiker festival/reunion held in Damascus, VA. Around 30 thousand hikers flock to the small mountain town to celebrate trail culture and reunite with friends from their past hikes. I was taking a zero week relaxing not sure if I was going to go to Trail Days this year. Laura “Hips” (who I said goodbye to on the trail last week, because she’s getting off for grad school) sent me a text saying her and six other hikers were going in on a vacation rental house outside of Damascus for the weekend and wanted me to join in. The thought of seeing her again was motivation enough to go and I’m glad, cause it was awesome! Two goodbyes are better than one.
The hiker parade: a two mile parade, local vs hiker water war.