Trail Days Dresses

An odd thing appeared to me as I entered Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia. Of the many thousands of people attending the events, vendors, music venues, street theater, tent city area, food trucks, etc., I noticed that many of the men were dressed in dresses. Women’s dresses. When I say many, I mean about every 10th guy had on some type of skirt, kilt, or, more often than not, a long women’s dress. And if every 10th guy is in a dress, then I’m noticing a guy in a dress about every 10 seconds! Hairy legs were sticking out the bottom and hairy arms and back stuck out the top of these dresses, but, of course, one doesn’t say anything. And these were some flamboyant dresses; nobody wearing a dress was trying to ‘blend in’ and ‘pass’ as a woman.

OK. Wow. I thought about it and concluded that this was a pretty brave thing happening here and, oddly, I was proud of the ‘hiker community’ for expressing themselves as such. This must be a statement about the safety of expressing one’s gender-fluidity, about expressing oneself in the manner of dress that one likes regardless of societal pressure. Possibly even many of these people were not themselves inherently inclined to such dress but were, (even more brave, perhaps?), coming out as ‘allies’ in the effort to bring awareness to the strictures of societal norms while encouraging the abolition of stereotypes of dress and behavior that keep so many people from living their lives in concert with their true feelings. Furthermore, now that I thought of it, what better venue for this progressive demonstration of the comprehensiveness of humanity than in the ‘Trail Community’ of hikers where all walks of life converge annually in a pilgrimage to understanding, healing, and fellowship–a living slipstream of all ages, orientations, and backgrounds where tolerance, support and fellowship flourish as naturally as wildflowers bloom in Spring.

Overkill? A little heavy-handed? I’ve had those thoughts before, and one example comes to mind: When I started law school in 1996 I immediately noticed that all, all references to lawyers and judges in the casebooks used the feminine pronouns: she, her, etc. I thought it was bizarre; literally every such reference, on every page, jumped out at me as there were then relatively very few women in the legal profession at the time and I considered it heavy-handed that the authors had made the deliberate decision to go 100% female in the depictions of legal professionals. Maybe some sociologist Graduate student had this brilliant idea to train a new generation of lawyers into thinking less stereotypically and the publishing community bought off on it. Well, the times they were a’changing and the authors knew it and they had the last laugh. By the end of the very first semester, I no longer thought of it as odd that women could be lawyers or judges. I laughed at how effective the technique was–a blitzkrieg of new understanding–and I was better off for it. (Incidentally, over half of all lawyers are women today!)

So, back to men wearing dresses. I hitch-hiked a good portion of the way home and the person who picked me up was also leaving Trail Days and at one point mentioned how Trail Days does something silly every year for the fun of it. This year it was ‘men-wear-dresses’. Just like ‘silly hat day’ at work or whatnot.

Whoops! Maybe sometimes I overthink things. You think?

18-19 May – Damascus VA to Gloucester (825.8 miles)

What?  To Gloucester?!  I traveled for two days to Gloucester, MA from Damascus, VA.  Yes, I am officially ‘off the Trail’. . . I am back with Memory in Massachusetts and will be here with her from now on.  

I hitch-hiked from Damascus and got a ride all the way to Maryland with a fellow through-hiker (Big shout-out to Lauren:  congratulations on completing your own Through-Hike on 7 May! and thanks a ton for the great company and ride to Maryland!)  Then I took a Greyhound bus the next morning all the way to Boston, and Memory picked me up about 1:15a.m. today, the 20th, when I am writing this.  We’re sitting here now with great coffee from her super coffee machine.

But nobody cares about the logistics of all this:  –you want to know why!!
OK. . . here, –for my loyal readers–, in order, are the reasons that I left the Trail:

1.)  I was traumatized by all those morning coffees without half-and-half.

2.)  There is not that much fresh fried seafood available on the Appalachian Trail.   

3.)  I miss sharing my experiences, be they great or small, with Memory.  I’d rather be with her from now on than anywhere else.  I’m crazy in love with her.        

4.)  I’ve done enough to get out of this Trail experience what I wanted to; I’m satisfied that I’ve scratched that itch.

5.)  The Trail Gods told me it’s time to write that novel & screenplay that I’ve been wanting to get out for years.

6.) I didn’t realize that hiking involved so much walking.    

7.)  I’ve lost enough weight to be beach-ready!  

8.)  The devil made me do it.

OK.  Maybe that’s not the real ‘order’.  You decide!
Happy Trails 

17 May – 19E Shuttle to Damascus, VA Trail Days

On 17 May, I split a shuttle with 9 other folks to Damascus, VA to see what Trail Days was all about.    

“Damascus is the home of the annual Trail Days festival, and is known as Trail Town USA due to the convergence of four scenic trails in the town, including the Appalachian TrailU.S. Bicycle Route 76, The Iron Mountain Trail, and the Virginia Creeper Trail. Damascus also is on the route of the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail and the Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail. The Trail Days festival is held around the middle of May each year and draws in excess of 20,000 tourists, making it the largest single gathering of Appalachian Trail hikers anywhere.

Well, it’s a big fun party. . . a parade, games, all the relevant equipment vendors helping people with their equipment (really: repairing [sewing, adjusting], replacing, giving advice, etc.), all kinds of carnival food, etc. . . and many charitable organizations, usually religious, offering free showers, laundry, and food for the Hiker community.  Really, just a nice big ‘Trail’ celebration.

On Friday night, I took a walk into the woods to see the ‘Drum Circle’.  This was actually arranged by some Trail acquaintances of mine and they insisted I go, so on Friday night I marched to the sound of the drums. . . In the (dark) video, -hang with it-, you’ll see that the woods where everyone tented out is a labyrinth of people, lights, sounds, and who knows what else is going on in the dark!  (Not that I don’t trust co-ed 20-somethings with all the time in the world on their hands, a carnival tent city at night, beer, marijuana, and hormones all generously available . . . )  

In the daytime video, you can see the stage where music played all day and night. . . they had performers lined up for the whole weekend and they were all good. . . 

I set up in the supposedly ‘quiet’ section of the Tent City but it turned out to be not so quiet as one might expect . . . 


16 May – Bradley Gap to US19E (16.1 miles)

Went up and over ‘Hump Mountain’, (5500 feet or so in elevation) and eventually got to RT19E. From this highway, I arranged a shuttle, as did many other people, to go to ‘Trail Days’ in Damascus, Virginia, the following morning.  Trail Days celebrates all things Appalachian Trail for a few days a year– always the weekend after Mother’s Day and always in Damascus, Virginia. . . 

This was another great day for the weather and I felt strong and good the whole day!

15 May – Little Rock Knob to Bradley Gap (17.3miles)

 As I write this, I’m in a Hiker hostel where there is a TV.  I had MSNBC news on a little while ago and was catching up on the Iran tensions and recent abortion rights paroxysms in the nation.  I left to switch out some laundry, -10 yards away- came back and…(as God is my witness!) someone had switched the channel to Wheel Of Fortune!  And the guy was eating a hamburger—close enough to meatloaf for me!  Oh well… I guess I saw it coming…

(That’s what I get for introducing politics to this blog.  I’ll just stick with death and taxes from now on.)

Had a great day yesterday.  Went up and over a mountain that was protecting a rare ‘coniferous forest’ for these parts.  

Before I came to the sign and big roped off areas, I could smell Christmas very strongly… every memory came flooding back with that lovely fir/pine smell…and we all know, just that smell can induce sentimental thoughts, way out of season or not…

Got to the top of a mountain where the ‘Cloudland Hotel’ stood.  Real interesting big beautiful hotel stood here from 1884 for 20 years or so only.  People could look out over the mountains from a big porch and stay here with three meals a day—all for only $2 per day!  (It was dismantled due to high maintenance costs; only the foundations remain.)

Saw this old spooky chimney on the Trail.  This story is well known; it is addressed briefly in the guidebooks but I also looked it up.

In 1927 a Swede, working in the local logging camps, had a cabin here and one night during the brutal 1927 winter he killed his family in an alcoholic rage.  Wife, daughter and two grandchildren.  Being snowbound at this extreme elevation, and expecting to remain so for weeks, he dragged the bodies out onto the trail to freeze.    Later, he cut them up into ‘log-length’ pieces and tied them up in burlap and hid them in his woodpile.       Eventually, he hiked through the snow to the town of Roan Tennessee and confessed to the authorities because his family ‘won’t leave me alone’—calling out to him at night from the woodpile! (The trail to his cabin later being incorporated into the Appalachian Trail.)   Supposedly, many AT hikers have ‘felt’ the presence of ghosts and sadness at this point and you can see where the Trail is considerably widened out by hikers skirting the ruin.   By the looks of it, and all the intact moss, nobody dares to touch it either—I sure didn’t!   Well, if you made it this far in the story- gotcha!  This is just a chimney I saw on the Trail.  Someone must have lived here I guess…

14 May – Beauty Spot Gap to Little Rock Knob (15.6 miles)

Don’t know where this day went…  got going early in a spooky cold fog (sorry I didn’t think to take pictures!) and just plugged along all day, thinking all my crazy thoughts and marveling at some really nice mossy old-growth-looking coniferous forests at elevation.  (again no pictures!)  

“What crazy thoughts?” you say;  here’s one:
Isn’t the idea of having a President embarrassingly antiquated already?  [No specific reference to our current President who happens to make my case in Spades:  I’ve been thinking this for several Presidencies now]. 

Here’s the argument:  why should we let one person make huge decisions that affect everyone which could be driven by whim, caprice or worse:  stupidity or political vengefulness?  How can we be in a position to entrust earth-influencing decisions to a single human with, in most cases, frailties of reason and emotional soundness?  We call this ‘representation’ of the people?  No, it’s a largely false and half-hearted representation of the voters, based on cotton-candy campaign promises during the election carnival, which survive the general election by about 5 seconds.  Then the flip-flops happen and we all make little concerned faces and go on about our business of watching Wheel Of Fortune while parked behind a good meatloaf.  Meanwhile, our ‘President’ wakes up on any given day and simply decides climate change is a hoax, or that we ought to invade Iraq or elsewhere, or that horrible despots are cool people after all.  Or that cute young interns are fair game for romance, or that the biggest financial criminals in the world won’t be prosecuted though they caused world economic collapse, or that maybe we should, or shouldn’t, have a space program, or be drilling for oil in the Arctic.  And enormous resources and prioritization of effort are allocated to these things voters never specifically agreed to.  But again, we have Wheel Of Fortune and meatloaf to console ourselves with.  

We can’t depend on Congress to check our Presidents, (ok-I’ll give you the Nixon thing but it took journalists to force that outcome).  I’ve encountered more spine in a banana than in Congress and no wonder:  their first priority is to remain in office and the rest of their priorities don’t deviate from the first—that’s what I’ve seen. (Don’t get me started on fundraising, voting strict party alignment and making it ok to not answer questions—though even trace elements of integrity would demand public servants not obfuscate.) 
Back to the original point:  how soon before we look back and laugh in amazement that we hung with the President thing so long?  I wish I was already from another planet so I could laugh now.  Let’s get over the Founding Fathers thing…they were smart and brave for their time but they shit in buckets and owned slaves.  In other words, times have changed, and government should change with it.  Right now our concept of President is not materially different from having a King and his advisors (party loyalists).  And you know how we think the King thing was so Medieval….

What’s the solution?

Anything is worth a try…  how about leveraging technology to give every voter a chance to really represent their positions when someone upstream is doing something  capricious?  Or, do away with the Executive having more than administrative power, or elevate Congress to new and more representative powers, subject to term limits and subject to rqpid voter override?  Or, let the Judiciary have some kind of oversight on the Executive—oversight with teeth.  And spine.  I don’t know.  

But global government is inevitable, and when it comes, I hope there isn’t one person at the top who can act like a ‘President’. (You asked!) 

12 May – Erwin Tennessee to Beauty Spot Gap (11.3 miles)

Forgot to show you this picture of a library I went to in Erwin TN; they converted the old train station into a library!  It is right on the railroad tracks of course.  Adorable inside too…

These entire 11 miles were all uphill, gradually going from 1600’ to 4500’ over the  distance with nary a downhill stretch.  That’s right—I said nary. … That’s why I didn’t set any mileage records today though I hiked hard and strong all day.   Still no blisters, still no return of the litany of previous muscle maladies I seem to attract, and still feeling no sickness since the one bout.  😀

I’ve had a strangely suppressed appetite going on many weeks now…  just not ravenous at any one time though I should be-due to caloric expenditure.  I’m still eating for fuel but the magic is gone somehow… I eat more as a task and am not sure what is happening with the appetite.  A natural metabolic change from the exercise?  Or a subconscious protest against the lack of Friendly’s Neapolitan half gallons of ice-cream out here in the woods?  Or is it that I’m drinking so much water that it is fooling the hunger triggers?  Keith- you studied this stuff in college—what’s your guess?

10-11 May – No Business Knob to Erwin Tennessee (6.2 miles)

Had a good morning run into the town of Erwin Tennessee to resupply; I got a room and waited out the rain the next day while my equipment dried… (I got to clean all of my equipment in a bathtub for the first time and it feels good to get the dirt, smoke, dead bugs etc. scrubbed out!)

Speaking of equipment- time for some analysis this far: 

[First a big thank you to Ashley and Tim Coates of Real Cheap Sports, (36 W. Santa Clara Street, Ventura, California 93001): Ashley and Memory are sisters and I got some great deals on some high-end equipment from them as well as encouragement and support of course!]

Trekking poles.   I got Black Diamond Distance Carbon trekking poles and I use them constantly. It’s hard to believe I have ever hiked without trekking poles; they are always in motion carrying weight, redistributing weight, and preventing slips and falls.   I give them an A+.

Tent.  It is a Seedhouse SL2.  Another great thing and I’m an expert at setting up my little domain every day.  Its the adult version of having a little ‘Fort’ to erect and play in every day except Mom doesn’t deliver grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup when I get hungry.  A

Sleeping bag.  (I got this at REI). I got too lightweight a bag for the task and have been cold more times than I can count.  Oh well… I give myself a D and same for the ‘experienced thru-hiker’ at REI who recommended it.  Have been so jealous of the folks with big fluffy warm sleeping bags. 

Shoes.  Altra Lone Peak 4 Trailrunners have been perfect.  Lightweight, waterproof, good grip on rocks, etc…  I will stick with these not-one-blister shoes… A+. (They are all that and a bag of chips, a pickle and a cookie.)

Rain Jacket and Rain Pants from North Face… a begrudging B.  I dont know if there’s a more breathable version available but when I wear these I sweat too much and end up soaked inside with sweat instrad of rain…  and if it’s cold, I’m in trouble..

Thermarest Sleeping Pad. I punctured this early somehow and dont know if I ever got one night fully inflated… will be trying to fix/correct at an upcoming Trail Days event where all the vendors will be present. (Recuse on grade)

Backpack.  Osprey Atmos AG 65.  Has been excellent with all the bells qnd whistles.  Fellow hikers refer to it as the ‘Cadillac’ of backpacks and it seems to be true.  A

Jetboil Stove.  Amazing technology.  Such a fast boil time that I can’t attend to other tasks while the water is heating up- if I turn my back it boils over! Makes hot coffee and cocoa always two minutes away.  A+