We rolled into Damascus, VA around 2:30pm with the ideas in our heads that we were supposed to be there by 3pm.
After actually reading our letters again, we realized that it was supposed to be 5pm, but I was OK with that.
I’d been reading about Damascus, the trail town, for so long that I wanted to see what the place was a bit before we got into group activities. (We had signed up with a group to go on this portion of the AT to get a feel for the trail itself, to be certain that we weren’t going to choose a bad section of the trail for our knees and also because it seemed like a cool thing to do.)
So we walked through Sundog Outfitters, went to a new coffee place that apparently had just opened up (Mojoe’s Trailside Cafe), did a drive through the town that took 7 minutes and then made our way over to Mount Roger’s Outfitter’s after a while.
We were still early, but it wasn’t a big deal.
We were scheduled to stay in the hostel across the street until Monday morning when we would be shuttled over to the trail head.
That’s a really nice feature about trail-centric towns; they tend to have lots of hiker features (shuttles, trail angels, hostels, cheap food stores, outfitters, etc) to replenish your stanky-hiker self along the way.
Don’t for a minute think that it isn’t VERY appreciated.
I got some shopping taken care of (I discovered during mom’s and my informal pack shakedown at the house the night before that I left my spork at home and needed a new one). So we asked the guys at MRO if anyone in our group had arrived yet and they said, “Oh you! We’ve heard about you!”
Infamy already. Sweet.
They pointed us to the place across the street and after my initial confusion (for some reason I was making things harder than it really is, nothing new there) we managed to cross the street without gross bodily harm and walked into the hostel.
Very nice place actually.
The sign I really like was “No nude activity in the area.” (Hmm, what about nude inactivity?) and met Jan, one of the guides for the group.
Mom and I were first to arrive and so we picked out our room and unloaded the car.
People arrived in dribs and drabs and by the time everyone had moved in, we walked over to dinner at The Mill to get to know each other.
Now, I have an alarming tendency to say the wrong thing, however, I try to mitigate that hoof in mouth disease by saying (frequently) “Oh crap, that sounded bad, what I really meant was…” So, true to form I made an ass of myself but tried to be silly about my own silliness.
We all seemed to get along ok (no overt uncomfortable silences at the table) and we bonded over chocolate (all girls, you do the math) and giggling over the guy who was our server.
After dinner we all walked home (the entire block and a half home and then we lounged around for the rest of the night talking about backpacking things.
Sunday morning, extremely atypically (especially since I was still on Pacific time) I got up early.
7am early and made coffee (4am? WTF?) for the group with the crack coffee mom and I had gotten to stock us up with on the trail. My nose had seriously stuffed up overnight and even though I was awake, I was kinda tired all day. I blew it off as a side effect of all the wacky timezone shenanigans, travel and early morning, but I never could shake it off.
We spent the day seeing the various backpacking equipment available, getting all of our packs ready, sorting out the right amount of food for each person, getting to know our tents (putting them together on the lawn at the hostel and being the town amusement. ‘Girl scouts?’ was a frequent question and there are probably 30 pics of us putting together our tents and inventorying stakes and poles on the web by now.)
We did pack shakedowns and all weighed our packs (we were aiming for 30 pounds after we put group gear and filled our water systems).
I have backpacked before. I wasn’t a total newbie, but I did learn a lot of cool information (and I got to play with more equipment from the demos-excellent…) and I managed to get in at 26 pounds on my pack before my 2L camelbak was filled (and right before I added my GPS unit to my belt.) I probably hit 31 pounds when all was said and done..
I was taking a bit of extra food that other folks weren’t taking. My stomach has been wonky lately due to all the stress and add that to my normal baseline wonkiness, I was guessing that group food would just not work for me.
Now, what I don’t like to do is drag everyone down with my weird food requirements. Most people would be seriously bored with my food intake, so I worked it out with the guide (I had recently added more to the ‘bad food list’ and didn’t manage to tell our guide that before we all ended up in Damascus. She was a little put out with me (yea, I deserved it), but mom also forgot to tell her that she couldn’t eat fish. Mom and I apologized and mom had a point when she said, “We aren’t trying to get you angry, but sometimes when you live with something daily, it just becomes part of the noise and doesn’t register as something to mention.”
Kind of like the drive home from work, you don’t see all the details that don’t change, just the noteworthy stuff.) I think we managed to smooth it over. I did understand her position though…not being able to take care of one of her flock upset her. Sigh.
So, it came to pass that I loaded up with some of my own supplemental food and I would just get a cup of water when it got boiled at the beginning of the meal each night.
I was not unhappy with this arrangement, actually. I had dried mushrooms, cheese sauce package nicked from macaroni&cheese mix, a bag of cheese mashed potatoes and a case of Larabars (amongst other snacks.) I can eat interesting food, but mushrooms, string cheese and cheesy mashed potatoes-YUM! Sounded good to me.
We sat around a bit today, getting to know each other, making occasional forays to MRO and the Dollar Store for last minute additions or changes. The bartering and sharing of gear was kind of fun actually. Mom and I bought new camp shoes (Nothinz on half off) and she re-read “A Walk in the Woods” with me asking occasionally where she was at in the narrative.
I was flitting around, seeing what everyone else was doing (pre- and post-pack shakedown), comparing who hit the sale at REI the previous weekend (there were at least 4 of us with the Rosa sleeping bag which turned out to be a good choice.), trying to be social and fun (trying, mind you, I am clumsy at it, at the best of times.), helping out, fixing things… watches, cameras (to limited success), setting up electronics… and I got my trailname before we officially set foot on the trail (the path through town didn’t count).
You can probably guess…Gadget.
I reviewed with mom and ascertained that I didn’t influence the actual name…apparently its just THAT obvious that my name was pre-destined.
Of course, I’m pretty happy with my name, given the other possibilities that occurred to me on my own… but then again, I am pretty harsh on myself. I don’t know that anyone else would be that mean.
Also, please note that Cingular has NO SIGNAL WHATSOEVER in Damascus, Va. They are right, they have the fewest dropped calls there… mostly since you can’t call anyone at all. See? Success criteria spun successfully.
Allegedly, there is a bench in between the hostel and the Dollar Store that you can get one bar of Verizon. I can neither confirm nor deny those allegations since I was in radio silence effectively since we turned off of the hiway onto 58 toward Damascus.
Eek…to put it mildly.
So, I was without internet reading material or email or even communication, but I didn’t really seem to notice it as I was so stuffed up and tired.
I took a shower before bed and then crashed hard… only waking up every hour to turn over (we were on sleeping platforms on Thermarests in our sleeping bags) and to use up 6 ft of toilet paper to blow my nose.