Appalachian Trail  Mile 469.2; Damascus, VA

Monday, June 5, 2017 (Day 33)

I am buried in my sleeping bag. Head covered both to send the message that I don’t wish to be spoken to (it is late, nearly midnight), and to be in relative darkness. I am cowboy camping on the porch of The Broken-Fiddle Hostel in Damascus, VA. I am able to cowboy camp here and shower for a small donation, which definitely beats paying $25 for a bunk. The porch is popular, however, and well lit. Sound sleep is not a certainty–not until very late at least. That’s fine. I have become a rather adaptable human. I can pretty much sleep anywhere. Also, I have honestly enjoyed the company of the more locally based hikers who also took rest on the porch or on a recliner or in the yard. Many of them had frequented the Virginia Creeper Trail, some living on it for years at a time.

The Appalachian Trail leads right through Damascus. Where I am now is technically just off trail. When I arrived I confirmed that I could sleep at the hostel for $5 or less, dropped my pack, and walked the mile to Food City to resupply. I took the Virginia Creeper Trail for part of the walk. Cyclists whizzed past me without warning. I cut up a side trail to my left that led to the grocery store parking lot.

My resupply strategy continually changed as I paced the aisles and mulled over the mileage to, and offerings of the coming towns– as well as the strategies of other hikers I spoke to. There’s not much in some of these towns. I settled on Bland, VA. It is 120 miles out and has a proper grocery store. In half that distance there is a town with a Wal-Mart. Three days, however, seems to soon. Also, the more I avoid towns the more time and money I will save. That’s the plan at least.

When I left the store the rain had come. Not in pulses this time, but overflowing continuous buckets of rain. Oh no. I was not prepared. I would be terribly soaked if I walked back in this, cumbersome bags of groceries in hand.

I saw a lady who was waiting for her husband to pull up the car. “You don’t happen to be heading in this direction?”, I asked, motioning to my left. No. They were going the other way. Just then, the grocery store chef exited the store. Having overheard the coversation, he offered me a ride. We hurried in to his old soft-top Camero.  “Tea-time is over”, he said as he poured the remainder of his Arizona Iced Tea out the door. “Now it’s time to fool the police”. He cracked open a beer and poured it into the empty tea can, spilling on his pants in the process. He took a sip, and we were off. He pulled up as close to the hostel as he could manage. I thanked him kindly and ran for my spot on the porch, groceries in hand.

My new friend, Glenwood from Maine, offered me beer (in a solo cup as mandated by Damascus law), and fresh basil from the local farmers market. He was curious about my resupply strategy, and well, trail strategies in general. We spoke as I repackaged my food.

I made myself a sandwich with avacado, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, and tofu. I socialized a bit more with the waves of people that came and left the porch. My eyes grew heavy. I had had enough. I buried myself in my bag.

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