We were starting to fix breakfast, when all of a sudden, you could hear a hunting dog heading up the hill towards us, in hot pursuit of something. We all hoped it was not an angry bear. Soon, he got closer to camp, and you could hear sticks breaking in the woods as they got closer and closer. All of a sudden, as we were trying to decide what action to take, they turned, and you could tell they were heading in another direction, getting farther away from us. I have to wonder if whatever was being chased had smelled us and changed direction.
As we packed up, several younger hikers passed us by on the trail who were getting an early start. Everyone was excited to reach Damascus. It has the reputation for being the friendliest trail town. It is the home of Trail Days, a major festival for hikers that occurs in May. From what we could tell, it is a major party event, and didn't really sound like something we wanted to be at. We would have enjoyed the vendors (camping equipment), entertainment, and could even be in 2012 Thru-Hiker Parade, but apparently it was also known for the rowdy atmosphere in Tent City, with the town pulling in as much as $17,000 in fines (last year's numbers) over that single weekend. Apparently they have many undercover policemen that pose as hikers among the thru-hikers. I got the feeling that even though it was not Trail Days yet, that many of the hikers were thinking Damascus was equivalent to Party Town.
About 3 miles before we hiked out of the woods and into Damascus, we hit our third state border - Virginia! Unforunately, it was POURING DOWN RAIN. We took a very quick photo, and hiked on into Damascus as fast as we could. When we arrived, we were drenched. It was warm enough to hike in just a rain jacket and shorts. Unfortunately, this means everything from the waist down gets drenched. I don't know who gets to determined if hiking boots are waterproof, but trust me, if they have that little tag on them that says, "Waterproof," it just means that if you happen to get splashed by a passing car, that water will most likely roll off of your boot. But if you are hiking in the rain, your feet will be sloshing in your socks in no time.
We sloshed into Damascus, made a few phone calls, and found out that any hikers that were in town, were definitely in town to stay, and were not hiking today. There were no vacancies to be found. We headed down to Quincy's (recommended by Ms.Viki as good pizza) and decided to regroup and decide what to do after we had hot pizza in our stomachs. Luckily, Quincy's was very hiker-friendly, and she insisted we use their bathrooms to dry off and change clothes. We were all too happy to. Instead of pizza, we opted for half-pound burgers (huge!) and fries. We saw some of the pizza pass by, and decided we would come back here for supper. The waitress also informed us it was karaoke night. This could be really entertaining. We sat and greeting the steady stream of hikers that arrived into town - Nokey, Snagglefoot, Secrets, Shenanigans, Wild Turkey, Feathers, Biscuits, to name a few. Keith went over to the bulletin board in the restaurant and found an index car that said "2-bedroom home for rent," and called the number. He ended up renting it to us for $25 each. It was a cute, clean, older home with hot water and heat, and plenty of space to spread out our wet gear and dry out. And only a few blocks out of town. Perfect. He even came and picked us up at Quincy's.
We ended up going to the local outfitter that afternoon and running into Taylor (now Dances with Flies), and when he saw us, he greeted us with a big hug. It was good to see him again. We knew his dad had gone home back in Hot Springs, and he was hiking on his own now. He had hooked up with a good group of hikers though, and you could tell he has doing just fine.
We also needed to hitch a ride to the grocery store, and resupply, and tried our hand again at hitchiking. It wasn't long before we had a ride to and from the store. The ride home delivered us right at our house. She was sweet, and liked giving rides to thru-hikers. The house we rented had a washer and dryer, so that was convenient.
That evening, we returned to Quincy's and ate well again, with karaoke blasting in the background. It was truly entertaining. I wish I had taken my camera. Nokey and Snagglefoot had visited the local thrift store and shown up in sports jackets and ties with their hiking sorts. They had not bought shirts though. Very funny. Keith ended up playing darts with a group of the guys. Wild Turkey and Feathers showed up, and we didn't recognize him at first, because he had shaved all of his hair off! Before, he had had shoulder-length red hair that matched Feathers' hair. They both have large purple gauges in their ear lobes, though, so that helped us figure out who he was.
This is the cute house we rented for the night -