Excited for our Trail Days adventure, we exited The Roan Highlands and walked a brisk 2.5 miles into the Roan Mountain / Elk Park gap. As planned, our friend Pat rolled in at 9:00 to pick us up for a day on Lake Norris.
By noon, we had arrived at their cabin for a quick shower and to load up a cooler. We made it to the marina by two and rented a speed boat complete with a tube!!
We couldn’t have asked for better weather and were so happy to rest our tired feet. We all took turns on the tube and were amazed at how fast four hours disappeared.
Returning to the cabin, it was time to feast!! Pat is a meat professional and expertly stuffed a pork loin with sauteed peppers, onions, and bacon then wrapped the whole thing in a bacon weave. We happily chowed down on pork, salad, roasted potatoes, and steamed broccoli. Holy cow (or pig in this case).
The next morning, Pat drove us the two hours into Damascus for day one of Trail Days. We said our goodbyes to our wonderful friend and parted ways.
BigFoot and I were excited to find a shady spot in tent city then made our way to check out the gear reps. My Osprey pack had a zipper bust on the trail, but thanks to their almighty guarantee, the bag was fixed free of charge at their repair booth.
My next order of business was to take advantage of the free haircuts offered by One Way Ministry. The ministry had three stylists chopping off hikers’ hair absolutely free of charge. I hopped on the opportunity and said goodbye to about 8 inches of my locks. So much more manageable now!!
As evening approached, the hiker feeds began. Hikers eagerly lined up for plates full if bbq and big bowls of chili. Our time at Trail Days was made extra special because we were able to reconnect with the trail family we began the hike with.
Camp Riff Raff was entertaining to say the least. Many familiar faces gathered around coolers full of ice cold beer as we all swapped stories about our hikes. It was really wonderful to reconnect with friends.
That evening, we took the free shuttle across town to check out The Damascus Brewery and I was delighted to have a yummy Black IPA.
The next morning, we had a pancake breakfast at the ministry and continued checking off chores. At 2, the annual hiker parade began led by hiker alumni and finishing with the class of 2015. Man there are a lot of us out here!!!
After the parade, we watched a little of the hiker talent show before it got rained out. The rest of the day was filled with food and watching other people win gear giveaways. Mostly, we were ready to head back to The Trail and continue on our way.
Despite a loud night from our fellow hikers, we had a good night’s sleep and got up early in search of a ride back to the Elk Park / Roan Mtn gap. We grabbed some breakfast at Cowboys crowded with others doing the same. We made our cardboard sign, but didn’t even have to use it. Legs, a former AT Hiker, overheard our destination and offered us a ride since she was heading the same direction. Sweet!!
By 2, we were back right were we left off before our weekend getaway. Feeling properly rejuvenated, we were happy to resume our hike. Over the next 70 miles and 4 days we would reenter Damascus, the first town the trail enters in Virginia which contains nearly 25% of The AT.