Another month of May has come and gone, and although I didn’t get out to the woods as much as I would have liked to, there were still a few camping and hiking trips to make note of.
First off, there was ‘Trail Days’, the hiker festival in Damascus, Virginia. I didn’t get over the mountain until Saturday afternoon, and missed out on the parade, but did receive reports about it, including ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’. It is not unusual for some of the hikers in the parade to dress up in strange costumes, like the fellow who wore a trash can that one year, or ’Pirate’, an infamous trail-hiker, who is known for some of his ingenious and creative getups, but having heard of the fellow wearing a pink tutu (not sure who he was), I wasn’t very upset about missing out on the parade, after all. I also missed out on the hiker’s talent show. Oh, well…
Camping for the 3rd year in a row at ‘Hoppy and Birdy’s’ place on the outskirts of town, I enjoyed seeing several trail-friends, many of whom I haven’t seen since last year’s ‘Hairnt-fest at Hoppy’s.’ It rained awhile that afternoon, cooling things off and making for nice nap-weather, at least until I realized that part of the soothing ‘dripping’ sounds I was hearing were actually rain drops somehow leaking through one of my old tarps and into my shelter. The wind blew off another tarp, so I had to re-adjust everything to make the shelter more satisfactory; ‘stealth-tarping’ can be like that sometimes.
Speaking of ‘stealth-tarps’, the inventor of the Appalachian stealth-tarp, Strider (the Trail Legend of ’93-‘94), was there at Hoppy’s, and I got to talk to him about stealth-tarp designs, and such, including the time he couldn’t find his stealth-tarp at Whistling Gap—now that is true stealth!
I did take my guitar with me this year, having promised ‘Paw Paw’ that I would play him a song (he requested a song last year, but I didn’t have a guitar). I never did see Paw Paw, however, which was unfortunate, because he is such an awesome fellow and a good friend, but did play guitar for quite a while both nights that I stayed in Damascus. Paw Paw’s son, ‘Matt-man-du’ was there, however, and we had a good time jamming by the side-door. His request—the ‘…beat the $#!% outta you’ song (aka ‘the Industrial Strength Love Song’)–seemed to get the evening started off on the right rowdy footing, and before long, many people were gathered around Hoppy and Birdy’s side-door singing along. Rat Patrol, Donny Reb, and a couple other quality musicians joined in with the impromptu jam session, despite the light rain that began to fall.
Sometime during Saturday’s live music session, (I’m not sure where I was) one of the musicians (Donny) took a moment to get on his knees and propose to his girlfriend—she said ‘Yes’. ..I can’t believe I missed that. One of my favorite moments of the evening was when Hoppy turned and looked at me and said ‘See what you’ve done?’ I wasn’t sure if I should apologize, but he and everyone seemed to be having a good time, so I took the phrase as a ‘good thing’. Another quality moment was when I had just finished a song, looked up, and the ‘Mailman’ was there, saying ‘Welcome home.’ I did feel welcome and right at home, and very grateful to have so many good friends around.
“Lowrider’, who had been working near the Gazebo all day, made an entertaining and dramatic entrance, wearing his funky, colorful suit and an ‘Elvis’ cape, and took group photo’s of most everyone by the side-door. Later still, we were all entertained with the rather amazing ‘fire art’ of ‘Turbo Joe’. It was pretty awesome.
The next day, Sunday, I spent some quality time talking with ‘Okeepa’, and helped to carry water up to Birdy’s chicken coop. I was impressed by the ingenious anti-raccoon fencing she had installed (there had been several incidents last year, with not only raccoons, but with a rude dog that attacked her rooster, ‘KFC’). While we were feeding and watering the chickens up behind the barn, the turkey that ‘Strider’ and ‘Hoppy’ had been deep frying was finished, and I was told to help myself, if I wanted. It was a funny thing, by the time I walked into the kitchen, the turkey was only a skeleton, as if someone had vacuumed the meat right off the bones. That’s hikers for you! You just got to love it. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself, remembering the scene from the movie ‘Trinity’ (the ‘spaghetti western’), where Trinity’s family was devouring a turkey buzzard like savage beasts. Obviously, someone had ‘had a li’l run-in and, uh, ran out’.
It soon became an incredibly lazy afternoon, however, and many of the campers left for home, wherever that may be. We all said our ‘Hairnt-byes’ to them, and the front lawn began to thin out. Hoppy and Birdy both took naps on the front porch while it rained, and I was seriously thinking about packing up and driving back over the mountain, when finally Birdy got up, inspired to drink some Irish coffee, and told me I wasn’t going anywhere. I was glad that someone made the decision for me, as I can be rather indecisive at times, and determined that since I wasn’t going anywhere, I could start on the noble occupation of drinking beer again.
The Sunday night party was less populated, but just as much fun as the Friday night party, and I got to play more guitar under Johnny Reb’s tarp in the ‘island’ part of the front lawn. I couldn’t help but laugh when Birdy slipped and fell in the mud, not once but twice–I was glad I stayed an extra day.
After helping with the clean-up crew on Monday, sorting the aluminum cans from the actual trash, and after having a cup of coffee or two with the rest of the clean-up crew, I finally packed up and went back to Tennessee. It was good to see so many trail-friends. Many Thanks To Hoppy and Birdy for all the hospitality!
There was another brief camping expedition at the ‘Big Bone Lick State Park’ in northern Kentucky. Having stayed there for a night, I can say that this campground is the quietest campground I have ever encountered. Being Mother’s Day weekend, the campground was completely full, but despite that fact, that night it was eerily quiet. There were no babies crying, people snoring; not even the dogs would venture a bark. The next morning, when the Sun began to rise, it seemed as if even the birds were hesitant to sing. I would have liked to have hung out there longer and seen more of the park, but I was traveling on someone else’s schedule.
There were just a few hikes to mention. The first was a hot, yet windy hike over the Beauty Spot section of Unaka Mountain. The views were very good from the bald. There was another hike from Spivey Gap to Whistling Gap (and back); it was a beautiful day and I met several thru-hikers (and a couple of section hikers) on the trail. There were many wild flowers blooming, including the mayapples, which made the air smell more like perfume. I enjoyed cooling my feet off in the Spivey Creek before heading down off of the Mountain. The last hike of May was a leisurely climb up Cliff Ridge above the Nolichucky River Gorge. During this hike, not only did I see one of the largest birds I have ever seen in the wild, but I also encountered a camouflaged lizard. Also, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I also came into contact with some nasty, leg-chewing chiggers.
I want to take a moment to ‘con-hairnt-ulate’ ‘Jonny Bluegrass and Mermaid’ for having their first child, a baby girl named ‘Vivian’.
I also want to wish a speedy recovery to the ‘Web Wizard’, who somehow managed to crash a motorcycle and cracked a few ribs and injured his arm. Also, I hope ‘Legs’ has recovered with his accidental fall into ‘some kind of ornamental palm tree’ with sharp, needle-like leaves that kept him from coming to ‘Trail Days’ this year.
More adventure soon, I hope…