Each spring, the global hiking community converges on a tiny town in southwestern Virginia. Day hikers, section hikers, thru hikers past and present crash like a wave on Damascus—seemingly all at once.
Overnight, the population of “Trail Town, USA” multiplies many times over. Tents appear, mini, mobile gear shops interspersed among them, with enough food carts slinging enough high-calorie grub to cure all the hiker hunger in a hundred miles.
Trail Days, like the Appalachian Trail itself, is a celebration of humanity in its many forms. There’s a how and why and reason for everyone who hikes, a story behind every pack. It’s joyous and solemn, wholesome and debaucherous, entirely sane and yet a little bit out there.
As much as possible, we tried to grab time with people who stopped by the Hyperlite Mountain Gear booth–especially when they were carrying our gear. Learning a little bit about them and their hike helps us all complete the circle on why we do what we do, in turn.
Here’s what we gathered from a random assortment of thru hikers (a lot of whom ended up being from our home state of Maine):
Swamp Donkey York, ME—On the trail since April 4th
AT Highlights? Pretty much all of it. That’s why I’m here; living it, adventuring it.
Oakland, CA-Successful PCT thru hiker
The AT and PCT are so different, it’s hard to even compare. It’s all just awesome!
I just left Four Pines Hostel, that was probably one of the best hostel stays I’ve had. I slept in a recliner chair in the barn and just kind of passed out. It was like two in the morning, people were everywhere. Kind of a shit show, but it was fun.
File these guys under our own Trail Days highlights. Meet Daddy-O and Ribbons, who are thru hiking the AT this summer with their FIVE kids! Daddy-O just retired from a long career as a combat helicopter pilot in the Army, and Mom and the kids decided a little time on trail was the best way for everyone to re-group stateside.
More from the amazing Thru Crew later, but in the meantime you can follow their adventures on Instagram @farnotfast —Ed.
LinBlob (If this isn’t right, sorry!)
Damariscotta, ME—1103 miles into the trail
We spent a day running through Shenandoah. That was a mistake.
I’ve been on since March 19, so two months now, I guess. Trail Days is pretty impressive. Everyone here is so much nicer than they are in Maine. No hate on the northeast, but southern people do have their very own brand of hospitality.
Hippie Chick and Poet + GAME
If you make it as far as Maine on a NoBo thru hike, these kind faces might be the last you’ll see before venturing into the 100-Mile Wilderness. After completing their own Appalachian Trail thru hike in 2008, they purchased Shaw’s Hiker Hostel in Monson, ME in 2015. If comfy beds and one of the best breakfasts on the trail are on your list, you’ll want to stop and set awhile with them. —Ed.