The year 1987 was the 50th anniversary of the Appalachian Trail, which passes right through Damascus. That year, members of the Town Council decided to celebrate the anniversary with an event for hikers. At that time, there was no town park in Damascus, so the small festival was held in the parking lot of the town hall and behind the bank. The festival was held again the following year, the year after that, and every year that’s followed, growing to the tens of thousands. In the early years of Trail Days, a street was sometimes roped off for a dance, but there were no vendors. There were only the hikers and the cyclists who followed, who inspired the town to rebuild its economy, which had been devastated by flooding and the loss of most of its industry.
We’re honored to be attending Trail Days this weekend, May 16-18 in Damascus, VA! Not familiar with this town’s grassroots Appalachian Trail celebration? Below is a great overview of the significance of Trail Days to Appalachian Trail Thru-hikers (as well as an introduction to the unique personality of this event) written by Ry Glover — one of our friends from RootsRated:
The Ultimate Showcase of Appalachian Trail Culture
The dream of thru-hiking the entire length of the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail has become a rapidly rising goal for many people from all walks of life in recent years. Perhaps the rise corresponds with Bill Bryson’s famous publication of A Walk in the Woods or perhaps from something more primal and nostalgic, like the old American ethos of reconnecting with the great outdoors. But whatever it is, the numbers don’t lie.
According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, 3,315 people became 2,000-milers in the 1990’s. The following decade saw 5,890 people earn the title, and now, only four years into this current decade, we’ve already seen 3,029 hikers claim this prestigious title, and that’s not even including this year’s batch. From a personal standpoint, I’m happy and honored to say that I’m a member of the 2,000-miler club, having completed a thru-hike last year.
Damascus is commonly referred to as Trail Town, USA- not only because the AT passes directly through town, but because it’s also home to the family-friendly 17-mile downhill bike trail known as the Virginia Creeper as well as the epic Trans-America National Bicycle Trail. For these reasons, outdoor enthusiasts consistently flock to this charming Blue Ridge town to experience all that it has to offer; but never in such concentrated capacity as during the annual Trail Days festival.
This weekend, May 16-18 2014, roughly 20,000 people will visit Damascus. Not all of them will be thru-hikers, but they will certainly be hiking enthusiasts and lovers of the Appalachian Trail. Perhaps more than any other long distance trail in the world, the AT has developed a unique culture and following all its own, and this weekend it will be showcased in its full-fledged wacky glory.
2014 Trail Days Happenings, Osprey-Style:
- Free onsite gear repairs: We’re offering gear repair for all AT Thru Hikers at Osprey’s Tent City Location for the duration of the event, Thursday through Saturday, 9AM-6PM. Come out and see the work of Master Repair Tech Jason “Jimi” Boblitt (he also shreds on Air Guitar!) and PackMaster Otis, who after years of practice has perfected his amazing “Kung-Fu” Pack repair techniques. Stop by and see the masters at work!
- Daily pack giveaways: Stop by Osprey’s Tent City location to enter to win a brand new Osprey Pack!
- 20% off sale throughout the event: Get a sweet deal on a new pack — we’re offering a great promotional discount in partnership with our friends at Mount Roger’s Outfitters!
- Packs Galore: We’ll have a full display of all that is new from Osprey for Spring 2014 — along with a special sneak preview of Fall 2014 gear!
- Trail Days Great Gear Giveaway: Find Backpacker’s “Get out More Tour” to find out how you can enter win a new Daylite Daypack!
- The complete schedule of this weekend’s event is on the Trail Days website, including the great musical performances taking place!
- Exclusive VIP Lounge for AT Thru Hike Syndicate participants: Along with our friends at Vasque Footwear, we’re helping to provide some extra-special trail magic for all the AT Thru Hike Syndicate participants! This will include special swag, food and beverage and massage!
And just what is the Thru Hike Syndicate?
- This summer, Thru Hike Syndicate ambassadors will set out to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in the spirit of adventure and personal discovery. Though the stories and goals of each ambassador differ, their time on the trail is connected through camaraderie and a determination to discover what’s within themselves.
- Inspired by thru-hikers along the Appalachian Trail, we’ve collaborated with Vasque, Nemo Equipment, Leki Poles and Darn Tough Socks to develop a unique way to offer support and gear to Thru-Hikers along the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin. This team of experienced hikers are passionate about sharing their journeys, thoughts and experiences with the hiking community — we’re so proud to outfit and support the incredible group of hikers comprising the 2014 Thru-Hike Syndicate.
Come out to Trail Days to meet the members of the Thru Hike Syndicate and get the latest updates from this tenacious, dedicated & unique group of thru-hikers by searching the #ThruHikeSyndicate hashtag on Twitter or Instagram, or by visiting the Thru Hike Syndicate tab on Vasque’s Facebook page.