After our two hour long ride into Damascus for Trail Days we all were eager to set up camp and hit the vendors, friends, and anything we might have been into. We quickly found a large area and circled our tents like an old wagon train, giving us a nice area to hang out in the middle. And just like that I was off with Gadabout, T-bird, and Big Brown to the vendors. Everyone was here, mostly everyone actually, Big Agnes, Vasque, Backpacker Magazine, Gregory, Osprey, Ketly, Sierra Designs, Eno, Leki, Point 6, Salewa, Nemo, Granite Gear, Oboz, La Sportiva, and many more. I went gear crazy looking at all the new and exciting products, seeing what was being offered, receiving samples.
For the next three hours I went from vendor to vendor looking at their wares and entering into raffles. Friday was a busy day for me with all the auctions, there were so many that you had to literally run from vendor to vendor. I gave up after the first time and started hitching back and forth across town. I was on fire getting gear left and right. I was going nuts with all the excitement. I had entered the raffle at Kelly and crossed it was intense. They were giving and crossed way everything. I sat there with my ticket looking at the big bag they were about to give away, numbers calling off slowly, 3080265, son of a bitch I was 3080266, I missed by one number. The next number for the next big backpack, 3080267 what the hell, you have got to be kidding me again. By now I was worked up, twice I had missed out. Last number for the 35 sb Kelly 800 fills dridown bag, 3080266 BOOYAHHHHH I was jumping, dancing, screaming, yeah I just won the biggest prize. From there the gear flowed and I probably walked away with about a 1000 dollars worth of stuff that I either gave to other hikers and or sent home.
The freeness of the festival was overwhelming for the thruhikers. Dinner was to be had and it was delicious, everyone shared and gave equally. It was quite apple do to see everyone helping each other out in cooking and sharing food over bbq’s and such. We ate dinner together and each of us went our separate ways. Me, I was off to get more gear, the others off in thier own directions and interests. With all the excitement and people it was hard to get a moment to yourself. I stole away briefly to call Kim and hear her voice before bed. The long day was coming to an end so I retired to my tent to write. In the distance you could hear drum beats and singing or yelling. The steady sound called to you, beckoning you do join the dancing. Getting up I traveled to the fire circle and joined in for a quick dance.
The heat from the fire was intense, you had to be shirtless to get close. The warm bodies twisting and dancing moved around the fire to the beat of the drums. Each in thier own dance, in sync, moving in rhythm, calling you to join in your xoul. My feet picking up the beat caused my body to follow, grabbing a giant log in each hand I joined the circle, tossing two giant logs in as an offering to the fire. Dancing round the circle I whooped, yipped, and hollered, letting myself go. I could see my traimly, trail family, dancing on the other side, locking eyes we danced for a bit. I had fulfilled my urge, to say I had been there and expierences it, and slipped back away into the night, back to my tent for sleep. Still the drums could be heard late into the night.
I was up early and out for breakfast. Coming back to the tent I found it had been taken down while I was gone. I thought to myself, who ever tried to kill me had to get up earlier,I wasn’t even in it. After some investigation I found it had been Maple, it’s a good thing I thought it was Gary and took his tent down before I found out. I quickly helped put his tent up and told him I had done it. It wasn’t too hard he only had one pole. We all set out for gear again. Never missing a beat I hitched back and forth around town for the vendor raffles. Saturday was not my day, there was no winning for me, still I managed to get a few items, but not much. Most of what I got went to other people who needed it, a pack, trekking poles, and a few odds and ends.
From here out it was relaxing and quiet for me. I went to hiker prom which was an excuse to have a beer. The men all dressed in dresses were getting drunk and dancing, again I had seen it and left quietly to call home again. Talking with Kim is never long enough right now, our conversation was soon inurrupted by my brother who was so drunk he couldn’t walk. Big Brown had walked him back and needed a hand dealing with him, I had to get off the phone and take care of him. For the next hour the three of us including Gary looked after him as he threw up, saying feel good over and over.
Sunday was spent waiting for the shuttle to arrive, what could go wrong did go wrong. Our ride overbooked so we sought alternate transportation with the shuttle we took in. In planning this we had a few options, to go to the gap or to return. To return to the long lost home for us, to return to the town that barely let us leave, to return to the vortex, Hot Springs. We all laughed and joked about it, we have to go back. The worst part was that we did have to go back. We could get a room for cheaper, grab a beer, a d head back in the morning. Hot Springs had us again, we were going back, we had to go back.
Then our shuttle was late, we didn’t arrive in Hot Springs till almost 10:30 and we still had to check in. Hanging outside the hotel, T-bird told us to hide so we wouldn’t be seen. All of us dipped around the side of the building. A few minutes later a truck appeared and we hid closer, in the dark, in the shadows, hoping to not give ourselves away. We were whispering when the lights went on above us inside. Then a ghostly figure with a flashlight appeared from around the corner. In an instant my training and all the years of playing flashlight tag as a kid, kicked in. I was gone, like an unearthly figure disappearing into the shadows, moving from one dark place to another. Making my way away from the building, across the field and into the back of town. Like and ghost I disappeared into the night. Only returning a half an hour later to see if the coast was clear.
Everyone had made there way inside and was wondering where I had been, I told them simply, “I ghosted, you want to grab a beer.” Making our way to the pub we talkec, Gary, Bg Brown and I. Walking in we were greeted by familiar faces who told us they were closed and thought we had left. We told them we had come back and the bartender handed me a broom, saying well you better get to work then, looks like you might be here a while. Laughing we headed out, to sleep, to get out again soon. The next morning we were off back to the trail, hopefully leaving Hot Springs for good.