Damascus, VA, is the epitome of a trail town. Billing itself as “Trail Town USA,” the town is located at the crossroads of the Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Trans-America National Bicycle Trail, the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail, and the Crooked Road Musical Heritage Trail. With a population of around 900 people, it is most famous for hosting the Trail Days festival, held the weekend after Mother’s Day, which draws over 20,000 A.T. hikers. It was much more sedate than that during my visit.
Due to my fortunate ability to arrive in Damascus a day early, I ended up taking two “zero” days there while staying at the Woodchuck Hostel. Woodchuck hiked the A.T. in 2012-2013, and operates a house with several beds inside, a tenting and hammock area outside, and even a four person teepee! He also has what might be the only private “cabin” in town, which is where I stayed. Woodchuck is a very gracious host, and prepares an included breakfast each morning that includes waffles, fruit, fried potatoes, and coffee.
On my first morning in town, there were several hikers I knew that were leaving, so I convinced them to get together for a group photo. I’m looking forward to seeing all of them again somewhere down the trail.
Most of my first day was spent doing the usual “zero” day activities of washing dirty clothes and sorting through (and repackaging) my resupply box. And, of course, eating. Being the small town that is is, there are only two restaurants in town, and they were closed on alternate days. On day one, Boo Boo and I met Gray Wolf for lunch at Bobo McFarlands, and the following day, we ate at Hey Joe’s. Other than the restaurants, the only other things in town of interest to hikers are the usual Dollar General, a couple of well stocked outfitters, and about a dozen other hostels. There are a couple of other places to eat as well, but the main drag is pretty spread out, requiring a one mile walk to get to these alternatives. Hikers try to walk as little as possible on “zero” days.
All in all, Damascus is a pretty laid back place to take some time off from the trail. And since the A.T. goes right through the center of town, why not?