4/03 – Day 39
Not much to report today, pretty much just taking care of business. Went into town and got the van into my name and paid Grym. Shutter Bug and I head in to Walmart to get more supplies for doing trail magic, we plan on meeting our gang just before Hampton TN where we will all stay for the night.

We have started having hikers sign the van, the goal is to have it covered in signatures by Maine…hopefully you will just barely see any paint!

4/04 – Day 40
We get a good early start and say good bye to Uncle Johnny’s and head up into the mountains. The weather prediction for the day is 100% chance of rain and we are hoping we are properly equipped to take care of the hikers.

We are going to set up at a road crossing on Dennis Cove road about 4 miles outside of Hampton and are excited as it is the first trail magic out of the van. We have sandwich supplies, fruit, soda, pudding cups and other munchies. After some trial and error on our navigating abilities we get to our designation and it is raining pretty good and probably about 45 degrees. We impatiently wait for our first hikers.

After sitting for about an 1/2 hour we see a hiker coming down in all black rain gear, there is a little bit of red bandana visible on his forehead and I recognize Ayce, who I have not seen in several days and does not know I have changed my trail status. I can see Ayce peering wearily at this sketchy looking van with the windows fogged up…I open the door and yell out, “Ayce!!” He looks closer and replies back questionably, “Nomad?!” And heads for the van.

He is excited to see us and says he heard “trumors” (what rumors are called on the trail) that somebody had bought a van or something. I explained to him my story and that God led me off the trail and he gives me a hug. I am very happy to see Ayce again!

He is happy to get out of the rain and dry off some, when you are hiking in the rain you usually cannot even stop to eat simply because everything will get wet. We feed him a couple of sandwiches, chips, soda…pretty much 2 of everything we had. Ayce is not stopping in Hampton, he is meeting his girlfriend in a week and is pushing on. We wish him well and he heads back out into the rain.

Only Chris and Cassandra really know that I am out hear in a van, and next we see Tom (who I give the new name of long spoon when he gets into the van). Other hikers in our group start coming in and we see Tail Lights, who we have not seen in several days. Pretty soon we have about 8 wet, cold and hungry hikers stuffed in the van eating and getting warm!

Camaro leaves Chevy with us (she is soaked and tired) and then they all decide to slack pack (hike without a pack) the last 4 miles into town, the rain has turned into sleet as they leave. We will meet them there after we have taken care of any additional hikers.

We get Chevy dried and wrap her in my sleeping bag liner to get warm them head down to Hampton. I pick up some pizzas and we all have first dinner. After we get settled into the Hostel I drive everyone to different fast food places for dinner. We get to meet Zach for the first time and drop him at the subway.

Once everyone has eaten second dinner we hang out at the hostel, we have an early celebration for Shutter Bugs birthday…i had made a cake by stacking an assortment of Little Debbie snack cakes in a pyramid. Later we sit around and play UNO (Camaro tells us she is the reigning Canadian champion…or something like that…)

4/05 – Day 41
The next morning Cassandra and I make a big breakfast for everyone and then they hit the trail.

We pick up Zach at the grocery store, his knee is messed up and he decides to ride with us in the van. The 3 of us head to Johnson City to get more supplies and food for the van and Zach tells me he is an artist and will paint the tire cover for me (see earlier post for a pic).

After picking up all our supplies, we make our plans for hitting 2 gaps for trail magic and get for the night…we stay up late watching the new flat screen tv in the motel.

4/06 – Day 42
We get up early, make some fruit salad for our trail magic (fruit is always craved on the trail) and head for our first gap. We set up for a “snack” since it is too early for lunch and reunite with our hikers, we hang out for a few stragglers then head to our next designation to set up for lunch.

It is a beautiful day and we set up our pavilion for shade. We have lots of good food as the hikers start to roll in. Everyone hangs out for about 2 hours eating, visiting and enjoying the sunshine…then they are back on the trail. As we are getting ready to break camp we get a few stragglers…Gummy Bear, who I have not seen since Erwin and new to me hikers Rash and Larry Boy (named after a character on Veggie Tales). We feed them well and en head into Damascus for the night.

We stay with Crazy Larry, reunite with Ayce over dinner and hang out at the laundry mat then call it a night.

4/07, 4/08, 4/09 – Days 43, 44, 45

These days go by quickly and is mostly just hangin’ in Damascus, eating good food, running people to the grocery store for re-supplies and just enjoying the weather. I hook up with Joe the Hiker and make plans to pick him up on the trail and take him to the airport to see his daughter win an award, then I will pick him back up later the following week.
I meet some fellow Texans that have moved to Damascus to retire and had hike last year. It is great to visit with some peeps from back home and Dot Com and I both grew up in the same little city of Garland. They invite us over later and we test out my new grill in the front yard of their house…it was a great evening.

I have made plans with the gang to meet them on the trial and hike for 17 miles through the Grayson Highlands, this is the part of Virginia where the wild horses roam. I am excited to get back on the trail and hike.

The next morning our hikers head out after lunch at Dairy King (not a typo) and we head back to Johnson City for more supplies. I also pick up 3 more injured hikers: Snuggles, Chickadee and G.

We will head out in the morning, do some more trail magic and I will get back on the trail for a day and a half.

The pics of are of rain day in the van, grilling at Fidget and Dot Com’s house, the quilt that Dot made with each hikers signature sewn in by hand…