We spent last week backpacking about 50 miles in Tennessee/Virginia, reconnecting with our thru-hiking community, hanging out at Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia, and then doing trail maintenance at Hard Core with our favorite hostel guy, Bob Peeples. It was a week full of memorable times, big hugs, and renewed awareness.
We got a room at a B&B in Damascus -- thanks, Bob and Dianne. That was a first for us, as usually we're camping out at the campground ("ghetto") outside of town, which invariably becomes a mud-filled poison-ivy ridden swamp, or we stay at a hotel in Abingdon. Having a room in town meant that we could walk back and forth among the vendors (I bought a new pack!), out to the campground, drink a lot of beer, and then walk home for a good night's sleep in a bed!
There were only a few folks from 2001 there -- Sheriff, Lucky, Phoenix, Rain Queen, Jim Beam, Ropeyarn, Tent-n Kent and Toccoa. But tons of hikers from 2003 were there (Footslogger's year), so we hung with Jersey, Rumbler, Hiker Biker Babe, T-Bird, and lots more.
As for awareness, hiking 50 miles helped me remember how hard and how wonderful hiking on the AT is. We only did about 10 miles a day, and that first day was a killer, but HOW GREAT it was to be back. To introduce ourselves (to a few people) and have them say "Oh, Bad Ass Turtle, I've heard of you!"
When can I do that again?