We hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1997. We started in June in Maine and finished it December 15 on Springer Mountain. Yeah, we thought we knew each other. And then you share a tent with someone for six months, and that’s one of the first things you realize, that it’s easy to romanticize a 2,000-mile hike. But then you get out there. And I was like, “Oh no! This is incredibly hard.” Towards the end, it was startlingly cold and we were very thin, no body fat. And so, we came to Damascus needing, really, just a hug. And man, did we get it. The town was so sweet to us and welcoming. And never once when we were in Damascus did we think we would return. Later, it was really the only place we thought
about. In moving here, we knew we wanted to have children in this area because of how simple and beautiful the Trails are and that life
is. It’s such a big part of our life to hike
and enjoy all the natural wonders we have around Damascus that they have been doing it since before they could even walk. On the Trail, all we really needed to be happy was the stuff in our backpack and each other. It was just a simple, sweet journey, and we wanted to extend that and make up, you know, an inheritance for our children. When people hike through here, they see what we have, the beauty we have. And for a lot of folks that are hiking through here, that’s something that they don’t get to see very often. My whole life has been spent in Damascus, and from the time that I was just a small child, pretty much what we had was furniture making and textiles. When those jobs left, Damascus was left without anything. We had empty buildings. It was really a ghost town. But by having the trails that we have, and
in particular the Appalachian Trail, we had people coming through here during good and bad. And the nice thing about having that kind
of industry is there’s no pollution to it. You can’t transport the jobs overseas. The town of Damascus and the Appalachian Trail fits like a handy glove. You know that it belongs here. People look in the springtime to see crocuses come up. I look to see hikers coming off the Trail. They’ve reached Damascus from Springer Mountain, and you know that spring is right on their heels. Damascus is a really special place. Most of the kids at our high school, which is the high school in Damascus, have never been on the Trail, do not really know the richness that’s just inherent in the land. And so, my high school students came out to work with members of the Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club, and they are the ones who are really passing on their expertise to my students. And the goal is to, perhaps, breed the next generation of those who are willing to step up to the plate and take care of their natural resource. It’s really fun to be with students when they’re having a great time doing good work. The Appalachian Trail was a vision to preserve an experience in a place that was becoming developed. And it renews my faith in humanity. And the incredible work it took to build the Trail, and the work that goes into sustaining the stewardship with all the Trail clubs and all the volunteers, it’s such a tremendous effort by so many people. It’s really beautiful. It’s a great deal of pride in knowing that we’ve a got a Trail here that’s nationally recognized. Well, it’s internationally recognized. And it’s a Trail that people love, and it brings them right into our town. I love the outdoors, I love the mountains, and to know that you can share that with thousands of other people every year is a great thing.