There's a quaint, picturesque little place about 3 hours from me with which I have fallen in love. It's tucked in the mountains of Virginia, and yet it's well known in certain circles. And last weekend, the nation got to see just a peek inside Damascus, albeit due to some very scary news.
Damascus, Virginia is a well-known oasis on the Appalachian Trail, billing itself as "Trail Town, USA" and every third weekend in May hosts a festival entitled "Trail Days" -- a huge extravaganza for a town of less than 1000 people. Their hearts are friendly, open and warm, and there's not a yearly resident I've met yet who doesn't embody hospitality and kindness. I was just up there the first weekend of the month for some riding along another of their trails (the Virginia Creeper Multi-Use Trail -- mostly for biking but good for walking/running as well, and even the occasional horse ride).
Last weekend, however, during the Trail Days parade, this little beautiful crossroads made the national newsclips for a sad accident that injured 60 people in the parade. An older gentleman driving one of the parade cars suffered a medical crisis, and hit the accelerator, plowing into a huge crowd. Some of them were injured critically, but fortunately no one died as a result, including the driver.
I hate that this is how the world discovered Damascus. Everyone should know it for what it really is: a town of friendly people, who have welcomed the transients and strangers among them, the people who come to enjoy the beauty of the town and its surroundings. Each time I have been to this area, whether in Damascus or in Abingdon or any of the places along the Creeper Trail, I have witnessed faces where the smile goes all the way into the eyes and radiates out from the heart, not just a mechanical widening of the mouth. But there's something about that little town that grabbed me and isn't letting me go.
I'm a beach girl -- God knows, I love the ocean as it calls to me with a primal beat, something seared deep in me. But in the last few years especially, I have finally grown to love the mountains, especially the Appalachians that are close to my home and my heart. And the Rockies..... oh, my! But that's another story.