Broken Fiddle Hostel, Damascas, Virginia
Damascas, home to the hiker festival Trail Days, is known as the friendliest town on the Appalachian Trail. It's a hiker haven with several outfitters, countless hostels and a few drinking holes. We arrived a week before Trail Days, having gone almost two weeks without a washing machine or shower, so were in desperate need of some comfort. Most trail towns are fully booked in peak hiker season, so we'd phoned ahead to book a double room. A couple of places we'd been recommended by others were already booked, so third on our list to try was the Broken Fiddle Hostel. They had two private doubles available, one slightly smaller with a sofa, and one with a third bed. We chose the smaller one to save $10.
The smaller double bedroom cost us $50 for a night, and we spent $5 getting our laundry done. The larger room with a double bed and single bed would have been $60 for a night, or there are a couple of bunk rooms offering a bed for around $20 a night. These prices were very similar to the other hostels in town and fairly good value.
The owner was extremely friendly on the phone and had instructed us to enter the hostel through the back gate into the garden. On arrival, we met loads of other thru-hikers who had put on a birthday party for someone. One of the guys was working at the hostel and introduced himself to us. He explained that our room hadn't been cleaned yet, but gave us a tour of the building and said we were welcome to leave our backpacks with him whilst our room was prepared. I have never met such a chilled and welcoming person; he was very softly spoken and always had a smile on his face. Every time someone came into the building, he'd great them and ask how they were doing, and he had no qualms with us inviting our friends round for dinner that evening or letting them put some clothes in with our wash.
During the evening, the atmosphere remained relaxed, but some of the hikers were up until 3am playing guitar, singing and chatting. You could say the rules were a little too relaxed, as no-one told them to keep the noise down. We were kept awake for hours until they eventually decided to go to bed.
We loved the facilities at the Broken Fiddle Hostel, particularly the television area with an old VHS player and a huge collection of videos. The rooms were cleaned everyday, the bathroom was stocked with clean towels and toiletries and there was a kitchen with some communal food. We cooked a meal for some friends, which we all ate in the dining room. It was fun and social, with other hikers coming to see what the smell was. The kitchen was well equipped with everything you'd need to make a meal, and everything was clean, ready to be used. For hikers wanting to wash all their gear, there were two boxes of donated clothing in a variety of sizes, that you could wear whilst your laundry was being done. Some of the clothes were hilarious; smart black trousers, sweaters with sequined Disney characters, floral blouses etc. We found some outfits which fit and looked fairly normal, and wore these to the local supermarket to do our resupply. There is nothing to complain about in terms of facilities; they even had a selection of board games and outdoor games for the garden.
Location and Local Amenities
Being directly on the Appalachian Trail, the location is perfect if you're trying to minimise your mileage on your rest days, although it's the opposite side of town to the Food City. A couple of minutes walk down the road will take you to Mojo's Coffee House, which serves specialty coffee and cold brew, as well as milkshakes, tasty sandwiches and other light bites. We ate there twice and loved it. There's also a Subway, garage, outdoors shop and ice cream parlor in the same direction. Back towards the town centre, you'll find several more outfitters, eateries, Dollar General, a thrift store, bookshops and a library. Damascas is a pretty town with hiking murals on the walls and hiker discounts throughout it's stores. The Creeper Trail also passes through, bringing lots of cyclists to the area. During Trail Days festival, which is usually a weekend in May, Damascas suddenly fills up with people. Previous, current and future AT thru-hikers travel in from miles away just for the celebrations, along with hundreds of locals who love their trails. The hostels and hotels will book up weeks in advance, but 'tent city' will open in a local sports field, offering cheap camping. Broken Fiddle Hostel is the opposite side of town to Trail Days, so would be the perfect place to stay if you want to attend the festival and still get to sleep at night. (Tent City becomes a huge party all night long!).
If you're staying in Damascas and would like to experience a true hiker-hostel, then we'd recommend booking a room or bunk at the Broken Fiddle Hostel. The staff are lovely, there's a warm, friendly atmosphere, and overall, it was a very entertaining stay. However, if you'd like a good nights sleep and quieter environment, this hostel may not be for you. What do you think of this review? Have you stayed at the Broken Fiddle Hostel before? Leave your own comments and reviews below!