Tourist town thrives in warmer months

(WBIR-Damascus) It sure is true in East Tennessee that tourism grows a lot in the warmer months. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are wall to wall with people enjoying those places.

It's true in Virginia too. The season is picking up in the town of Damascus along the Virginia Creeper Trail.

"Just come out and have a good time," Michael "Pepper" Schuette with Sundog Outfitter said.

That's the attitude in Damascus and at Sundog Outfitter. The shop offers rental bikes and shuttle rides up the Virginia Creeper Tail so the cyclists can coast back down.

"The reason they come here is to go down hill for 17 miles so they are quick to grab our shuttle and get up and just take that nice cruise downhill for 17," he said.

Michael Schuette goes by his trail name, Pepper. He's like the folks who run other businesses in town, laid back.

"It's a pretty small southern town and I love that about it . We get along really good. Now there is some competition. We've got six bike shops in town which is more than we have restaurants or churches," he said.

The cyclists, hikers, and visitors have to eat somewhere. One option is a restaurant called "In the Country."

Owner James Blevins said, "We're the first business you come to as you come into town. We spotlight our ice cream shop so that's always a nice treat at the end of a 17 mile bike trek."

The ice cream shop features 24 flavors and the restaurant has a lot of wraps and sandwiches.

"Our homemade chicken salad is the most popular and it's very tasty," he said.

Damascus businesses are popular with the people who live nearby but it is definitely a tourist town.

"There are some regulars definitely a lot of local people use the trail. But I would say 80% or more are tourists from out of town come through. A lot of tourists coming up from Charlotte, Florida even to get away from the heat and get up into the mountains," Michael said.

Restaurants and rental shops are already getting busy on the weekends and weekdays are picking up.

James said, "Summer is the heavy time of year. it picks up in May and we'll stay busy probably until November."

"Springtime is our time when everything is coming alive again and all the hikers and bikers are starting to come through town," Michael said.

James said, "We'll get so busy that the entire restaurant inside is full and we can seat up to 65 people inside and out deck and even our lawn is covered. Many times you can't even see the lawn because of all the bicycles."

On a Wednesday you can still see the lawn. But expect more and more people in Damascus for cycling, hiking, and relaxing.

"We've got lots for you to do out here. Just come see us," Michael said.

Damascus is about a 20 minute drive from Abingdon by car and a little longer if you ride your bike.


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