Taking Stock with a Zero in Franklin
Sitting on the sidewalk with friends, outside the pharmacy killing time until the outfitter opens, I reflect on the past week and a half. I wasn’t sure how my body was going to hold up. I am pleased with how things have turned out so far. A hundred miles and just knee pain on the downhill. A lot of people are complaining of knee pain on the downhill.
Georgia was difficult to say the least. The terrain is rugged and the temperatures were well below freezing. The wind could be heard rushing in the distance if you were lucky enough to be on the sheltered side of the mountain. Most of the shelters had bear cables and boxes, which made things a little easier. I was amazed by all the blowdown and the size of the trees that were lying on the ground. Blood Mountain was a place I will never forget.
Friends for More than a Day
Other hikers that you meet in the woods are usually not putting on airs. Hiking in the woods has a way of bringing your emotions to the front. Hikers are, for the most part, straightforward. When they ask how you are doing, they genuinely want to know. A lot of the people I meet are self-depreciating and laugh a lot. We greet each other with a fist bump so as not to spread germs by a handshake.
What’s in a Name?
On the surface, trail names sound silly. But what most people don’t understand is that they are a way of shedding the normal life. Trail names make everyone on the trail equal regardless of gender, race, nationality, wealth, age, etc. They are a way to embrace the hiker lifestyle and leave your old life behind. My trail name is Hipcat, which hints to my hip surgery and an open mind.
Squatch Graces Us with His Presence
I was spending the night in Carter Gap Shelter and had my bedroll out. The shelter was busy and I was cooking at the table. In walks this huge guy with a full brown beard, sleeveless T, loincloth, wooden hiking pole, and laced-up boots to his calves. His quadriceps were budging. He sat down on the wooden deck and started eating beef jerky out of a bag. Someone asked if he used the staff on bears. He responded by saying he doesn’t need it and this is what he uses for “wimpy NOBOs.” There’s a loud THUNK and I saw he has driven a giant knife into the deck. Everyone just stared at the huge, gleaming, double-sided kukri stuck in the deck. He put the knife away and finished eating. As he left, someone said, I wonder if he ever girds his loins? He heard this and turned, saying no, no one had ever tested him. I ask who that was, and someone says Squatch, as in Sasquatch.
Later, I go to get water and see him setting up a tent. This strikes me as odd because I half expected him to be sleeping on the ground with a blanket. Even more comical, when I returned from the stream he was sitting on a log by his personal fire, smoking a mini-cigar, reading a book. We had been visited by the Squatch!
So is life on the trail.
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