Chili Dogs, Cheesy Biscuits and a Knit Cap: Trail Life Is Good
“Tonight is what trail life is all about. Campfire, laughs, trail magic in the form of cold beers, and even yoga!” That quote is from OneFoot’s trail journal. Sounds to me like he’s having a hard time adjusting to life on the Appalachian Trail. (Wink, wink.)
OneFoot is making his way north mile by mile. There has been a good amount of rain and wind but he was rewarded when the clouds broke to reveal a beautiful blue sky just as he summited Sassafras Mountain. He’s handled the climbs and descents with relative ease and finds the biggest challenge so far is keeping his daily mileage low. He was advised by many to start slow. OneFoot’s plan is to stay under 10 miles a day during these early days. The problem, he’s found, is that he arrives at the next camp very early in the day. Hanging around in the morning hasn’t been a great option because the mornings are cold. He’s been hitting the trail around 8 a.m. which puts him at the next camp usually by 1 p.m. So he’s made another adjustment, and that is to his speed. Slowing down should also help prevent blisters on his “tootsies,” as he calls them.
In these early stages of this thru-hike attempt, we are learning together. I’m still trying to find a rhythm to where and when to send packages. He’s already discovering that some items are easier (and probably less expensive) to just buy locally than having me ship them. I find that I always have the AWOL AT Guide close by now. I love tracking his progress and looking at the elevation and milestones he’ll make that day. The guide also helps hikers find services – food, shuttle to and from town, hostels and motels. I used it to book a cabin for OneFoot when he decided to spend the night at Blood Mountain Cabins. In looking ahead at the trail map, he realized that he would have to walk 10-plus miles, in addition to what he’d already planned for the day, to get to a shelter or campsite that evening. The first two sites he would come upon required that hikers have bear canisters for all food. He doesn’t carry one so he’d have to keep walking. Rather than push the mileage, and given that the weather absolutely sucked (thunderstorms), he opted for the cabin. He messaged and asked me to book one for him. The guidebook states $72 a night for thru-hikers and Ray was planning to share with a couple of other hikers. When I called to book, I found that the $72 rate was a thru-hiker walk-up rate. To reserve a cabin was $99. Not a big deal but lesson learned. The cabin was warm, the shower was hot, and they even take care of your laundry for you. Is it odd to think that I would love that job? Could you find anyone more appreciative for having their laundry done than a thru-hiker?
Tackling Blood Mountain and coming down into Neel Gap was a huge milestone. It is estimated that 10 percent to 25 percent of those who attempt a northbound thru-hike end their journey in Neel Gap, 30 miles into the trail. Though there doesn’t seem to be any official record of this, there is a famous tree with boots hanging from it at Mountain Crossings that may support those statistics. These boots are said to be thrown onto the tree by hikers who are leaving the trail at that point. OneFoot handled the mountain without difficulty and you won’t find his shoes in that tree at Neel Gap. Summiting Blood Mountain was a wonderful moment, for sure, as this was one of the many “can’t wait to see” locations on his AT adventure list.
I have discovered that I love the atweather.org site. We have started a routine where I send daily weather reports to Ray’s phone. Each morning I check the weather for the area that he is in. I then copy and paste the forecast for that day and night, and the next to a text message. So far, he’s had cell service and appreciates receiving these updates.
Some highlights of the trip so far include visiting with a woman who just celebrated her 30th anniversary with the ATC. Now that’s probably a very cool job. He also came upon a church group offering up trail magic in the form of chili dogs, cheesy biscuits, and lemon lime soda. DEEEEE-LICIOUS! (Insert joke about walking in front of him after that here.) Those folks even had a new ChapStick for him when he said he couldn’t find his. And, as a big bonus, they took his garbage for him. Of course, the church ladies making knit hats for hikers were awesome, too. It’s the people that make trail life so special. Imagine if we had trail magic like this in our everyday lives? Hmmm, why can’t we?
I asked Ray the question most on my mind since he started walking: “What food do you miss the most so far and what’s been the best food you’ve had?” Eggs. He misses freakin’ eggs! And, other than the trail magic treats, he is enjoying the heck out of cream cheese and pepperoni in a wrap. Amazing what tastes good when you eat only what you brought.
I love sharing this journey with him and we’ve been able to talk, text and/or FaceTime daily. I like to think that “we” are hiking the AT together. Hey, if he can say “we” were pregnant, or “we” had a baby – then I’m gonna make this trip plural! Every day he sends me a trail journal entry that I then transfer to our logbook. Between that, the blog, the Facebook page. and package mailing, I may need a vacation when he gets home.
Until the Next White Blaze,
OneFoot and Should Be Good.
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