Day 41: Back to the Deep Green Woods

The AT Giveth, But Not Always

Northstar walked up to the AT with me early this morning to visit the Grayson Highland ponies, but the AT was having a little snit and decided to not to share.  It also decided to punish her for hiking in Chaco’s and took a chunk of her heel. Bad AT.

Of course, as soon as she headed down the Blue Blaze trail back to the van, I saw a herd of horses in the distance. Upon closer inspection, they turned out to be beef horses, but lovely creatures all the same. I had a double cheeseburger later in the day in their honor.

Into the Green Woods & Deep into My Own Head

After the Highlands, I walked back into the deep green woods, retreated into my own head, and stayed there for 18 miles. I cinched up my hip belt, strapped on my trekking poles, and ground out the miles, barely stopping to take a picture or record a video. I even forgot to take any breaks.

Without Gus along, I had no need to stop at any stream crossings while he slurped up the local water supply. Nor did I need to pull out his kibble bowl, so I just kept walking until I got Dickey Gap. I pounded out 18 miles in just under 6 hours.

Why Do Thru-Hikers Thru-Hike?

I saw no thru hikers except Stormcrow, who told me this was his third thru-hike. When I asked him why he’s thru hiking, he said he had no idea. Then he thought for a minute and said that maybe it’s because he likes the forests. When Northstar asked Five Cats the same question yesterday, she got the same “I don’t really know” answer. I hear that answer a lot.

I think all the thru hikers are either at Trail Days, they’re keeping pace with me, or we’re missing each other because of my up early/finish early schedule. I did see a lot of weekend backpackers though.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Most of the weekenders keep to themselves, but I had more than one notice my purple AT Thru-Hiker tag and ask about it. The encounter always goes like this: “Uh, you’re not thru hiking, are you?” The question is asked with a quizzical look and tentative tone. I answer, “Yes I am,” knowing what the next question will be. The next question comes out hesitantly and skeptically, “But you have such a small pack.” Yup, called it.

So I answer, “Yes, ma’am, I’m doing a supported hike. I meet my wife every night. We live in our van. I only need to carry a small pack.” They cannot hide the disappointment/betrayal/disgust at having met a cheater instead of a “real” thru hiker. One lady today glared hateful at my hiker tag during our entire conversation. I was a little concerned she was going to tear it off like she was my commanding officer and I was a disgraced junior staffer.

I need to come up with a better story. Maybe I should be an uber-ultralighter with a four-pound base weight. Or maybe I’m product testing space-age technology that packs up super efficiently. Or perhaps offer to do a pack shakedown for their own huge packs and throw out all sorts of things they actually do need. Or smile politely and not worry about it.

Boy Scouts. Ish.

Northstar and I also met a troop of Boy Scouts, who apparently are girls now. The troop didn’t have a single boy. That is, no boys. I assume all boys of that age are single. When Northstar asked if they were Girl Scouts, one young lady answered, “We are Boy Scouts. We don’t sell cookies. We go camping. Every weekend.” Wow. That’s impressive.

Northstar persisted, asking if they weren’t all just “Scouts” now. That turned into an answer about lawsuits, discrimination, gender, and bureaucracy. All very interesting stuff, I’m sure, but I found myself longing to be alone in the deep green woods.

Walking & Thinking

Which I was for most of the day. I think I’m working out my problem, or at least some of it. The deep, green, lonely woods are a perfect place for that. Or, as St. Augustine once said, “Solvitur Ambulando,” which means, “It is solved by walking.”

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Grayson Highlands State Park (Mile 502.2)
  • End: Dickey Gap (Mile 520.2)
  • Weather: Overcast, muggy.
  • Earworm: Let it Be
  • Meditation: Jn 20:29
  • Plant of the Day: Smooth Rock Tripe
  • Best Thing: Grayson Highlands, Part II
  • Worst Thing: Forgetting to take a break.

PS – Happy Birthday, big brother! You’re a good man.


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Comments 7

  • Smitty : May 21st

    So my thrice daily drone supported thru hike plan would rile the purists? Breakfast lunch and dinner in, doo doo bags out it’s beautiful. That was some good hikin Mr I hope Mrs I heals up

    • Bloodthirsty Vegan : May 22nd

      A far more legitimate journey than the self-absorbed “adventurers” who “climb” Everest, so they can sit at the pub and regale their hangers-on with a tale of waiting in line for the summit. I expect outright contempt when I set out on the AT next year with my team of porters, safari style, sans a litter. I took a “look inside” at your books, pleasantly surprised that they were nonfiction but the price point exceeded my $2.99 limit for virtual literature. Beyond that, I go to the public library, a shame that your work isn’t available there. Safe journey.

      • Jon : May 22nd

        Ah, but my books are SO worth it. I think the publisher is still offering both of them as a bundle for $20 or $25. Most of the public libraries in AZ carry them, and they might be available via interlibrary loan or as e-books.

  • thetentman : May 22nd

    Wow, a lot of thinking. Be careful all that thinking will tire you out. Love the post.


    PS I do not think you are a fraud.

    • Jon : May 22nd

      You are so right.

  • Jamie Compos : May 22nd

    Load your pack with those plastic air bags that Amazon uses! 🙂

    • Jon : May 22nd

      Do they come with helium?


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