I Thought It Was Fresh Air, but Was Afraid it Was Me


So my last zero was 17 days ago in Hot Springs.  I’m ready.  I came into Franklin this afternoon feeling like I’ve been rode hard and put up wet. I think if I stepped on a quarter, I could tell you if it were heads or tails. I got to the highway, crossed to the south side to the parking area where the trail heads south figuring that my chances of getting a hitch into Franklin would be enhanced if anyone picking me up had a way to avoid getting rear ended.  I put out my thumb and miraculously the first car stopped. The first thing the driver said was, “I never pick up strangers.”  I knew I had to be on my best behavior. Luckily she was heading out on a 6 day section hike the next day.  She’s trying to do the whole trail in bite sized pieces.  I encouraged her to try bigger bites.  I’m convinced that we were built to hoist packs and walk great distances and given time our bodies remember.  We shared a love of the trail, but for her it’s always tough, but her love for it keeps bringing her back.

I left Fontana Village after lunch. I had to have another hamburger before returning to the trail. Resupply there was a snap. I was able to find everything I needed in their general store.  The lodge gave me and another guy a ride back to the trail. The two of us walked south together and had a nice talk.  We met up with a bunch of flip floppers doing their SOBO legs to Springer. They knew my buddy, Otis from the spring.  They gave me a hot dog to cook over their wood fire. Food of the Gods!  I hiked on until dark and set up my tent on a level spot just off the trail.  The next day all these guys left me in their dust.  The demographic of the hard core lashers (long ass section hikers) and thru hikers tends to be on the younger side.  My peers are hard to find.


One of the oddest trail signs I have ever seen! Did Salvidore Dali do this one?


Hiking through the clouds

When I left Fontana Village, I was thinking that I could pick up some things at NOC.  Unfortunately their general store was closing and they had almost nothing in stock.  I left with two bags of tuna.  While I was able to buy a couple of Cliff bars at the outfitters, I knew I would be coming into Franklin with empty tanks.  I bought a sport’s drink from the vending machine outside of the River’s End Restaurant.  When the machine gave three, I felt like I had won the lottery.  Eventually I asked a waiter if they had a smelly backpacker section, and was excited to find that they did!  Burger, fries and sweet tea to go with my 60 ounces of cold blue stuff!  Why there’s a chance I can pee before going to bed tonight!  (It’s dry out here, folks)  After eating, I hiked on to the A. Rufus Morgan Shelter.




Bear hunting dog I met on the trail. He seemed happy to see me and walked with me for a while. This one made it back to his truck!

The next day I felt as if I was going up forever.  I was shooting for 11 miles.  Didn’t come close.  I walked until after dark and camped in a spot near a spring south of Wesser Bald.  I was fried.  Shockingly I had a strong enough connection to check on the World Series.  The next morning, I noticed a slow air leak in my air mattress.  Not to bad this morning as it served as an almost perfect trail alarm clock.  I felt a haiku coming on…

My air mattress leaks
Leaving me cold on the ground 
As the sun rises

I met a fireman and his wife the next morning who are trying to do sections until he retires.  Then they plan to head north from their last section, walk to Katahdin, then come back and redo the part they’ve done as sections.  Blessed are the flip floppers!  I don’t really have a trail family, but I do run into kindred spirits now and then.  When I got to Wayah Bald, one of those places where the trail is just crawling with civilians.  As I was walking toward the parking lot a woman asked me, “What is that interesting smell?”  I thought it was fresh air, but I was afraid it was me.  That night, the leak was worse.  I had to crawl out of my bag and blow the air mattress again three times.  I wish some genius could come up with a way to find the leaks in the the middle of nowhere where water is seldom found more than two inches deep.  (Did I mention how dry it is?)


Long uphill slogs are often rewarded with views of where we’ve been or where we’re going


The soft morning light continues to fascinate me

After camping at Wine Spring Gap, I had an easy walk into Franklin.  Where I found my brain is overflowing.  I thought my last mail drop was going to one of the outfitters, but it seems it was sent to the Budget Inn and I’m at the Microtel.  So I have a few problems to deal with tomorrow.

109 miles to go.  I’m thinking I hit Springer on the 9th or 10th of November.


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