I Just Want to Hike All Night and Zero Every Day
Contrary to popular belief I do not see towns as a trap; they are a major part of this experience. Sometimes I even think they are my favorite part of this experience. I seem to have a little extra pep in my step as I walk into town. I never pass up an opportunity for a side trip to get ice cream. And I am more than OK with changing my mileage plan to chill at a lookout or stream.
I am so lucky to be part of a tramily that has prioritized having fun. We are not hiking the Appalachian Trail to have a new notch on our belts because we realize that when we get to Katahdin there will not be a ticker tape parade. Frankly, most people I meet in my life won’t even know how major of an accomplishment completing an AT thru-hike is. Hiking the AT is for me, it is the most selfish thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t see that as a bad thing. So I want to make it the best experience possible and for me that involves taking advantage of zeros and time spent in town.
For example, when Handstand, Milkeye, and I got to Standing Bear hostel after the Smokies, we took our first “unexpected zero” because of a huge snowstorm that rolled in. My tramily played Phase 10 all day with another tramily and ate frozen pizzas. Plus, I got to shower and dry my soaking clothes. It was a much needed morale booster.
When Pro, Milkeye, High Life, and I left Damascus, Va., we ended up spending a bunch of time at a café eating burgers and milkshakes and then stopped hiking a little later to chill by the river.
In Daleville, Va., Milkeye, Tripz, and I woke up planning on hiking out that day. But, with only 30 minutes left till checkout, we had Milkeye call to see if we could stay an extra hour. Lo and behold, when that hour was up he went and booked the hotel room for another night and we watched the “Meet the Parents” trilogy.
I didn’t even plan on stopping in Glasgow, Va., but after hearing about a giant fiberglass dinosaur and an Italian restaurant with a good reputation, Milkeye, Tripz, Gas Can, and I hitched into town. We ate, resupplied, took our dinosaur pictures, and stood by the road with our thumbs out getting ready to get back on trail. A cop drove up and we were afraid that we might be getting in trouble but he just showed us a weather radar and warned us about a big storm rolling in. So, we went back into the restaurant and met up with our extended tramily — Yard Sale, Knope, Mountain Cat, Cobra, and Bunion. We stayed at the shelter in town and hung out all night.
I also took a nero at Devils Backbone Brewing with Pro, Milkeye, Gas Can, Taco, and Jukebox. We spent the day playing corn hole and eating. I had homemade banana pudding and chocolate chip cookies for lunch, because why not. Then at night I got to cheer for the Capitals in the NHL playoffs.
And right now Pro, Milkeye, Gas Can, Taco, and I are staying at my cousin’s house in Charlottesville, Va., having one of my best zeros yet. We ate amazing chicken parmesan, took a tour of Charlottesville, and spent a bunch of time watching Netflix.
These are some of the best days on trail for me and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. If I get to Katahdin a couple weeks later, so what. I will make it to Katahdin and I will have memories to last a life time. This is not representative of me getting tired of hiking and wanting to quit. I have no desire to quit. This is representative of me and my friends wanting to maximize our fun.
When I talk to past thru hikers and I ask them if they would do anything differently I have heard many times that they would go slower, I have never heard anyone say they wish they had gone faster. I mean after all last one to Katahdin wins.
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