Pulling a Winger

In the classic movie “Stripes,” Bill Murray’s character John Winger, and his friend decide to join the army. They watch a TV ad that paints the army to be this idealistic picture of travel and adventure.

But in reality, they soon find out it is quite the opposite. As they have to get up early, and spend most of their time running in the rain and doing push-ups in the mud. This is a very similar premise to hiking the AT. But more on this later.

Neels Gap

We arrived at Mountain Crossings in Neels Gap and it was surreal to see the famous tree with all the shoes of those hikers who gave it up at this point.

I had no intention of throwing my $250 shoes up there, but I was sure tempted to hurl my dry sack of electronics. Two battery chargers, PBL satellite device, Apple watch, cords etc. Had little use for most of it. Weighing me down!

Goodbye Old Friend

Speaking of weight. As you can see in the photo of Matt, he is carrying a 10 pound canvas army tent. (I think it has MASH 4077 printed on it.) He loves this tent. It keeps out the light, and it’s a family heirloom. But the weight was wearing on him and it hasn’t even gotten wet yet.

It was a difficult, emotional decision for Matt, but in the end, he made the right choice. He bought a new ultra light tent and placed his dearly beloved canvas tent in the hiker box outside the store. We bowed our heads and Matt said a few words. I thought I saw a tear run down his cheek, but I think it was more from the $400 he paid out for the new tent.

Davey Crockett is Born

We continued on hiking in the most beautiful weather, stopping only to take some scenic photos and filter water. 


After 7 miles, we were pretty done and set up camp near Hogpen Gap. 

The nicest couple you could ever meet, Mark and Rochelle (Bo and Curly) were already there. We got to know each other, and they got a big kick out of Matt and his old school ways. I think this is where we came up with the trail name Davy Crocket for Matt.

It was getting late when I suddenly saw a blue flash through the trees. Michelle, from Indiana, came gliding in to our site like she was on a hoverboard. Her megawatt smile lighting up the camp. She was out here in the middle of the Appalachian wilderness without a care in the world.

Perfectly content to find a solo campsite for the night. Nerves of steel! We laughed until dark. 

We woke up early and hiked roughly 8 miles up to the Blue Mountain Shelter. Another glorious day of amazing weather. 


But that was about to end. We saw thunderstorms would start around 9AM. We wanted to be at the bottom of the mountain. So we got up in the dark and just before we left, I took a photo of the sunrise.

 That’s when I got greedy and tried to take a selfie with the sunrise in the background.  The following photo is what it looks like when the skies suddenly open up and drop a bathtub of water on you.

Picture the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the knights screamed, “Runaway Runaway!” This is what a selfie looks like as you are running. 

This is when we “Pulled a Winger.”  In the movie STRIPES, John Winger had enough of the rain and the mud. In the dark, he takes off, heading to civilization. Matt and I headed down the mountain in darkness as the rain followed us. We were about to reach Unicoi Gap when I took a face plant in the trail that was now a river. Good times!

Bill soon picked us up with Green Dragon Hostel. Wet, cold and starving, he dropped us off first at the Main Street Diner in Hiawasee.

An amazing lumberjack breakfast and four cups of decaf to warm me up. I was good.

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Comments 2

  • Rochelle Huber : May 9th

    I love your blog and I’m sure Matt loves that you’re blogging! 😁 So sorry to hear about your faceplant but it does make for a memorable AT story. I hope you weren’t injured!
    Bill also dropped us off at the diner on Main Street. ❤️😋 I highly recommend the Green Dragon Hostel – they are super accommodating to hikers!
    Thank you for sharing your experiences! Happy Trails! 🥾⛰️

  • Kevin Sikorski : May 11th

    Me and wife Love your blog we are Matt’s parents he has told us how much fun you two had. Keep going as long as you can gitty up and go


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