So I Guess I’m Officially Hiker Trash
Ok, I’m officially hiker trash. A comment in the usually reliable Gutthook’s AT trail guide assured me that there was a restroom at a backwoods road crossing. I looked forward to taking advantage of this unexpected luxury. When I got there, I searched for a good 20 minutes, but couldn’t find it. In all that time not a single car passed. At this point my need for such a structure or its more rustic backwoods alternative was growing more dire. The forest sloped steeply away from the road on both sides. Other than the trail it was almost impenetrable. I found a spot about 20 yards from the road and dug a trench. Sure it was visible from the road, but at this point no car had passed for close to half an hour. I squat and as I was hanging fire, so to speak, a car drove passed. Hope to God they were dutifully looking at the road. If not I hope they were at least impressed by my astounding accuracy. I never really saw saw that car (and I will let you quietly imagine what I looked like from their point of view…(!) too graphic?) but as I turned to take care of paperwork a second car came by. The driver waved at me with my shorts around my knees. Was there a bit of a wink too? I am hiker trash!
In this part of the world people hunt bear. The way hunters generally do this is to send a pack of dogs into the woods to tree the bear where it can be shot without much danger of it ripping apart a couple of hunters as it dies. While this doesn’t really seem all that sporting to me, I saw 3 dogs left in the woods to live their final days alone and abandoned after such hunts. I was the eighth grade head teacher at my last school. I was responsible for planning and supervising class trips. Imagine the unadulterated rage parents would feel if I came home from one of these trips without one or more of my students. Surely hunters should feel the same responsibility for making sure all their dogs make it home and be subject to same rage when they come without a few of their dogs. Dogs live to love their people. They deserve better treatment than this.
I left Erwin on my first really rainy day. Thanks, Mathew! I stopped early at a shelter and I changed into dry clothes. When you are walking your body generates plenty of heat, but when you stop, the cold takes over. Since my left hand had morphed into a worthless claw, I was having a tough time buttoning my pants. Another hiker came up and declared that he wouldn’t be helping me with that. He introduced himself as Long John and we ended up talking each other into stopping early and sitting out the rain. He was the first SOBO hiker I’d seen since just before Damascus. We talked for hours. His McAfee’s Knob picture may be the funniest in history. Here’s a link to it. https://instagram.com/p/BKZL583g9sp/
He’s currently about 15th in the race to Springer. Over the following days I would meet scads of south bounders. The next day, I ate with Flower Power, the Karate Kid and their partner whose trail name escapes me at present. The following night White Girl and 3 other hikers arrived at the shelter after dark. Since they left before sun up, I never really saw anything more than the red glow of their headlamps, but we did talk a bit. The day before hitting Hot Springs, I met 4.0, Splinter and P. J. They had following the other groups for 1,900 miles and were determined to get in a position so these groups could read their notes in the trail journals. I have to say that I enjoyed all of these encounters, but they did give me a glimpse into an aspect of trail life I’m missing. You see they are all walking well over 20 miles a day, while I’m only doing a bit more than 10. They do this with the loving support of their trail families. I meet other hikers and enjoy their company, but generally I only see them once. My journey is much more solitary than theirs.
While I sometimes wish I were a bit faster, I feel incredibly content with my life on the trail. I look forward to phone calls with my wife. I feel blessed to have her support for this adventure. Without it, I don’t think could do it.
Now I’m thinking that I will post this without the usual agonizing process of editing and instead seek a deep tissue massage!
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