Zeros and Near-os and the Apple Pie Bakery

Both Imagine Dragons and Smashing Pumpkins have recorded songs titled Zero.  Neither one has to do with taking a zero (taking a day off or clocking zero miles that day) on the Appalachian Trail.  Sometimes you just have to stop.  The trail has many challenges.  Most of us know these from reading about them prior to our hikes.  We think we are ready for what is ahead, but few of us really are ready.  Maybe there is a limit to readiness.  You just have to go out on the trail and experience it for yourself.  Of course, that means weeks two, three, four, etc… might be tough to get through as muscles hurt, equipment fails, and the mental excitement of the adventure starts to be over run by the pain of whatever is nagging at the time.  Sometimes a nice zero is the trick to revitalize.  A nice zero needs a good location.  This means a welcoming and friendly trail town.

We Probably Don’t Say Thank You Enough to Trail Towns

Thank you to all the trail towns that provide services and support to smelly and sometimes inconsiderate hikers.  Please be aware that the overwhelming majority of us hikers who truly appreciate the welcome we receive from the businesses in the trail towns which we pass through.  If there was a way for us to get rid of the few bad hikers that could ruin it for the rest of us, we would.  Please accept our thanks and appreciation of the overwhelming number of hikers who respect that we are visitors in your hometowns.

It’s the People You Meet

I have met many great people in the towns where I have stopped and taken a day to have a meal, grab a shower and sleep in a bed.  Each trail town has probably had different experiences with hikers and I am sure there is debate at the local coffee shops as to whether hikers are a good thing or a bad thing for the town.  I have many miles yet to go, and I would like to think my future trail town visits will be warm and welcoming as mine have been so far.  But they are not without the stories of “we used to let hikers stay at so and so place for free, but a few tore it up and we had to stop offering the free bed, shower and place to gather,” etc.

I also realize that there are stories from some unscrupulous business owners that hikers could complain about as taking advantage of a tough situation if the hiker is far from the trail without a way back except a long road hike.  The whole point of the AT in my journey is to be part of the build of the community and to enjoy the adventures on the trail.  Maybe we hikers could follow some of the “Trail Town” courtesy practices that are being published in articles by the more prominent hiking and backpacking internet resources about the trail.

Trail Town Moments

Enough soap box, now for some great moments.  In one trail town we had the great experience of meeting one of the more senior members of the community who was more than willing to give us the history and pride that the town has had in all its years.  It was filled with great stories and gave us an appreciation for the people that have built lives in the town.  Another trail town had a great series of hiker-friendly resources right on the trail.  It makes for a great afternoon grabbing a meal, meeting some folks and resupplying all without having to worry about arranging a shuttle.  One town had a store that had a complimentary piece of fruit for hikers passing through.

Some towns have little gems of semi-hidden locations for either an overnight stay or a whole host of the simple things hikers need from time to time: a shower, a power strip for charging electronics, a simple outdoor gazebo to hide from the rain while it passes through, a place with two trees in a sunny spot to maybe string a line and sun dry damp equipment (I know this looks like laundry day and might not be appreciated by all).  Not to mention all the great restaurants hikers hear about from time to time on the trail.

The Beauty of a Peaceful Afternoon Nap

It is amazing what a nice peaceful zero day does to recharge the body to be ready again to enjoy moving further up the trail.  When the rain is coming, and its a choice between making miles wet and soggy, or finding a nice place for an afternoon nap as the rain drops from the sky, I’ll take the nap.  A rainy zero also gives you the ability to talk with people you might not otherwise have run into on your trek.  It is heartwarming to share some life stories with folks you might meet again and are able to build the developing friendship as you hop scotch each other up the trail.
Hopefully, the towns have had more positive experiences with hikers than negative to enable continued future support.  Maybe those of us who can could make sure to leave a great impression on the townspeople and businesses so that any negative experience is balanced with a positive one that most hikers can bring to a town

And of Course, Apple Pie

And don’t ever pass by a sign that says “Apple Pie Bakery” and not stop in and have a piece of pie.  In the town with the most senior hostel on the trail, you will find a slice of heaven. Since I’m burning so many calories hiking, I had two slices.

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