Pointless Ups and Downs – Not Always!

And we are back…

First, some hiker terminology: PUDS.  Pointless ups and downs.  There are several points on the Appalachian Trail where maintainers and creators led the trail up and over a summit or ridge when it would have been as significant to have followed a ridge line or an old forest road, or whatever.

PUDS are also a great way to describe our own journeys when we sometimes create paths that make our lives more challenging.  While we can get very deep and meaningful here, I’ll keep my personal PUDS in the context of the last few days and offer a few other observations.

First, the downs…

Camping at Woods Hole Shelter

Camping at Woods Hole Shelter

Physical Maladies

As I sit here in my nice warm bed at the Holiday Inn, with my left knee slightly elevated, I reflect on how this happened.  I would like to say it was a misstep on the wet moss covered beautiful igneous rock formations the trail snakes over after Deep Gap Shelter or the strain of going up Kelly’s Knob.  Nope, it was hacky sack.

Our first night back on trail was quite different.  Soon after we set up our tent in with an amazing view, the younger hikers brought out a hacky sack.  I was immediately invited to join.  I had not played hacky sack for almost 40 years but was up for a challenge. Ma Wampus politely declined. I quickly remembered during the event that I wasn’t that good at hacky sack 40 years ago and decades of no practice did not improve that play. The next morning I also discovered that my knee makes popping sounds when I turn it a certain way.  Still monitoring…

Equipment Issues

  • The Fix

I was complaining about one of my straps on one of our climbs.  Ma Wampus determined the issue was a poorly placed chest strap.  She gave it a tug and it came off in her hand.  Not good #sore back.

Communication Gaffes

After hiking miles, my abilities to read a crowd and communicate have proven somewhat diminished.  I am not sure if this is an intergenerational thing or just a tired thing.

During our hacky sack incident, there was a time for introductions.  This is usually done by trail name.  One of the players introduced himself as “Maybe Anakin”.  Unfortunately, the young man was suggesting a trail name, not stating a trail name.  By the time I realized it, I had essentially, to my horror, given the lad his new trail name that emphasized his indecisiveness: Maybe Anakin.  Fortunately, trail names are kept or discarded by the owner, so his fate is in his own hands.

In another incident, a Boston hiker at another shelter remarked how the trail angels in Georgia had set the bar for everyone else.  The amount of food (cheeseburgers, fruit, chips, drinks) and services (hand washing stations to less norovirus threats, rides into town, battery recharge) has been nothing less than amazing.  I offered that it was southern hospitality demonstrated.  He retorted that doesn’t happen in Massachusetts and I heartily agreed with him.  I did not mean that the State that gave us Thoreau and Franklin did not have its own warmth and humanity but there was an awkward silence for that one.

These were explained away and the crowd is very forgiving for sure.  It did often take some explaining though.

Unable to Assist

Sorry, Cobber

Probably the worst I felt over the week was not a physical malady, but one involving our inability to help out a fellow hiker.  We met another Australian on trail, considerably older, at Blue Mountain Shelter.  We had just put back on our packs after having packed up our wood stove – it takes a good 20 minutes to start and probably another 30 to cool down and pack away.  He said he just wished he could get a “cuppa”, and offered anyone money for a tea bag.  I have almost a pound of incredible loose leaf Australian tea in my packed bag.  I really felt like dog shite as he was boiling water. Ma Wampus gave me a good lecture about being such a sentimental softy while reminding me that we were late to pick up mail drops in Hiawassee.  Time to move!

Neither snow nor rain nor heat….whatever

Our stop in Hiawassee was not due to my knee, it was to pick up our food parcels we had sent from DC over two weeks ago, priority post for general delivery.  The US Post Office allows you to mail parcels to the Post Office for general delivery and you go and pick it up with an ID.  Upon our arrival we found that our packet had not yet arrived.  An exasperated post office employee explained that the Palmetto Distribution Center was having major issues and mail was delayed.  She had no idea when the parcels might get there.  Further, the Post Office could not forward our parcels to us without us being there to receive them, but we could pay a local to come in and ask for them to be forwarded or we could leave a check.  It was eerily third world and gave me pause to think, at least in this instance, the US Post was proving to be unreliable.

Then the Ups…

Strength Through Adversity

Yoga at the Shelter!

While on trail we met a school teacher who came on this taxing journey with her partner.  After a couple of weeks, the partner decided this was not their thing and dropped out.  I think many would have crumbled at this point, but instead, she packed up what her partner had been carrying that she would need, and headed over the mountain.  She arrived at the same shelter as we, big bag in tow and a tent with which she was unfamiliar.  She decided to stay in the shelter despite her fear of mice, and then led a yoga class for all the hikers present.  It was very inspiring!

Ma Wampus Excels

Power Hiker Alert!

Ma Wampus is now consistently leading on those major up hill slogs.  One of the things that happens out here is “Trail Legs”, which means that you slowly become conditioned to doing much longer miles.  This benefit comes with a slight detractor, called “Hiker Hunger”, also demonstrated when Ma Wampus polished off half a supreme pizza and asked why we were doing for dessert.

Pa Wampus Health Improving

Blue Mountain Shelter – Wow!

The blood pressure is slowly improving, not as quickly as I would like, but we have seen some decreases both in those numbers and an ability to further tighten the belt.  I wear a fit bit and it counts my steps, my heart rate, and the number of “zone minutes” (minutes in which your heart is beating faster than normal).  While in DC, my goal was to get 10k steps a day and 15-30 zone minutes, with maybe 100-150 zone minutes for the week.  Last Thursday, I got 32k steps and 308 zone minutes.  It was a big day, but you get the point.  Waking up with views like the one above as opposed to sirens probably doesn’t hurt.

Attitude Adjustment

Waking up to ice on the bags

Although Ma Wampus is better at this, being a natural sunny person whose exuberance can sometimes be A BIT MUCH both of us are starting to see things not as defeats and issues, but as challenges.  Waking up to ice formed on your sleeping bag becomes an “ok, what if we opened the vents on the tent and then used the rain gear and emergency blankets over our bags” thing, as opposed to a “let’s go to town thing”.  Myself, I am having trouble sleeping at this hotel, the damn pillow smells of Tide, not dirty laundry.  The mattress is super comfortable, so now I am feeling all my big bites.  It’s way past time to leave because we didn’t hear the other hikers packing up as it’s so quiet in here.  We need to get going!!!!!

Other Observations


In closing, again I am in such awe over the areas in which we are traveling.  As we walk over what is clearly old lava flows, which I am told may be over 220 millions years old and up to a billion years old made when the tectonic plates slowly crashed into each other.  These formed these granite mountains that used to be the highest in the world.  A billion just becomes a number but imagine if each year was just a second to make it less fantastic – we would be talking about over 31 years, in seconds.


Historically, this place is just as significant.  We trounced over Slaughter Creek, the site of a battle between the Creek and Cherokee tribes that pushed the Creek out of the area.  Even the name lets you know that the Geneva Convention was still a bit off in the distance.


Crossing Blood Mountain, we came across Blood Mountain Shelter, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  The CCC was a New Deal program that took young, mainly men, and used them for hard labor building state parks, roads, you name it.  At Lake Greenwood State Park in South Carolina there is a poignant reminder who these men were.  There is a nice stone wall that ends in a pile of rubble – not quite done, and it never will be per an historical mandate.  Essentially work stopped around December 7, 1941.  The young men stopped building your state parks and enlisted in the military to protect the US from invasion and help free Europe and Asia.

Finally, we leave Hiawassee today, which has huge significance in US history.  During the Revolutionary War, the Cherokee largely sided with the British.  They absolutely set the frontier on fire and the fighting was desperate and brutal as one could imagine.  Americans regrouped and destroyed several Cherokee towns, showing just as much compassion for their adversaries.  One of those destroyed towns was Hiawassee.  Americans of that age never really forgave this incident, and one of those Americans affected was none other than President Andrew Jackson, the signer of the Indian Removal Act. US history is an onion – so many little layers.

OK – enough of this.  I am delaying our trek with my daydreaming.  Onwards and, sigh, Upwards.  Yes, dear I am coming.

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Comments 4

  • MELINDA Way : Mar 23rd

    Anyone who is truly from Boston would have tilted their head back and laughed heartily! Then told you just how right you were! You’re all good.

    • MaPa Wampus : Mar 26th

      Yes, I must admit the Bostonian bent over laughing when I started explaining. It was the other folks…

  • Dax Orozco : Mar 23rd

    Your posts are always so well-written and thought out It’s evident that you put a lot of effort into each and every one

    • MaPa Wampus : Mar 26th

      Thank you so much!


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