Starting the Alabama Road Walk
ECT Day 251&252
Day 251: 29 miles
This morning we were up bright and early to start the Alabama Road Walk (ARW). We said goodbye to Tigger and Chigger the dog and then Chuck Norris drove us to Flagg Mountain.
It was so nostalgic driving back to Flagg Mountain. I thought about being down here in February getting a ride to Flagg previously with Chuck Norris. I was so nervous to be starting the quiet Pinhoti Trail all by myself. I had 2600 daunting miles of thru hiking ahead of me still, or so I thought. It’s crazy how different of a head space I’m in currently headed to Flagg Mountain once more. I still have the same concerns about my body and hoping it’s up to the task. But it’s so different now. I’ve walked over 4000 miles now. 1400 more miles than I even originally planned to hike this year.
Once we got to Flagg Mountain we met up with Satelite. He was leaving his car there so that he could get a ride down the road and then walk back to his vehicle. A very common method for slackpacking. He actually gave some cash to Beer Run and I for a meal. That was so unbelievably generous of him. Then all of us took photos together at the Pinhoti southern terminus. I got to get yet another photo there. Then we said goodbye to Chuck Norris and Satelite and began the ARW.
The route was going to take us along some dirt road for a while. Then eventually we would connect back to paved backroads. Beer Run and I walked and talked. I’m very happy to be hiking with him. I think it would have been pretty lonely starting the ARW and FT by myself. I still would have done it but this is going to be much more fun!
We walked along and within the first few miles we had some unleashed dogs running at us. A couple got really close but once you yelled at them they backed off. I’m happy to have my mace back but am also hoping that I don’t have to use it. After a while we got back onto a paved road and then ran into Satelite! We knew we were probably going to be seeing him again today since he’s going north and we’re going south. The three of us briefly chatted in the road and then continued along.
While we walked Beer Run found a blue tooth speaker along the side of the road. And somehow it still worked and had battery. He hooked his phone up to it and we jammed out as we walked the road. It was such a good time. A little while later we walked right past a convenience store at Kelly’s Crossroads. We went inside for sodas and then continued along. Listening to the speaker while we walked added such a fun element to the road walking!
Sadly today my knee has been feeling super sore. I think it’s primarily because I just took off 7 days. I was kind of expecting that all of the time off was going to heal me entirely. But my hip and knee still bothered me a lot over the last week. My hope is that over the next couple of weeks my body is going to do a lot of recovering. A torn muscle apparently takes 4-6 weeks to heal while resting. So my hope is that it takes about 2 months to heal if you continue exercising every day.
Sometime shortly after leaving that store we took a quick break alongside the road. Then we kept walking for another couple of hours. Around 2:30pm we took a proper break by a church. There were some trees that we were able to hide under to get shade. It’s incredibly hot out today! And it’s only about 70 degrees out. It’s gonna be much hotter over the course of the week.
After sitting by the church for a little while we kept on walking. Then around 3:30pm a truck pulled over on front of us and a man got out to talk to us. He said that he was a trail angel and wanted to help us out. Apparently he had a cabin a couple miles down the road. He offered for us to stay there for free for the night. The offer was unbelievably tempting. But it was so early on in the day. We really wanted to get a couple more hours of walking in.
He insisted that we come and take a look at his cabin. It had been his parents as was a absolutely adorable. The fridge was stocked with food that he insisted we could eat. And he wasn’t actually going to be staying there. He had a house nearby. But somehow we were strong enough to decline the offer. Both of us really wanted to go further on our first day along the ARW.
We thanked him for the incredible offer and then continued along. After that we walked for a long while before coming to a town. It had just gotten dark as we began making our way into the town. Our first stop was at a subway to grab some dinner. We are inside and then grabbed some drinks from the gas station next door. From there we planned to go a few more miles to find some place to camp.
Satelite had told us about some camping that was just off the road. It was by an area where the road itself was closed for a bridge being out. So it would be a lot quieter than camping off the actual road. We were both quite tired but continued along. We got there around 8pm and found a nice flat area to set up camp.
As we were beginning to set up camp I saw a headlamp approaching in the distance. I was so surprised and got Beer Runs attention. There are no other hikers on trail so I was not expecting to see anyone. My first thought that it was someone out for a run and that they would go by us quickly and just wave.
Instead, as the headlamp passed by us the person veered off directly towards us. It was a man and he seemed sweaty and a bit squirrelly. The first thing he said to us was, “Are you guys out here doing drugs?” We we’re both so caught off guard. We gestured down at our packs and my tent and said that we were camping for the night. I explained that we were hiking the trail. He responded by asking us if we were spinning some lies to him. Now we were even more confused. We had given him a very reasonable explanation of why we were out in the woods.
Now as he spoke to us I began to think that he was the one who was on drugs. He was so sweaty and acting pretty weird in my opinion. Eventually we were able to convince him that we were just hiking and not out in the woods to do drugs. But that left a bad taste in my mouth for sure. If I had been by myself the encounter would have scared the shit out of me. I definitely would have packed up immediately and continued along the trail.
Beer Run and I were both a bit shaken up by the strange encounter. But we just continued setting up our camp site for the night. Then I got into my tent, did my stretching, and called it a night. What a weird end to the day! Other than that today was a perfectly great day. I’m enjoying Alabama so far.
Day 252: 35 miles
This morning we woke up alongside the old road around 6am and were walking before 6:30am. Within the first 2 hours of the morning we connected onto a main road and went right past a gas station. I got a coffee drink and a corndog. What a way to start the day.
Beer Run gave the Bluetooth speaker away to a dad and son at the gas station. It certainly wasn’t ultralight. They will get to enjoy it more than us. After that we kept on walking. It was so cold outside! Even colder than it had been when we started this morning somehow. But within the first hour or so after the gas station it warmed up.
Before I knew it I was stopping off to shed some layers. Once the sun comes out down here it’s as hot as can be. Before that though it’s quite cold. Not long after that we passed yet another gas station. That became the trend for the remainder of the day. We passed some sort of store just about every single hour. That’s definitely the one plus side to road walking.
In the early afternoon we passed right by a Walmart. Neither of us could resist going in there. There is always something that you need from Walmart if you think hard enough. I can get basically anything I could ever need from there. I wound up finding a small single serve cup of rice pudding. Rice pudding is so delicious but it’s usually sold in big tubs or packs of 4-6. As we walked along the road I ate my rice pudding and was as happy as could be!
Every so often we would go by another gas station and either stop off for a beverage or to go pee. Because we are following along the road all day today you really can’t go pee outside. You would have to pee right on the side of the road next to cars. I might do that in a true emergency but I’m certainly not going to unless I have to.
Around 2:30pm we passed by a Taco Bell and decided to eat there for lunch. We sat inside and got a few things each and a drink. Then enjoyed the AC in there for a bit before we kept moving. When I was standing outside just before we continued along a truck pulled up to me. The guy inside said that he’d seen us earlier walking the road. Him and his wife recently hiked a bit on the Pinhoti Trail. He just wanted to make sure that we didn’t need anything. I thought that was so incredibly nice! But we had everything that we needed and then some.
Later on in the day we began walking through Montgomery. The Montgomery section of the ARW doesn’t necessarily have a defined route. On the Gaia GPX the route is a different color from the rest of the ARW. The suggested route brings you through a generally “safer” part of Montgomery and past the capital. But you can go any way that you want technically. We followed the GPX file route though. You can get that file from the people at the Pinhoti Outdoor Center.
Walking through Montgomery was a pretty unique experience. The route brought you right through the historic part of the city. We walked right by the capital building and took some photos there. The downtown area had lots of cool murals and was really nice. Then as we began to leave the heart of the city the route took us through a pretty rough area. Most cities are like that though. The heart of the city is usually much nicer and more gentrified. Then the further you get from those parts of the city the poorer the area becomes.
I was definitely happy not to be walking through some of those areas by myself. I know that I would have been fine either way. Holding my own is certainly not something I have a problem with. But it would have been quite a different story than it was. No one bothered us at all or said anything to us. And I know from my experience living in cities that normally men on the street will yell things at me or try to talk to me frequently. With Beer Run by my side though everyone just minded their business.
As we were making our way through Montgomery it became pretty clear that it was going to be a long day. We had to make our way pretty far out of the city before it would be safe to stealth camp somewhere. I certainly wasn’t going to camp in a city on the street. By 6:30pm we had gone 30 miles and had to go for at least another 5 miles.
When we came to the last gas station near the outskirts of Montgomery we stopped. It was dark out already and we had to hike for another hour or two. So we took a quick break there first. I drank a Red Bull and bought some water for the evening. Then I did my stretching and we chilled briefly before continuing on.
Over the next mile or so we slowly but surely made our way out of the city. It wasn’t long before it was quiet once more and I would have felt more comfortable camping. But we put about 4-5 miles in between ourselves and the city. We passed by Snowdoun Baptist Church around 8:30pm. There was a big grassy area behind the church making it the perfect place to stop for the night. After a 35 mile day we decided to call it quits there. Today was definitely one of my longest days on trail this year.
I set up my tent there in the grass. My knee felt fantastic all day today! That made me really happy after yesterday. This is what I mean though when I say my knee/calf injury has had a lot of ups and downs. One day it will be incredibly painful from morning to evening. Then the next day I will feel completely fine. I just have a feeling though that it is going to finally start to improve. It’s definitely past the standard heal time at this point. I’d expect all of the hiking would add a few weeks of time to the healing process. So I should be reaching that point soon I’d think.
Not long after getting set up at the church I wound up calling it a night. I did some writing on my phone first though. It’s been so nice having consistent service once again. I practically forgot how convenient it was to be able to use your phone when ever you want. Somehow I lived without cell service and LTE for over 2 months though.
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