On Mar 25, 2015, at 7:42 AM
Good morning! With no cellular service for the past two days I am sending more than one update this morning.
Monday started cold and clear after a night of rain. I rose before the sun and said goodbye to “Bo” and “Dude,” setting out for what I hoped would be a 19-mile day. It did not work out as planned.
Early that morning, walking in a Rhododendron tunnel, I happened upon a man in the midst of his morning constitutional. His wife was as surprised at my arrival as I was. I stopped and turned to give him some privacy… and the lady started a conversation to break the ice.
“What is your trail name?” she asked. “Hawkeye,” I responded. “How did you get that name?” she continued. “I see things that other people miss,” I said. Just then we both realized how apropos that response was, and we broke out laughing. Her husband, pants down around his knees, was less amused. “Princess” and “Rocketman” have walked the entire AT once, “slack packing” with only daypacks and a shuttle every evening to a local hotel. Now, they are doing the trail again as research for an upcoming book on what is surely the most expensive way to walk the AT. Very nice folks. You can follow “Princess and Rocketman” through their on-line trail journal. Start here: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=916539
I met a man I will call “Contented.” He was a wiry chap about fifty years old, and he had surely never met a dentist. His pack was in tatters but neatly arranged, and he wore a comical mix of old long johns and baggy shorts that looked like pajamas. He struggled with a terrible stutter. But he was so happy. Apparently of limited means, he walked each trail section 10 miles a day… ten miles out, camp, then ten miles back to his car. No expensive trail shuttles. At this rate he would walk the AT twice, once each direction. He needed guidance on finding a shortcut to Hot Springs, and I showed him the directions on my map. He blessed me. He could not afford cool gear, he was not adorned in fine hiking clothing, and he could not walk 20 miles a day. But he was happy. Contented. I will not soon forget this gentle man. He was “at home in his own skin.”
The day had other delays. Part way thru the day my feet began to complain and needed to be tended with “second skin.” I found a store at a road crossing and stopped to buy some extra food. I met a fascinating man, trail name “Einstein” (see my next trail log), and spent an hour with him.
All miles on the AT are not created equal. I encountered a knife-edge ridge of incredible beauty, but it was painfully slow walking along a spine of sharp rocks that shot into the sky, defining the razor peak of Firescald Bald. The wonderful view on top of the mountain was overshadowed by agonizingly slow progress picking my way through rock scrambles. My 19-mile day became 14, and I pulled into the Jerry Cabin shelter at 6:30, all tuckered out. Life is unpredictable on the trail.
I met “Bruin,” a nice 20-year old college student headed to school in NH in the fall. He was a very mature young man from Wiscasset, Maine, one of Cindy’s and my favorite places. Later that evening, “Good Knight” came strolling in at 1 AM, radio blaring. He had walked the perilous knife-edge of Firescald Bald in the dark using only a headlamp. Crazy!
I slept warm and managed to get some rest despite the interruption. Day 2 on the trail was lower in mileage than I would have liked but very high on experiences. That’s why we come out here. You have to go with the flow and enjoy every moment.
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