(Hi all! If you look on the map you will see Franklin, NC on the top in the center. That is where Ryan is as he writes everything below. I am pretty impressed with my little brother! Over 100 miles walked in a week 🙂 ~Kelly)
Day 8- May 1, 2016
Flo and I were closing in on the end of a 13 mile day with roughly three more miles to go. We stopped into a shelter near the Winding Staircase. The shelter was tiny and neither of us are fans of them anyway. We scoped out the limited tent space and decided we would pitch right next to each other making the most of the only pad with decent drainage.
Weather was rolling in fast and we were at the base of an enormous hill. A car zoomed past less than a quarter mile away and that sealed the idea to me that this was a really bad place to spend the night. We called Gooder Grove Hostel and they agreed to pick us up at the road below.
Sleeping close to roads is a fantastic way to add needless, drunken, redneck drama to any outdoor adventure. It’s just not worth it.
“Blueman”, a 57 year old retired hiker who had been leapfrogging us the past few days, joined us. Collin, aka “Zen”, picked us up despite the downpour and we piled into his small Kia. Blue, Flo and I in the back and Zen and “Glen” in the front.
Behind the head rest of the seat in front of me sat some kind of wasp desperately drying himself from the rain.
“Yeah man, I get it.” I thought to myself.
When we came to a red light, I had to scoot him out the window. I felt a little bad. The poor guy had just gotten dry. Alas, a Kia is no place for a wasp.
The first night at Gooder was rough. A full house. Zen is a really nice guy but too kind for business and too much of a space cadet to run it effectively anyway.
Flo and Blueman are northerners and unaccustomed to places like Franklin, NC which completely shutdown on Sundays. We all wanted beer and burgers but they were not to be had. We ordered pizza instead.
Zen runs the hostel out of his home with a few rooms converted into bunk spaces. He watched Kung Fu movies till 12:00am with the surround sound blasting. At this point on the trail we’re already on “hiker time”. Midnight is 8pm or so for us now. Zen never did a thru hike and that is as much as I’m going to say about that.
Shortly before bed I met back up with Pretzel and Hatchet, two hikers I’ve not seen since my second night out.
Day 9-May 2,2016
Flo and I were very intent on taking a “zero day” in town. Blueman shuttled out in the early AM. I woke up feeling guilty for taking a day off so soon and started to get a little stir crazy.
Pretzel, Hatchet, Flo and I headed out to the Kountry Kitchen for breakfast. The coffee was decent, the food was great and the roof construction going on overhead had a surprising similarity to the ill-timed movie viewing the night before. For a quiet town, no one has any problem at all with making a lot of noise.
I stopped into Outdoor 76 for provisions when I spotted Canadian walking by despite the fact that we calculated he should be about 50 miles ahead of us. Joe’s a big dude, (Built, not fat) with a broad smile and a magnetic kindness. We shared a handshake and a most burly man hug before going back to our supply procurement.
Pack covers seemed to be the item of the day. (At this point in my hiking experience, I know how utterly futile they are.) I blew both of my 64oz. Sawyer bags in a week and the nicer, folding water bags (Platypus) do not thread with the new Sawyer filters. I went with the Aquamira drops instead. We’ll see how that goes.
Over breakfast we found out that Hatchet is an extremely successful, young chef. We stopped at a farmer’s market and loaded up on items for dinner. I also got 3 avocados which I’ve been craving for days!
I did a fast resupply at Ingles and joined everyone for drinks at Outdoor 76. You read that correctly. The outfitter has a full bar in the back with seven beers on tap!
Interestingly enough, being on the trail has turned us all into light weights. Two IPA’s and we were buzzing quite well.
It started to rain again and the next thing I know, Flo’s got her long pants off and Pretzel and Hatchet are shirtless. They dart out the door for a mid-afternoon sprint. I manned my pint and continued the conversation on personal growth with a nearby couple. I still don’t know their names but we’re the only thirty year olds on the trail as far as I can tell.
Our wet companions returned to join us for darts. I decided that I am too old to go bar hopping so I walked home. Black Sheep met me on the porch. His back issue the other day was minor.
“The Canadians”–two girls from Toronto who are doing a 300 mile section, were there, too. Great girls with a great sense of humor to boot. I’ve yet to meet a girl on this trip who is actually single, but that’s a story for another time.
Hatchet and the others rolled in and he proceeded to cook the best burger I’ve had in my life! Grilled, garlic green beans and grilled zucchini with a mustard seed topping completed the menu.
Hatchet cooked dinner for at least a dozen. We ate like kings!
Another full night at Gooder. Only this time everyone’s in bed with food comas. Young and old, thru hiker, section hiker and a retired couple from Florida on vacation. It was quite the party. Today was a great day!
What scared me most about the AT before I started was resupply and the logistics therein. What scares me now is being alone on the trail. I know I need some solitude though and I need to get past this fear.
It’s only the first hundred miles and already I’ve had emotion come out of nowhere and slap me upside the head. Walking from sunup to sundown with limited distraction means you have to actually sort through those things in the back of your mind. Honestly, that is the main reason I am out here.
In coming out of a nearly nine year relationship, I’ve largely forgotten how to enjoy my own company. There are a myriad of things I need to address within myself before I can go down that path again. It’s not a bad thing or a sad thing. It is an exactly, natural thing. I’m just happy to be aware of at least a portion of the things I need to work on.
I had some truly excellent conversations today. The kind of interactions that really are the essence of what I want out of this adventure. Being a thru hiker is like being a part of a secret club. A club where people are a lot more open and a lot more honest because on some level, we all get each other.
“I’m kind of a weird guy.” I told Flo when I met her.
“We’re walking to Maine, Dirty Girl. We’re all pretty, fucking weird out here.”
Maybe that’s why friendships happen so fast out here.
Flo will be off the trail next weekend with her boyfriend, and honestly, I need to start hiking on my own hike again. A big part of that needs to be running solo for a while. If I keep staying in town like this, I’ll be too broke and too slow to make it to Maine.
The first rainstorm in a new tent, the first hitch-hike, hiking solo; these are all the same challenges. These are all baby steps outside of the comfort zone, which must be taken to achieve growth.
That’s it for this late night musing. Nearly 3am and Zero 7 is finally lulling me to sleep.