I had finally made it to US19. If memory served, there was an Ingles nearby. so I put out my thumb to hitch. A few cars passed but then a beat to hell Honda Civic rolled to a stop on the shoulder. I approached the passenger side window and a cute little brunette with dreads and aviator sunglasses greeted me.
“Where you headed smelly man?”
In no time we were on the road. She told me she lived near by and offered the use of her shower before my resupply. This is not a terribly uncommon occurrence on the AT, so I agreed.
We stopped at a small, single story, brick house and made our way inside.
“Shower’s in there. My roommate left a bunch of stuff under the sink so help yourself.”
The shower had real soap, real shampoo, etc. I ventured under the sink just to see. That’s when I found a real gem; a brand new loofa still packaged and everything! Elated, I began the best shower I had had in weeks. As I was about to turn the water off, I heard the bathroom door open.
“Hey, you clean yet?” she asked.
“This is the cleanest I’ve been in a month!” I excitedly replied.
“Cool, can I join you?”
My eyes opened and adjusted to the moonlit tent canopy above. I woke to a cruel reality. No shower. No dreadlocked trail babe. No loofa. My watch read 2am. US19 wouldn’t be for another 2 days. …
Soon I heard what woke me initially. It was the last thing any hiker wants to hear; the sound of their friend’s projectile vomit hitting the forest floor.
I smelled what seemed to be three day old, spilled milk and wondered if my tent had become a casualty to my neighbors sickness. Upon further investigation I realized it was just my armpits. Relieved, I rolled over and went back to sleep. It’s a shame you can’t resume dreams.
Norovirus is a big deal out here. It runs rampant on the AT every year. Privies, shelters and limited access to soap provide the perfect environment for these bugs to spread. Hikers are friendly people and all the handshaking, food sharing and “safety meetings”, spell disaster for many a stomach.
I drag myself out of bed around 7am and walked over to the fire pit. Turtle Goat told me to watch my step and sure enough, there was gastrointestinal minefield near his hammock. He was pale and weak. Firebird sat on a log with her head in her hands speaking to no one in particular. “It’s just….I NEED those calories. I cooked that meal, I dehydrated it, I mailed it all the way from Texas!”
“Now it’s ant food.” OSHA replied.
Firebird looked like she was on the edge of tears. So not one, but two sick friends now. The rest of us were worried and kept our distance. Firebird and Turtle Goat shared a beer yesterday but I shared some wine with them as well. I felt fine though.
Soon enough the culprit was identified. Neither had been treating their water in over a week. I cannot believe the amount of hikers who are already getting lazy with their water. Probably one in five are doing this and we’re not even in Virginia yet.
Thankfully, there was a hostel .5W so they decided to head there and zero. Ladybug, Lt. Safety and I decided to make for the Barn some seventeen miles away.
The Barn is one of the largest shelters on the AT, and a known party spot. As you might guess, it’s a huge converted barn. I had been there before and I was looking forward to seeing a familiar place again.
When I arrived, some twenty thru-hikers were there, along with “Gentle Ben” -a former thru hiker. Ben gave us pizza and beer trail magic the day before. He lost all of his food to a bear on Max Patch during his hike. Now he does trail magic to repay the kindness of a stranger. This stranger fully resupplied him for free at a gap the next day.
The shelter was hopping. Every conceivable hiker-trash dinner concoction imaginable was being prepared. I saw Knorr Side filled tortillas with peanut butter, pop-tart sandwiches with peanut butter and Fritos, an entire pack of Oreos, etc. I had hiked out an entire pound of sharp cheddar. My dinner was salmon and cheddar in a tortilla, with a Snickers, and a blackberry turnover. Have I mentioned that I’ve lost thirteen pounds out here?
I slept in the loft with fifteen others, and signed the shelter log before bed. Nearly every shelter has a log (notebook) in it, that people sign and leave messages in. I left a note for Firebird and Turtle Goat, wishing them a fast recovery. Hopefully they’d be there to read it within a couple of days.
On a side note, Joe (The Canadian) still writes to Black Sheep to encourage him along the trail. He draws a sheep and writes “Keep Going!” Joe’s trail name is now Lumberjack, and I’ve not seen him since Franklin. Black Sheep should be a few days behind me.
I see Flo, Pretzel, and Hatchet in the logs too. They’re about three days ahead of me now. Flo simply draws hearts, Pretzel leaves some wisdom, and Hatchet is always telling one of them to catch up.
What’s really fun is catching up to people you’ve read entries from, before meeting them in person. It adds a whole new level to the instant camaraderie.
Tomorrow I’ll write about the amazing Roan Mountain Highlands, and share some pictures.
Take the best of care my friends.