AT Blog #1: Funky Flames / Women Advice / Hitchhiking

So we’ve walked 164 miles. We’ve hiked in sun, rain, 50 mph winds, sleet, snow, lightning, and hail. We’ve summited 18 mountains. We’ve slept In the snow with temperatures as low as 19 degrees. I started solo… alone. I say “we” because I am meeting so many interesting, amazing, and weird people who share the same goal and passion as I do… walking from Georgia to Maine.

I’ll start off this maiden voyage blog with my favorite part of this shindig up to this point: The People.

 The first person I meet on the trail is Boo Boo from Chicago. He is known for not having enough of the essential gear and having too much of the completely unnecessary “gear.” Most people use a 15 degree sleeping bag (allows you to sleep comfortably in temperatures down to 15 degrees); he has a 40 degree bag. One day, he pulls a full bottle of Tums out of his pack and proceeds to ask: “What are these and do I need them?” Absolute treat.

Next I meet G-Hippie from New York City. He is on top of Springer Mountain (a pretty sacred place for thru hikers) and he is on his phone making phone calls and trying to send emails. Really gives you that “out in the wilderness” feeling. When we’re hiking, he’s either telling a crazy story or singing out loud until he thinks of an even crazier story.

Then I meet Gourmet from Louisiana. True ragin’ Cajun chef. When dinner time comes, we gather around and watch him like it’s a food network show.

Next I am graced by meeting Wood Hippy. Absolute beast of an older guy. He knows the way of the forest and is a walking book of one-liners. He’s the only one of my good friends so far that has had to quit the trail. We’ll miss him out here.

I’ve hiked with AD from Maryland for a while. His name stands for “Asian with Dreads.” Top notch guitar player (yes, he carries a mini acoustic guitar on his back) that plays some killer old delta blues.

I have hiked with the Hyenas for a while. They consist of three girls on spring break from Tulsa. Their group name is derived from the fact that whether they are hiking or camping they would giggle non-stop, 24/7, through the day, into the night.

I meet Caveman along the way. Good ol’ boy from North Georgia. He got married 2 weeks before he started the trail. His new wife came to visit him for the last time near the NC border. I can’t imagine being in that situation, but he is definitely determined to make it to Maine.

Then we meet the man, the myth, the legend… Cecil. Old guy that’s thru hiking barefoot… no lie. He gave us quotes such as “Women… Can’t live with em’, can’t kill em’ and eat em’.” and “I was stoned from 1969 to 1981… I didn’t GET stoned back then; I was WAS stoned.” I hope he makes it barefoot.

As for my group right now; it’s Hooter, Peanut, Little Dipper, and Red Wing.

Hooter is from Tampa and is a golf course manager. He loves Toby Keith and lives for the great American restaurant he is named after.

Peanut goes to University of Florida and is a big gator-nation guy. He has talked UF into giving him school credit for thru hiking the trail. Now he just needs to figure out to get it labeled as a math credit. We tried to give him the trail name “Tripod” due to his love of photography… but he figures that “Tripod” could be perceived the wrong way.

Little Dipper & Red Wing are our two girls from London. We spend a lot of time doing bad British accents and making sure they are enjoying their ample amount of freedom each and every day.

Other great things along the trail:

Trail Angels & Trail Magic: trail angels are kind souls that provide trail magic for thru hikers.

The Baptists have really stepped it up. Twice we have arrived at random road crossings where church groups have thrown hot dogs, hamburgers, and sweet tea in our face… not literally… actually handed them to us gently.

We got the opportunity to meet two famous trail angles: Ms. Janet and Ron Haven.

Ms. Janet is pretty much the mom of the Appalachian Trail. She’s famous for talking people into not giving up and staying on the trail. I’m determined to make it and not disappoint Ms. Janet.

Ron Haven owns three motels in Franklin, NC and all he does (as far as I know) is pick up thru hikers and take them wherever they need to go… at any time… for free… in his personal short school bus. Great American.

Hitch Hiking: I now live for this. We use the girls to throw the thumbs up while us guys wait behind the bushes for the cars to take the bait. 9 times out of 10 we hop in the back of a pickup truck sporting a confederate car tag on the front and a National Rifle Association sticker on the back. Real culture shock for the Brits. Priceless to watch them riding in a bucket seat, 3 deep, in the front.

Random Stories:

– Day before I leave, I’m at REI in Atlanta gathering up some last-minute gear… My car gets broken into, laptop and iPod are stolen… At least I don’t need my laptop for 6 months…

– St Paddy’s Day rolls around. These three kids on spring break have a fifth of Jim Beam, I convince them that I’m Irish (easy, red beard) and we proceed to celebrate.

– Funky Flames. Our campfire is blessed with them one faithful night. Throw the multi-colored tablets into the fire and it will change colors. It’s the small things out here people.

–  On the first night of rain, I realize that I had forgotten to treat my tent to be waterproof. You would think that this would be one of the most important steps at the tent factory. That night it rains as bad in my tent as it does outside. Luckily, I have a small amount of scotch ready for such a dire emergency.

– One day while hitching, the guy that picks us up manages to slam his minivan trunk door on Hooter’s head. His worst injury on the trail so far.

– All five of us (3 guys, 2 girls) find ourselves eating lunch in a park’s single public men’s restroom to stay warm and get out of the hail. Yes, hail, not rain. My luck strikes again to get the only seat in the room… the toilet.

– My buddy Fizzy came to hike with us for couple days. One night, he manages to confuse his water bottle with my stove fuel bottle. I imagine this stuff is equivalent to the taste of gasoline. Regular 87 gasoline. He quickly and violently spews it onto the campfire making one hell of a visual display. Sorry for the confusion Fizz…

– We make it out to the local pub one night in Franklin, NC… “JD’s : Where Friends Meet.” I was approached by what seems to be the oldest lady in the bar with a request to dance… So the down booties hit the honkey-tonk dance floor… I think I nearly accidentally dislocated her fragile shoulder when I spun her.


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