AT Blog #3: Raindow Monkeys / Green Dogs / Talladega

725 miles complete. That’s 1/3 of the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. I’m in Daleville, Virginia and feeling on top of the world (yet surprisingly tired) for making it this far. That’s the equivalent of walking the interstate from Birmingham, Alabama to Milwaukee, Minnesota.

Let’s do a people update to give you an idea of the type of people that are rediculous enough to attempt to walk 2,175 miles:

Captain Slick: Marine from Philly… Form a stereotype of that in your mind… and just like that, you know him. Short, stalky, marine haircut, and shaves daily (that’s weird out here). Epic quote: “3 things would put me off this trail: injury, death in the family, and World War 3… One of those, I would thoroughly enjoy…”

Rainbow Monkey: Hipster type kid from Maine; tall enough to have a basketball scholarship and skinny as a keyhole; can climb any tree… ANY tree. He starts hanging our bear bags for us by climbing 40 feet up a tree and tying them onto a branch. Real team player… or maybe he is just practicing leaving us behind in the case of a bear attack.

Cheeseburger: Straight off the boat from Germany. He claims that he has acquired all his knowledge of the English language from the film “Pulp Fiction.” We are listening to music one day and he asks if he can use his iPod to show his favorite band… Ramstein.

Freeman: Very gay and his favorite band is the Spice Girls… and I will put money down that you or anyone you know don’t know as much as he does about trees, plants, insects, flowers, stars, weather, wildlife, and the outdoors in general. We ask him a minimum of a 47 questions per day.

Chicken Catcher: Cool cat from Maine. Hikes with us for a few weeks and has to go home to take care of some things. We will miss you man.

Sweet Tea: Good ole boy from central Georgia. We talk about bass fishing, country music, and SEC football. Makes me a little homesick.

Little Foot: Cutest thing to ever hit the trail. We lose her the day before Cinco De Mayo because of a torn muscle. She is enough of a trooper to hike the extra 3 miles just to make it to our celebration. We hear through the grapevine that she luckily doesn’t have to have surgery after making her way back home.

Kricket: A friend of mine from Atlanta that I meet well before starting the trail. We both decide to hike the trail and opt to start at different times to hike our own hike. He recently catches up with me one day on the trail; crazy seeing him when I had no idea if and when this might happen. Gets his name for his hiking speed and bouncing down the trail like a cricket.

Leaf: Hippy type girl from Maryland that knows far too much about edible plants. While taking breaks, we have salads made of many various green leaves thanks to her. Not going to recommend this unless you do some research…. One day she says “Try this!” so I do. She then says “That’s a hemlock, one of the most poisons plants in the United States, but this should be the type that’s ok.”

Michigan: This is a great story… Purposely gets fired in order to collect unemployment to be able to hike the trail… then go back to work (yeah right, then he is going home to be a full time recreational golfer). God Bless America.  He treats all of us to a hotel room one night in town when the check from the great state of Michigan rolls in.

Green Dog: Another southern boy that graduated from Mississippi State and hit the trail. He advises me to keep up my adventures and journeys until I am a minimum of 30 years old. Blame these on Green Dog…

Skipper: Obtains her name for being in the Coast Guard (some sort of boat lingo) and also for her ability to skip sections of trail by hitchhiking. It’s quite convenient to be friends with a pro hitcher when trying to get a lift into town.

Nobody: Happens to own a dive bar in New Orleans that I stop by every time I’m there; Finnegans Pub. This is a complete coincidence. Some of you might know it as the bar with board games… especially Connect 4.

Kentucky: Older guy from… well you guessed it. Bald on top, paired with a braided ponytail in the back, which is complimented by a fumanchu up front. Previous job: bouncer for a biker bar. Current place of employment: juvenile correction facility. Bonefide badass.

RockN’Roll: Kindergarten teacher from Louisville, KY. He can’t wait to get back to teaching the youngins’. I think it’s a great fit due to him being a big kid at heart. You know that excuse of falling asleep while driving because everyone else in the car is asleep? He uses that same excuse in his defense of napping during naptime.

Strider: My boy from Cleveland, OH. The first day he ever hikes in his life is his first day on the Appalachian Trail… He’s still here after 725 miles.

So now some other aspects of the AT…

Groups:

Groups are an interesting thing out here. This is not something that everyone takes part in. I enjoy being part of a good group in order to get to know people on a more personal level over a longer period of time. It beats the whole “what’s your name, where ya from, why ya out here” day to day, verbal nonsense.

My first group is coined “The Chaingang.” It was Me, Peanut, Hooter, Red Wing, and Lil Dipper. I hike with them every day for a full month.

Then I switched to “The Ratpack.” Me, Strider, RockN’Roll, Rainbow Monkey, and Chiken Catcher.

Now we’ve turned into the “Poundtown Crew” by adding Michigan, Kricket, Skipper, and Green Dog. The group aspect is really awesome because you can get to know some really top notch people out here. It’s all what you make it.

Trail Towns:

These are the towns you come across and resupply on the AT: followed by my humble interpretation.

Hiawasse, GA: Redneck.

Franklin, NC: More redneck, home of THE Ron Haven (trail angel).

Gatlinburg, TN: The Panama City Beach of the mountains… ridiculous is an understatement.

Hot Springs, NC: Descent bridge to sleep under in downtown.

Erwin, TN: We become bona fied professional homeless people by spotting our second bridge to sleep under.

Hampton, TN: Made it into town to catch the Talladega race… We’re still in the South people; have to fit in somehow to meet the locals.

Damascus, VA: They are all about AT hikers here, nice to feel so welcome somewhere.

Troutdale, VA: Home of  the infamous Jerry & Susanna’s Kitchen… Susanna said “Some people say hikers smell bad… I say they smell like MONEY!!!”

Marion, VA: Welcome to southern Virginia… I witness a deer break into a downtown shop via the front window that sports two confederate flags flying high above… and you thought Mississippi was weird.

Bland, VA: Pretty much lives up to the name…

Pearisburg, VA: Official birthplace of my new crew… “Poundtown.”

Newport, VA: Magical place. As I approached the road crossing going into town, a lady pops her head out of her 1989 minivan asking if I am “T Funk?” I said “yes ma’am!” and she says “hop on in!” It would be funny if I ended the story there… She informs me that she saw my friends hitchhiking and took them to Blacksburg, VA (home of Virginia Tech) because it was a big weekend there. Get there to find that Strider has talked a bartender into a free a shower for all of us at her place. I love trail magic.

Daleville, VA: sitting here typing a blog for y’all.

Trail Names: People are probably confused about this one… “T-Funk?” Here’s how it goes:

#1 You must be given your trail name.

#2 You have the right to deny two names but must take the third.

#3 You must refer to yourself by your trail name at all times, on and off the AT, during your AT hike.

Misc:

– One day, as I am hiking by myself, I’m nearly to top of a mountain when I see a massive pair of bull horns just beyond the top. I have no clue what’s going on so I begin army crawling to top due to fear of this thing eating me… and possibly due to a degree of dehydration. I then realize it’s an entire field of longhorns at the top. Not quite what I expect on the Appalachian Trail. The curious calves begin following me after I pass them on the trail.

– T-Funk’s lessons on how to watch the Talladega race while backpacking the AT: Get in town, get a cheap motel room, open your window, place the chairs outside, angle the TV to the window, crack your Budweiser, and enjoy the race.

– I see wild ponies while in the Grayson Highlands… Ponies: 10 times more impressive when in the wild.

– Captain Slick decides to pick up a case of beer for the group in Troutdale, VA. I ask a local where we could legally take our group and enjoy these cold beers… He replies, “There ain’t no law here boy.” He was right… We end up getting the majority of the town (all 19 of them) to come hang out downtown beside the goat… because all downtown turns out to be is a goat tied up to a stop sign.

– Cinco De Mayo comes around… We here in Poudtown take our holiday of Mexican Independence very seriously. We pack 15 sombreros (and an equivalent amount of supplies for margaritas) into the woods and end up having 21 thru hikers stay to camp at our celebration. God bless Mexico, their great holiday, and their magnificent cocktails.

– Spotted my first bear… I gave him a hug.

– There’s nothing like waking up on a night that it has rained, it’s freezing outside, and there is a layer of ice engulfing the top of your sleeping bag… This is the truly the life of luxury.

Well ladies and gentleman, I hope this has been entertaining and somewhat educational… (I doubt it). I would love to receive and answer any questions possible. I will attempt a FAQ section in my next blog so comment/email/telegraph me your questions about this journey I’m on. As always, miss y’all and look forward to sharing some stories in person if and when I make it all the way to Maine.

Create your own adventures…

T Funk.

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