The night finally ended, Sven and I waking around 9. It was in the 30s, and we went about making breakfast with gloved hands and fleece jackets on. I was nearly out of oatmeal, so I just boiled up my granola. It turned out pretty darn well. Sven made oatmeal, too, but he added in a packet of a vanilla breakfast shake for more calories. It seems we're both losing weight. Neither Sven nor I can afford to lose much. Sven is lean -- I'm just plain skinny.
Florida Dave (Dave Parker) and Botany Boy (Tom Velardi) came into camp as Sven and I were packing up. They'd tented it back in Betty Creek Gap ("Yeah, we slept down in Betty Ford Clinic Gap," said Botany Boy, "detoxing from Ibuprofen.") and hiked here to make breakfast.
e talked to them as they made breakfast, and we all hiked most of the 6 miles to Old 64 together. The miles really fly when you're talking to people, I've found. It's nice to have found a few others that hike at the same speed that I do. Dave, I learned, just got back from teaching English in Japan for several months. Tom is also a teacher, but here in the US. Tom is true to his trail name, Botany Boy, knowing the specifics on every plant we see. Both are from Florida, and planned this trip together for some time. Tom has spent a lot of time taking part in a lot of outdoor activities, and seems quite knowledgeable on the areas we discuss.
Tom is a quick-witted man, 34, a bearded Italian, laughing easily and willing to get quite silly. Dave has a more reserved sense of humor, often managing to toss in one- to two-word statements that leave everybody laughing hysterically. Both grin much of the time, obviously enjoying themselves. They have their routines, and it is obvious that they have been friends for some time.
We hit Old 64 around noon, managing to get a ride with a friendly hunter. We sat in the back of his pickup truck all the way to Franklin. He drove us right to the motel, Henry's. It's not much to look at, but it's cheap. $15 for one person, $20 for two. The old woman that runs this place lays down the rules immediately, playing the role of the disapproving but permissive grandmother. Underneath the hard shell she seems to be rather nice. As we were signing in we saw that Purple Pirate, Blaze Blind, The Accident Waiting to Happen, Turtle, and two guys were already there. They'd hopped off of the trail early, anxious to get to Franklin for a break. We heard that The Accident Waiting to Happen had fallen off of yet another cliff, losing her backpack in the process. She'd gone back to the park to search for it.
Botany Boy, Florida Dave, Sven and I went to B&D's, a small restaurant across the street. We all ordered huge amounts of food. They have the biggest cheeseburgers I've ever seen for $4, as well as some mighty good peach cobbler. We were all pretty well stuffed by the time we left. We all went across the street and sat on the porch, in the sun, in front of our rooms. The Brothers pulled up in the back of a pickup soon after, followed by Trail Snail, The Accident Waiting to Happen, and Free Spirit. It seems that thru-hikers had filled up this motel. A south-bounder, "Squeeks", even checked in. He had started hiking back at Mount Katahdin last August.
Everybody was in awe of this guy. He was fairly quiet, soon retiring to his room. The rest of us sat outside and talked until dark, Sven breaking off to go to a doctor. He returned in a police car. It seems that the hospital told him that he shouldn't do anymore hiking. He laughed, got some medication, and went to the police station to ask for a lift. They gave him a ride back to the motel.
We trekked down to Pizza Hut, about 2 miles up the road, where we spent an hour and a half polishing off four Supreme pizzas. I managed only a salad, iced tea, and a single slice. Younger Brother grabbed a twelve- pack of beer on the way back. I went back to the room that I was splitting with Sven and spent the remainder of the evening typing up what you read right here.
One of the guys who spent the evening at Henry's Motel the night that I did, Matt Lieberman, is hiking the trail in an unusual way. His goal is to raise $10,000 over the course of his hike for the American Cancer Society, hoping to make cancer "take a hike".
If you would like to support his hike, please send your tax-deductable donation to:
Take a Hike
256 Summit House
West Chester, PA 19382
I posed the following question to a few hikers around me: "If you could say just one thing to represent thru-hiking to the lovely folk out on the 'net, what would be it be?"
Younger Brother: "I came on this trip to explore my spirit and to reach a symbolic closure for this phase of my life. Between my moments of solitude I have found a large enough sampling of people to be faced with my past, present, and the myriad possibilities for m future. Hiking is something I will come back to again and again."
Botany Boy: "Pain. Oh, yeah, and it makes me want to listen to that Swedish super-hit group, Abba."
Florida Dave "It's not just an adventure, it's a job."
As I sit on this yellow bed in this drafty motel room, legs crossed, dirty feet pointed skyward and laptop before me, I can't help but ponder the remainder of this trip and the success level of my web site.
If you folks are enjoying what I write here, please tell a friend about it, contact your local paper, call your news station, let some funky hip web 'zine know about it.
As I get my act together, the plants begin to bloom, and I begin to get better at this, I hope to give this more of an ecological bent an beef things up a little. The prospect of writing something totally new and totally entertaining every day for the next five months scares me. Ideas are thoroughly appreciated.
For those that live near the trail, as a good chunk of the U.S. population does, I encourage joining me as I hike northward. Whether you hike for just a day, or maybe for a whole month, I'd love to find that some of you folks are hitting the trails. Just be sure to pack your trash out and pick up a little extra as you go. Try contacting the Appalachian Trail Conference (304-535-6331) to find out about doing local trail maintenance work. It's a lot of work (admittedly, I've never volunteered, though I will now!), but a lot of fun.
I'd like to say 'Hi' to all of my friends out there, those reading from school, from Mudhouse, from the library, or from wherever they are. Knowing you're reading is what's keeping me going.
'Hi' to Noah, Patrick, the LEC masses, the YWW folk, the C-Ville Mallfellows 151, the espresso-brethren barista brothers, the Westernites, mah gal (?) Shannon, Scouts of Troop 7, City Council Members, WTJU-fellows (good luck on the Folk Marathon!), all you great folks at Comet.Net, my beautiful, talented, friendly and generous sponsors, all you C-Ville musicians, from BN to Dave to Tim to Shannon, and everybody else that I dun fergitted. I miss all of you, but that is all of the more incentive to walk back home. Save any pertinent issues of C-Ville Weekly for me. Save a grande fresh-squeezed OJ for me. For here - put it on my tab.
It's after 1:00 in the morning. Tomorrow I've got to pick up mail at the post office, write a few letters, do my laundry, buy some food, get some more Ibuprofen, pick up some more fuel, and then get around to hiking. Living simply for 6 months sure does take a lot of work. Thanks for checking out my web site. Hope you enjoy upcoming entries.