Tuesday, May 14th

Everybody was happy to rise early this morning, around 7:30.

OK, this whole time thing needs to be explained. I say the time because, to many people, the time at which things occur in life is more than relevant, it is all. When on the trail, time is nothing. It's simply a matter of how much time is left in the day before it gets dark, which means that all most of us do is glance at the sun. I believe that we got up around 7:30 this morning because of the angle of the sun. It was low - about four fingers from the horizon - high enough that it was not direct, low enough that it filtered through the trees, making the dew sparkle and the leaves seem to glow from within. It has been strange for me when in towns. I recently discovered that it wasn't getting dark until 9:00 or so. I had absolutely no idea it was that late -- I'd figured that it was getting dark around 7:00. The whole thing is really bizarre.

Everybody was happy to rise early this morning, around 7:30. I won't even say what I had for breakfast, for everybody should know by now. Out front of the shelter was a piped spring that flowed down the hill in a little rivulet. I put my cooking pot under the pipe to gather the water and pump out of. That makes it easier to pump and gives the silt time to settle out.

Oooh, I should mention something -- my water pump works again. High Tech showed me a trick. If you unscrew the bottom cap, you will find a couple of o-rings. The wider one is the one to remove and clean if your pump is not getting enough pressure. It worked nicely.

Twinkie the Kid and I got out of the shelter last, deciding without speech to hike together. Our goal was (I swear I'm not making this up) Mountain Moma's Kuntry Store and Bunkhouse, 15.8 miles up the trail.

The day was beautiful for hiking. Strike that. The day was beautiful. High 50s, breezy, patches of clouds. The terrain wasn't too bad, just enough to make things interesting. Twinkie the Kid told me that he had never gone as quickly as we had by lunch, which surprised me. I had never gone quite so slowly before. I guess we both learned new paces.

We found something odd just before lunch. There was a plane wreck to the right of the trail, obviously rather old, obviously military. Various shades of olive littered the ground, pieces of steel twisted, bent, honeycombed aluminum crushed. It was oddly un-depressing, maybe because of the time since the actual accident. We later learned that it happened in the early 80s, the pilot of an F4 flying directly into the side of the mountain. It could be heard for miles around.

We had lunch at Cosby Knob Shelter, a nice little shelter right off of the trail. We found Guy, from Salem, and Marty, from Falls Church, eating at the shelter. They were out section hiking. Somehow my name came up while talking to Twinkie the Kid, and Marty commented that there was another Waldo hiking with a laptop. It took me a good bit to convince her that I was that Waldo. Showing her my IBM Thinkpad seemed to help. She said that she'd read of me in the paper, and had taken place on America On-Line's tag-team thru-hike last year. Twinkie and I split a batch of cake mix for lunch -- 1300 calories! It was then I'd discovered that I'd gone and left my cooking pot back at Tri-Corner Knob, where I had been pumping water at the piped spring. We simply used Twinkie's pot. I tried to figure out where I could get a new one, but decided that it was too much thinking after that much cake mix. A new one would come.

Twinkie and I took it easy in the afternoon, taking breaks when we saw fit. As long as we were at Mountain Moma's by 6:00 or so, the grill would still be on and we could get burgers. I called my office in mid-afternoon, sitting on an overlook, watching the spread out beneath. The whole thing looked like a Tim Burton minature, everything perfect. I was told by a woman at the office that it was 5:45. I said just "bye", put on my pack and started to run.

That burger would be mine. Oh, yes, it would be mine. I left Twinkie the Kid in the dust, who decided that he wasn't going to Mountain Moma's that evening. So I bounced and tripped down that mountain, cake mix globbing up and down in my stomach, dodging horse manure and rock piles. I decided, after a good four miles, that it was probably a fair bit after 6:30, when the grill is turned off there, according to The Thru-Hiker's Handbook. I walked the last smidgen to the road, where I had intended to simply hitch the mile and a half to the store. Turning a corner, I slipped and fell, slowly sliding into a split under the weight of my pack. I leaned on my walking stick for support, but the metal just bent in half. Fortunately, it was enough to give me time to change in position. I wasn't hurt, just a little annoyed at the position of my walking stick. Nothing a little tree-bending couldn't fix.

This road was a sad site. Just a little windy dirt thing, lined with poison ivy and litter. I had to walk it to Mountain Moma's, not a single car passing me on the way. Frustrating, to add that much milage to your trip when it doesn't even count.

Mountain Moma's looked like a Phillip-Morris outlet. Signs all over the front lawn screamed various claims about cigarettes, probably all blatent lies. The building was long, wide, one story tall, with a series of huge windows across the front. It looked as if it had once been a school. There was a large cement front porch, on which sat High Tech and Jayhiker, remenants of their meals around them. I went straight in, hoping that I could still buy something. A quiet, friendly woman behind the counter (she somehow didn't seem to be Moma herself), poof of hair in front, told me that I could still get a barbequed chicken sandwich. That, along with some drinks and rental of tent space for the night came to $9.98, $0.02 cents short of all the money that I had, what Barbara had given me back in Newfound Gap. That chicken sandwich sure did taste good.

I tented it to the side of the building, sleeping next to Jayhiker and Wooden Nickel. High Tech paid the extra $5 to stay in the bunkhouse, known as the Hilton. There were two other guys there, Lewis and Clark, who were hiking with three dogs. That's got to be a pain for them. (Them being the guys or the dog, whichever you prefer.) All of us spent the evening making phone calls all over, making arrangements to get to Trail Days.

Trail Days is basically a huge party in Damascus, Virginia, for thru-hikers. It is thrown around this time each year, for the past 9 years, when most of the thru-hikers come through Damascus. As most thru-hikers left several weeks ahead of me, I would have to hitch there. I'd heard rumours of various backpacking companies appearing there, a talent show, free food, music, speeches, slide shows, contests -- I didn't know what was real and what was rumour. But I and the rest did know that we weren't going to miss out. None of us were successful in arranging any sort of a ride, so we retired to continue trying tomorrow.

Today's Song: The Beatles, "Blackbird"
Miles Today: 15.8

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