I awoke to a pleasantly warm morning, woken by the bright sunlight outside. I put on my shorts and stepped outside, hoping to wash in a nearby stream. Moving from my tent to the woods was like Dorothy leaving her black and white house and entering Technicolor Oz. (I caught myself looking for ruby slippers under my tent.) The sun had just risen, so the dew still sparkled in the cusp of fallen leaves, the fog still floated at the clearing edges, the leaves glowed green, the stream burbled happily. The spiders must have been busy that morning, as intricate webs caught the sun throughout the forest, connecting flowers by delicate strands, leaves like marionette strings. The morning made up for the previous evening's frustrations, the rain, the heat, the unfriendly motorists. It was my favourite morning on the trail so far.
I could not have a more beautiful home than this.
A number of northbound thru-hikers passed me, exchanging few words through the fragile morning air. I took my time to make breakfast and pack up. I tried to pump some water for my .2 mile walk to the road, and potentially long wait, but my Pur Hiker had clogged after just five gallons, and I didn't care to clean it just then.
While walking up the entrance ramp to the highway, hoping to hitch hike into Hot Springs, I came across another thru-hiker. He felt that he'd have better luck hitching on the ramp than on the interstate, and I agreed. We sat in silence for several minutes, few cars passing us. Before long, he stood, declaring that he was tired of waiting, and that he would walk back to Mountain Moma's in hopes of getting a ride there. He did so.
Before long he returned, grin plastered across his face, taking shotgun in a pickup truck. The driver, I later found out, was one George Queen, owner of a nearby horse stable. He looked vaguely like a friend of mine who worked at WWWV in Charlottesville. He looked in his mid- to late-40s, the age when it becomes awkward to be single. He described the flora and fauna that we passed as we drove northward, and asked us of our respective hikes. The other hiker got off after we had been driving but a few minutes. George asked me where I was going, and so I told him -- Hot Springs. He looked a little surprised, as Hot Springs was over 40 miles away from where we were at the time, but said he'd be happy to take me. We stopped for gas and continued north. He told me of his hitching experiences in college, both of picking up hikers and being picked up. I, in exchange, told him of mine and of my hiking experiences. I explained the odd manner of my hike, laptop and all, which interested him. His idea was to write Apple or Microsoft or some such large computer company, and offer them a deal -- they put me through college and I'll work for them for a few years. I like the idea of it, but it's just too obnoxious -- even for me.
Upon arriving in downtown Hot Springs (As opposed to what? Uptown?), I had expected to hop out and be on my way. Instead he offered to take me to lunch. We went to the Trails Cafe, now a favourite of mine, where I enjoyed a burger and yet another peanut butter and chocolate milkshake. The things are addictive. He left after eating and a lot of - but not enough - "thank you"s from me. Not knowing where else to go, I ambled back to Wingfoot's house. There he was, sitting on his front porch, same as always, talking to a hiker, Manfree.
We sat around and talked for the rest of the day. Wingfoot and I agreed to a deal -- I could stay with him, as many hikers do, if I would teach him about the Internet and how the Center for Appalachian Trail Studies (CATS) could become a part of it. It seemed like a great deal to me, as I would, and do, happily sit and talk about such things anyhow. We went out to dinner at the Smoky Mountain Diner, another local burger joint, got out a copy of Edward Scissorhands from Ramsey's Deli (owned by the mayor, Mr. Ramsey) and returned to the Center. Wingfoot and I spent the evening laying the design groundwork for a CATS Internet site. We felt badly for Manfree, as he showed no interest in the Internet or our discussion, but my time there was limited, and we had work to do. We stopped around 1:00 AM and started the movie. High Tech came in just after the movie started, watching the movie with us.
I'd forgotten what an amazing movie Edward Scissorhands is. That went until ridiculously early in the morning, so we went to sleep as soon as that was done. I slept on a cot in the back room, which was comfy as a thru-hiker could ask for, and slightly thicker than my Therma-Rest. Not bad, for a day's work.
"That stench has got to add some weight." - Snail-No-More, on my socks.
I was going to cut off my page updates at Tuesday the 21st, but it seemed like such a horribly depressing way to leave everybody hanging. It's 3:02 in the morning, early Saturday the 25th. I won't have time this evening to add anymore page updates, as I still need to write a little piece on hitch hiking and on Twinkie the Kid, as well as copy my photos from my camera to my laptop. I'll update the rest when I can -- I need to the hit the trail and get to Damascus. I should be there around the 8th or so. See people there?