Saturday, April 25, 2009

I Eat Hills For Breakfast...And Lunch.

-Erwin, TN-

And like that, we're at mile 340. Cha-chow!

The first day out of Hot Springs was light - only 11 miles to the first shelter. We enjoyed good fire, good whiskey, and a meteor shower that morning. I had caught wind from previous thru-hikers Johnny Thunder, Chaco Taco, and others that the 200+ miles out of Hot Springs was some of the best hiking there is on the trail. It was time to take it slow, enjoy the weather (for once), and appreciate the hike rather than pulling out long miles.

Sadly, that didn't last long.

We cleared 70 miles in four days, but don't think I didn't appreciate the good views. The sun cooked the clouds that had been following us since day one and we've been basking in sunshine since we left Hot Springs. Hiking in shorts has been fantastic and has given me optimal time to show off my fancy white knee brace. (For those Moby Dick fans out there, Ahab actually had a leg made of a sperm whale's jaw bone, making my white knee brace all the more accurate to my character. Yes, I am that good. And yes, I am that much of a nerd.)

So with good weather came the desire to enjoy it and we did so with long days, and as a result, long miles. Some new blisters popped up (ba-dum ting!) but nothing major. Knee held up with all the ups and downs, and I've actually though of weening myself off of Vitamin I in the coming weeks (gasp!). But not yet (whew).

While we flew through the past 70 miles, some awesome things happened. The best of which came when we met Hercules and Fall.

After leaving Hot Springs, Rainman and I marvelled at the fact that we haven't killed each other yet. We have our daily arguments and marriage-like scuffles everyday, but no blood has been shed (which, if there was, would be mine). Rather than push our friendship to the brink, we thought it'd be best to split up for the day and hike by ourselves and just meet at a landmark up the line. So, that first morning, he left a bit earlier than I did and I enjoyed rocking out down the trail while I belted "Simple Man" at the top of my lungs.

I round the bend at the bottom of the hill and see Rainman sitting atop his pack reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (which I recommended to him but now regret doing so - Rainman has now taken on an ability to perry and manipulate arguments with a Phadreus-like grace, making it impossible to reason with him. For example, I ask him repeatedly to move over in the tent so that he does not roll into me during the night. Simple request. Five minutes later, he's telling me that my perspective or interpretation of my tent space is just as true as his perspective of the space, so therefore my claim of encroachment is simply my interpretation and understanding of the situation, which is just as viable as his own opposite claim. Therefore, we are both right and wrong at the same time, so I have no reason to complain. Fuck you Phadreus.)

Anyways, Rainman points me to a sign telling us about some Trail Magic down the road. I'm expecting the usual burgers and beers routine in exchange for good stories, but we walk up to the most gorgeous country house I've ever seen with Hercules waiting at the door. "Welcome home," he tells us and welcomes us inside where he sits us down at the dining room table, hands me a drink menu (I had Golden Delicious Apple Cider) with the weather on the back. I ask my friends if this is for real and then just chuckle and shake there heads, silently telling my to just wait for what's next.

What came next was a Belgian Waffle with a muffin quiche, a bowl of Beef Stew, and a Brownie Sundae with fudge, nuts, and a cherry on top. All homemade and all incredibly delcious. All I could do was laugh out loud at this scene that was both ridiculously absurd and incredbily generous. They made their pitch for Christ and finding your inner truths along the trail (I kept my Judaism to myself at this point and instead told them that my father was an ordained minister for the UCC. That's what earned me a second waffle. Thanks Pops.) and sent us on our way with full stomachs. The only bad part was carrying all that extra weight to the next shelter.

With good terrain, good weather, and good legs, we got put on our packs and hauled 17 miles two days ago and 20 miles yesterday, bringing us into town to a nice hostel and catching us up with a good friend of ours. Now, we're settling our stomachs before all-you-can-eat pizza (the second-best five words a hiker can hear, right behind all-you-can-eat chinese) and then we'll relax the rest of the day. Hike out a bit tonight and then plan our next coming week - sounds pretty good if you ask me.

Truly, this trip has been remarkable thus far. Never have I gotten lost in my own head for so long, and while it is a struggle to get used to at first, time has slowed down. You can decide things in hours and not seconds and ask yourself the big questions. You find the melody in your own breathing going up and down hills or in the squeaks of your pack. The stupidest things make you smile and moments that annoyed you before simply bead off of you like water on wax. I've tried doing writing exercises in my head, one of which is describing the hike in two word phrases. Here are a few I've come up with.

-Eerily Inspiring- This was when we had very heavy fog, where the lack of a view seemed just as beautiful as if we had one.
-Remarkably Peaceful- You wouldn't think that something so diffcult and painful could be peaceful, but I assure you it is.
-Painful Reminder- Oh, it hurts so good.
-So Simple-It's just walking, but oh, it's so much more than that.

You don't need to be out here for five months to get it. Hell, a lot of it came in the first week. If you're thinking about it, do it. Cut out as much comfort as you can (electronics is a good start) and spend a couple nights outside. You'll thank yourself, and then you can thank me. (You're welcome)

There are plenty more stories, but you'll just have to wait for when I'm in person. I've gotten better at keeping them brief, but who am I kidding, they will probably still be boring.

It's pizza time! Thanks for the vibes and keep 'em coming! It's working!

Much love,


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