Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Welcome to Kickass Cove

We hiked into Wood's Hole, a small hostel right off the trail, where the owner was just heading out for Damascus with two open spots in his car. Without missing a beat, we were on our way to Trail Days a day early. For those who don't know, Trail Days is by far the biggest hiker bash on the AT. 25,000 people fall upon the small town of Damascus for a four-day festival of free food, festivities, and debauchery. All I could expect was pure insanity.

Turns out I was right.

We got together with some old friends from the trail, staked our claim on some prime real estate in Tent City, and Kickass Cove was born. It helped that one of our friends was aptly named "Joe Kickass", but over the next four days, we proved why we earned the title.

First was our undeniable sense of a good time. We arranged the parties, we stayed up the latest, and we brought a good time wherever we went. People knew us and those who didn't wanted to. Soon word spread that Kickass Cove was the place to be and it lived up to the hype. That's how we roll.

Second was the complete domination of the festival's competitions. Winston (the best chocolate lab ever) won the "Best Trick" contest in the dog show. The dog can climb trees for crying out loud - that was a lock. Snarl (a friend from the first day) won a pair of trekking poles in a raffle. So did his girlfriend. However, the biggest pull of Kickass Cove from the whole weekend was my own.

I caught wind that their was a Hiker Talent Show on Saturday. After I hired Rainman as my manager, I began spreading the word of my vocal percussion skills and I rolled up to the competition with a posse about 20 deep. One act after another got on stage and either sang a song or played the guitar. I could see the crowd slumping and losing interest. They chatted amongst each other and checked their watches so they didn't miss the next raffle.

I hit the stage to an ovation from my posse and started fast, kept it up, switched it up, did the beat and the chorus at the same time and my mark was made. It was a lock - I was deemed the 2009 Trail Days Hiker Talent Show champion.

Don't worry - Mama Ahab knows.

It was great to see old friends, make new ones, and put a face to the names we had heard over the past two months during Trail Days. Free food, free gear, and a great weekend to just get off of our feet for a while. To make things even better, my parents picked me up from Damascus and treated us to a much needed detox day. Good to share stories and get the renewed support every hiker out here needs to keep going.

I'm refreshed, healthy, and happy to be back on the trail. There are so many stories it's incredible, so you'll all just have to wait until I get home. The anticipation is killing you, I know!

Right now it's time for bed.

Later guys!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

And Then There Were Nine...

Toenails that is. And there's probably one more on the way. Oh, happy days.

With a little over a week of hiking before heading back to Damascus for Trail Days, Rainman and I looked to take down some big miles. The terrain looked good. The weather looked alright. We felt good after a day of rest. We were ready to go. And then we ran into wild ponies.

I heard rumor that the Grayson Highlands had wild ponies, but I didn't think they would travel in packs and be interested in hanging out with people. Well, they do and they are. Our shelter was overrun by about 10-12 ponies our first morning in Grayson, and after about a half-hour of freaking out because of this unexpected equestrian swarm, it actually was pretty cool. We fed them, kicked them, and tried to ride them, but they were unphased all the while. I got some funny videos of it all, so just wait and you will enjoy.

The person - well, more the animal - that enjoyed the wildlife the most of the past ten days, was Winston, the greatest chocolate lab to ever live. Like a kid running after a group of pidgeons, Winston would charge ponies full tilt and send them into a frenzy, only to strut back into line with the biggest smirk on his face. And he's not prejudice - he'll go after cows too. He got into a staredown with a sow the size of a Ford Escape who was trying to protect her young and was loving every minute of it. He snapped, ran circles, and toyed with this cow, seemingly laughing all the while. I got this on film too so you can all see for yourself. Hilarious.

So the plan of long miles quickly became a plan to enjoy the sweet group we had formed and make our way North at our own easy pace. The rain kept coming which kept us cooped up in shelters for days, but we finally got a clear day to set up our hammocks for the first time. I'll admit I was a little nervous of making the full transition to a hammock for a good nights sleep, but boy, are they comfortable. It lives up to the hype, so if you're thinking about it, definitely give it a try. And if you buy a Hammock, go Hennessey. More on my renewed alligence to Hennessey later.

We managed to trudge 150 miles into Wood's Hole, where we snagged a ride back to Damascus for the Trail Days festivites. This event is hailed as the party of all parties for hikers, with free food, gear, and entertainment for 4 days straight. What we thought was going to be a time to relax became the hardest four days of work I've had thus far.

I'm in the car pulling away from Wi-Fi so you'll have to wait for that later!

Rock on.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Topographic Maps Are the Work of the Devil

-Damascus, VA-

I almost stepped on a rattlesnake the other day. I also hiked 50 miles in two days, hung out with Bob Peoples at Kincora Hostel, got myself a nice...

Oh, you wanna hear more about the snake? The 5-foot poisonous rattlesnake that nearly nabbed me in the leg? That rattlesnake? Besides it being the scariest moment of my life, it was nothing really. Just the AT's way of keeping me on my toes. Nice work AT. Now I'll never be able to look at sticks or any debris on the trail again without thinking that at any moment, that Maraca of Death will pop up anytime it likes. Didn't I say this trip was peaceful?

I don't have that much time, but there have been some notable stories to tell. There is obviously the views we've been able to enjoy over the last stretch, which have been absolutely incredible. Once you haul yourself over the steep, rocky, and unforgiving hump that is Roan Mountain, you are happily rewarded with the best views, terrain, and scenery the trail has to offer in the Southern 500 miles of the trail. Wide landscapes of rolling mountains, 360-degree panoramas of the mountains you've climbed and have yet to climb, all accented with hills of sun-bleached grass. Pretty amazing stuff. You can bet that my finger was on the trigger on my camera to bring those views back home.

There is a shelter in this section that is called Overmountain, which is a barn that was converted to hold AT hikers and give them one of the best views of the valley. To steal a line from my father, it's got a view that will knock your sweaty, bloody socks off. Really, it does. Mine flew off my feet and Foxy and I enjoyed a pleasent afternoon just hanging out, sipping fresh water, and enjoying the day. Since Erwin, it's been a lot of that, and that has been plenty to keep the eyes and mind busy. It's nice to have these kind of stretches to get you through those rainy days.

Like today. Right now Foxy and I are sitting pretty indoors while the rain tumbles down outside. We've been running around taking care of errands before we set out on our hiking blitz before Trail Days on the 15th back here in Damascus. The idea is to bust out as many miles as possible before we enjoy four days off, so the hope is cover 160 miles in 10 days. If there was ever a test to see if my body is healthy, this will be it.

However, Foxy and I may enjoy it at different paces because we have decided to go independent from each other. Now, we'll be able to go at our own paces (mine being slower) and cover the miles we feel like. No more getting in each other's way, messing with each other's stuff, or being around each other 24 hours-a-day for 6 more weeks. We're still friends and we think this move will help us keep it this way.

Before my time runs out, some highlights:
-Intense philosophic discussions with Foxy
-Our stay at Kincora with Bob Peoples (This man is so legendary he has earned himself a flurry of Chuck Norris-like jokes. My favorite is "Paul Bunyan apparently got his axe on loan from Bob Peoples". He's basically Elmer Fudd with a Boston accent and a big heart. Amazing.)
-Covering 50 miles in two days...it was a schlep, but we made it.
-Foxy and I cursing topographic maps for hours with every uphill that was not outlined in detail on our map. They are the work of the Devil!

Saw Pirate again today in town. He says hello.