Bob Sir Packs Alot, proprietor of the Top of Georgia hiker hostel, and triple crown hiker would not let me out of his sight. When I unpacked my pack to find a change of clothes so he could wash the ones I had on, he was there. When I finished my shower and opened the door he was there waiting.
“Took your time.” He said with a forced smile.
“It’s the first shower I’ve taken.” I said back friendly.
“How long ago was that a week?”
“4 days.” He startled at this information.
He followed me back to my bunk were my pack was and as I pulled out its contents to let the pack air out. He then said.
“That’s not a pack for a thru-hike.”
“It’s the best I had; besides it keeps me from carrying too much a load.”
“How much hiking have you done?”
“I’ve been hiking since senior year of high school but I spent a lot of time hunting growing up.”
“How many nights have you been out in a row on a backpacking trip?”
“You don’t have the experience for caring this small of a load.”
When he finally left, it was 30 minutes to lights out. The other guests at the hostel had cooked hot dogs and offered the two that were left. I accepted and ate that with my last pasta side.
For bed I was in a bunkroom with three other men. It was hot in there and two of the men snored to the extreme, and the other complained and got up throughout the night making a bigger racket leaving the squeaky bunk than the sleeping snorers.
Again I had a sleepless night.
When I got up I was excited for a “Hearty, hot breakfast,” as my Awol had advertised. But instead I was given a small paper bowl to fill up once with cereal, and a Dixie cup of OJ.
I ate slowly to savior the Captain Crunch while I listened to Sir Packs Alot stroke his ego with his eleven steps to success.
At one point in his presentation he discussed Smoky Mountain National Park and I learned for the first time that I needed to print a permit at the NOC; the only helpful advice I learned from him.
In the same topic he asked us.
“Tell me which of y’all thinks you’re going to make it through the park in a week.” He was staring at me.
“How long is the trail through the park?” Asked an older lady.
“70 miles mam.”
I raised my hand.
“Oh really you think you’re going to be able to do it? Well I’ve got a wakeup call for you. You’re not! You’re going to make it to Newfound Gap in a week and have to resupply in Gatlinburg by a $30 shuttle.”
He finished his spill, and the guests were dismissed but most stayed around for his pack shake down. I checked out his “Full service discount outfitter,” with “full resupply” that was advertised in Awol thinking I could resupply there and get back to the trail. There was not much in stocked and nothing discount about it.
I called a shuttle and waited for it at the road because his free shuttle didn’t leave till 1 pm. My thinking was I would take that shuttle as it returned to the hostel to the trail head.
In town I went to Ingles for my resupply; this would also be where the shuttle would pick up, so I made sure to make it back there after I killed time eating town food. Hiawassee was convenient size for a resupply but it was a long ride from the trail. Later on I would hear that it was an easy hitch but I was reluctant to hitch at this point.
I ate Subway for lunch then went to the library to charge my phone and external battery. It was sunny and hot while I was in Hiawassee but at the library I checked weather and found more storms were moving in. I was going to get wet.
For the time I was at the library I talked with one of the librarians who thought I was a drifter and had no idea about the trail. I discussed the pace I had maintained, the people I had meet and left and my dissatisfaction with Top of Georgia. At the end of these topics it was time to leave and catch my ride.
The sky was darkening when I got back to Ingles. I only waited 5 minutes and the shuttle arrived.
Sir Packs Alot let me on without any grief and we headed for the trail head. In the eleven mile drive I thought he was going to school me some more on how I should hike but he didn’t instead he just complained to me about his wife on how she was on to him about something.
When we reached the trail head and I opened my door and hear him say.
“$10 for the ride.”
“I thought it was included with my bunk?”
“Yeah but you stayed yesterday.”
“You have got to be fucking kidding me.” I said straight to him.
He didn’t respond and after a tense second of silence between us I tossed a $10 bill at him but it drifted and landed on the floor. I slammed the door and he drove off. Two other hikers were at the trail head and when I turned towards them one asked.
“Was that a shuttle to Top of Georgia?”
“He doesn’t do pickups, and I can’t recommend it. He’s a straight up dick!”
“Well weather is going to get bad and we’re trying to get to town and ride it out.”
“You can walk half a mile down the road and there is cell service.”
They left and I changed into my rain gear that was: board shorts, and a North Face rain jacket.
The rain started and instead of starting the trail I took cover under the small eve of the trail head sign. Other hikers came out from the opposite side of Dicks Creek Gap, some joined me either waiting to hitch a ride into town or to chat and take a break from the storm.
“Where are you heading for?” Ether I or they would ask.
“Plumorchard Shelter!” “Bly Gap!” “Muskrat Shelter!” or “Fuck if I know!” we would yell at each other between thunder.
The temperature dropped as the storm went through, and when the thunder faded after half an hour I left my cover.
I left angry, and I’m not sure why. My guess I felt unsatisfied with my town visit. But it could have also been the lack of sleep I was experiencing. At this point I was starting to get paranoid from it and a little trippy. Also the amount of time I had to think filled my head with covetous thoughts and self-pity. And when the thunder started again when I was probably around Cowart Gap this only drove me darker.
What happens next is one of the most important times for me on the trail. (For those who have not read the first blog entry, I was suicidal.)
A storm blew in stronger than the one I had just sat out, while I was on Buzzard Knob. It dropped the temp into the high 30’s according to the small thermometer I had strapped to my pack. My rain jacket became saturated and I took it off in frustration. Now I was hiking shirtless with only my board shorts on.
I began to shiver uncontrollably, and was soaked to the bone. I was cold, and not just uncomfortably cold. This cold reminded me of a time when I was 13, out in an open field greasing pivot wheels, and changing their oil with my brother. It was near night and sleeting, it had rained the inter afternoon and I was soaked through my 4-H Carhartt jacket. It was the coldest I had felt, a sickly cold that tiers you. But unlike that dusk in the field with my brother.
I was all alone and cared not to try and remedy the problem.
When I sat down somewhere between Blue Ridge Gap and the GA/NC boarder I accepted my circumstance as finishing an unfinished job. I did not feel uncomfortable being cold all I could feel was the effects it had on me. My heart slowing and body shaking almost to the point of falling off the stump I sat on.
But then between the thoughts of hate, regret, and covetous, a new thought was placed. This thought was on my parents who gave me their blessing and support to do this hike. I thought how unfair it was to them killing myself on a trip that was supposed to remedy the issues inside me. At my earlier attempt of my life, my death would have just been a shock to them, but now it would be much more damaging. This caused me to pray, and take action.
The solution was simple all I had to do was put back on my jacket and get moving. This would warm me. But The motivation was lacking to do so however by the end of my prayer it was God given.
I began to run with joy. It was a joy that mimicked the joy from my salvation. I believe it was the presence of the Holy Spirit.
I ran past hikers setting up camp in the rain giving up on making it to a shelter for the night. I only stopped running when I came to the boarder and signed the registry. I started walking after this and climbed Courthouse Bald.
At the top, another storm hit and I saw lightning hit another ridge close to me. I was not going to linger so I started running again. On the way down my left foot tripped on a rock and trying to recover I caught myself in stride with my right but my body twisted and I watch my knee role out of place and then back in. The pain was sharp but too quick to bring a reaction. Like my shoulder would do before I had surgery on it. While I moved my knee felt fine it wouldn’t be till I stopped at the shelter that it would swell.
The storms passed just as not even half a mile from Muskrat Creek Shelter. I stopped to take a selfie to capture my expression of my ordeal than took another for the social media. There was also a view were I stopped and I sat and watched the fog roll away and thanked God.
I heard commotion behind me and I looked back through the trees and could barely make out the shelter. At the shelter the first thing I noticed was all the liquor. A group of college students were having a party at the shelter.
One bearded student said to me as I entered their circle, “Here looks like you could use this,” and handed me a bottle of Jägermeister. I took 2 big gulps and gasped with refreshment and most of the students cheered.
Then I saw Geronimo come out from under the shelter, and I was more than happy to see a familiar face even if I hardly knew it.
I started to set up under the shelter on the table since the pad was packed. The Ridge Run kicked me out though, so I set my tarp up.
There was a girl and her boyfriend at the shelter who were section hiking from Springer to the NOC. Both were drunk and me and Geronimo talked with them. As the night went on the girls boyfriend whipped out his pistol for some reason I don’t remember. The Ridge Runner said nothing of this even though it was right in her face.
Under my tent I watched the party go on and did not sleep. I saw some wander away to puke, and couples sneak off to be alone. I didn’t mind the cheerful noise the party made even if it keep me awake. It was comforting and I found rest without sleep.