Day 8: The Nantahala Outdoor Center

Geronimo’s and mine’s first order of business was to get a good meal, while we waited for our hostel bunks to open up at 1 p.m.

Without a shower we took our seats and proceeded to get food drunk. I don’t know the science behind it, but drunk best describes our state after we ate our double meal; no alcohol required. We ordered two apps, chips and salsa and hummus that we shared with each other, I had fish tacos with an added taco, and Geronimo had a veggie burger. (He was vegan.)

We laughed, finding everything around us a joke, and stumbled our way to the river side to continue to wait on our bunks. The water was not too cold when I soaked my feet in the Nantahala; I laid back and felt as I was lying in the sun on a sandy beach. But in truth it had turned partially cloudy and I sat on pee gravel. The time went by smoothly and we joked about getting properly wasted at the bar that night. (But it was not open for the season yet.)

When 1 p.m. came we went to find our bunks. The hostel at the NOC is divided into multiple buildings and rooms, with a large shower house and common room with kitchen in the middle. Our room had three bunks holding 6 people. You opened the door with key cards and the rooms had air conditioning and heat, which made it the most advance hostel I stayed in on the trail. (Besides Tea Horse in Harpers Ferry.)

In the room there was one older man organizing his gear and airing out his pack. At first glance I thought he was the vet I had met on my third night, but he was not. This man’s trail name was Smoky.

“How did you get the name Smoky?” I asked assuming it came from something pot related.

“O, I long hauled for some time, so I got the name from the movie Smoky and the Bandit.”

Geronimo put on some music, Grateful Dead, and the three of us enjoyed it and continued to talk. First about the Grateful Dead. Geronimo and Smoky had much to say on this subject, my only bit put in this conversation came from listening to their last performance when it was streamed in live to the Meadow Village at Big Sky MT the previous summer. Somehow this conversation segued into long hauling back in the 80’s and its drug culture. Smoky was an expert on this subject, and shared his stories of going 48 plus hours straight fueled on diesel cocaine and many other drugs I didn’t know about.

“Now days the law has taken the fun out of it, a little cocaine never hurt nobody.” Smoky said. Geronimo and me didn’t have much to say. I just halfway agreed by talking about how ridiculous insurance was for big rig drivers. (My brother hauled for a while.)

“I only used to get the job done. My wife had me clean at home.” Smoky further remarked.

Another hiker came in as our conversation was wrapping up with Smoky. He was around Smoky’s age or older but not worn down with substance abuse. He looked like a Marine commander with short well-groomed grey hair and fit body. His pack was an Alice frame pack and carried all military surpluses gear.

“Good evening, I’m Dick-Spatcher.” He said after throwing his pack on his bunk. We all laughed.

“Interesting name, I’m Geronimo, who named you that?”

“Well it’s also The Lieutenant in polite company, a group of college kids gave me Dick-Spatcher at Tray Mountain. I was a dispatcher this last year after retiring from fire chief.”

By this time it was approaching 3 o’clock and Geronimo and I went to get showers and then see about printing park passes for the Smoky Mountains.

After my shower I got the first good look at myself in the mirror since starting the trail. I saw a much different form then the bulked 205 body that had started the trail. I had been on steroids just two weeks prior the trail and without proper nutrition and a gym to stimulate my muscles they were all leaving rapidly.

I had lost my bulging six pack, my chest was still defined but smaller. The striations I had had in my shoulders had smoothed out but my quads had become more defined, and my knee was swollen; (I had forgotten to take more Aleve.)

I carried my dirty laundry to wash. While I was waiting out from the laundry room I saw a familiar face immerge out of the trail. It was the hiker I saw leaving Gooch Shelter on my second day; the one who whore the White Socks hat.

“Hey good to see yuh!” I said, thrilled to see that he had not dropped of the trail.

“Oh high, I meet you around Woody Gap right?”

“Yeah, looks like you’ve shed some weight.”

“Yeah I’m down to 30 pounds now, been able to do constant 15 mile days.”

“Where did you come from today?”

“Wayah Bald shelter.”

“Nice me and Geronimo did a near’o out of Cold Spring Shelter.”

“You staying here tonight?”

“Yeah how about you?”

“No I’m just getting some food then going to stay in the Rufus Morgan Shelter.”

“Nice I’ll see you around then.”

I left and went to join Geronimo in the outfitter. He was at the computer printing his pass and I decided to procrastinate and print mine the next day. I looked at gear and clothing in the outfitter. I needed an extra layer and an emergency blanket. I also needed a better bear hang system. All of these things I just looked at and would decide later on whether to purchase the next day on my zero.

After collecting my laundry I went to grab some beers and hot dogs with buns, but the store was closed. So at the hostel’s kitchen I ate an Idaho potato and was surprised it still tasted good after eating a good meal.

There were 2 other thru-hikers in the kitchen cleaning up after they had cooked and ate their meal. So the 4 of us went into the common room to talk.

“What are you two’s trail names?” The woman asked whose trail name was tumble weed.

“I’m Geronimo.”

“I’m just plain Joseph now, a trail name hasn’t stuck yet.”

“One hasn’t stuck with me either.” The man answered whose name was Jose.

“What came close?” I asked.

“Cactus, me and my wife are from New Mexico, when she got tumble weed the shelter thought about calling me Cactus but it never stuck.”

“For me a day hiker wanted to call me Kicking Wing, because I was winging my hike and was saying Kick’n a lot.”

“Kicking Wing, it’s about time for you to change your name to Kicking Ass.” Geronimo said referencing the movie Joe Dirt.

“That’s the Indian’s name in Joe Dirt right?” Tumble weed said.

“Theirs’s your name Joedirt.” Everybody agreed.

For some reason I didn’t like the trail name Joedirt; I guess at that time I took myself too seriously. Geronimo liked it and used it for the rest of the night, but the next day we would separate.

Since he was hiking out the next day, we went to sleep soon after nine. Our bunk mates were already snoring. The mattresses were not good at the NOC and I wondered and worried that I would have another sleepless night. I didn’t however and fell asleep fast but woke up around 3 in the morning. I was ok with this I had a king size bed the next day.

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