Saturday, April 27, 2013

Outside Dog

I've known this for a while now.  Everyone on the Trail is searching for... something.  Or someone.  Or Someone.  So many people have so much pain, and when you are all stuck in a shelter or hostel in close quarters with nothing better to do than shoot the breeze, those questions start coming out.  I mean, most of us spend all day hiking by ourselves with nothing but our own thoughts to accompany us.  And then when we do find human interaction, the veneer of triviality can sometimes be worn down.

Most people are just looking to be understood.  They are looking for a place to belong.  They are looking for a home.  Maybe I'm just projecting my own longings on every other person on the Trail, but I don't think so.  We all seem to be people who don't quite fit in elsewhere so we look to the Trail.  Of course, the truth is that we would fit in if we just trusted ourselves and accepted ourselves with all our faults.  But we don't.  So we remain guarded.  And those walls keep us from fitting in.

I'm going to be getting ahead on the Trail from someone I've been hiking with for a few days now.  I see so much potential in him and in so many of the rest of these folks who seem to have given up on themselves or on others in some way.  Outside Dog was given that name early on in the Trail.  A girl gave him that name because she said "You're an outside dog.  You don't have a home."

The sad thing... he believed it and has taken it as his identity.  And that makes him sad.  Even though he just keeps fighting very hard to be who he really is... which is a very kind, hard working person.

I've been encouraging him to find a different Trail name since him not having a home is merely a circumstance, not an identity.  And since I have to hike my own hike, and not his, it's a sad goodbye since he'll have to stay in town an extra few days.  I hope to see him up on the Trail.  And my prayer is that somehow, God would show him that he really does have a home.  He may be an outside dog because being indoors would be stifling, but he does belong and he has a home.  If he could just accept it for himself.

If you're of the praying ilk, please pray that God would comfort the hearts of some of the people I've met out here (for lots of varying reasons they are hurt).  The ones I'm especially thinking of are Grin, Snail, Outside Dog, and Shady.  There are so many others but they are ones I've gotten to really talk with and know their stories.  Thanks.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Changes to the Itinerary

When one is hiking, one needs to be prepared for changes to their original itinerary.  For instance, when one finds out about a Rainbow Gathering outside of Hot Springs, one must decide to take a small detour off the Trail to go visit with them.  The Rainbow Gathering is a nouveau group of hippies that go to various places in the woods across the country.  They went dumpster diving when I caught up with them, and I helped them pack their groceries down to where they were set up.  Then I helped make dinner with them, and they thanked me by giving me a cow tooth (yes, that's a literal meaning - a real cow tooth).  My hiking buddy, Outside Dog, traded a Kokopelli patch for a deer toe (also literal) and a rock.  I traded my tooth for his rock :-)  It was fabulous, and the dinner was AMAZING (not a lot of fresh veggies on the trail and this was lots of fresh veggies).  Slept out under a beautiful sky on a gorgeous grassy bald.

Fast forward a couple days, and Outside Dog's knee is acting up on him.  He nicked his leg with a chainsaw in Hot Springs and the gouge in his leg was still healing during the hiking.  He was in a lot of pain, so we decided to get to the next town a little early.  We were going to hitch hike the last 20 miles, but we found a section hiker getting off the Trail and his dad picked us up and took us to town.

The Trail always provides.  I've learned that God looks out for everyone out here.  He is good, and so are the people out here - whether they recognize Who provides for them or not.  It's a great trip, and I'm glad I can adapt away from my plans enough to meet such fabulous people as the hippies and other hikers who may not be hiking the exact same hike as me.  Well, I'm on a borrowed computer from a local, so don't want to keep him from his ... whatever he was doing.

Keep trekking!

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Let's see if I'm successful...
Day 1 - cold and do I look nervous?  I am.

1st day of rain - I'm wearing my tent!

I'm in the clouds!!!  This view is why I'm hiking.

Oh, and for this view.  Gorgeous.

Doin' Laundry at the hostel. Wearing borrowed clothes. Nice.

A pic of me AND a view.  Sherwin was hiking with me for a bit.

I love grassy balds.  That's Pretzel walkin' up thar.
 Yeah!  It worked!  I'll try to put up more later.  Just a few favs and so you remember what I look like :-)  Keep texting me - even if I don't have signal, sometimes I can still receive them and they are MUCHLY appreciated.

Rocks are Hard, but Caffeine is Good

No, that's not my song title to my new country music career (tho' it would be a good one).  Those are the lessons I learned a couple days ago on the Trail.  I have seen many forms of trail terrain - tree roots, soft dirt, mud, streams, rocky bald, grassy balds, etc.  A couple days ago I found loose shale anywhere from the size of gravel to fist size.  It was scattered all over the tops of other buried rocks and tree roots.  It was REALLY hard work with all the shifting as you stepped, and you just couldn't tell what would give you sure footing.  This was during a 20 mile day... in the Smokies.  I know.  I know.  That was a silly on my part.  It was ok, it worked out in the end.  I made it, and I'm still alive.

A couple days prior to my 20 mile day, I met a couple of trail maintainers.  They shared their lunch of sardines, crackers, and chocolate with me.  Very nice.  Then they gave me this packet of something called "GU".  Apparently, it is an energy gel that contains caffeine.  I figured I'd save it until a day that I really needed a boost of energy.  That was a couple days later.

I was on mile 18 and I felt I had rock bruises all over the bottoms of my feet.  I had slowed way down to a step every 5 seconds or so.  Finally, I just sat down in the middle of the trail, and figured I'd just sleep or cry or wait until a magical flying eagle picked me up.  Then I remember that I had GU.  So I sucked that down along with 2 Excedrin (which also contains caffeine).  Now, keep in mind, I haven't had caffeine since I left Wisconsin.

About 2 minutes later I feel the caffeine hit my system.  I stood up with an immense energy and kept hiking.  I swept past a fellow hiker, Sherwin.  He said it was only 1.6 miles to the shelter, but it was uphill.  I exclaimed, "I have GU. Let's do this!"  He ended up getting into the shelter about 10 minutes after me.

I passed a day hiker, and I could literally SMELL the laundry detergent on him.  Under the influence of caffeine, I didn't have the filter to stop myself from exclaiming to him, "You smell so CLEAN!"  Then I kept walking so I didn't hear what he said in response.

At the top of the hill, it started the descent to the shelter.  In a Curtis-on-Caffeine moment (for those who don't know Curtis, just know he never drinks it either, so it's funny when we can sneak it in him), I just burst out laughing for no apparent reason.  Thankfully, I don't think anyone was around to hear that maniacal moment.

My crash came about 30 minutes after I got to the shelter.  I realized the pain in my feet and just how tired I was.  It was a VERY good night's sleep.  And I was still able to walk 15 miles again the next day.

Life is good.  Keep hiking.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Worth the Weight

Just a quick post since I have a little time before the shuttle takes me back to the Trail.  This morning we were treated to free pancakes and bacon breakfast at First Baptist Church in Franklin.  They had several pamphlets, lightweight bibles and other books free for the taking.  I noticed VitaminC took a copy of Mere Christianity by CS Lewis.  I talked up the book because it's one of Lewis' finest in my opinion, and a good one for folks wanting to learn about Christianity.  I don't know where Vita-C's faith is, but the fact that he took the book to read intrigued me.  It occurred to me that I haven't read that book in many years and have sort of forgotten what's in it.  So I decided to grab a copy for myself.  That way, if the opportunity arises, I can maybe talk with Vita-C iffn' he wants.  HoneyBadger and Kowabunga also wanted to read along with Vita-C and have an "AT Book Club" around the shelters at night.  I can always leave the copy after I read it at a shelter for someone else to pick up.  I'm hoping it will be worth the weight of carrying it, perhaps just to be an oasis for someone searching. 

Also, my original hiking partners (Yeti and Squatch) caught up with me.  They got a shuttle into town yesterday afternoon and spent the night in the same inn as me.  It was nice to see them.  They have to get a little gear today so they will be getting a slightly later start than me, but it's great to see we're all about the same pace. 

Life is very good :-)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Misc updates about my hike

So much has happened since my last post.  I split from my original hiking partners; we had very different ways of hiking, and since rule #1 seems to be "hike your own hike", well, that's what needed to happen.  I met up with 3 folks - Cozy, Harrison, and Megan the 1st night.  But I went further than them the next day.  Now I've been with a group of about 3-8 people that hike separately each day but we usually end up at the same shelter. 

Thursday was a bonding day with them as it was an ice storm.  We hiked 4.5 mile to a shelter and hunkered down in our sleeping bags to keep warm.  Once that happened we were all talking, cracking jokes, singing songs, etc.  The theme song goes something like this: "Hakuna Matata, it means no worries cuz' I've got Jesus... and dry socks."  Yes, it really is the simple things in life. 

Yesterday, I hiked 19.7 miles.  I started out the 1st 4 with Uke - who carries a ukulele with him.  We started at around 1 AM, and went until 4 or 5.  Then, I was having abdominal pain, so Uke decided we had to stop to camp.  We slept for about an hour, after which I felt fine, and when I asked if he wanted to crank out a few more miles in the dark, he said, "mumble, mumble, mumble."  I took that to mean he wanted to keep sleeping.  So I went on and met Bonsai at the shelter.  Today, Uke comes walking into town - he made it!  Very fun to meet up with new friends.  Tonight, I'm staying in an inn so I could get a shower and do laundry and have internet time (and phone signal).  Cutting costs by sharing the room with Bonsai, Uke, and a guy I just met off the shuttle into town named "Mouse".  They are all really nice.  Next door is HoneyBadger, Som'Peach, Indian, and VitaminC.  It's a great group. 

I can't get my card reader to work with this computer so pictures will have to wait yet another time or two.

Gratitude is still running high as we've shared food, clothes, sleeping bags with veritable strangers.  I'm also thankful that my cousin is willing to hike the Trail with me in case I don't want to be alone.  Yes, Ann, I will remember that, and may just take your son up on that.  For now, there's still too many people on the Trail to be alone... unless he just wants to come join the party.  Tell him I'm a bit of a slow hiker :-)  He's probably in better shape than me (and his knees are almost 20 years younger!)

Speaking of which, I am the oldest person out here until you get to the semi- or completely retired folks (55+).  Most folks are 22-26, and then others are in their early 30's.  I met one kid (Jedi) who I have decided I want to have as a little brother (Mom, can we keep him?).  He's a day or two behind me now, but I'm hoping we'll meet up again.  We had a great time of worship with the couple of songs we both knew at the Blueberry Patch Hostel. 

Well, that's about it for now.  Life is hectic considering all I do is pack up, hike, unpack, boil water, eat, and sleep.  There's always something to be done it seems. 

I'm in high spirits, and looking forward to warmer weather - though I'll be Smokies soon and we may run into snow there too.  Ah well, tis the season.