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Hiking with Dynamite

On an overcast, humid warm morning, I stepped back on the Appalachian Trail for the first time this year.  My hiking partner today was May “Dynamite” McDaniel, a 71 year-young thru-hiker from my hometown of Columbus, GA.  May began her quest for Katahdin on March 16.  After some early difficulties, which included several days away from the trail to adjust her food planning, Dynamite has been steadily working her way north.  Prior to her departure I had promised to meet her along the A.T. and slackpack her a few days.  Today I kept that promise.

We started our day with a drive to Devil Fork Gap, a road crossing between Hot Springs, NC and Erwin, TN.  The previous evening I had contacted my old buddy, Tom “10” Bradford and arranged a shuttle from DFG to Sam’s Gap so that we could walk toward my car.  Tom was booked; however, his wife, Marie, was happy to provide the service.  After the short transport, May and I were walking south a little after 9:00.  It didn’t take long for the trail to remind me of its difficulty.  Still, after an early climb out of the gap up to a ridge, the A.T. provided my hiking companion and me a rather gentle path throughout most of the day.

Early in the hike I suggested to May that we play my favorite trail game, over or under on the number of hikers we would see.  Pilgrim and I had often occupied hours on my thru-hike of 2013 keeping tabs on the number of other backpackers that we met or that passed us.   Dynamite happily played along, selecting the “under” when I chose the number 15 for today’s walk.  Perhaps this seemed a rather high number considering we were only hiking 8.5 miles, and it was a Monday with rain in the forecast.  My reason for proposing 15, however, centered on the fact that we were southbounding and most thru-hikers were headed north. 

The day passed quickly.  Sharing stories from the trail, we reached the Hogback Ridge Shelter in a little over an hour.  Along the way we were met by several northbound hikers including my friend Bon Bon’s son, “Doogie.”  May knew some of the hikers and introduced me as a former thru-hiker and author of two books.  Among the many that we met, I especially enjoyed chatting with Popsicle, a young lady from Oregon, and Preacher Man, a very young Episcopal priest originally from Birmingham.  When the priest noted that he was almost out of food and not going to be able to re-supply until the following day, Dynamite offered him some of her provisions.

As the day passed I continued to count each hiker.  Deciding to list them in Spanish, when I reached “ocho” by noon I knew the contest was going to be close.  With less than one-half mile remaining, the number reached “quince” and I took a fall.  I couldn’t believe that my first day on the trail since last summer, I found myself tumbling down the side of a mountain.  I simply tripped on a stretch of flat trail, stumbled to my right, and rolled five or six times before coming to a stop on my right side.  Other than a little lower back discomfort, I seemed to be fine.  May, however, was shaken.  Staring down at me, she pitifully asked, “Should I call 911?”

“No, I’m OK.  Just toss my poles down to me so that I can get back up there.”  

May obliged.  As I lay there surveying the situation, I immediately thought of Speck, my good friend, and occasional hiking partner on my thru-hike.  She would have been laughing mercilessly.  I even smiled thinking about my predicament.

Within a few minutes I was back on the footpath, headed south.  Although more embarrassed than injured, I still felt grateful not to have been hurt more seriously.  Had it been in New Hampshire or Maine, I might have never been heard from again.  I can’t believe that I fell on such a simple section of trail.  Then one never knows what danger awaits on the A.T.

When the the road at Devil Fork Gap came into view, the number of hikers we had seen was still at 15.  Then as we rounded a bend and spotted the parking lot, four hikers were preparing to head our way.  I had won the game on our first day on the trail.  We had met 19 folks, all thru-hikers.  Even with my roll down the side of a mountain, it was an OK day.  It felt good to be back on the A.T.   I’ll re-evaluate the back later this evening, but my plan right now is to hike again tomorrow.  And if I do I’ll try to pay closer attention to flat sections of trail with no obstacles.  That’s what got me today, so I need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

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Trail Days

On the first of May I decided to start writing again in this blog.  I did so for a few days and then stopped.  Originally, I had several reasons why I wanted to start writing again.  I missed writing.  I wanted to establish some kind of goal as I turned sixty-six.  I wanted to have a venue for my running aspirations.  And I hoped again to generate some reading interest before I returned to the Appalachian Trail for a few days.  

Since I haven’t updated the site in over two weeks, I suppose it would be appropriate to comment on what’s been happening in my world.  My running injury has improved, and I’ve been able to log a few 4 mile runs at a 9:15-10:00 pace.  I’m content.  At this stage in my life, running is more for cardio than for competition.  As long as I raise my heart rate for 35:00-45:00 four or five days a week, I’ll be happy.

For now, however, I want to get back to talking and writing about the trail.  Yesterday morning I departed Columbus and drove up to Waynesville and then Maggie Valley, NC.  I stopped by Muddabbers to see my good friend and owner of the pottery studio, Brad Dodson.  Then I ventured up to Davenport Gap to offer some trail magic to a 2017 thru-hiker, May McDaniel.  May, or Dynamite as she has been dubbed on the trail, has several reasons for tackling the challenging Appalachian Trail at the young age of 71.  You can read about her goals and the adventure at destination100.com and on her Facebook page under Destination 100.  Like her page and send her some encouragement.

Right now I’m writing this entry from Damascus, Virginia, argueably the “best” trail town on the entire A.T.  Dalton, MA and Hanover, NH might challenge; however, most folks give the honor to Damascus.  For the next three days I’ll be selling my books at the author tent in the city park at the Trail Days festival.  I’m also on the program to speak at the Town Hall, Friday, at 7:30 in the evening.  It should be fun.

After Trail Days I plan to join May for two or three days of hiking.  I also hope to hook up with two other acquaintances who are in the midst of a thru-hike attempt.  Aaron “Pawki” Wilkes is somewhere just south of here, and Steven “Rooster” Riecker is already in Pennsylvania.   Rooster is raising funds and awareness for ALS in honor of his good friend, Roger, who was diagnosed last fall.

It’s good to be in proximity to the trail.  For the next few days I’ll try to document my Spring, 2017 A. T. adventure.  But for now, I think I’ll lace up my trail runners and go for a short hike.  After all, the trail is just out my front door.  

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Decisions

Sometimes plans have to be changed.  While slowing making my way through a five mile run early yesterday afternoon, I began questioning just what I was doing.  Even though the groin only felt mildly uncomfortable at a agonizingly slow pace of almost 11:00 a mile, I quickly realized that to run faster would be to risk further, and perhaps greater injury.  So I accepted the consequences of the setback and continued to run at the easy pace.  After completing the run, or jog seems more appropriate, I walked the final 1.6 to achieve my 6.6 mile goal for the fourth day of May.  With twenty-seven more days remaining in my birthday month, I’m really not sure it’s worth the risk of a more serious injury to continue with the probably ill-conceived goal.  Maybe the best, and by far smartest decision, will be to rest a little and then continue running when the affected area feels better.

As I ponder the options, I’m reminded of my younger days when buddies and I differentiated running from jogging by pace.  I remember an article in a running magazine that defined running as any pace under 8:00 minutes per mile and jogging as over 8:00 per mile.  At a time when I rarely trained even over 7:30 a mile, this definition seemed about right.  8:00 and slower miles were meant as “cool-downs” after more serious training.  That was then; this is now:  my 9:00 pace seems “fast” for this almost sixty-six year-old.

Speaking of pace from my very serious training days, I recently found a chart I had included in one of my running journals that I have kept since 1980.  I had penned two columns.  In one there were the words: Run/effort and in the other: pace.  As odd as it may sound, I can still see myself running at the sub-6:00 pace, just like I can see myself sinking fifteen-foot jump shots and hitting forehands with accuracy to the back corner of the court.  Unfortunately, we age.  Just like my basketball and tennis talents faded years ago, now so has my running pace.  I’m not begrudging; in fact, I think I’ve accepted the aging process as it relates to the sport I love.  I keep reminding myself that I’m fortunate to still be running at any pace.  

Like I often stated in my journal when hiking the Appalachian Trail, I believe things happen for a reason.  Maybe I was supposed to have a minor set-back at this point in time.  My wife and I will be traveling up to New York tomorrow to visit our daughter.  I had looked forward to a run in Central Park one morning and another along the Hudson River.  I’ve run in both places on several other occasions, so maybe I just need to enjoy time with family and appreciate walking throughout the City.  Not having to pack running clothes will also lighten my suitcase slightly.  I’m obviously looking for any positives in an otherwise negative circumstance.  There will be other times to run in New York.

So today I’ll walk.  And I won’t worry about distance.  I’ll do the same over the next few days, or maybe rest entirely, if need be, after the trip.  Whether I cover 6.6 miles any of the next few days won’t really matter that much in the big realm of things.  What will matter is that one day soon I’ll be running again.  And hopefully, I’ll be running “fast,” at least by my definition as an “older runner.”  There are days to run for years to come.  I just have to take my running days like all days in general, one day at a time.  

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A.T. Memories

As I walked 6.6 miles yesterday afternoon, on a relatively flat path, and without a pack, I thought about where I was four years ago on this day.  On the evening of May 3, 2013, I took up residency for two days in the Big Walker motel near the town of Bland, Virginia.  It met all the requirements for comfort, at least from a hiker’s perspective.  After back-to-back 23.0 and 21.7 mile days with a full pack, any room with a bed would have sufficed.  A few other would-be thru-hikers were there as well.  One, a German, sadly admitted that it looked like his adventure was over.  When he limped away, barely able to put pressure on his left knee, it was obvious why.

Looking back on my journey from Springer Mountain in north Georgia to the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine, I continue to be reminded of just how fortunate I was to elude serious injury during the duration of my walk.  After experiencing some groin discomfort on a run two days ago, I’m also reminded just how quickly a setback can occur.  In the spring of 2013 I was a soon-to-be sixty-two year old.  Now at almost sixty-six, I constantly monitor my movement, not expecting anything to happen, but always cognizant that something could.

Before embarking on the Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt, I had made sure that I got myself in the best shape that I possibly could.  I ran four or five days a week and hiked at least three.  On most of the hikes I carried more weight than I expected to tote on the A.T.  I ate like a hiker while preparing as well.  Knowing that I would most certainly lose weight over the five-plus months I would be on the trail, I tried to consume more calories and even gain weight before my departure.  Fortunately, I never experienced any kind of injury during my training days.

Still, when looking back, I’m somewhat in awe of what I accomplished on May 2 and 3, four years ago.  When I hit the trail near Atkins, VA that first morning, my goal was to reach Chestnut Knob shelter, 23.0 miles away.  The previous evening I had purchased a bag of Arby’s roast beef sandwiches in Marion, VA,  and I made sure I had re-supplied my jelly beans for a quick pick-me-up, should I need it.  Ever since that eventful day in the Smokies when two young folks, and fellow Georgians, had offered a handful of the sugary candies, I had not traveled without them.  Nutritious they weren’t;  a source of instant energy they were, at least for a little while.  And I would need the energy often throughout the day.

As I say in my second book, The Don’s Brother Method, if I were going to hike this section again, I would break it into three days rather than two.  But that is hindsight.  When I reached Chestnut Knob shelter I was exhausted.  I remember feeling sincerely thankful that one bunk remained open in the totally enclosed stone building.  It was cold, but it was dry.  I also remember feeling a little uncomfortable, and maybe even slightly embarrassed, when I broke out my roast beef.  Had it not been almost dark and cold and windy, I may have taken my meal outside.  But since all but one of my fellow shelter-mates were section-hikers, I figured I’d probably never see them again after that evening.  As I recall, most were already in their sleeping bags when I began to spread barbecue sauce on my sandwiches.

Even with my fast-food evening meal, the next day would be a challenge.  When I arrived at the highway near Bland on May 3, I was about as depleted as at any time in my life.  I felt even worse than I had after finishing marathons.  I had walked 21.7 miles with little food.  But I made it.  Now, I’m still recalling how grateful I was when Bubba, a shuttle driver I had phoned, arrived to drive me into Bland.  Every day on my hike was memorable for a variety of reasons.  This one was because of a bear-sighting and a riggety truck that transported a weary hiker to a room.

It’s been raining here since before daylight.  I’m itching to get out for a run and test this groin issue.  It feels good now, so I’m thinking an easy effort awaits.  I’ve done the 6.6 miles each of the past three days with a run, a walk, or some sort of run/walk combination.  I suppose I should wait for the harder rain to pass.  Regardless of the weather, I’ll be out running and/or walking sometime today.  There were days on the Appalachian Trail when I walked over 20 miles in the rain.  Surely I can withstand an hour of the same today.

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Goals, or No Goals

As a coach I often expressed to my athletes the importance of setting both short-term and long-term goals.   For the aspiring distance runner to reach his/her full potential,  a training regimen that imcorporates a variety of workouts is essential.   I can still hear myself challenging young men and women to aspire to do well in an upcoming meet, but to also ultimately be planning for the regional championship event later in the season.   I emphasized that both goals were important; however, the one three or four months down the road significantly meant more than the one for the next day.

That was the thirty-something year-old coach talking.  Now the “almost” old man thinks differently.  At this point in my life, I’m convinced that the only goal that really matters is the one set for today.  What happens two months, or even two days, in the future really carries little importance.  I was quickly reminded of what should be a “live for today” philosophy about 8:00 A.M. today.  Perhaps a goalless future should be my focus.

Just twenty-four hours ago I set a somewhat long-term goal of moving on foot for at least 6.6 miles each day in the month of May to “celebrate, mark, or lament” my sixty-sixth birthday.  Without really thinking through what I was doing, I carelessly posted my “not really that ambitious” goal on this blog.  Despite having countless times reminded myself not to share goals publicly, I foolishly did.  And I did so without having wood nearby to “knock on.”  I don’t really believe in jinxes, but if I did, I’d say at about this time yesterday, I jinxed myself.

After a rather lengthy layoff, I chose to resume writing on this website for several reasons at the beginning of my birthday month.  I’ll share more of those reasons in future posts, but for now I want to continue to chastise myself further for my writing about this running, walking, hiking goal.  It may have to be altered (I do say “may”) due to a word that I cringe to even utter, “injury.”  Albeit, hopefully only a very minor one, still I “may” have to re-evaluate that ill-conceived long-term goal.

Yesterday’s 6.6 miles went just fine.  I walked to a nearby park, ran 4 miles as I had planned at a respectable 9:18 pace (for an “old man”), walked some in the park, and then walked home.  The walking totaled just over 2.6 miles, so on May 1, I had started well with my 6.6 miles met.  I couldn’t have felt better.  The slightly cooler temps after the storms refreshed me.  My mind accelerated throughout the workout, leaving me not only feeling physically refreshed, but mentally smiling as well.

So on an almost crisp morning today, I eagerly looked forward to a six mile run with an old running buddy from over three decades and a newer running friend only slightly older than a third of my age.  Steve, the elder friend, and I often competed for age-group awards in the ’80s.  He still trains with intensity, and when running with my old buddy every Tuesday morning for the past three months, I’ve discovered new enthusiasm and a desire to run “fast” again.  Tino, the younger runner, is just beginning to realize his potential.  Patiently listening to Steve and me re-live some of our younger racing days, he runs ahead at intersections to ensure that no motorists will fail to yield to our trio.

Today I was running about as well as I have in months until around mile 4.5.  The sub-9:00 miles felt great, and Steve and I took turns telling the stories as Tino seemed content to listen.  Then I began to feel an uncomfortable annoyance in my left upper groin.  I later said to my two companions, “It’s taken over thirty-seven years for me to have a groin injury.”  Honestly, I can never recall even a soreness in that area.  I’ve strained quads, calves, and hamstrings, had tendinitis in a variety of joints, and suffered from a sore hip ever since I fractured my femur in 1996, but I can never remember a groin issue.

I first slowed my pace, telling Steve and Tino to keep running.  Then at five miles I decided it best to walk.  I did finish the 6.6 with the combined run and walk; however, I’m not sure if my “lofty” goal will be accomplished.  I’m not giving up yet.  I’ve iced the area, taken an anti-inflammatory, and plan to rest, at least for a while.  Fortunately, there’s no pain or soreness when I walk, so tomorrow afternoon I’ll go for a stroll at a comfortable pace to test it.  If all goes well, I may try to run a little on Thursday.

What I won’t do is share any more long-term goals in this blog.  And for that matter, maybe I won’t make any more either.  On second thought, that’s impossible.  I already have some things I hope to accomplish on the Appalachian Trail later this spring.  I just won’t talk about what those things are until they have already happened, and if I mistakenly comment on something I plan to achieve in the “distant” future, I’ll definitely make sure that I “knock on wood” when doing so.

 

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Moving On….

On a dreary Monday morning, in the midst of a rather serious thunderstorm, I’m contemplating in what direction I want to travel over the next several months.  Wherever that may be, I’ve decided that I would like to write about my journey and share these musings with whatever reading audience that remains from those who followed my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2013.  Perhaps I’ll pick up a few new readers.  Then again, there is also the possibility that I’ll lose a few along the way.  Neither really matters that much.  I just feel like writing, with or without an audience.

So today I write without real purpose.  These will be ramblings that may offer a glimpse into where I’m headed, mentally and physically, at this juncture in my life.  In two weeks I will turn sixty-six, an age that I have thought about for the past few weeks.  Every spring when another birthday is inevitable, I seem to begin thinking of myself at the new age rather than at the present.  Since early March I’ve moved on from sixty-five in my mind even though I’ll still be the age when I became eligible for Medicare until the middle of this month.

With aging in mind, I’ve decided that I need some kind of unusual goal of motivation for the month of May, 2017.  Since I’ve begun running fairly well again, I want to focus on exercise.  A few years back, a friend celebrated his 60th birthday by running 60 miles, biking 60 miles, and swimming 60 laps in a lake over two days.  I’m not nearly up to that kind of commitment; however, I have determined that I would like to make 66 a part of my regimen.

Therefore, my goal for May will be to accumulate at least 6.6 miles per day moving in some way by foot.  That may be running, walking, or hiking.  I specify “at least” because I’ll probably surpass the 6.6 on many days.  With this plan in mind, I’m reminded of a conversation that another good friend and I have had recently.  As we age, there are only two goals that we have determined are really important when running or walking……Don’t fall and stay healthy.  The second was actually, “Don’s get injured,” but I’m trying to accentuate the positive.

Later this afternoon my plan is to run 4 miles and walk 2.6.  Each day will most likely be a little different, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.  Later this month I’ll be back on the A.T., at least for some day hikes.  At the moment three of my acquaintances are attempting thru-hikes.  I hope to meet each at some time in May somewhere along the trail.

The rain has stopped, so I think it’s time to lace up the running shoes.  If you’ve read this far in my first entry in the “new” Don’s Brother adventure, I appreciate your loyalty.   Over the remainder of 2017 I plan to write regularly, and possibly every day.    Some posts will still address hiking and the Appalachian Trail.  I’ll share about Trail Days and my books at times.  Other writings will be running related, and some may just deal with getting older and looking for new directions.  As I’ve often penned when signing my second book, “Another adventure always awaits.”  Don’s Brother

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The Don’s Brother Method

After spending only 19 days of a 164 day hike in the woods, I determined that it would be appropriate to share my method of hiking with anyone interested in pursuing a similar type of thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  After working on the manuscript for over a year, my second book was published in the summer of 2016.  I believe that the title, The Don’s Brother Method:  How I Thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and Rarely Slept in the Woods, speaks for itself.

Since its publication I have continued to hike occasionally, travel a good bit in proximity to the A.T., and speak about my adventure, my brother, and my books.  I have had the privilege to address audiences in my home state of Georgia as well as in Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.  I will add Virginia to that list this spring when I speak at Trail Days on Friday evening, May 19, at 7:30 in the Town Hall of Damascus.

If you have any questions or comments about my books or would like to schedule me for a speaking engagement, please contact me at donsbrother4@gmail.com.

 

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Long Branch Shelter to Winding Stair Gap

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Deep Gap to Long Branch Shelter

Happy Easter! Despite another night of heavy rain and a tent with a small bit of water inside, today started on an amazingly positive note. For the past 22 years the “Omelet Angels” have served Easter morning breakfast to thru hikers at Deep Gap and then moved on up the trail to offer lunch at Rock Gap. Without accepting donations, the group offers up massive omelets prepared as each hiker orders. The only requirement was that we had to fill out a menu form before being served. I selected cheese, ham, and peppers. I also added three strips of bacon, a fresh fruit cup, and a piece of friendship bread. The omelets were so huge that we were told that only four or five hikers had been able to polish off more than one over the years. With what was promised to be over 3000 calories to begin my day, I was sure to hike strong again. And hike strong I did, compiling a 17.1 mile day into Long Branch shelter shortly before 6:00, after having begun the hike at 10:10.

For much of today I hiked in the rain. After a fairly difficult accent up Standing Indian Mountain, I walked in the clouds with no visible views on this Resurrection Sunday. I saw no other thru hikers either throughout the morning and early afternoon. When I took a break at Beech Gap I did meet Dave and Robert, from Flowery Branch, GA, who were out for a section hike. When I reached Carter Gap shelter, I stopped for a break. The sandwich that the Omelet Angels has packed for me enabled me to get a second wind for the late afternoon pursuit of the shelter. It’s All Small Stuff, a 66 year old thru hiker from Dallas, had also stopped for a break. He has been on the trail since March 7.

As the day wore on, the rain increased. By the time I reached the shelter, rain had soaked my jacket. My trail runners were also a muddy mess. The most challenging part of the entire hike thus far was the climb up Albert Mountain in the rain. The slippery protruding rock faces presented a painstakingly slow accent. A couple of times I had to lay my hiking poles on a ledge above my head and use my hands to rock scramble up the precipice. About half way up I noticed another hiker above me. When I reached the apex of the mountain and the Albert Mountain fire tower, I met Danny, a young man from Lexington, KY who was trying to make it all the way to Wallace Gap and a shuttle to Franklin. Danny hikes at a quick pace, so I slogged through the mud on his foot heels all the way to the blue blazed trail to the shelter.

As I approached the Long Branch shelter, I greeted the group with, “I hope there’s one more spot for an old man.” I’m finding my age is an asset around this fine group of young folks I’ve encountered. Since my tent was wet, I had to have a shelter. Fortunately, there were two places available. I chose the bottom level. The Raisin Bran Kid arrived shortly after I did and got the last spot. After getting my sleeping pad and bag ready I finished my sandwich and chips. Then I chatted with some of the other hikers until sundown when everyone turned in for the night.

Maddy and Whiskers were there as was Blissful. The others were all new to me, having begun their hikes before I did. It was great meeting and sharing hiker info with El Gato, Two Sticks, Storytime, and Hammy. I couldn’t have asked for better shelter mates for the night. As I settled into my sleeping bag rain began to fall. Its patter on the tin roof brought back memories of a “side room” on my grandmother’s farmhouse, a place where Don and I enjoyed many special family memories. So I ended my Easter Sunday among strangers who had quickly become friends, listening to the patter of raindrops on a tin roof, in a shelter, on the Appalachian Trail.

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Addis Gap to Dick’s Creek Gap

It proved to be a restless night. I slept intermittently, awaking about every half hour until around 4:00. Then I actually dozed without waking until almost 7:30. When I heard WILSON ( he prefers his trail name be stated emphatically) and Army Ant retrieving our food bags from the trees they had hung them last night, I began packing up inside the tent. My speed has quickly improved, so within half an hour I was packed and ready to hike. I joined the others around the fire ring for breakfast. They all cooked; I had cheese crackers and a few sips of coke I had bought before leaving Helen yesterday. I followed that with a Baby Ruth. The unofficial candy bar of the AT is Snickers; however, I’ve decided to eat the bar which brings back memories of Lou Gehrig’s teammate and baseball. Plus Don’s and my mother always enjoyed a Baby Ruth.

After filling up my water bottle and treating it with Aqua Mira, I began the half mile walk back up to the trail. I bid the others farewell, saying as I always do, ” I hope I’ll see you somewhere up the trail.” The hike began with another substantial climb which took a lot of stamina. I keep saying that I’ve got to so a better job with nutrition. I may need to call one of my good running buddies and ultra marathoner, John Teeples, for some more suggestions. I hike very strongly after a large town breakfast but tend to drag in the morning when starting the day with trail food.

I saw no other hikers until I crested the first mountain. It was there that I met an approaching southbound hiker wearing a University of Alabama baseball cap. Ghost said he had completed the AT in sections in 2002. When I told him I was from Columbus, Ghost stated, “I lived there 38 years.” The son of an elementary school teacher, who taught much of her career at Clubview, Ghost graduated from Jordan High School. It was good to discuss mutual friends right in the middle of the Appalachian Trail.

Later in the morning I once again encountered trail maintainer Rockkicker. He advised me to go ahead and call the Blueberry Patch Hostel from the trail since there is rarely reception from Dick’s Creek Gap. I had previously spoken to Gary, a former thru hiker who, along with his wife, offers bunks for hikers as a Christian ministry on a donations only basis. When I arrived at the gap there were several hikers waiting for shuttles or taking a break before heading back up the trail. Among them were Walmart and Kristen, a young lady from Montana who I hiked with up Blood Mountain. Walmart was dressed in all camo, which Don would have liked. Gary drove up soon after, and Kristen also rode with us to the hostel. After a shower and having my laundry done, Gary drove some others and me into Hiawassee. The others returned with him after a brief time in town. I decided to stay in town for a while.

I made my way to Daniel’s Steakhouse where I decided to partake of he AYCE buffet, a favorite of hikers. I’m still sitting here now trying to catch up on the writing. Layla, my waitress, has been most hospitable, filling my glass with sweet tea numerous times with a smile. She also listened with interest as I told her about Don and the website. I also talked with a local couple at the next table, who expressed an interest in my hike. Kathleen and Sal, I imagine, are representative of the fine people who reside in Hiawassee.

Well, it’s getting a little late by hiker standards, so I best have my desert and head to the grocery store. There are still things that need to be done before I hitch back to the hostel to rejoin the hiking community of the Appalachian Trail.

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