My Pack

I spent the night listening to two groups of coyotes call back and forth and awoke to the sight of Turkeys down in the valley. I do like the locals when living in the woods.

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It was an easy half hour hike to Dicks Creek. No one ate much since it was town day and there were rumors of and oriental all you can eat buffet. Right as our large group hit the road a hostel van pulled up to try and scoop us. I recognized the hostel from a poster I took down a few days before in Raven Cliffs Wilderness. Not many things bother me as much as someone trying to advertise in Wilderness. Despite his hostel directly helping my user group (hikers), I was frustrated. Advertisements and thumb tacks don’t belong in wilderness areas. I approached the van with a chip on my shoulder but kept my ranger face on.

Now they’re calling me Lorax.

The guy was a triple crowner (hiked the three original US long trails, Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail)  who just opened up a new hostel and was worried that no one would come since his hostel wasn’t in the guide books. I asked him a few questions to get him talking so I could learn his excuse before I confronted him (classic ranger move). After a few minutes I brought up the issue about the posters and violation of the rules of Wilderness, as well as my own personal opinion about the matter. I didn’t lay it on too thick but I wanted this accomplished man with a good attitude to be infromed and understand the context and implications of how his business impacts visitors to the Appalachians. He made an excuse about the pressure he was under and said he’d done a lot of work on the trails before finally blaming it on a few rambunctious volunteers. I stood my ground but didn’t press. He did seem honest but I felt obligated to speak up. Or as some would say to “speak for the trees.” Now they’re calling me Lorax.

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After our chat I discussed the day with some friends and decided to go with the hostel owner. Everyone had a new pain they were hoping to rest and try to heal. We decided to take it easy around town and get back on the trail tomorrow.

The decision toIMG_20140412_122211_760

take a light day was surprisingly difficult. I like to cruise and really wanted to get to the sweet promise land of north Carolina. Everyone has their reasons to take a break; all valid, but as the trail mantra extolls, “Hike your own hike.”

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So, we stayed at the hostel. I could tell you I’m tired or in pain but I really just wanted to stop to hang out with these guys. We sat around the hostel for a few hours drinking coffee and taking turns showering. Rockman, Kbar Baldwin (huge knife with a striking resemblance to the Baldwin brothers; beautiful blue eyes with just enough crazy), Snuggles and myself found ourselves hiking together so our town day would be the same. Around 1 o’clock we rolled into Hiawassee for Chinese and supplies. Four recently showered hikers walked into that China buffet ready to feast like hikers do. I’ve always felt one of the most religious experiences around hiking has to do with the first meal out of the woods. We loaded up our plates and returned again and again. The gluttonous feast was everything I could have hoped for and more. That, on top of a fine sermon from the facts of life according to Baldwin and a secret too juicy to share story from snuggles made the meal special and filling. Looking forward to many more.

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