Old Friends, Daystar and Gribley Bear

My last nights sleep in the Smokies was delightful. We packed up with a twinkle in our eyes because our foursome was going to town today. Gribley and Daystar (thru-hiking class of 2012) and good friends of mine, volunteered to pick us up and open their home to a bunch of smelly hikers. We had a slim 10 mile hike down and out to I-40 so we enjoyed some warm sunshine before town.

Mount Camerer

Two miles into our day we stopped at Mount Camerer. Noted for being a stunning side trail I insisted we all take to time to go. I thoroughly enjoyed the view two years ago and think every hiker that decides against this trail has made a mistake. Skipping over one of the best views in this country because it isn’t part of the “official AT trail” seems very narrow minded and short sighted. My personal reasons for thru hiking have a larger focus than the solely physical accomplishment so these are not “wasted” miles hiking because there is no such thing. Granted, everyone isn’t hiking my hike and, on principle, shouldn’t. The 360  degree views from the fire tower can never be appreciated in enough crisp detail on a screen. We stayed there a while and took it all in. We would have stayed longer if we weren’t out of food and hungry as hikers. 

What was barren and sparse on the ridge was matched with luscious green leaves in the valley. I nearly fell over identifying new growth beauties.

We hiked down the hill fast, playing games and dreaming of town brews. Dropping elevation fast we catapulted into spring. What was barren and sparse on the ridge was matched with luscious green leaves in the valley. I nearly fell over identifying new growth beauties. 

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Daystar picked us up at 2 p.m. and took us right to Bojangles. Of course she had beers in the car waiting because she gets it. I always feel anxious about getting into someone’s clean car and smelling so bad around them but Daystar seemed to revel in it. While veteran thru hikers have long since washed the smell off, their noses seem to enjoy the olfactory depth and revel in the hygienic sacrifice. At least her endless southern charm hid her disgust. 

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While veteran thru hikers have long since washed the smell off, their noses seem to enjoy the olfactory depth and revel in the hygienic sacrifice. At least her endless southern charm hid her disgust.

Five of us ate 30 pieces of chicken, 8 biscuits, green beans, mashed potatoes, fries, and a half dozen Bo-Berry biscuits. I don’t think I’ve been to Bojangles less than 1000 times but that was the most I’ve eaten in one sitting. 

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We got to Daystar’s delightful house to find Gribley working in the garden. He’s always had an Amish style beard so hand tools and sweat on his shirt look natural. I gave him a monster hug and muttered the normal caution I give of dirtiness.

We washed up and exploded, drying off what was damp. Daystar and Gribley made a delicious dinner mixed with an expert beer selection of Asheville’s finest ales. We shared old and new trail stories and talked all evening. It’s great to spend time with these two. They were part of a great clan that I hiked with for hundreds of miles in 2012. They reminded me so much of a time that seems so similar, isn’t that far away, but was very different. I could see for a second where I was two years ago before I broke up with Thera and before Michael died. For a second I could see the change and I didn’t like them.

I could feel the lines on my face and the soul I’d gained since the last hike. I missed the innocence I feel I’ve lost and didn’t want to think that I was more wounded when I’ve been trying to focus so much on strength.

Nothing large, but it’s like I could feel the lines on my face and the soul I’d gained since the last hike. I missed the innocence I feel I’ve lost and didn’t want to think that I was more wounded when I’ve been trying to focus so much on strength. Life was different but until this moment I hadn’t fully felt the difference it made in me. I hope to return to a time of greater selflessness and hope. Time with great friends will surely help. It was fantastic to spend time with some family where I could feel truly comfortable. 

Thru hikers Gribley Bear and Daystar officially graduated to Trail Angels. We woke up late and had a big breakfast. Fritata, more homemade bread from G-Bear, and the last piece of Bojangles chicken got the day off right. Around 11 we corralled together for a trip downtown. Caboose and Snugs had never been to Asheville so we took the scenic tour while doing some trail chores.

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We stopped in at Second Gear to check for some deals only to find the answers to some dares. We all have dares on each other so I grabbed a lime green speedo, tossed it to Rockman and told him he had to hike in it for 250 miles before the halfway point. I decided to give him some play so he wouldn’t have to hike in a bitter rain or hide from locals. I also picked up a unitard to alter and create a potential super hero costume. Five bucks for a unitard, I had to do it. 

We all have dares on each other so I grabbed a lime green speedo, tossed it to Rockman and told him he had to hike in it for 250 miles before the halfway point.

Bookstore, ice cream, then Trader Joe’s for two nights of food to get us to Hot Springs. “T.J.’s” is a much better resupply the the Dollar General we had to look forward to in Hot Springs. IndianFare, decadent trail mix and cliff bars filled out my pack for the two days. I also decided to get some Sharables for the group. Gribley and Daystar reminded me of how important they are. 

Gribley gave us a ride back to the trail around 6. We weren’t in much of a rush and luckily Daystar and Gribley weren’t either. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to spend time with old friends that are as supportive as angels can be. They made our best town days and kept us from having to resupply in Gaitlynburg. Thanks again friends.

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We got hiking at 7pm and did most of our four miles in the dark. Hiking out of town sucks and I had a lingering homesick feeling after time with friends. We made camp at 9 to find we hadn’t fallen out of our pack. We camped with a few hiker friends around Painter Branch Creek.

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