Maine Man with Good “Mainers”

Another beautiful sunny day. It’s great to wake up to a burning sunshine when just the day before town seemed so hard to leave. The bad storm that smashed the Southeast with over 100 tornados missed hot springs and our bubble of hikers.

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Rockman decided to work on a few more miles and donned the Speedo. His legs might actually be getting whiter.

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Everyone slowly broke camp, trying to shake the hot springs hangover. One by one we trickled on trail with heavy packs to make the five nights to the town of Erwin. Rockman decided to work on a few more miles and donned the Speedo. His legs might actually be getting whiter.

Early in the morning we climbed a drainage that topped out to an old dam and the most delightful pond. The water was so still it looked like you could walk on it.

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later that afternoon we hit  an unmarked side trail that lead to Rich Mountain Fire Tower. It took a slight amount of extra effort to get to a gem buried so deep in the woods. It’s a shame so many hikers just blow by and skip it. Rock Kelly, Atlas, Snuggles and I had lunch at the deserted tower. We arrived individually, not knowing if anyone else had taken the trail but eventually found ourselves in the company of like minds.

We arrived individually, not knowing if anyone else had taken the trail but eventually found ourselves in the company of like minds.

This tower appeared to be stable but as soon as I started climbing the steps Rock Kelly made sure to yell, “Watch out for that one step that’s clearly rotten.” He knew the statement would send me towards panic but I pretended, with no avail, to be unaffected. I can appreciate a friendship that is filled with love and direct torment and harshness. They hiked out just before me. Here’s a view from the tower.

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After the tower we walked through a recent forest fire. It’s amazing the devastation fire can have in a dense understory of fuel mixed with high winds. The section was only a few acres but went straight up the mountain. Fires run up hills faster then a man can run. I assume this one hit the ridge and burned the small rhododendron and underbrush.

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Gribley Bear insisted we go to the new (relatively, I don’t think this place ever looked “new”) quickie mart right off the AT at Allen Gap. The place was called “Moms” and it looked like the first legal business based on a squatter’s lease. It’s in an old building that smelled like an eclectic mix of second hand smoke and dust old enough to vote for Reagan. You walk into overpriced ice cream, soda and crackers that look purchased at a gas station and marked up for hiker resale. “Mom” (presumably) was sitting behind the counter chain smoking Marlboro Lights with one window open. It really gave you the impression of what buildings were like in the 70s. This was the first overpriced place that justified the cost difference with character. We all got fatty cakes and fizzed cavity juice and ate in the sun on Mom’s Lawn.

It’s in an old building that smelled like an eclectic mix of second hand smoke and dust old enough to vote for Reagan.

On the lawn at Mom’s we met up with Weather, a fellow hiker who has proven to be one of my favorite characters on the trail. He’s a 19 year old Mainer who seems as mature and enlightened as anyone on the trail. He’s spent time hopping trains and traveling around the country but doesn’t romanticize the existence. He’s found a path that makes a lot of sense and doesn’t need a current to push him. He speaks highly of Maine but like a true native discourages people from moving there. Weather is uncommonly friendly to me…for a Mainer. They are a harsh brew that don’t appreciate reverse carpet baggers.

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He’s found a path that makes a lot of sense and doesn’t need a current to push him.

We met up at Little Laurel Shelter for the evening. We set up camp a few hundred miles away from the shelter at a campsite. Since the smokies no one wants to camp in the shelters. People seem to care much more about the smell of the privies than the scurrying of the shelter mice (until it rains– then people snuggle with the rodents).

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