Rambo and Catch aka Sambo told us the night before that they were getting up early to hike 30 to 40 miles. We’d been seeing them on and off between their 25 mile days and 5 mile days. They felt good momentum and wanted the next challenge. I wasn’t surprised to wake up and still see them fast asleep. They were the last to get up but I was glad. Rambo and Sambo were college roommates and born and raised in the best state in the Union. Glad to have pulled some Carolina boys into the gang.
Hiking started off going up one of the sweetest areas thus far. Climbing up Unaka Mountain is like walking into a different world. The hardwoods slowly turned to spruce giving the understory a dark and ominous feel from the open forest below. The summit was completely covered with red spruce, letting little to no direct sunlight to the floor. I waited up there for rock Kelly so I could share my nerdy ecological delight.
I stayed at the top for almost an hour after Rocky left. This was a place too rare and special to just walk through.
The beautiful old Apple orchard was also the famed spot Ryan Stolp caught himself on fire.
Later in the day we all met up at one of my favorite spots from hiking two years ago. A group of thru hikers took a zero enjoying about 20 pounds of gelatin and sugar in the finest gummy forms. The beautiful old Apple orchard was also the famed spot Ryan Stolp caught himself on fire. Needless to say I was excited to find my friends already napping in this beautiful field. I happily sat down and shared my memories with whomever pretended to care. It was just after lunch so we ate and relaxed before the final push. Right as I started to eat our least favorite family invaded, the Swiss family Robinson (composed of a husband, wife, aunt, two teenage girls, and a boy). Let me explain:
Earlier that week Rock Kelly had taken to hiking in a speedo (I may or may not have challenged him with a dare to do so for 200 miles). Most of the responses were very positive, though I equally enjoyed the few prude looks directed at his thighs.
Most of the responses were very positive, though I equally enjoyed the few prude looks directed at his thighs.
Just before midday, Rock hit some trail magic and dug in immediately. Close by was the Swiss family Robinson were taking notice of the lime banana hammock (NOT yet a DSM product). There was some thick tension before the wife looked hard at Rock and said, “so that’s why they call you Rockman.” Mild harassment ensued indefinitely. The father did not enjoy the comment as much and started passive aggressively berating poor Rocky. When Rock explained it was a bet and that I dared him the father said he’d have to pound me. Apparently the speedo was ruining his daughter’s youth.
There was some thick tension before the wife looked hard at Rock and said, “so that’s why they call you Rockman.” Mild harassment ensued indefinitely.
It’s important to note that this father was not physically or socially intimidating at all. He was 5’ 9” and weighed a solid 150. He carried himself with the ferociousness neediness of a computer engineer. An hour later I arrived at the same magic unaware of the previous events. I greeted everyone present and thanked the kind gentleman profusely for handing me ice tea and fruit (standard operating procedure). Ten minutes went by before I asked if anyone had seen a blonde fellow in a speedo.
The engineer bucked up and quietly said ‘yes’. He then said he didn’t want to camp around him. I started to explain the bet to find out he knew and knew to look for someone in purple shorts to confront.
The trail gives us an opportunity to remind each other that people aren’t skin deep and don’t need to hide some random weird.
I simply told him it was an exercise in self strength and confidence. It’s too easy to care too much about the pressure from people around us that life’s focus can get stuck fitting a mold. The trail gives us an opportunity to remind each other that people aren’t skin deep and don’t need to hide some random weird. To put it simply; freedom. To put it crassly, ‘Giving up on giving a fuck’ (I left out the last sentence when talking down to the engineer).
I would have gone on but he clearly wasn’t listening and was just waiting to talk. He didn’t like it around his girls which was nothing I was ready to disagree with. I’m not stupid enough to say how to raise someone else’s children let alone a man that didn’t like me.
I apologized for any disrespect and told him if he actually talked to rock for 30 seconds he’d find a delightful gentleman with a masters in geology and endless wit.
I carried on annoyed at the attempted censorship. I’ve been in the woods for months without any liberties being treaded on. Now we’d have to respect some dad’s wishes that seemed overly harsh.
Snuggles had a shorter conversation with the man that probably left the engineer terrified. Snugz has a short and sweet explanation style that comes across as more bone chilling. “Its a dare,” is enough conversation any stranger openly disagreeing with him wants to have.
We decided to keep the speedo away from the children out of respect for our fellow hikers. No one liked it but it’s important to protect everyone’s experience outside.
Back to the orchard. Our delightful afternoon got interrupted by the screaming children of Swiss Family Robinson and then claims of imminent domain. At 2 p.m. they wanted to put their tents up and move in. Despite the fact it was an open field they wanted to set up where two of our groups were sitting. This ended our break in Paradise in the worst way. We packed and left, sick of being around them wondering why we respected their experience when they cared so little about the people around them. With these rifts in our harmonious freedom we dubbed the group the Swiss Family Taliban.
This ended our break in Paradise in the worst way. We packed and left, sick of being around them wondering why we respected their experience when they cared so little about the people around them.
We continued to the shelter to put miles between us and our frustrations. It was a surprisingly sour pall, but an unkind nickname behind their backs is all we needed. That, and the fact that at every opportunity Snuggles and I said hello to the dad and made deliberate eye contact for a few seconds longer than acceptable. Straight alpha dogs.