Welcome back. If you’re reading this, I can assume a few things. You’re a friend or family member feeling obligated, you like my writing, or you’re secretly hoping Zeus blasted out more wind and hail on my parade. No matter what the reason, I appreciate you reading, so thanks again.
Also, in the midst of moving this blog from site to site, all the pictures except the two shown were lost. Shit happens.
Every hiker knows Franklin, NC. I learned in my time there that Franklin was originally where Ben Franklin attempted to secede from the Nation and begin his own state. He allegedly kidnapped and held close to 40 people locked in a church until he got his way. He didn’t, and despite threats to burn the church, he let the people go. Out of shock and gratitude, they named the town after him. Also, I made that entire thing up. Who knows why its called Franklin.
Seriously though, knowing Franklin and it’s local brewery, The Lazy Hiker, is in your general future makes hiking mountain after mountain with soggy, blistered, aching feet a stroll on the beach.
I hiked the 40 miles into Franklin with two guys, Jordan and Noah, over three days. More on them, after this.
The first night after the first blog post, I had an encounter with a real piece of shit. Before his arrival, roughly 20 people peacefully shared one 10×10 shelter space at the fire pit or dinner table. Then a guy walks up on having a conversation on speaker phone discussing with his “broski” all the “beers and bitches” they planned on crushing. Huh? Strike 1.
He hangs the phone up and looks his extremely spherical head in every direction, perhaps sensing every persons disdainful looks. It’s at this moment he starts to untie his TIMBERLAND BOOTS, all 10 pounds of them. He has my full attention. I’m looking around to see if anybody else is seeing this. The boot comes off. He’s barefoot. I’m speechless and disgusted and curious and confused and immediately needed to speak with him. I’ll try to transcribe. He looked exactly like the Ohio State Mascot, who also sucks, so from here forward he will be referred to as Brutus.
Me: “You’re not wearing socks”
Brutus: “Ya I got holes in them so I figured it was like not having any. Thought it through and decided to throw them all out.”
I make eye contact with five or six people, who also can’t wait to hear more.
Me: “Well reasoned. They’ve gotta be hurting in those boots. Stay here.” I walked to my tent and grabbed my extra pair of SmartWool socks and bring them back to him.
Me: “Here. You can have these. I’ll buy more in town.”
Brutus: “Oh ok. Damn they’re SmartWool, not DarnTough.”
Didn’t say thanks. Complained about the brand. Strike 2.
About an hour later, I’m getting water at a stream near the shelter and Brutus arrives. He walked 10 ten feet upstream and begins washing his feet with a bar of soap in the only source of water available, exclaiming to me over his heavy death metal rock music that the soap is “good for the environment.” Foot sweat and hemp soap, the cocktail of the mountains. Fuck that guy.
What’s strike three get you from me you ask? A passive aggressive reminder that he’s the man. Moral of the story, some people just suck. Fortunately, he’s been the only one so far.
Jordan AKA Beach Party is from Augusta, GA. Noah, or Narwahl, is from Asheville. They both came out here with guys who dropped out early. Beach Party’s parents picked him up in Franklin for his brother’s wedding. They bought us three an incredible BBQ lunch that served as my dinner as well. Narwahl’s grandma picked him up to resolve a tent issue.
My original plan to enjoy a couple beers, sleep in a bed, and carry on hiking ended up in a 48 stay. It was hiker appreciation week. Before leaving, I ate 7 free meals, drank about 6 free beers, and even found a free place to crash the last night. Big Thank You’s to the staff at Lazy Hiker. They handled our stench and hiker packs gracefully and made the experience that much better. All hikers reading you have to go, or you’re a big dumb idiot.
Ok, so I haven’t said much about the actual hiking. One foot in front of the other. Avoid the roots and slippery rocks. Stop to take in your surroundings. Hydrate often. That’s pretty much it. The daily internal monologues are not only insightful, they are therapeutic. I’ve seen change in just 2 weeks. Who knows what the next 18-22 have to bring. I even have fingernails! It may sound boring, but each day brings its own hardships and beauty.
Imagine the hiking days personified as an elementary school classroom. Some of the days are great. Some are just decent. One might even be smelly or itchy. I went to school with a kid that fit in his very own category. Great kid, super ugly, and rubbed his boogers on people. I hope puberty was good to him. Billy Bob Thornton said it best in Bad Santa when Thurman Murman pulled a candy corn from his Advent calendar, “Well they cant all be winners, can they?”
This week, I had a Greg day. The 12 mile hike along a ridge line at 5500 feet, his personality. Standing directly in the middle of a lightning cloud with metal hiking polls could be likened to his general appearance, slightly terrifying. The torrential downpour, his boogers. I love analogies.
The 12 miles took me 3 hours, dumping me at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center). After some coercion, the bartenders decided to open the bar for us at 9 to watch the National Championship Game. They ended up throwing everyone out with 8 minutes left in the game. So I missed the ending and woke up with a hangover, thanks NOC.
The hike after the NOC included a 5 mile, 4500 foot ascent. Despite a belly full of beer and a glaring sun, we got 12 miles in, stopping only briefly. A massive storm was quickly sweeping in over us, so after a quick dinner, we went to bed at 8 pm, waking up at 3 am. We hit the Trail at 4 am and hiked another 11 miles to reach our destination by 10 am. 23 miles in 24 hours. Lots of numbers, sorry.
The rain started the exact moment we walked up to the shelter. The shelter looked like it were made of an old Linkin Log set, only covered in moss. I hung my hammock from the wooden supports and laid there while dozens of hikers passed through soaking wet. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy their displeasure a tiny bit before asking if they needed anything.
Finally, we’re here in Fontana Dam, NC. There’s legitimately hundreds of Honda and Volkswagen hatchbacks that race up and down this stretch of road called the Tail of the Dragon. Apparently, there are 318 turns over 11 miles. All these assholes bring their super loud exhaust pipes here and whip around the streets while hikers attempt to commute in via shuttle or their legs. It’s like being stuck in a shitty Fast and The Furious movie.
Tonight, there’s a massive party going on at the biggest shelter we’ve seen yet. Tomorrow we enter the Smokie Mountains that are currently getting a foot of snow. Should make for some beautiful pictures.
Thanks again for reading. I have a pretty crazy 8 days coming up and hope for some more stories to tell.
I’m sure I will. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that the Trail provides.