I’m having one of those weeks. The one when you completely sweat all the way through every single item that you own, and the only dry article of clothing you have left is a tuxedo thong.
Ya know what I mean? No?
Thankfully, these weeks make for good reading.
Speaking of good reading (sorry, but what would a story of mine be without a tangent? Now we’re in a tangent of a tangent, kinda like Inception, and based on looks, I’m Leo. Back to the original tangent) it would be an honor to find out if you, the reader, is currently at work killing time reading this. When I was an accountant and Bill Simmons would post a new column to his old website ‘Grantland’, I would leave my desk and pretend to take a shit so I could get away with reading a several thousand word column all in one squatting. I consider allowing your legs to fall asleep in a faux-poop squat to read somebodies work, the highest of honors. The more people reading this on the toilet, the warmer my heart.
Anyway, back to this past week.
After a three day convalescence, I made some future arrangements and got back on a consistent hiking schedule with hopes of good health.
It’s been a slow process getting my trail legs back under me, but I believe I’m there now. I mean now, now, though. I say that because, this week was without a doubt the hardest week I’ve had since leaving Springer Mountain on March 21st.
Virginia has proven a difficult place to re-condition. The weather has felt as if I’ve had a Dementor hovering above me. For you Muggles who don’t understand that reference, first of all, do better. Secondly, I have another reference for you. It’s been like an Energy Vampire from the book, Energy Bus. Go read that. Or carry on with your head in a hole.
So yeah, the weather. The temperature has been in the 90’s, and the hiking has been up and down between 1000-4000 feet. My hands, shorts, backpack, and phone have all been so perpetually drenched in sweat, I haven’t been able to take a picture in outside the shelter of my hammock in days. Water has been scarce, and the mountain springs and creeks that do exist seem are drier than a lizard’s taint.
When you set out for the day knowing there isn’t water for 6 miles, you plan accordingly and fill up with water. Finding the source dry, with nothing for another 5 miles, is not only defeating, it’s dangerous.
My second day out, I woke up at 4 am to get some miles in before the sun came out. Without the aid of light, I broke my own previous world record of 37,000 spider webs walked through with a staggering 600,000+. It’s the couple extra inches of neck I have that others don’t. My jugular probably looks like the Nile River to them.
Webs aside, the plan worked, and I was able to approach the dreaded uphill by 10 am.
It was 4 miles of climbing, and 6.5 overall to camp. There wasn’t any water until camp, and I was running really low. I climbed until I got dizzy, and sat. Then climbed until my muscles locked, and sat again. When I could hardly gain my breath and dry heaved once, I decided to break. Sitting on a slant sucks, you need to keep your muscles engaged to prevent sliding down, and that necessity caused a nice cramp in my hammy. Honest to God, after a couple winces, I laughed. A slight bit of masochism is good for the soul.
A nice old man going downhill strolled past my corpse and donated some water, and warned me he saw half a dozen Rattlesnakes in the next 2 miles uphill. He emphasized slowing down (planned on it) and watching foot placement (as opposed to hiking blindfolded with your shoes tied together). He signed off by suggesting not picking the snakes up. I thought about informing the man I wasn’t a 6 week old puppy intending to give the snakes a curious sniff, but instead, I made a joke about only handling my own trouser snake. He must have been severely dehydrated too, cause he didn’t laugh.
Anyway. Like any situation where one says “can’t get much worse than this”, it did.
I caught up to a guy who couldn’t get a rattlesnake to move, so he cut his damn head off. Seemed like an unfair trade, but I’d run out of my alotted complaints for the day, so I kept my thoughts to myself.
For the next hour, I hiked at a pace somewhere between roadkill and the lines at Disney World.
Just at the simultaneous end of my sanity and the climb, two military fighter jets fucking tore through the air. The first one rocked my ear drums like nothing I’d ever experienced, and in the two seconds it took to process the noise and realize it’s source, a second jet ripped by. I want to portray this honestly and accurately, as eloquently as possible.
I bitched up.
I hit the ground like it was Pearl Harbor. As I lay there wishing away a flash and mushroom cloud, I realized I could have landed crotch down on a Rattlesnake. A venomous snake bite to the schnitzel, in the summer heat, with no water to drink, on top of a mountain, alone, has to be the worst way to die, right?
On second thought, come back mushroom cloud.
That night, in a turn of fortune, I narrowly avoided a massive rain storm. The guy next to me, did not. I hung, dry, in my hammock with a bag of Peanut Butter M&M’s and watched this guy set up his tarp in the downpour. Nature’s television.
After he ducked the rain, he made White Chocolate Mocha Coffee and despite my general uselessness in his time of need, he made me some. We ended up talking book ideas for the next hour or two until the rain ended. His trail name is Slim Chance, which I’d guess are the odds he’s dried out yet. Really nice guy. Oh, and he’s a Vet. Thank you for your service.
I finally got my legs back in shape for a 20 mile day, I should mention, with the aid of some sprinkled in cloud cover.
The next couple of days were a blur of early mornings, clouds of bugs, soggy clothing, and hiking. I caught a hitch hike and stayed with two ladies and their daughter. In a hillbilly sort of serendipity, the property owner, Rose, found land in Roseland, Va, and bought it to escape the noise of society. She’s a talented artist who has traveled the world doing so. I worked around the property to cover my stay and food, which was lovely as well. Her college friend, Kirsten, just finished her school year and brought her niece, Sophie out to the woods for a little getaway. I tried to be a fly on the wall and let them enjoy their time together. We found a snake in her attic and she tried to get me to remove for her, which I adamantly refused, so for all I know, she’s burned the place down by now.
So now I’m in Waynesboro, Va. It’s actually really nice. I walked 3 miles to the movie theater yesterday and saw the whole place. Half of downtown is abandoned, but that what happens when every third building around here is some sort of museum. Get over it, ya know? Put up a local business in the space that has Colonel Billingsly’s wartime hideout/brothel/outhouse that housed a couple soldiers during a winter storm. Or not. What do I know?
Moving on. I want to say Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there. Cherish the time you have with yours!
Starting tomorrow, I am solo kayaking 125ish miles of the Shenandoah River that covers around 100 Appalachian Trail miles. I do not feel bad about substituting hiking miles with kayak miles. If anything, it makes the trek all the more interesting.
If you don’t agree, refer to Tom Hank’s knock knock joke from ‘Catch Me If You Can’.
Next post will be after kayaking. See ya when I see ya.
PS: Future hopeful sightings. Reid, Janna, and Sienna Steigman. Taylor Marsh. Jesse and Lauren Hunter. Lori and Sam Turner. Lots of planning to do once I actually get on the river, I’ll reach out to y’all soon!