I rented a car and shuttled an extra 7 hikers to Trail Days. From there, I found a hiker feast at the fire station and bought some brews. The best part of shuttling everyone was when Beach Party and Gnarwhal decided I was dead to them and stopped answering my texts. I could be less bothered, ya know? Not mad at all. WHY GUYS?!?!
I woke up with an empty bottle of fireball at the foot of my hammock and although I didnt remember much, I had a dim recollection of a large, bearded man flexing his superiority over the “party site” over a can of beer I thought was free to take. His breath smelled like Rosie O’Donnell had biked the continental United States in the same pair of tights and wrung them out in his mouth. Definitely remembered that.
The next day featured a dismal recovery effort via a church’s “Free!” pancake breakfast that costs $5. You read that correctly.
After a couple hours of writing, I threw on some Daisy Duke’s I bought at the Goodwill store and made my way to karaoke.
That next morning, I woke up with dollar bills stuffed inside my jean shorts and the pockets. After some digging around, I didn’t find any self respect, but I did find another dim memory. This time though, I remembered singing Jason Derulo’s “Want to Want Me”. Flashes of lap dancing a group of mom’s materialized. To be fair, I was just trying to show them a good time on their night out…
…with the kids.
Alchohol’s the WORST. Or I am. Tomayto/Tomahto.
The final day featured a hiker parade. Group’s of former thru-hikers walk in chronological order of their hiking year through the town of Damascus, with 2017 at the tail end. The people of Damascus line the streets with water guns and spray all the hikers cause, well, we stink. All that didn’t matter though, because it started to torrentially downpour during the parade. Being hikers, we all just kept going. It was cold, but fun.
I went to a huge bonfire on the final evening and it had a really cool tribal feel. Basically, people danced around the fire as a group banged away on some hand drums.
The next day, I caught an hour and forty-five minute hitch back to Pearisburg, VA to begin my journey home to surprise my family at a close friend’s wedding.
After a lovely evening, I caught a couple hitches and walked a couple miles to Dublin, NC. From there, one of my closest friends from home, Brandan, picked me up.
He lives in Raleigh, where I bought my flight out of. He picked me up at 12:30 am. We got home at 3 am. He was up at 6:30 for work. Unbelieveable friend.
In the two and half days I was there, I scratched almost every itch I had. I saw a movie. I ate incredibly, drank local beer, and got some much needed catching up with Brandan in. I also got a $203 speeding ticket for doing 53 in a 45. EIGHT OVER?!?! Eat my ass Raleigh PD!
He dropped me off at the airport before work and I flew home to Fort Lauderdale. One of my oldest family friends, The Hardy’s, Keith specifically, picked me up at the airport and dropped me off at my mom’s work. I contacted her amazing (Thank you Dana!) boss beforehand and told her I’d be surprising my mom. I walked in the office and she froze. After a brief chat, we headed out to surprise my brother at the school he works at. It was great to talk with the athletic staff up in the offices. I also got to see a large group of the middle schooler’s I worked with. All in all, an amazing experience.
That evening, Casey (my brother), Brooke (my sister-in-law), and the most beautiful young lady on Earth went out for drinks. All the drinks.
This time, waking up wasn’t as bad, but it still felt like I’d directly injected the Fireball into my frontal lobe.
That evening, after a morning in recovery mode, I bounced back for a happy hour with the Hardy’s and dinner with my men’s league boys. It was an early night for Young Gandalf, energy at the wedding was a must.
One of my good friends, Jack Scheper, married the stunning Brooke Hasluck, that afternoon. The wedding ceremony was beautiful. The priest, although a bit cucky, did a great job and the couple left happily married.
The reception took place at the Boca Hotel. Every little detail was perfect. There were Harry Potter themed seating charts and faux-bars. I’ve never seen anything so magical, pun f-ing intended. Best man, my buddy, and Jack’s little brother, Bo Scheper, gave a beautiful speech that invoked both laughter and emotion. Alongside the DJ, were a trombonist, a saxophonist, and a drummer. They mixed with the modern music seamlessly, and even joined the crowd on the dance floor a few times. They were my personal favorite touch of the night.
I spent the next day with my family by the pool and my mom drove me down to Miami.
I spent my last night and morning off Trail with my sun and stars, Devin Grief, and his wife Carly. He bought me dinner and breakfast, thanks again, and we shot the shit. Devin is probably my closest friend, and it’s hard earned. We’ve been through the good, the great, and the immeasurably tragic together. I look forward to continue our semi-quasi-sorta Sunday hangout routine in the future. Loff.
On my flight back, I ran into a guy I met in the airport on the way to Florida the previous week. His name is Jeff. Jeff had been through the ringer that weekend, and it looked like he’d been using Tito’s for eye drops when I saw him. I was in line at Starbucks and he appeared out of nowhere. “Skip the line, let’s get a real drink.” as he thumbed toward the bar.
We talked a bunch. Super interesting guy. We flew back and exchanged numbers. I caught an Uber back to Brandan’s house and had dinner with him and his fiancé, Suzie. They’re sorta perfect. The house is perfect. The dinner was perfect. Their 2 oz. Yorkie, Kobe, is even perfect. I probably should have slept outside now that I think about it. I made sure to apologize to Brandan if I was a little too rough around the edges, he assured me I was fine. I’d say close call. Love you brotha.
I went to Jeffrey’s house to wait for the Uber and met a few of his friends. We all clicked like we were old friends for an hour before I headed out. I hope to see y’all again!
So back to Trail. My Uber ride was super interesting from the jump. I got a text saying Liv was arriving.
So Liv arrives. I lean in the window.
Me: “How you doing ma’am? Can you pop the trunk please?”
Me: “Thank you”
Liv: “I’m a man by the way.”
The nice thing about the Trail, is there are no initial walls when meeting someone. No boundaries, no judgements. It took awhile, but Liv and I got some good conversations in by the end of that ride. It’s a shame one awkward moment delayed that experience.
Anyway. The real issue with the ride was I got back to Trail at 1 am. The first 2 miles of the trail were along roads and bridges, so I had to hike a couple miles. I must have walked through 200 spider webs. Miserable.
There’s a stigma in leaving the Trail to go home. Some hikers have been unable to get back out there, usually for mental reasons. Of course I miss my family, but they do a great job of conveying their joy in my journey, so I leave at peace. This is tough, but no tougher than a couple years back, having Thanksgiving breakfast with my mom. My sophomore year, our team came home from a roadtip on Thanksgiving morning around 3 am. After a quick shower, I drove the 3 hours to Charleston to surprise my mom. We ate a quick Thanksgiving-ish meal and I had to leave for afternoon practice back at school. I was there for maybe an hour. That, was tough.
I was excited to get back to hiking, but my body wasn’t. After two weeks of boozing and binge eating, it took me a couple of days to get my legs and wind back. Still, after 4 days on Trail, I’d managed 74 miles. After a zero at the Four Pines Hostel, I hit the next 26 miles into Daleville.
The hiking was tough. While the terrain in Virginia may be less grueling, there is significantly less water. The lack of hydration presents a new type of adversity. Personally, I feel like I lose a little awareness. I’ve made multiple wrong turns over the last week, one of which resulting in my shin splint coming back in full force.
The shin splint has really slowed my progress. I’ve been locked into 13-15 mile days, and each mile is a gut check.
That being said, the hiking has been beautiful, and I’m around some wonderful new people. Recently, the Trail has weaved across the Blue Ridge Parkway which has provided some truly incredible views.
Myself, a girl named Summer, and a dude named Wide Sky slept in a shelter that could sleep 20 hikers. It was the coolest shelter I’ve seen thus far, complete with plexiglass windows in the attic and multiple layers for cooking or in my case, some writing.
So the next morning, I’m eating breakfast on one of these many layers, and 3 mice fall from the sky, 2 babies and a mom. The mom quickly bolted under the shelter, the babies seized and suffered before dying, right in front of my eyes, with breakfast in hand. Good morning to me!
I had the intention of hiking 20+ miles into Glasgow to rest and recover, but after 15, I had to call a shuttle. I was in too much pain and needed to not wake up to 10 more miles of hiking. I shuttled into town and probably won’t go back for those 10 miles of Trail. There goes my Purist card.
Y’all. It’s one of a kind. It epitomizes tiny. A singular, centrally located fart could be smelled from the outermost parts. They haven’t even considered a stop light. There are houses, but I haven’t seen a soul anywhere except the local pizza joint.
Oh, and the dirt road rally I hitch hiked to. I love getting a little piece of each town’s culture. Between the rally and the random dinosaur landmarks, this place certainly hasn’t disappointed.
READER HELP! – I need to buy a compression sleeve for my shins and I remember track runners wearing some for shin splints in college. Does anybody know the best kind or have a suggestion? I need ’em badly.
Ok! I’m outta here, thank you so much for reading, I know there wasn’t a lot of hiking content but there wasn’t much hiking, so kick rocks if you don’t like it.
To contact me, email me at Colby.Wohlleb@gmail.com or shoot me a text. Thanks y’all!