Hey! How’s your day? Good? Nice. Mine? Oh the usual, just borrowed a hostel’s bike and the chain snapped, sending me over the handlebars in the bike lane of a busy roadway. Not to mention, I broke the ‘Leave No Trace’ policy of leaving Nature exactly how you found it. I smuggled a rock. Kinda. It was embedded in my ankle. Silver lining, my right ankle is now as swollen as the left, AND, I finally have time to write!
Let’s catch up.
Last you heard, I was waiting on an inflatable kayak I bought off Amazon to navigate the Shenandoah River for a hundred or so miles. Let’s play out this part of the journey in the form of Jeopardy.
Gandalf: “Uhh, I’ll take ‘Dumb shit people do on a river for $200”
Trebek: “Only a true idiot would take off in a kayak, on a river plagued with Ecoli from cows using it as a bath and toilet, and not do this.”
Gandalf: “What is leaving the drainage plug open?”
It’s true. I paddled away for an hour before realizing it was open. The first 6 hours in my kayak I couldn’t get the water out. I sat in a witches cauldron of murky sunscreen sweat, musty hiker shorts, and Ecoli water. This jump?
I didn’t even know if there was water down there, but I had to get away from my own stench. Back to the game!
Gandalf: “Dumb shit for $400, please.”
Trebek: “This oversight will require a kayaker to paddle every second on the river just to avoid spinning in continuous circles on the water.”
Gandalf: “What is buying a kayak, made for the ocean, with a fin underneath that helps keep the boat pointed straight and using it in a rocky river?”
The fin snapped off on a rock an hour in. Have you ever paddled for eight straight hours? No? Me neither. I spun in a lot of circles.
Gandalf: “Dumb shit for $600!”
Trebek: “When one intends to paddle nearly one hundred miles on a river, alone, this decision will render the kayaker useless, helpless, and any other descriptive word to emphasize their stupidity.”
Gandalf: “What is doing zero research or preparation?”
I’m not proud.
Gandalf: “Dumb shit for $800”
Trebek: “This really sucks and I don’t know how it happens.”
Gandalf: “What is kayaking in your birthday suit on Naked Hiker Day and forgetting to put sunscreen on your Bat and Balls?”
I’m even less proud. But hey, remember those circles? They weren’t so bad after all. A raft with some ladies partaking in Nudey Day 2017 caught up with me and asked how I was doing.
Eye’s forward, I said “I’m very tired.”
They suggested a break in paddling.
Your wish is my command.
Gandalf: “Dumb shit for $1000”
Trebek: “This could be caused by bad luck OR attempting to read a book on a rocky river in an inflatable kayak.”
Gandalf: “What is a rock popping my kayak in the middle of a river?”
The last I saw my boat, The USS Banana Spliff, it was folded up in a trash can in Front Royal, VA as my cousin Taylor drove me away towards his place in Arlington, VA.
Before I get to that though.
Jokes aside, my time spent on the river was exhilarating. I saw around a dozen bald eagles, including one whose wing span must have been ten feet. I got to cliff jump. I rested my legs. I, finally, got an upper body workout. Lastly, I did something I will probably never embark on again.
Had Mark Twain ever looked into a carnival mirror that elongated his body, I have no doubt he’d have seen me, or vice versa.
Anyway, as I mentioned, my cousin, Taylor Marsh, picked me up for a 2 night stay in Arlington, VA. Taylor is a rare breed. He works himself to the bone. He just graduated with a Masters in Finance from Georgetown, paid for by his employer, Lockheed Martin.
It drives me crazy when I can’t picture somebodies day to day routine. For instance, when I think of my brother right now, I know he’s probably in a basketball gym or in his house with his wife and pup. I know what the setting looks like, I can imagine everything. Getting to see Taylor in his new settings with his new friends really was great. To say I’m proud of him would be a drastic understatement.
My last night, Taylor and I, for the first time, went out and got drunk together. It started as an innoncent night out with his buddy Sully (not an Irish hitman from South Boston surprisingly). He has a great group of friends. We went to a bar named Whitlow’s, which will be referred from here on out by it’s street name, Shitlow’s. Shitlow’s makes more sense, as they let me in with gym shorts and Croc’s.
Taylor and Sully were like a PR team. People knew my name, my blog name, and that I was an AT hiker before they even met me and I shamelessly basked in the attention.
D.C., I guess, has a new Homeless Hospitality Initiative cause all these women kept inviting me to sleep at their house, which I appreciated. Can somebody confirm this? Email me. Thanks.
This all may seem petty, but spending all this time in the woods around a ton of dudes can be repetitive. Getting attention from from females was a refreshing rediscovery, especially remarks like this…
Girl: “You look like Matthew Mconaughey and Jesus.”
Guy: “No way, Jesus couldn’t pull like this in Croc’s.”
So yeah, it was great night, capped off with a favorite bar song of mine, Danger Zone, by Kenny Loggins.
So, the next day he dropped me off, I hiked 5 miles, puked twice, and slept 6 pm to 6 am. Somewhere, the real Jesus McConaughey shook his head in disappointment.
Love you Taylor, keep making the entire family proud.
The next two days and 50 miles, things got a little weird. The first morning, I woke up with a spider the size of GD Baseball INSIDE my tarp and bug net. It nestled just next to my head. Who knows how many times it crawled over my body. Once I finally got it out, it not only didn’t back down from me, it reared its front 2 legs up at me and took a couple steps in my direction which was fucking horrifying.
Then, shaking from adrenaline, shock, and a brutal hangover, I filled my Sawyer water filter, hung the nozzle over my mouth, and squeezed to appease the sandpaper situation I had in my mouth. Just as I lower the nozzle to my lips, I feel something drop into my mouth. I looked at my Sawyer, and this is what I found.
ANTS COLONIZED MY WATER SOURCE. Perfect! Who needs water anyway, I just need to cover 50 miles in two days. Thankfully, another hiker had a spare dozen chlorine tablets to spare. Enough to last 2 days.
The Trail provides. I pushed out 50 miles and finally got the fuck out of Virginia. I never ever ever ever thought I would say this, but, I was so happy to see West Virginia, even if I did find my first tick on my leg just inside the WV border. Waiting for me in Harper’s Ferry were two college friends, Sam and Lori Turner. I’ve never not known them to be together, and they seem happier than ever.
They’re salt of the Earth people. Sam’s from England, teaches children with Behavioral Disoders, and is the head soccer coach of the local high school. We met at West Virginia Wesleyan where he played soccer. He has summers off, so we got to do a TON of catching up. When he went to soccer practice at night, I would sit and talk with Lori for a couple hours. We really deep dived into some topics I’m sure neither of us speak about often.
They live a few minutes away in Charles Town, WV. It’s a charming little town heavily sprinkled with history and anything you could want to do within an hours drive.
We went to a new local brewery In Charles Town before heading out to Sheperdstown, WV for a couple more beverages.
There, we met with another college friend, Erica Hottel, who still puts the Hot in Hottel. I also met her new boyfriend Cliff. Cliff, you guessed it, climbs Cliff’s. He’s so handsome that God rendered him mute. That, or he’s perfecting a mannequin impersonation. Or maybe he’s just a little quiet and I’m an asshole. I love a mystery!
Despite the horrible hangover in the morning, we managed to make it to the couch the following morning for a couple hours of stand up comedy and a handful of dry heaves.
That night, we joined a work friend of Lori’s for dinner and an incredible concert by a cover band, The Reagan Years. Kelly, said work friend, introduced me to a couple friends that do a ton of freelance writing in the area. One guy listened to a few of the things I’m working on and gave me some directional advice I’d never heard before. Another amazing night.
The next day, I said my goodbyes to Sam and Lori, with the full intention of seeing them again soon. I know I said thank you multiple times, but one more can’t hurt.
Thank you so much.
That morning, Reid Stiegman plucked me from the Turner’s to spend the rest of the long weekend at his house with his lovely wife, Janna, and perfect little girl, Sienna. Reid is somewhere between a brother and friend, and I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad time together.
We stopped for BBQ & Beer, Wine, Coffee, and real drinks, in that order, before finally getting to his house. I met a friend of his, Jeremy Ross, who is a Beverage Specialist at Sense of Thai St In Ashburn, VA. Recently rated the #8 restaurant to go to in the area. Holy shit. This dude throws off-the-menu combinations together that make you wonder what the hell you’ve been drinking your whole life. He treats everything like an art project, including a birthday cake he’s making Reid for his birthday that I watched on his IG story from 2-5 am last night?!
Anyway. Reid and Janna’s house is directly symmetrical with the rest of their relationship, life, appearance, everything.
I’m not blowing hyperbolic smoke up everyone’s ass either. What makes it even cooler is that Reid and his Dad did a majority of the improvements themselves! I’m a sucker for Dad/Son time, so I thought that was pretty fuckin awesome.
The last night, during a 4th of July block party, one of their neighbors went in their house for the first time. His reaction is as follows.
“Holy shit, this is amazing. This looks NOTHING like ours. Woah.”
Imagine that this man was in fact, blind, and had been his whole life. Then, somehow, with a red bush of pubes on my face, I managed to get the entire Miami Heat dance to surround this man in a circle, holding hands, completely naked. Then, imagine that the man’s vision miraculously fixed itself, as we all know God would do if he saw this particular scenario developing, and this group of every shape, size, and color of boobs and butts is the very first thing this man ever saw!!!
That’s how this guy looked at the house. So yeah, good job guys.
Moving on. Reid took care of me. We ate good, drank better, and chilled extra hard. We even discussed me potentially getting a job in the area.
I finally got my first smile out of Sienna before I left. Wow. I can’t even fathom how it would feel if she were mine.
Before that is misconstrued, that’s not an invite for any baby mama’s to come forward. Stay away until he or she is 5 or so.
We had one big family lunch and they dropped me off in Maryland where I left off.
Later that same day, I found a nice lady that apparently had a sphincter fallout, as I found her squatting about 9 inches off Trail. Funny how one day can have two complete opposite halves.
The scene goes like this.
I see her.
She yells “I’m so sorry!”
I cranked my walking speed, turned the volume up on my music so I couldn’t hear anything, and stuck my thumb up in the air. I’m not sure why I did the thumbs up, it just felt right. Hopefully she didnt take it as advice to plug up her problem.
I currently sit in Pennsylvania, my seventh state, and apparently the worst..
The last three weeks have been nothing short of special. The most recent time spent on the trail has been expectedly trying. In fact, just yesterday, I had my first conversation about quitting. I’m proud to report that after a motivational text and some tears of frustration under a hot shower, some better-late-than-never mental fortitude arrived.
There’s still one factor though. Due to self employment tax rates, there is a chance the IRS turns my Appalachian Trail piggy bank upside down and dumps it all out.
IF that is the case, I will most likely skip the PA miles. That’ll shorten my trip, and I’ll get to see all the New England states during Autumn, which I’ve been striving for since March 21.
I will keep you all updated.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep shouting Reparo! at my legs.