Wednesday, May 27, 2015

On the trail to Damascus

Damascus is a huge small trail town. A week and a half ago, on Fri, Sat and Sunday I literally saw only 3 different thruhikers. While the herd is definitely thinning it was the one and only Trail Days weekend held annually in Damascus. It's the only annual AT event of its kind, although Gatlinburg is attempting a Natl this year. Despite several offers to share a ride myself, almost all hikers 100 miles North or South attended along with hundreds from last year and years before. Judging from what I've seen and heard they should call it Trail Daze instead. 
I'm glad I will see it tomorrow for the first time for several reasons: I'm hoping many who work there will have recovered from the acid tripping, dope smoking deluge I heard about, Damascus is a big milestone at the start of the longest state and it is what's called a trail town catering largely to thruhikers.
Tennessee was a rough water state, hard to find good supplies and sketchy when I did. I have a Katahdyn filter but also used some Aquamira tablets when in doubt.
Ok kids! Ready?! It's time for Privy Class!
Oh I'm soooooo excited for youuuuu!!
I've come across 2 types of privys. What's a privy you say? It's an outdoor poddy and hikers love them! Not a porta poddy as porta is short for? Portable, that's right, very good Steve K!
So far there are two kinds: with or without red worms.
In those with, as you can guess, little red worms feast on feces all day and all night every day of their entire life.
If I'm not mistaken, those who believe in karma also believe in reincarnation. Hmmmmm I guess that would mean they're (re)starting from the ground floor?
Now as my sister Karen can attest, and as many know, when fed only kitchen scraps except meat, and newspaper the red wiggler worm dung is a most potent fertilizer and potting soil additive. It's actually sold on line. Now Marissa, you have chickens and bunnies, why not do the Red Wigglers too!? Then get this: 
You Marissa do the marketing, Alec
And Summer
Doo the scooping and bagging. And call it MA'S Duty! With the tag line We're #1 in the #2 business! C'mon it's a no brainer!
Well anyway the 2nd type of privy is far less fascinating and I know you're already  flush with new and exciting info. Here's the other, it basically is the kind of privy everyone uses out here when there is no privy.
Soooooo, back in NC I came across this:
They try to tell everyone it's some kinda radar installation for air traffic control, yeah roight!
The older hikers know better. Each day as the sun is going down, a siren bellows across the valley. Villagers automatically, in a trance like state, begin marching toward this "radar installation" as the doors open. As they file in and as the sun sets, the doors close behind them. As they start heading down, down and further down into the ever darkening mountain they begin to see pairs of glowing, beastly, hungry, villainous, yellowy, greenish (is that enough yet) eyes looking back at them. The eyes bobbing back and forth as the morlocks begin moaning, groaning and growling thru their fanged, drooling teeth as they eagerly anticipate........their dinerrrrrrr!!!!!!  
Interesting plant break:
Hey gang it's kooky cracky critter time again! This time it was a very slowwww moving but totally fearless Southbounder who proceeded to walk right thru my legs as if I were the St Louis Gateway Arch. As he passed thru he looked up and said, "hey pal my name's Sal." "Pleased to meet you Sal" I said. A few more feet away...."Meander that is, Sal Meander"
I'm not sure if you can see in there, I tried taking a pic of a shelter I found with graffiti which did not for a change include a ton of expletives. You might still be able to make out some of the "messages". There is certainly a dichotomy of hikers, it's obvious many are searching and it's been pretty easy to pick out the Christians which actually make up a pretty good size percentage. (See the coins in the corner?) I will share an interesting, or at least I found it to be, coin story soon.
I was hoping someone would ask about the devos; it's actually not a "hiker" devo book at all. It's a 40 day book I bought at the first of the year. After about a week I lost track. I brought it along as its light and I figured after about the 4th time thru and I have been reading it each day, I should be nearing the journey's end.
"This world seems to be shaking more and more...."
It's based on a much larger and extremely popular book by the same author, Jesus Calling.
Vaya con Dios

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Closing in on Virginia!

North Carolina is history, the trail weaves back and forth across Tennessee which too shall end in about 60 miles or 5 days. I've got a bunch of pics to share from both. 
First of all, Scotty, Scotty Boy, Scotty Doo and my personal fav Scotty brand bathroom tissue, are ya still readin the blog buddy? Look at what your ole buddy Jim found! 
Can you believe it? Your old Ford with the fin on top to keep the front end on the road when you raced from Longmeadow to Springfield. Boy oh boy what were the odds? Good ole boys down here have taken real good care of her. My boys in Monson and Huntington would've been real proud. Bet Longmeadow was happy to see it go though huh? 
Now I know your still trying to figure out how to respond on blog so I will just go ahead and share the funniest thing you ever said.
Scott and I worked together in that crazy, zany, rock star world of health insurance for several years. One day, Scotty's dreams came true when I was placed in a cube right next to his! Oh boy those were the days huh my friend? 
For a couple years anyway we're sitting there pluggin away,  makin all the business owners happy by raising either premiums, co pays, deductibles or all of the above. Of course there's the playfull banter, when one day Scotty says: "hey Jim, can I ask you a question?" "Sure Scotty boy" I said, "what's your question?"
"Jim.....why do you even talk?" Oh man was that the right/wrong thing to say. Hilarious. Anyway Scotty, you're a good man, faithful husband, loving father, not as good a golfer and good for the check every other time at Chef Wayne's. You can't get me now cuz I said all those nice things. 
If I insert a pic twice, sorry.
I know I did trillium but this one's painted.
Another piece of gristle gum, yum yum.
My grandson Gavin, not on the trail but I knew you'd want to see his pic.
Hey Vu, how about I make you some Marsala sauce to add to your dinner?
I chose not to linger.
Denise saw the killer rabbit. Marissa spotted the toad and referenced a classic scene in a classic movie (most popular soundtrack ever sold) based on a classic book that nobody else got. But nobody guessed either the Pliskin reference nor that invention based on this tree:
The escapee was "snake" Pliskin. Kurt Russell Escape from New York including Raquel Welch's official replacement Adrienne "Barb"eau and Donald Plesence played the president who some years later played the doctor of what well known villain???
The tree inspired the Barkolounger! (BarcaLounger) Look at it, it's perfect.
That's Mica. Fact in your face #2: North Carolina is the worlds leading producer of mica. No Dave S it's not used to make that which you "sing" into that no one else would ever dare to! JK man you know I, well, that, I, um, know ya.
What's that you ask?
Nasty critter yo.
My legs are not the only thing getting stronger! Look at my face, made especially for all those corny people who insist on taking the same corny pic like holding up the leaning tower of Piza.
Speaking of pizza, hiker hunger is definitely setting in. Besides pizza, when entering a town to pick up re supply, I always ask who makes the best burger. Check this bad boy out:
Quarter pounder with cheese, chili, ham, cole slaw, pickles, mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion! That baby was so bad I had to stand it up on the plate and bring my head/mouth down to it while holding on with both hands. Shhhhuuummp! 6 inch wide hose strikes again.
Ok gotta go, perhaps next time we can talk and learn about privys!
Luv luv luv

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Rest of the story

Maris you stole my line girl! 
So we get into Gatlinburg around 9pm. I quickly check in at the Budget Inn, cheap but fine with me, Christian owned. Vu's a nice guy but I quickly dodge and run. Crank the heater in my room, throw on dry clothes and run like I stole something to a Texas Roadhouse we passed on the way in. Like a six inch hose I virtually inhale a steak, mashatatoes, bread, brocolli, salt, pepper, napkin and 2 beers. The place is loaded with big TV's and I am utterly speechless (I was alone anyway) but felt like I was an alien from another planet watching the news channel. There was this ridiculous protesting business going on in Baltimore and Philly. It really is powerful to unplug for a solid month then watch how crazy humans behave and are lead.
Enough o dat, I take my first zero day on Friday, laundry, second hot bath in like 12 hours, the kind where u leave the hot water trickling in and create like a whirlpool around you to keep it all even and hot u know?
Now normally one would reasonably expect to pay about $25 to shuttle back to Clingmans on Sat. Hitchiking, not gonna happen. Lo and behold, the hotel owner tells me there's a trail angel coming with a truck at 930am, FREEEEEEEE!!!! I'm like WHAAATTT??? He's like yeah, I'm like heck yeah!
That's Mark (and me on the left). For the last I think 9 yrs he and his wife and their friend Todd all Christians, do this off the chart trail magic. But that's not all. They not only shuttled almost 20 of us but get this: on the way to Clingmans they stop at Newfound Gap which is a tourist spot about 9 miles North of Clingmans on the AT.
Ya still with me, it gets even crackier! Mark lets everybody out and asks whose heading to Clingmans? Me and about 6-8 others. Mark says "why don't you slack  pack from there to here and we will have lunch for you when you get here" WHAAAATTTT!!!! Slack pack is like water and power bar, 9 miles without a pack is like 2-3 hours. Sure enough he brings us to the place I lost more marbles than I can afford, it's a 10 of a weather day:
I can see for miles and miles I can see for  miles and miles and miles and....somebody should right a song about that. But I'm still not done yet. On the way from A-B Mark tells his story. In 2002 his son was 18 and wanted to thru hike the AT with dad before heading off to college. How cool is that already. They start out. By northern Tennessee Mark contracts giardiasis, a common and debilitating ailment many get from the water. Within a few days Mark knows he will have to drop out for treatment as he's getting weaker by the day. His son goes on, reluctantly. In a couple days Mark rounds a corner to see his son waiting for him. "I'm not going without you dad". Touching yeah I know, get THIS THOUGH: two months later Marks son is diagnosed with a stage 4, inoperable tumor on his brain stem with a 10% chance of survival. WHICH HE DID!!!! They put some kind of tube in to transport spinal fluid which was being cut off, irradiated the tumor and in 2005 they thruhiked the trail together! Son's fine training to be a trauma nurse already known as the calm cool collected one. The husband and wife, from mid March through mid May on Friday and Saturday provide trail magic as their ministry of thanks. 
By the time I get back from Clingmans, soda, chips, freshly made ham n cheese w lettuce and fruit. 
Remember my original intent was to pass Clingmans and tent by shelter 2 miles away, no "trauma", no sunset, no zero day, no snorting a steak, no Mark, no magic no lesson.
And now you know, "the rest of the story". It's cool that Marissa remembered that line it's sad to think so many now don't and won't. What a man and what a vocation. If it's been a while or never been, check out this most prophetic peace Paul Harvey did 30 years ago, 30!
It could've been done 30 days ago:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Clingman's Dome

I think it's safe now, the facial tick and hand tremors have ceased. I can share half the story of Clingmans Dome. As with most personal experiences, a true and just rendering is hardly possible. The Dome incident happened on 4/30 a hunnid miles ago. At 6655ft it's the highest summit on the entire AT. The day started out great, sunny, feelin good, saw a tom turkey about 6 ft from a guy's tent, a deer walked up on a group of us lunching at a shelter, like this one, see him?
After about 130 the weather changed, fast, it actually hailed briefly then the sun came right back out. I wanted to get to a shelter/camp site 2 miles past the Dome which was 6 miles away and by 2 pm knew I wud need to push to make it by 7pm. Twice already I had to back track in the Smokys cuz of the stupid signage and the park is loaded with crisscrossing trails, that really makes ones ears steam (this being a family blog). It's about 5 and it starts hailing again. The good thing about hail? It doesn't stick and soak in and as long as it's pea sized it doesn't dent ur skull. Then (there's a lot of "thens" coming) it starts raining. Cold rain. Cold rain makes hard rocks and roots slippery, yeah. Down, up, up, down, up, up, up, down, up, up, up... Get the drift? Visibility is about 65 ft. I'm approaching the dome without hope of a pic especially as phone, battery charger and go pro are dead or on its doorstep.
No shitaki mushroom it starts snowing! I'm crawling up and down rocks and roots trying to go as fast as I can. My gloves r buried in the pack but I need to check the guide book anyway. The gloves, as D.O.D. wud say; I hope the SOB that designed these gloves dies a long slow painful death. They r not waterproof and AND!!! They actually make ur fingers colder so u hafta pull them into the palm which u can't do with trekking poles in each freezing flipping hand! 
There's 1/2 inch of snow, late April, as I pass the Dome lookout tower without any hope of a view. I've got to get to this shelter yo!
I come to a sign. The sight of that sign will be with me to the end. It says AT .5 back the way I just came. That .5 took about 45 minutes! Plus that's a mile! .5 and .5! 
I lost it, I think the clinical term is completely decompensated. My dad the Navy man wudve been both proud and blushing at the soliloquy of swears I strung together against the morons whose only job in this life is the signage at the most visited National Park in the entire United State of America. I flipped out, I'm literally yelling in the woods on a mountain freezing, soaking and wondering what in the world  I was gonna do? Another sign points to a visitor center .1 mile away. It's 630 and almost dark. I'm not going .5 back down that icy trail. I walk up to the visitor center. There's no one. To the parking lot, there r 2 cars. One is parked like it's been there and the owner is probly at my shelter. The other is running, with lights on, stopped but facing the exit. I'm freakin out. I start toward the car w lights on and sure enough, it takes off!
If if if if I have signal and if if if my phones not dead maybe just maybe I can call for a shuttle. It's that or pitch my tent with fingers quickly approaching frostbite.
Ya just can't make this stuff up.
As the world is coming to an end, no lie, no lie; a voice from up top of the large parking lot "hey, is somebody down there?" "YES!" I yelled. 
"Is there someone there?" "YES!!! I'm down here!!!"
As the guy, with a pack, starts coming down my jaw like drops, ya can't make this up. Remember this guy:
Yes Deja Vu! His phones dead. But he has a battery charger that might push a quick call, if there's signal mind you. He points to a bathroom. We huddle in, no sink (no hot water). With crumpled fingers I'm actually calling a cheap hotel but the shuttles not available. As I'm on the phone, while I'm on the phone on top of a mountain where no one is and nobody belongs, a car pulls up and Vu or Deja whatever the heck goes out, comes back and says "the guy will let us warm up in his car!"
I jet, no lie, I open the passenger side door, look in and say only this: "are you an angel?" The guy just smiles. 
Can you see what's happening here? One minute I'm hopeless, seriously. A few minutes later I'm getting that 2x4 across the forehead kind of deal as in "gee where's all that faith when u need it, Sparky?"
Ru still with me? It's not over, ohhhhh no. 
Turns out the drivers name is not Gabriel nor Michael but Jeff. I ask if he might be heading toward Gatlinburg, he wasn't but said he wud bring us anyway! It's a good 25-30 minutes away. He lets me plug my phone into his charger, I'm in the back seat with my wet 50lb pack on my lap sitting next to Vu. No ones in front passenger seat. 
Jeff it turns out is retired and is now a freelance photographer who thought by the time he rose to the Dome he might have gone above the weather to capture a sunset, not happenin.
We head down the mtn. It's 7pm and the heater is on full blast.
Again we are in the Smokys, there are these pull offs every couple of miles to talk know, view the view. As we come to one Jeff asks if we mind stopping. There's a band of clouds above and below an orange window of brightening sunlight.
That's the pic I took. Jeff gets out of the car with keys, (no more charger) opens trunk and starts setting up equipment. He comes back and says sunset isn't till about 815. I decline his offer of snacks.  Cars off now, cold is returning. Doesn't Vu, sitting on the side with the view, reach for his own one gallon ziplock bag of trail mix? I cringe. I've seen him, or should I say, I've HEARD him eat before. 
My dad told me there were name changes in our history. I'm guessing it's from homicidal reactions to people who smacked. But Vu doesn't just smack, he talks while he munches and smacks handfuls of crunchy munchy! 
There's more.
The sunset is coming together. Vu keeps using his forearm to wipe just enough of the moisture off the window to say "hmmmfff wow hrrrmmmff that's chomp munch hmmmmff incredible!"
By this day I've had several friends ask me to send them sunrise n sunset pics. Oh gee look, phones dead, Go Pro is no go. Each time I lean forward to see this amazing sunset, sure enough, so moves Vu's big chomping head. This goes on for at least 30 years, I mean minutes. I finally just started chuckling to myself, probly sounded like a lunatic.
No lie, NO LIE....Jeff the free lance photographer gets back in the car and his very first words??? "Guys that was a once in a lifetime sunset". The second thing he says (again this to one whose 2 cameras were both dead) no lie, "that sunset made the hair go up on the back of my neck".
I couldn't hold it in anymore. I spewed out my pain and angst and just the incredible ridiculousness I had just endured.
As we drive away Jeff thanks us and tells us we made his day! He also asked for our email addresses.
Jeff is a funny name for an angel, but Jeff is no joke here's his website:
And here's the sunset neither of my cameras could've possibly taken:
 Once in a lifetime.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Big Butt Mountain!

LThe No lie look at this page from the AWOL Guide, very bottom:
I soooo wanted to tell you today that I camped right on top of it last night. But I can't. Oh I climbed the big butt alright, only to find no place to put a tent it was all rocks and lumpy. Furthermore I was surprised to find only one summit vs two! Alas I hiked further and camped elsewhere. Where by the way my shuper shecret Shtar Walk app showed me the first two huge bright shtarsh I shaw  in the shouthwessht shky  were Jupiter and Venush. If u don't have the Starwalk app, it's free yo. 
Along the path I spotted this baby, biggest one I've ever seen and for a moment I questioned whether he was gonna move or attack as in that British Documentary about the Holy Grail???
Yeah that ones not so easy but once you do find it eyoweee!
Soooo, story has it that way back in the 40's not too long after the trail was completed, a certain man hiked until he came upon this tree. He left the trail immediately an invented that which is pretty much mans second best friend??? The woman can only use it when the man is away like golfing. Good luck on this one.
In Georgia, otherwise pronounced joegia and ever since I've been watching these things grow:
The ground is covered with them. Until today I thought they were just some weed. No sir, check it out:
They're all flowers. Oh and those that guessed Lady Slipper to the other were correctamundo. What my sister Karen pointed out also is that it's an Orchid. Learn something new every day as D.O.D. would say.
Here's the view from Howard's Rock:
Dig, is this not the job for Sparky?
Looks like this:
I finally finished watching Superman, Man of Steel. It was probably the 4th time and each time I find more biblical symbolism. Come to find out there are quite a few and all deliberate.
I'm now pecking away at Monumental (not monument men). It's a great little documentary by Kirk Cameron re the Puritans (pilgrims, separatists). Unbelievable what they were made of. And while most flock like lemmings to see the rock, there's a huge hidden statue they built in Plymouth now buried at the end of a suburban neighborhood nobody ever visits. 
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Word

Monday, May 11, 2015

Perfect Pause now back at it

Big day May 9th. Happiness, sadness, thoughts of the past, hope for the future. Alicia graduated with Bachelors in Child and Family Dev from Penn State joining roughly 643,000 in the Alumni Association as she gets ready to intern at the Key Program in Spfld. Social services for troubled youth. She is seriously considering and planning on a Masters degree. Yep, she's kind of a big deal.
There she is, my mommy dearest! Jk mom you know I love Ya and you only came at me once when I was around 13/14 with a dog leash (chain), well deserved with my wise mouth. Other than that one time it was always "wait till your father gets home!" 
My folks met in Boston where she grew up and my dad was stationed in Boston Harbor with the Navy during WWll. They met at a roller skating rink, how cute is that? How cute is she? Adorable I know.
Back at it today. After 3 zero days, it was a slow and tender 6.9 miles. My ankles are still swollen from twists and turns but still ok to trudge. My pack weighs 50lbs fully loaded. They say it should weigh 30-35. Julie from REI in West Hartford Ct, about 5.4 125 lbs guessing 40ish carried a 60lb pack the distance last year so I'm gonna try with the fitty. I've lost roughly 15lbs myself. 
The sign below reads 1914 miles to Katahdin Maine.
A little creature feature. Can you see what I saw the other day? It was actually the smaller of 2. The other asked me not to take his pic as he was an escapee named Pliskin. Can u guess from where he escaped?
You like the creature feature? Here's another. Can you find it?
I'm gonna close with a devo to one who had a big impact on me 27 years ago. I was rescued by prayer from a world famous cult. Having been so incredibly deceived I found myself on an immediate quest for the truth. I went to the (mainline)church of Christ, the family there along with my sister Karen were those who had prayed.
Raul Fonseca was the preacher and along with several others gave me exactly what I was looking for and haven't needed to search for since.
So sincere about his own quest for truth and interpretation Raul learned Greek. Over the years he moved South then back North always teaching and preaching. Raul was the kind of teacher that you could listen to for a long long time. He visited the camp last year and told me a fascinating story. His last home bible study in Fla before leaving for Vermont saw almost 40 people. One very quiet and unassuming attendee gave Raul his card after the study asking if Raul might give him a call some time. That man is one of the producers of the sequel to The Passion called The Resurrection due in theaters on Easter 2017. He asked Raul to be the lead biblical consultant as the producers are seeking to make this the most biblically accurate Christian film.
Now, when you're watching a race and your driver crosses first, or your team wins the championship or the runner successfully "finishes the race" what's the reaction? The sign of victory! Raul was brought home last Monday, young at 61 after a recent diagnosis of cancer.
You finished well my friend.

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