Trail Journal

Date: September 22 2000
Trail Day: 114
Miles Today: 14
Location: Near PA 944
Section Mile: AT 1013
ECT Mile: 1708

Got up and did all my morning chores. Had breakfast across the street and hit the trail. The climb up lasted quite a while although it wasn't steep. The rocks are starting to decrease. I believe the Pennsylvania rocks are just very overblown. My take is - we are on the Appalachian trail. Its not Appalachian lakes, rivers or sea shores. Its Appalachian mountains and mountains are made of rocks. So in a trail as long as this one, you should expect sections with a lot of rocks.

Met a 19 year old guy. He had run away from home when he was 17 and has been homeless ever since. He has been hitch hiking all over the place and has lived in Arizona, California and the Carolinas. All he had was a very small day pack and a sleeping bag tied with a string. He was wearing slippers. He is trying to hike to Massachusetts where his parents live and take care of some court cases pending against him. Everything he had with him (which was very little) was stolen. He had been abusing drugs several months back but was now clean. He had small red berries with him that he got from some tree. He had eaten several of them without even knowing what they were. He said the Bible says all fruits growing in the open with seeds can be eaten. I ate one of them and found several along the way. I intend to find out what they are. I was also very surprised to find out that he had an email address. We exchanged our addresses. He also gave me a prayer feather. I gave him one of the maps that I am now done with. I hope he gets all his problems resolved. I personally think he has all his inner problems resolved. It is now just a matter of time. We'll see.

A short day today. Cooked some horrible tasting rice. Almost had to force myself to eat it. I was then lying down for a while when I heard a lot of snorts and crackling of twigs. I thought I had a human visitor. Got up and saw about 7 deer that bolted. I did not move. They hung around there for about half an hour checking me out. Deer are very curious animals. Every once in a while one of them would come a little closer and stomp.

Sleeping in the open tonight. There is civilization near by and there is a constant hum and drone.

A field view

Date: September 23 2000
Trail Day: 115
Miles Today: 14
Location: Near Center Point Knob
Section Mile: AT 1027
ECT Mile: 1722

Carly, Stevie and Joey listened wide-eyed as their Dad, Mr. Jones recounted the horrible incident. "The giant was after me, so I ran up this tree".

What did the giant look like Daddy" - piped little Stevie.

"Oh he was dark, huge and ugly. When he walked large twigs and branches broke really, really bad. He was also breathing fire", said Mr. Jones embellishing some.

Carly, Stevie and Joey along with Mr. and Mrs. Jones were a chipmunk family that lived on a tree near the AT. "But the tree I ran up on, was dead and short" - continued Mr. Jones to his audience. I ran all the way up, saw it was too short and tried to run back down but the giant realizing I was trapped had already come too close to the tree, so I stopped half way down".

"What did you do ?", squeaked Carly. Even Mrs. Jones was quite frightened now. "Well, I saw another dead branch lying on the ground a full 10 feet away. I aimed, held my breath and jumped with all of my strength. I landed on the branch and I think the giant was still running after me. So I ran full speed till I lost him".

Well, that's what Mr. Jones would like his children to believe but here's what happened - I was hiking along and a chipmunk ran up a small, dead tree. It ran up, realized it was too short, tried running down. Realizing it was stuck, I decided to get a closer look at it and moved in. It was funny to watch him upside down, chest and head thrust well away from the tree looking for a place to jump to. Then he took this massive jump. In the air he kept flailing his little arms and legs as though trying to fly. He landed on his target and scurried away. I bet his story becomes more and more hair raising with time.

Most of today's hike was flat. We are in a large, fertile valley that has been built. So it was road crossings all the way. Other than the crossings its quite beautiful. The soil has now become even richer and deeper. Walking is now a pleasure. Met two very friendly gentlemen. One was a hunter and dog breeder. He has won many dog show awards. He was quite interested in my equipment.

The second gentleman was a trek leader for a local organization. He has knee problem, so just drives and meets the group at road crossings. I met him 4 times, thus.

Stopped by at the cafe in Boiling Springs. I did not see much of the town, but what I saw truly impressed me. The people are very friendly and polite. It is very clean. There is a little creek that has crystal clear water. They have expanded that to a little lake. People are feeding the ducks. I could see several 8" fish feeding off the bottom. There was then a bridge over the creek with at least 50 or so similar sized fish swimming in the flow. This area has a catch and release policy. The setting is quite serene. Teenagers at the cafe and outside were very well behaved. The people also seemed happy and content - this I find is quite rare nowadays. I have seen similar very clean, nice but fake places but they are only for the rich and are called "gated communities". This is the first nice place I have seen made with the not rich crowd.

Decided to tarp tonight also.

Date: September 24 2000
Trail Day: 116
Miles Today: 13
Location: Near Limekiln Road
Section Mile: AT 1040
ECT Mile: 1735

Very overcast day. As soon as I got up it started raining. Normally, I would have packed up and started hiking. Not so today. Waited for the rain to let up which took quite a while. The whole day was overcast so I had no idea what the time was. I left the valley today - so a lot more ups and downs. Its not steep so I am thinking of dropping my poles - haven't decided yet.

Met another section hiker. He was quite demoralized because of the rain. Had great subs at a store quite close to the AT. Talked to Suriyan and Karen.

Another short day today. I may speed up tomorrow.

Date: September 25 2000
Trail Day: 117
Miles Today: 14
Location: Birch Run Shelter
Section Mile: AT 1054
ECT Mile: 1749

Full day of rain - cold rain. My hands were very numb. When I got to Birch Run shelter I could not use it for anything. One of the day hikers told me there was a storm passing through. I also think I need my thermal underwear and some rain gear. Will wait a few more days to decide.

The water in Pennsylvania seems very clean. Overall a very nice place to live - not too rugged, beautiful, not too congested. Could be one of the reasons Kumar stayed here for so long.

The terrain has become easy and the hiking poles are becoming a hindrance, so today I walked without them. I may send them back tomorrow. I am now on the tail end of a big group of south bounders. They are Springer, Still Searchin, T1, T2, Gecko, Moss, Chilli, Brisco, Firebreather, Fall Girl, Free Spirit, Looking Glass, Hypothetical and Bed Bug. I have not yet met the last four. I think Sweet Cicily is behind.

The leaves have now started falling. Its quite pretty in places.

Also crosed the half way point of the AT yesterday. Felt nothing.

Here's some more poetry.

Thru Love

In the not so distant past,
I met this pretty sobo lass.
Though the meeting was a fleeting,
My heart she left a bleeding.
Cupid's arrow sure did strike,
This poor shmuck with all its might.
In my dream she waltzes and smiles,
My heart skips a minute a mile.
I used to be a firm disbeliever,
But that was before I met her.
Now I know wise men are right,
"Lives an animal - Love at First Sight".

Date: September 26 2000
Trail Day: 118
Miles Today: 10
Location: Rite Spot Motel, Fayetville
Section Mile: AT 1064
ECT Mile: 1759

It rained heavily all of last night. It has also become extrmely cold. I have absolutely no warm clothes and desperately need them. Decided to get out of the trail at the first good road - US 30. Had pizza at a store almost on the trail. US 30 is a big road and getting rides was very difficult. Got to the motel, dumped most of my stuff there and got another ride to a WAL-MART. Bought winter clothes. The same people who gave me a ride to the store happened to be going back at the same time I was trying to head back. They gave me a ride again. Looks like the weather may actually become colder.

Date: September 27 2000
Trail Day: 119
Miles Today: 19
Location: Near Pen Mar Park
Section Mile: AT 1083
ECT Mile: 1778

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day - the very opposite of the last two days. It was still a little cold.

I have also now realized that if I drink more than 3 cans of beer I cannot sleep all night. So I started off today quite groggy. Had a very good breakfast at the Pelican's. Then tried to get a ride for a good hour. After a long time a guy pulls up and says, "Aren't you Spider ?". I was completely surprised. His name is Terry Pelton and he has been following my journal ! He asked me questions about my tarp and hiking poles that even people I've hiked with don't know about. Its quite interesting this asymmetry in knowledge - him knowing so much about me and me not even knowing his name. Nothing good or bad about it, just interesting. Anyway, to use an expression used by some nice people who gave me a ride in New Hampshire, "It was wicked cool."

Terry gave me a ride to the trail. The trail was nice and easy. Managed a 19 with a late start and another town stop - quite good. George was waiting for Sweet Cicily at one of the road crossings and gave me a ride to the town of South Mountain. At first the lady could not find my package from Vivek. Then she finally did. You won't believe how relieved I was. Mailed my hiking poles back to Vivek and another set of journal entries and roll to Suriyan. Bought groceries for 3 days. George then dropped me back at the trail head. Thanks George. It seems Cicely may do the 42 mile challenge where we do 42 miles in one day and go from Pennsylvania to Virginia via Maryland and W. Virginia. She's tough ! I am not even considering it.

Crossed into Maryland towards evening. Met Springer, Still Searchin and his Dad at the Pen-Mar park. Looks like Springer is having some problem. He looked weak. They will be taking a few days off. I hope things go well and they get back on the trail soon. They have done a good pace so far.

Walked a little further and set up tarp. Its supposed to get to 37 F tonight - good for testing out my cold weather gear.

Date: September 28 2000
Trail Day: 120
Miles Today: 22
Location: Dahlgren Campground
Section Mile: AT 1105
ECT Mile: 1800

I had not slept much the previous 2 nights, so last night I slept like a baby. The thermal underwear I wore kept me quite warm and cozy. I think I am now prepared for upto 20F. I may have to get additional clothes for the Smoky mountains where the elevations go higher than 6000 ft. Currently we are varying between 500 to 2500 ft. I have not crossed 3000 ft for several weeks.

Today's hike was a little harder. I was winded just climbing the trail to High Rock. It was also up and down quite a bit, although most were gentle. One section ran near electric lines. I saw wild grapes growing in the cleared area. At first I wasn't sure but once I ate them I had no doubts. I was very happy to find them. There's something about finding something good unexpectedly in the middle of a hike.

The companion - a book describing facilities on the trail, said there was an inn along the trail with a campground nearby. Decided to eat dinner there. It was a very fancy place. I sat down at the bar and asked the bartender, "How much is a domestic beer ?" He blinked at me and said, "How much ? Well, I'll have to look it up. Nobody's ever asked me that before." - such a fancy place. Reminded me of the snobbish salesman of an expensive store who says, "If you have to ask the price you can't afford it".

Anyway, the beer wasn't that expensive - 2.85$ but the food was. As it was expensive I did not order the full course (roughly 50$) but just the entree and stuffed myself with bread. After I was done I asked for the check and they said, "Your bill is taken care of. There are some people who are going to pick up your bill because you are a hiker". I was floored. I asked the waiter to lead me to them and thanked them. They were a very nice elderly couple.

On this journey, I have been helped by so many people that I'm quite over whelmed. Living in cities in our fast paced society we become a very cynical lot. We become pessimists and see everyone as bad people. It is only when you get out of the material trance that you can get a different perspective. And all of it has been for the better. I was also strongly reminded of my conversation with Mathew (the 19 year old homeless guy). He was talking about how his mother keeps warning him that there are a lot of bad people out there. "But Ma, I have not met a single, bad person" - he says.

Non hikers, and short distance hikers normally only see the physical aspects of a thru-hike. They are quite fascinated by the miles, the pain and the basic living. Thru hikers see it as mental as in the common phrase, "Thru-hiking is 80 % mental and 20 % physical". I firmly believe that it is mostly spiritual, although it has taken me now close to 4 months to get into this mode. I can almost feel the cleansing that I am going through.

Anyway, it was dark by the time I got out of the inn. Photon light in hand I made my way to the campground and set up tarp. Most campgrounds are designed for tents and not for tarps where you need two posts or trees about 8 feet apart to tie the main string to. I had to rig a make shift tarp by tying one end to the picnic table and another to the grill. It was slanted and broad but it did the trick.

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