This is Wolfman Jack spinning the tunes on the Saturday Night Special. That last song, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” by Sly and the Family Stone was a long distance request from OnthegO. He has dedicated that tune to all the folks back home who have supported his attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, especially his wife who allowed him the opportunity, and continues to send him loving care packages. That song also got me off the mountain today.
Once again, I had that special opportunity to play “don’t fall off the mountain” again. This time, it wasn’t ice that caused the problem, but rivers of mud caused by days of rain. Coming down Walnut Mountain, the first peak of the morning, I hit an especially slick section as I approached a switchback. As I’m sliding forward, I notice the the trail maintainers had built a banked turn in the corner that looked like the 4th turn at Talladega, so I planted my lower pole, leaned into the turn, and came right around headed for the checkered flag!
I know I have mentioned privies on several occasions. Some of you may have envisioned a outhouse of sorts, but I want to dispel any vision you might have of that luxurious Appalachian structure. Out here, they tend to take a more minimalist approach to the standard outhouse. Just look at those clean lines and the utilitarian form and function. Almost Zen in its simplicity, don’t you think?
During my descent from Bluff Mountain, both the weather and the trail conditions began to improve. Approaching Garenflo Gap, I came across a man from the local trail club out to do some maintenance. He was carting a couple of cans of white spray paint and a stencil for a blaze. As he approached, I started going ooh ooh, ooh ooh, ooh ooh. As he started digging around in his pockets for a banana to toss to me, I blurred out, “Can I do one!” He answered in the affirmative, as long as I wouldn’t mind backtracking a little ways. The man’s name was “Hollywood” and, thanks to him, around mile 266.5 I have my own blaze on the A.T.! I told him to please thank everyone in the club for their maintenance work, especially turn #4 at Talladega.
Everyone on the trail has been talking about Hot Springs for days. The hot mineral baths will cure all your hiker pains. They have never ending chocolate fountains. There is a tavern with 50 taps and all the pulls are made of solid gold. There is a unicorn on every corner and a perpetual rainbow over the mountains. Such are the fantasies of thru-hikers.
Today the trail was characterized by four miles of downhill, followed by four miles of uphill, followed by ten miles of downhill to descend into Hot Springs. With four miles remaining, I stopped near the Deer Park Mountain Shelter to take on some water in order to wash down a double dose of vitamin I (ibuprofen) to help ease my aching knees. Happily, the A.T. literally goes through the middle of Hot Springs, and the Laughing Heart Hostel is five steps from the trail. This hostel has a number of single rooms, one of which I was able to reserve, so I checked in at 4:00 on, took a shower, put on my rain gear, gathered my dirty clothes, picked up my resupply from Bluff Mountain Outfitters (which was closing at 5:00), and headed for the laundromat. Never had warm, dry clothing felt so good.
While walking through town, I bumped into Boo Boo, who I hadn’t seen in several days, and we decided to meet for dinner. Hulahoop was also at the laundromat, so I asked him to join us. At the Iron Horse Tavern, we devoured 12 oz steaks with all the sides, washed down by a couple of IPAs, and followed up with peanut butter and chocolate pie. We were still hungry, but since everywhere else was closed for the evening, we reluctantly walked back to our respective places of slumber. I have hiked over 50 miles in the past three days, and now it is time to rest these weary bones.