[at-l] he's doing it again....

Felix J AThiker at smithville.net
Fri Dec 23 11:57:43 CST 2011

            Marty and Alice took me back to Hot
            Springs for to which I could resume my hiking.
            It was
            raining/sleeting. Marty was drivin'. We met
            Wingfoot at the
            restaurant (Smoky Mountain Diner, me thinks).
            Alice and Marty
            ate and ran. Wingfoot and I had a nice, long
            chat. It
            confirmed what I've always said: I like
            Wingfoot. It also
            confirmed something I wasn't sure about: I
            wasn't going to
            join ATML when I got home. I am not the type of
            guy Wingfoot
            wants on his list. I am probably not the guy a
            lot of you
            want on this list. I digress. Anyway, I knew
            that the
            message I would bring back from my hike wasn't
            the message
            that Dan was gonna want on the list. I realized
            that over
            coffee. (I realize most of you won't get this
            'Wingfoot' stuff. Pretend you didn't read it, if
            you want)

            I left town in a cool drizzle, a little past
            noon. Walking
            out of the last trailtown was a bittersweet
            thing. It was
            dark and cold when I sat down on a Bluff Mt rock
            for a
            Snickers Bar. It was much darker and colder when
            I got to
            Roaring Fork Shelter. I think it was a little
            after 8. There
            was another guy in the shelter, asleep. I
            quickly woke him.
            We had a nice long chat. He was a mind doctor of
            some sort.
            I played with his while he studied mine. (Minds,
            that is).
            It got VERY cold that night. It warmed up enough
            to be
            raining the next morning, though.

            I forgot to tell you this: I believe that every
            day from
            Erwin to Springer was either raining, sleeting,
            snowing or
            no more than 25*. This is VERY true.

            Roaring Fork Shelter 12/23/98

            Sometime during my conversation with my
            psychologist shelter-mate
            he asked me what my plans for the next day were.
            I told him that I
            was probably going to Davenport Gap Shelter,
            which was where he'd
            started his section hike 3 days earlier. He
            said, confusedly, "That's
            22 miles." I said "Yeah, I know". And it was at
            that moment that I
            realized that I had become a pretty good hiker.
            It is a wonderfully
            liberating feeling to know that you can hike 22
            miles or more if you
            want to. and, that you don't really have to know
            it until you're doing
            it. I liked that.

            The next morning (12/23) he got up and left
            early. I talked to him from the
            comfort of my sleeping bag. I finally got up and
            left at around 9ish.
            Almost the second I left the shelter it started
            drizzling. It was
            raining steadily by the time I started up Max
            Patch. The winds picked
            up, as usual. The Smokys were now clearly
            visible. Clearly visible in
            the sense that I could see that they were socked
            in. It was an
            incredible feeling to be looking at those
            mountains knowing that the
            next day I would be entering the Granddaddy of
            them all. As I climbed
            higher on the side of Max Patch, the winds and
            rains increased. Then, as
            I was 50 yards from what appears to be the
            summit, Brother Cain's "Fools
            Shine On" rockin' my head-setted
            ERRRRR!!! ERRRRR!!!! ERRRRRRR!!!! This is a
            warning. The National
            Weather Service has issued a Severe Winter Storm
            Warning for all of
            Western Carolina and Eastern Tennessee." What a
            rush to be standing
            on Max Patch, looking at the Smokes, and hear
            that kind of weather report,
            while watching it get ready to happen. Incredible.

            I picked up the pace considerably after that. I
            stopped for a break at
            Groundhog Creek Shelter. I was freezing, wet.
            Again, my hands, fingers
            and arms couldn't work the way they're supposed
            to. I knew I was either
            staying there, or getting out of there soon. Too
            cold for standing
            around. I headed up Snowbird in a steady, heavy
            rain. I almost regretted
            leaving the shelter until I remembered that I
            could try to get to Mt.
            Moma's instead of Davenport Gap Shelter. "Hmmm,
            cheeseburgers" I
            thought. Cheeseburgers, indeed. I trudged on. It
            was a little after 4:00
            when I crossed under I-40. When I got back into
            the woods, the clouds
            and rhododendrons made it look much later. When
            I got to Davenport Gap,
            it was dark. I stood on the gravel road, cold
            rain falling, Smokys mere
            feet in front of me. "Felix" said the
            cheeseburger. "Yes?" I replied.
            "Go to the light, boy". As I walked down the
            muddy road, I could feel
            the magnificence of the Smokys to my right. I
            could smell them. It was

            I walked what seemed like 6 hours in that rain
            and fog. It was only
            about 45 minutes, though. When I could finally
            see the lights of Mt.
            Moma's through the fog, I was happy. I walked in
            the door at 15 minutes
            'til 6. Every eye in the place was on me. A
            long-haired, long-bearded,
            soaking wet hiker walks in an hour after dark?
            He's crazy. God, I love
            being crazy.

            "You got someplace where hikers stay?" I asked.
            "Well, there's the bunkhouse," a bewildered
            woman said with bewilderment.
            She said something to the man next to her and he
            left the room.
            "Go to the pink bunkhouse and I'll get you a
            plate of food."
            "How about one of those Texas Cheeseburgers" I
            thought. Well, I liked
            the thought of it so well that I said it, too.
            "The grille's closed. I'll get you a plate of food."

            I went outside to wander around the parking lot
            in the pea-soup fog and
            rain. I saw the bunkhouses, but couldn't tell
            which one was pink.
            Finally, the man who had left the room walked up
            with a flashlight and
            space heater and directed me to the pink
            bunkhouse. He told me to put on
            some dry cloths and come back inside and get my
            food. I did. I looked at
            the disposable cameras on the counter. I could
            not buy one. Luck was
            taunting me. It knew that I had $11. It knew my
            'room' was $10. It
            knew Mt. Moma took no credit card. I took the
            single remaining
            dollar and bought a Pepsi. I took my Pepsi and a
            picnic basket of food
            with me back to the bunkhouse.

            I cuddled up next to that space heater and ate.
            Ham, sweet potatoes,
            dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce, rolls
            and the best cupcake I've
            ever had. Easily, this was the most special
            Christmas Dinner of my life.
            It was in a room no bigger than 10X10. I sat on
            the floor. I ate alone.
            After dinner, I took a long, hot shower. Life
            was good. This night will
            remain as one of the most special nights of the
            hike, and my life.

Felix J. McGillicuddy
ME-->GA '98
"Your Move"
ALT '03 KT '03

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