[at-l] knob

Felix J AThiker at smithville.net
Mon Dec 24 09:08:01 CST 2012

          (14 years ago yesterday)

          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 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
          remains 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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