[at-l] lada dada dee.... lada dada dah....
athiker at smithville.net
Mon Jan 4 08:46:33 CST 2016
New Year's Day was damp and chilly. Not raining. Not cold.
Just damp and chilly. I met two guys at Plumorchard Gap. We
were talking about football for some reason. I said "Hey,
did Boomer (Esiaison) say 'No shit' on the Monday night
game?" One of the guys said "See, I told you" to the other.
Pittsburgh and I had watched the Monday night game together
and I was sure that he (Boomer) had said it. I got to
Dick's Creek Gap in mid-afternoon. I was trying to hitch to
Hiawassee when a guy in a truck pulled over. I was just
about to the truck when he drove away. That was one of the
few times anyone was a true jerk to me in 5 months. I got a
ride and checked in at the jacuzzi-roomed Holiday Inn
Express. A hot soak and steak dinner later, my buddy
Pittsburgh was there for more football watching.
The next day, 1/2/99, was horrible. It was raining or
sleeting most of the day. I had to get on my hands and knees
and crawl across the summit of Tray Mountain. I believe I
was in Sassafras Gap when I took this picture
(http://Felixhikes.tripod.com/AT/frozface.jpg) My eyelashes
were covered in ice. I trudged on in the muck. I got to
Unicoi and was glad to find my buddy Pittsburgh there. I
wasn't certain he would be there. We went to Helen for more
showers and pizza. (I won't get into a big thing about
whether the showers were at the same time, or not)
1/3/99...my dad's 57th birthday, was just cold and no rain.
I cruised along pretty good. I stopped at Blue Mt. Shelter
and talked to three kids from Alabama. for some reason I
said "Ain't 'Got You Where I Want You' a great song?" One of
the kids said "Hey, I saw them in concert New Year's Eve." I
thought that was cool. The more we talked, the more I found
out about them. I actually have met their grandmother. She
lives in Bloomington. Small world, of course.
I hiked on. When I got to Hogpen Gap parking lot, a man
there asked me if I was 'going camping'. I said "Yup. Couple
more days anyway." The Trail was covered in chunks of ice
for several miles through this stretch. I had this picture
taken on Cowrock Mtn
It was about 5:05 when I got to Neel's Gap. The store was
closed. I looked in and somebody came over and opened the
door. There were three people inside counting money and
prepping the store for closing. They let me warm up and
drink coffee. It was FREEZING out. My beard thawed. They
gave me a can of pop (which I never got to drink because it
froze). I started up Blood Mt. right at dusk. There were
people, and fires, all over the rocky summit of Blood Mt. I
was listening to the Packers/Niners
game and the radio and didn't even stop at the shelter. Did
I mention that it was cold? AND, windy.
I got to the shelter turn-off for Woodshole. I almost passed
it because there wasn't a sign for southbounders>:-| I
walked for what seemed like miles down the blue-blaze. I
stopped two times and nearly turned around. When I got to
the shelter, I was amazed to find two other bodies inside.
One was awake. We talked a bit as I was setting up for the
night. Did I mention it was freezing? I asked if they were
just out for the weekend. The guy I was talking to said
"Naaah. We're thruhikers." "Northbounders?" I asked. "No."
"Who the hell are you?" I asked, thinking that all the
southbounders ahead of me were long gone. "I'm QP. That's
Windbraker." "No F***ing way. I've been following you guys
for 5 months." We had a nice chat that night. I felt like
they were my long-lost brothers. (I knew that they weren't,
however, because my long-lost brothers are both in prison)
It got down to 5º or less that night. 5º is cold.
This morning brought me the most excruciating pain of the 5
month journey. I had left my boots out over night. They were
frozen. They were frozen. It took 12 minutes to put them on.
Then, there was the trip to the privy
(stainless-steel-seated privy). It was about 16 minutes of
physical inactivity. My feet were frozen. It took over an
hour to get the circulation going enough to warm my feet
again. They hurt so bad that my stomach hurt. Somewhere in
that first mile and a half, I passed Tank. (A guy whose 110
lbs. pack I tried to lighten a few days earlier at his
aunt's house) He was definitely struggling. He said that I
was right about a lot of the weight he was carrying. I told
him to make it to Neel's and have Jeff go through it. I
hiked most of the day leapfrogging with QP and WB. I liked
them and liked having someone around for a change.
Especially someone who was excited about the same thing that
I was excited about. We spent the night together at a frigid
Hawk Mt. Shelter. I couldn't find the spring. Again, it was
5º or less. This time, my boots were in my bag. (Footnote:
QP's pee bottle from Woodshole S. froze and he had to carry
a bottle of frozen urine all day. We laffed. Well, not QP)
Something I shant forget about that night at Hawk Mt. is
this: The Tennessee Volunteers were playing for the national
championship. QP and WB are from the Knoxville area. They
both had walkmans (walkmen?) and were listening to the game.
QP's radio wouldn't pick it up. So, WB broke his headphones
and gave one earpiece to QP. They snuggled up together and
cheered as I slept, dreaming of the next day...
Felix J. McGillicuddy
ALT '03 KT '03
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