TCT Day Four: Exfil

Start: Parsons Landing:

End: Two Harbors

Miles: 7.8

Total trip mileage: 57

And that’s a wrap! Having made it to Parsons Landing last night, the Boyz had completed the TCT. With Yeahyeah’s completion a few years ago, that marks the second trail that all three of us have taken down. YeahYeah’s got a PCT run to his credit, and this year he’s going for the Continental Divide Trail, a 3100+mile behemoth that lurks unseen amongst the Rockies.

Waking up on a town day is cause for excitement. Town Day! We broke camp quickly, tossed our trash, and fired down a quick bar as we set out on the coast road for Two Harbors. The road wound back and forth along the many inlets, each of which seemed to be inhabited by a different summer camp. The prize for Island’s Creepiest Camp was won hands-down by the Boy Scouts camp. AllTrails the app told us to walk down what turned out to be the camp’s main drag, and we spent about five minutes surrounded by skeleton tent frames before being escorted out by a no-nonsense grouch of a caretaker, who shepherded us with his golf cart. I assure you sir, we want to be here even less than you want us to.

35750714-D300-48FA-9060-F0843EFAB48B70D8DE3A-AEC4-4941-830F-DC1C864F9F66

Having learned our lesson, we refrained from trespassing into any of the other camps. The road wound slowly back down the east side of the island, and we cut through some late-morning fog to make it back to Two Harbors at about 10am. Since the shuttle departed at noon, we had a good chunk of time to raid the general store for cold drinks and chips.

5DC2F9D8-3489-4202-9F1F-17F0309082C2

At noon we hopped in a van driven by a friendly campground ranger who shuttled us to Little Harbor, further south. A van from another company grabbed us there, and after picking up a squad of elderly tourists from the airport, we made it back to Avalon at 1:30. After grabbing a couple TCT completion stickers for the nalgene/gram and a pizza with wings, we retired to the boardwalk to lounge in the sun until our 4:30 ferry.
45FADC44-9861-4FD6-ACD8-34F1C596BDB3

Great trip overall! Some lessons learned:

-Keep a watchful eye out for varmints. A seagull stole my ramen and a team of squirrels ransacked my backpack even after I had stowed my food.

-Don’t eat breakfast at Blackjack- pack up in the morning and make the 1-2 mile trek to the airport for some real food. Face it, you’re going to eat there anyways.

-Pay attention to the ferries when planning- the ferry out of Dana Point runs only to Avalon, but Two Harbors is closer to the TCT terminus. Either count on returning to Long Beach or some such spot, or call for a Safari bus shuttle to get you back to Avalon for $50. Better yet, look into taking a helicopter.

-If your hiking buddy is lactose intolerant, don’t let him eat half a block of sharp provolone. If he gets ahold of it, stay ahead of him on trail.

-If done in the spring or summer, this is a great trip for new backpackers or veterans who want a quick trip with great views and established water sources. Campsite reservations are $20 per camper per night, so take that into account.

-Don’t hike this thing in the summer. There’s no shade and you’ll roast.

And that’s it for this trip. Depending on some professional developments in the next few weeks, I may be going out to hike the Arizona Trail, an 800-mile trek through my homeland. If it happens, I’ll write about it. If not, we’ll wait til next time. You know what? Let’s play it by ear.

7B9DA47E-4886-413D-85B7-4454E12F4EAE

Regards,

Friar

TCT Day Three: Smash and Friar (Were There in Case They Were Needed to) Save the Day!

Start: Two Harbors

End: Parsons Landing by way of Starlight Beach

Miles: 15

Last night I had a dream that I was flying a plane and that I couldn’t land it. During my attempt, I inadvertently conducted several loop-de-loops in the midst of a high-rise city. Super stressful. I need to get used to sleeping outside again.

Anyways, morning dawned on us at our beach campsite of Two Harbors. We dawdled in getting up and breaking camp since we had to wait for the visitor center to open at 8 to grab our key for water and firewood at Parsons Landing, and make shuttle plans for our return to Avalon tomorrow. A ferry does go to Two Harbors, but it doesn’t return us to our original port at Dana Point.

Nothing unusual happened in the morning as we breakfasted, except for when a seagull took advantage of a momentary lapse in security and swooped across the picnic table to snatch one of my ramen packets. In the blink of an eye, it had landed on a rock in the harbor and tore into it. Fair’s fair. You have to admire the hustle. I stuffed the rest of my food deep down in my pack and made ready to depart.

A short walk back to town brought us to the visitor’s center, and we secured a locker key and two spots on the shuttle for tomorrow, Tuesday, at noon. The trip takes two hours, so that will put us back in Avalon well before our 4:30 shuttle time. Business conducted, we made for the trail and cut across the wide dirt road that connects the two harbors of Two Harbors, passing by the closed schoolhouse (not enough students around to open) as we went.

I was glad that I had stuffed my face with oatmeal that morning, because a humdinger of a climb hit us right outside of town. We huffed and puffed our way up, slowly but steadily. A few ridges still separated us from the northern terminus of the island, but they were nothing some water, poptarts, and salt pills couldn’t manage.

74B3B41D-EEAE-40A6-ABB4-30261FFF2C25D0825C9E-C32A-4B34-8660-24DB221341FB9BD017E9-0694-453F-8F92-5B958BF0A1B0

After running a ridge off of the last big climb, we came to a trail junction. One path, Fenceline Road, turned southeast down towards Parsons Landing, our campground for that night. The other route had a large ROAD CLOSURE sign, and another, smaller sign that proclaimed, NO HIKERS.

Well let’s see. Hikers are those who hike, so that’s understandable. However, Dirty Mike and the Boyz regard themselves as sovereign citizens and choose to travel, rather than hike. As such, sovereign citizens are free to travel anywhere they please.

I tell you what, ain’t the sign been made yet that’s stopped Dirty Mike and the Boyz!

As we climbed up and over the last ridge, we saw some justification for the closure signs. Part of the trail had been washed out to the point where vehicle traffic would be put at some risk. Later on, as we turned a corner to begin our decent to Starlight Beach, we saw a real reason for the closure.

It looked like a giant had taken a clawed hand and slashed a 30-foot section of road to ribbons. Fortunately, there was little risk to careful passage on foot. We hopped across without issue and started the long downhill, the deep blue of the Pacific beckoning.

043749D4-3135-4C14-83AD-515391E4F6DC

The trail dropped us back down to sea level, and we came to Starlight Beach, a secluded stretch of coarse black sand and boulders. There were a couple routes  down to the water that were on the steep side, but we picked our way across the shelf of land just above the beach and made it to the sand easily. We popped our shoes and socks off and soaked in the pleasantly brisk water, which took on the appetizing color of those old Gatorade Frost flavors whenever the waves receded. Smash had to beat a hasty retreat after setting up shop too close to the rising tide.

10AF21B1-533A-4DF4-A9F0-8410C5B047C82A02EAF4-9C84-423D-AA56-1BD9204D82E01DE6105B-902A-49DE-A1B0-90BED1F86ACE

After about 20 minutes, we packed back up and started the last leg of the day, an easy few miles to Parsons Landing. There were two routes back, a low and a high route. We elected to take the high path, as we’re loath to part needlessly with elevation for which we’ve toiled. Someone else had the same idea, as a few minutes into walking we saw another hiker a few hundred feet ahead of us. We approached and she waved us down. She had somehow wandered a few feet off trail, and was unsure as of how to return. Smash went further ahead to find a route back, while I stayed to keep an eye on her. As she began poking around the bushes for a clear route, a definitive rattling noise cut out from where she was. She beat a hasty retreat, and linked up with Smash. They quickly made it back up to the trail where I met them.

As it turned out, she was a hiker who had been in Two Harbors along with us, and had taken the road directly to Parsons Landing. From there, she had made her way along the trail towards Starlight Beach, but was left understandably unnerved after a close encounter with a rattlesnake and so joined us back to Parsons. Her trail name was Penny, as she had a knack for finding pennies while hiking. My recommendation was Eve, due to her recent unpleasant run-in with a snake.

We chatted on the way to Parsons about all things backpacking. She’s here doing a shakedown hike in preparation for a Pacific Crest Trail hike next month. She also brought light to some confusion about the current TCT route: the northern terminus had previously been Starlight Beach, but was recently and quietly changed to the more southern and developed Parsons Landing. Our mileage counts are all off as a result, but once we get some cell service tomorrow we’ll tally it all up.

Once we arrived at Parsons, we claimed our prestaged 2.5 gallons of water, firewood, and fire starter, and headed over to our campsite- right on the beach. With just the road walk back to Two Harbors tomorrow, we had completed the TCT… at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The goal-oriented approach having been beaten into us by the Marines, we set about completing small tasks until it was a justifiable time for bed. Plunge in the water-check. Lounge on the beach-check. Build fire- check. Eat-checks. Set up shelters-check. AirDrop my copy of the movie Sicario to Smash-check. Douse fire- check.

8412BDAF-2620-40F5-ACA4-4A4C9DCBD61D63BE6F15-FC0C-4BAC-8A84-54D9FC0AAC9CAC68BF3A-F4C6-4653-8FFF-263612403828

Tomorrow concludes our trip with a quick jaunt back to Two Harbors, a shuttle back to Avalon, and a ferry ride back to the Golden Coast.

Regards,

Friar

Camp songs:

“Pretend I Never Happened,” Waylon Jennings

“Always On My Mind,” Willie Nelson

TCT Day Two: You Just Say Avo instead of Avocado, You Peasant. Also, Smash Befriends a Buffalo!

Start: Blackjack Campground

End: Two Harbors Campground

Distance: 15mi

TCT mile: ~26

I spent last night in the traditional way I sleep on trail- sporadically. Something about stretching out on a quarter inch of basically styrofoam instead of a mattress seems to have an effect on my sleep pattern. It seems to take forever to get to sleep, and then I’ll wake up, convinced that it’s morning. Check the watch- it’s midnight. Another big change out here is that bedtime is basically when the sun goes down, so I guess I had that coming when I shut my eyes at 7pm (1900 for you military types).

Daylight finally came, though, and I crawled out at about 6am to get something to eat and strike camp. Breakfast for me was a Jetboil full of oatmeal. I made the silly mistake of adding the oatmeal to the still heating water, which caused a thin layer to char at the bottom of the stove’s pot. Lesson learned. We then broke down our shelters and got started at about 7:30.

The trail took us through a sort of wash that was chock full of greenery and thick veg. Smash, up front, stopped short. I glanced up from keeping a watch out for any rocks targeting my ankles, and quickly saw the cause for the halt.

360DC3E2-AD33-4996-9F41-29B666EE0CDD

A Volkswagen-sized Buffalo was standing just off the trail, about 30 feet away from us. We had come upon him in mid-chew, and he stared at the pair of us. We hastily backed up, then made for higher ground in order to bypass him at a healthy distance.

Not 20 minutes before, Smash had turned to me and said, I’m seeing a buffalo today.  Hey, a broken clock is still right twice a day.

How did buffalo come to reside out here? The story goes that a western movie was being filmed on the island, and several were brought over as extras and stand-ins. Money ran out during filming so the movie was never made, but the buffalo remained and raised a herd.

Next up, just a couple miles from our start point, the trail runs through Catalina Island’s Airport in the Sky. It’s about 1200ft above sea level, and plumb in the middle of nowhere in the island. We weren’t lucky enough to see any takeoffs or landings, but even if there had been, our returning hikertrash instincts would have prevented us from enjoying them as they drove us toward a higher priority: food. Our hopes were low given that it was 8 in the morning on a Sunday, but lo and behold, the attached restaurant was open!

D6F6DB8E-F2E2-4D69-B4D3-44337CC0C73D

After a nice lady told us a story about a man who fended off a charging buffalo. “He was strong like you, but tall and quick, kind of like that guy,” she said, pointing at Smash who was browsing across the room. I prayed that he hadn’t heard that little exchange, but his ears prick up whenever he’s favorably compared to me.

I was finally able to order some avocado toast and a chocolate chip walnut cookie. By the pointed way that the cook said “Avo toast,” I gathered that I had outed myself as a visiting bumpkin from flyover country. Life goes on.

We rode a long downhill into our second stop of the day, a campground called Little Harbor. The aesthetic appeal of the TCT really shone on this section. The harbor, an alcove with palm trees and a lovely little beach, was clearly visible a long ways off. This gives the hiker a sense of purpose in reaching a definite goal: I’m going to Little Harbor, and I see a little harbor. Contrast this with the AT: I’m going to Hangman’s Hollow, and I see a mass of trees. Hollow isn’t even a real noun. Who am I, Ichabod Crane? Get real, Georgia.

Moving on, Little Harbor was a perfect location for our own Catalina Wine Mixer. I contributed a block of sharp provolone and sausage, and Smash brought out the wine bladder. Quite a spectacle we made for a tour group who pulled up in an open top truck and observed us warily.

With the finer food devoured, we started a long grinding uphill climb out of Little Harbor heading north. The trail darted back and forth along a long spine, and each time it curved to the seaward side, a refreshingly refrigerated breeze washed over us. While the climbs made for some huffing and puffing, the payoff was a baker’s dozen scenic views of the island’s rolling hills dropping off into cliffs overlooking the deep blue sea.

The drop down to Two Harbors was uneventful. I spied a little fox puppy, but he took one look and bolted off in a very puppyish gambol. Once again, the TCT earned points once Two Harbors came into view: the settlement is based at a bottleneck where just a few hundred meters separates the island’s east and west coast. And what are there? Two Harbors. Knocked out of the park.

The campsite there is right on the water, and after initially missing the turnoff, we soon righted ourselves and reached the campground. We set our packs down and realized that it was only 2pm. Lot of daylight to burn. I made a call to the Two Harbors visitor center and let them know that we would be picking up a key for a locker at Parsons Landing, our final campsite. There’s no fixed water source, so $20 gets you access to 2.5 gallons of high-quality H20 and some firewood. After that logistical piece was squared away, soaking the lamborfeeties in the cold surf and enjoying a leisurely 4:30 dinner saw us hop into our shelters at around 5:30, just as the sun dipped below the hills behind us.

269949C2-264F-41E6-B116-952E394D61D5DC1D8936-D1ED-4579-8416-A12D862BE6402BA6D77A-9C47-4B3F-AEA6-2093B29E90BE

Tomorrow will see us knock out the final section of the TCT, a loop that runs around the northern tip of the island. It’s just 13 miles, so we’ll be able to spend a good chunk of the day at the beach, which is a great thing to be able to say by any measure.

Regards,

Friar

Camp songs:

“Emmylou,” First Aid Kit

“Help Me Make It Through The Night,” Sammi Smith

Day 1: Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One

After a seven-year hiatus, I’m back behind the wheel of my backpacking blog. A few things have happened since then. I recovered from the giardia I picked up on the last 50 miles of the Appalachian Trail (gastrointestinally speaking; emotionally, still damaged), tended bar, lived in Uruguay, interpreted for clients at a law firm, and spent four years in the Marines traveling the Pacific (mostly the stretch between San Diego and LA). Now I’m out, I have a month-long beard, and I’m sitting with my trail brother Smash in the covered patio of a closed restaurant with a backpack and a view of the Catalina Island Express, a ferry sitting in the Dana Point Harbor. And it’s shrouded by rain.

4692688F-53EA-459B-9F5E-3C4C0A1FD861

335B7521-96F0-41B1-9962-FAABB71141DD

The trail gods have an axe to grind with Dirty Mike and the Boyz, and deservedly so. The two of us are on the way to hike the scenic Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT) over the next four days. All that’s missing from the scene is our third brother, YeahYeah. He’s already checked off the Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT) with his now wife, LadyBaker. He also took down the Pacific Crest Trail, the AT’s younger, cuter sister who moved out west to pursue her dreams of becoming an Instagram influencer, back in 2015.

Seven years have passed since my last big backpacking trip, but I’ve slipped easily back into the life. I went shopping yesterday, and the hiker trash lenses snapped right back into place, illuminating ramen, oatmeal, and my preferred Nature’s Own chewy bars with dark chocolate and cherry. Ziploc bags took on a new light of necessity. Back at my house, I went through the old motions of stripping away packaging and consolidating. Just small routines that bring an old familiar satisfaction.

I packed my new pack, a Zerk 40L. It’s an interior frame pack, obviously. External frames were already a thing of the past when I took one up to Maine seven year ago. Besides that update, my gear set remains surprisingly unchanged. My old reliable tent, the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1, is still in service. My 20-degree sleeping bag that definitely isn’t 20 degrees anymore. My venerable Z-Lite sleeping bad, its silver heat retaining side dulled to an uninspired gray over the years. I’m taking a new set of Altra Lone Peaks, a slimmed down trail running shoe, for a spin.

A couple additions of luxuries previously unthinkable- a Sea to Summit inflatable pillow I picked up at Bridgeport, the Marines’ mountain training area, and a pair of featherlight booties stuffed with down to wear at night. During the few cold nights spent outside, my feet would be the first to lose feeling. I have fond memories of periodically kicking my feet together as hard as I could in my sleeping bag to get some blood flowing, and it felt like bonking two pieces of wood together. That’s Fuji, Japan for you. These items together are maybe 4 ounces, but sleep is a precious commodity.

As we get closer to our ferry time of 0945, the patio around us slowly fills with other passengers bound for Catalina. A woman from Venezuela chats with a native Chicagoan. A mother with a harried look helps her two little boys peel off their soaked rain slickers. The rumor that the rain will slack off in an hour or so. Smash grabbed a coffee and a couple of hot dogs wrapped in bacon and drizzled with barbecue sauce. Not an ideal 9am food for normal people, but as Smash said, “Once you become hiker trash, you can’t get rid of it. You’re infected.”

Even though we’re out of practice, we looked the part. Nobody else was wearing shorts or carrying odd-looking backpacks and trekking poles. At around 9:15, we all began to shuffle onto the ferry for the hour and twenty minute trip. I took a solid nap and woke to Smash shaking me.

Out of the windows, we could see the town of Avalon, a collection of light-colored buildings clustered together encircled by steep hills climbing up inland. Rows and rows of sailboats sat in the harbor, and a thoroughfare with shops and restaurants runs the length of the water’s edge.

1A6C2816-61E1-4D44-A1B2-375C5AEA8F24

After disembarking, we grabbed a can of fuel for our stoves at the trail conversation center and set about locating the trailhead. Smash’s digital map led us up and out of the bowl in which the town is nestled via Wrigley Road. After dodging a succession of tourists in rented gold carts, we turned off the paved road and onto a dirt utility road. This led us up and over the first and biggest climb of the day, and on the backside of the ridge we turned off the dirt road and onto the trail itself.

6D4C12FF-79F1-45D9-8936-995C70F4DDDC

We coined a term way back in Vermont to describe the smooth, silky trail conditions we found there that were a welcome relief from the steep, rock and root infested hellscapes of Maine and New Hampshire: Sexytrail. So far, the TCT has proven nothing but. It’s hard packed, there are few rocks and those are easily avoidable, and the climbs are mostly switchbacks or have little rock stairs for the steeper sections.

Vegetation is pretty typical of Socal: scrub bushes, grass, and cactus with palm-shaped segments that resembles the prickly pear. The rolling hills combined with the omnipresent Pacific blue make for some beautiful views. Smash and I both noticed a great similarity to the training areas of Camp Pendleton. Thanks to the presence of unexploded ordnance, a huge swath of land on base used for artillery and air fire is off limits to human beings for the foreseeable future.

We stopped at playground with a water spigot, and I was surprised to see a sign that read Catalina Island Marine Institute, or CIMI- the same summer camp I remember my older brother going to years and years ago. He made the trip in an airplane alone, one of many acts that cemented his godlike status in my young and tiny mind.

D13B2EAF-B392-4C66-8CA1-C2D409845A12

The TCT is marked by wooden signs at intersections with utility roads or other branching trials. Each mile is marked by a small wooden stake that pops up about three inches off the ground on the side of the trail. As we neared mile 11, we caught site of Blackjack Campground, our stopping place for the evening. That plus the five-odd miles of the roadwalk put as at 16.8 for the day. Not bad for some old dogs who started at around noon and ended at 5pm.

C33561B2-6B2D-4803-BCDB-2CC5882F32EA

After locating the campsite we had reserved, the traditional priorities of work took over: warming layers on, shelters up, and water heating. Smash proved his worth and whipped out a camelbak full of Sauvignon Blanc. It paired well with his pasta side and my top ramen, both fortified by a pound of carne asada left over from an impromptu Taco Tuesday.

As the temperature dropped and the sun set, we stowed our food in the convenient anti-critter lockers and made ourselves scarce. More to follow tomorrow.

Camp songs of the evening:

“Silver Wings,” Meryl Haggard and the Strangers

“Wanted Man,” George Thoroughgood

Regards

Friar

Journey’s End

We finished the trail! The three of us—Smash, Yeah-Yeah, and the Friar—started on Katahdin, Maine on June 12, and finished on Springer Mountain, Georgia on October 20. Four months, nine days, 2,186 miles. Sorry about the delayed post. Thank you so much to everyone who sent us food, gave us rides, took us in, read the blog, and supported us in any other way. We appreciate the vast amount of undeserved kindness shown to us from Maine to Georgia from the bottoms of our hearts.

-Friar

20131204-162400.jpg

20131204-162448.jpg

20131204-162456.jpg

20131204-162507.jpg

20131204-162519.jpg

20131204-162528.jpg

Day 130: Denouement

Hey everyone!

My sincerest apologies for the last couple weeks of radio silence. We’ve been hiking pretty far every day for the past couple weeks, so I’ve been too tired to write up posts. Plus, the days have begun to run together. Rest assured, I’ll give a recap of our push through Tennessee, our sprint through the closed Smoky Mountains National Park, and our arrival in Georgia in the company of Sam’s dad.

Today marks our final full day of hiking. I’m sitting here now at Neels Gap, just 31 miles from Springer Mountain. The plan is to hike about 23 miles or so today to get to Hawk Mountain Shelter. Then, tomorrow morning, we’ll walk the final eight miles to the summit of Springer, the end of the line.

I’m crazy excited. Getting to Neels Gap after all this time… it’s surreal.

So stay tuned, and wish us luck—this fourth-month adventure is coming to a close!

-Friar

20131019-080846.jpg

20131019-080853.jpg

20131019-080859.jpg

20131019-080910.jpg

20131019-080925.jpg

20131019-080958.jpg

20131019-081018.jpg

Day 114: The Boys Roam The Roan Highlands

October 3
Starting point: Bear Branch Road
Ending point: Clyde Smith Shelter
Day’s mileage: 24.1

More highlands today! We started off the morning with an ass-kicker of a climb from US 19 to the top of Hump Mountain. Up, up, and up the trail went, until it finally broke out of the green tunnel and led us through a sea of low grass. There are a lot of these mountains that are bereft of trees on their tops; hence, they’re referred to as balds. Balds are a refreshing change of pace, as you get a sense of hiking out in the open. You can see stuff!

We swept along a number of balds as the trail crossed through Roan Highland State Park. At one point, we passed by Overmountain Shelter, which, due to it being a remodeled barn, is the largest shelter on the AT. A nearby sign told me that it was named for the Overmountain Men, a group of Revolutionary War soldiers who crossed over some nearby peaks on the way to a battle. Pretty cool.

Late in the day, we climbed Roan High Knob, which tops out at 6,200-odd feet. On top is the highest shelter on the AT. I really liked this climb, as a ton of spruce trees lines the path. The smell reminds me of Christmas.

Quite a few day hikers today. It’s a popular spot, and easily accessible. An old couple congratulated me on making it this far. That made me feel good; we’re finally starting to get to the point where people realize just how far we’ve walked.

Two other Sobos were at the shelter tonight, Trooper and Number 2. We met them in Virginia when my dad was hiking with us, but seeing as how they never passed us since then, we suspect yellow-blazing. Hey, they seem like they’re enjoying themselves.

I do heartily recommend a trip to the Roan Highlands, though. It offers great views, and the trail is very well-maintained. It makes the surprisingly short list of places that I’d actually consider coming back to on the AT.

-Friar

20131012-162859.jpg

20131012-162911.jpg

20131012-162936.jpg

Day 113: Rhododendrons. Rhododendrons Everywhere!

October 2
Starting point: Kincora Hostel, Dennis Cove Road
Ending point: Bear Branch Road
Day’s mileage: 24.2

We passed through a pretty tame section today. The first five miles took us up a mountain, and we more or less descended for the rest of the day.

After a while, you start noticing different plants that show up at different elevations. In the mid 2000’s up to the 3000’s, rhododendrons tend to hold sway. They must suck up a lot of water, because they tend to clump around creeks and streams. The main thing about these plants is that they tend to form tunnels around the trail. The leaves are so thick that it can actually get pretty dark walking through them. Walk through these dark green tunnels long enough and you run the risk of going rhodo-crazy.

We stopped about halfway through the day next to a nice little stream. Frank’s been taking on a book of Sudoku puzzles, while I’m reading a book called Midnight in Peking, a murder mystery based in 1930’s China. Having a joint Kindle account with one’s family definitely expands one’s reading horizons.

Frank and I also stopped in at the Mountaineer Shelter, which had been built by a crew of 143 volunteers, led by Bob Peoples, in just a day and a half. It was really nice—three floors, benches, a covered picnic table. The best part was a three-foot tall wooden bear, which someone had carved with a chainsaw. Bob told us that people dress the bear up so that it’s always rocking a different outfit. Frank and I snapped a selfie apiece with the shelter guardian before pushing on.

Into the Roan Highlands tomorrow, so there should be more action than there was today!

-Friar

Smash’s Sixpacks, Vol. 6

I was ready to let Smash’s Sixpacks die. I figured it’d had a good run, and no one likes to watch unnecessary struggling. Like a horse with a broken leg, or the last few seasons of Lost, it’s better to take some things behind the barn and end it quickly. Besides, we don’t even drink that much beer anymore, we’re too busy trying to finish this damn hike. Then Momma Smash started getting on my case about how I hadn’t written a blog post in a while. She put Yea-Yea on blast too for his blog hiatus; she’s an equal opportunity criticizer. But, as everyone knows, you’ve got to keep the moms happy. Especially when you expect them to feed you. So my dear readers, you’ve got Momma Smash to blame for the next few posts.

Since we don’t do a whole lot of drinking these days, I’m going to have to reach back real deep into my repertoire. And when I say real back, I mean New York.

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was our biggest, most ambitious, day yet. At 1600 (I still have to remind myself somehow that despite my high level of grunge and my unsat facial hair, I am a Marine) we’d already hiked 28 miles. The decision to push on 8 more miles was made so we could sleep at the Greymoor Frjary. Was it stupid? Probably. But the monastery had power outlets and showers.

Settling in for three or four more hours of hiking, I plugged in my headphones and cranked the Electronic Dance music. EDM is key to zoning out during a big day. So I hiked. And hiked. And after some more hiking, I came upon a road and ran into two NOBOs. We passed the usual trail niceties.They asked me about good campsites ahead of them, I asked about the mileage left to Greymoor. I introduced myself, an found out I was talking to Babyface and Satan. That’s not a typo, this man’s trail name was Hail Satan to be exact. I’m not creative enough to make this up.

After the introductions, the awesomeness started. Satan asked me if I wanted a small bottle of whiskey that he no longer wanted to carry. He explained that he’d bought it on a whim, and was feeling some hiker’s remorse if having to carry it. So I said yes. What could possibly go wrong from taking a bottle of whiskey from a guy named Satan?

Much to my joy, Satan pulled out a bottle of Evan Williams. This stuff is a shameless knockoff of Jack Daniels. For those of you classy enough to not be familiar with it, I encourage you to Google image search it, the bottles are identical. And it just so happens that I’ve been known to drink said knockoff whiskey. If you asked the reprobates I called friends at BC, they’d confirm that I acquired a taste for the cheap stuff.

To celebrate my newfound acquisition, my new NOBO buddies and I passed the bottle around a few times. In the open. On some random street. They call us hiker trash for a reason. Feeling better after a few rounds, I plugged back in and kept hiking. What I didn’t think about was what effect the whiskey would have on my ability to hike. Pretty soon I was feeling kind of dizzy. Maybe I was weaving back and forth across the trail a little bit. It doesn’t take long for bottom shelf liquor to hit you when you haven’t eaten anything but Clif bars in nine hours. The combined effect of blaring EDM and a solid whiskey buzz was enough to make me feel like I was back at school. Except, instead of a late Friday night in the Mods, I was climbing up some big rocky goddamn hills in the middle if nowhere New York. Realizing that this probably wasn’t a great way to be, I slammed what few bars I had left to try to soak up the booze, and did what I always do, I kept walking. Turns out the only thing worse than finishing a long day is having to fight to maintain your balance while doing it.

So instead of a beer review, I’ll leave everyone with a lesson. It’s not dont drink and hike, because I’m pretty confident that HUIs aren’t a thing. My lesson is to abstain from liquor. Stick to beer while hiking, it’s more calories, and you probably won’t be able to drink enough to end up weaving across the trail like an idiot.

Day 112: The Boys Meet The Trail Legend

October 1
Starting point: Iron Mountain Shelter
Ending point: Kincora Hostel, Dennis Cove Road
Day’s mileage: 24.3

Bob Peoples. Trail legend.

We’d been hearing about this guy since the Hundred-Mile Wilderness, back up in Maine.

Bob Peoples gives his boots blisters.

Our buddy Doc, who had already done a northbound hike, told us about him. Based in Tennessee, Peoples is one of the most active trail volunteers. He coordinates huge trail construction and renovation projects. When he’s not out working, he runs a hiker hostel out of his house.

Bob Peoples’ house cats are raccoons.

It was a tough day for me today. The terrain wasn’t especially challenging, but 24 miles is still a long way, and I was plain tuckered out by the end of it. Even the sight of Laurel Falls, a cool group of waterfalls, failed to raise my spirits, but that might have been due to the huge set of stone steps that led up and out of the river valley.

Finally, the day came to an end when I trudged down Dennis Cove Road and turned into a house with a mailbox marked Kincora. Kincora, home of Bob Peoples.

Bob Peoples gave Paul Bunyan his axe.

As you can probably tell, this guy is one of the most famous names on the trail. He’s not a big man, and is actually on the shorter side; he must be in his sixties. Still, you can tell he’s the kind of guy who can hike for miles with a heavy pack, then swing a pick for the rest of the day.

We spent the evening listening to Bob tell stories about his time doing trail maintenance, construction, and hiking. He originally hails from Medford, MA, and I got quite a kick out of hearing someone drop their R’s in the middle of eastern Tennessee. He actually went to BC for a semester before transferring to UMass Amherst! Pretty cool.

Bob Peoples sleeps with a pillow under his gun.

The hostel was described to us by another hiker as a “dump,” but we’ve got to remember that we have far lower standards than most people. The place, which Bob built himself, is pretty rustic, but it’s got a roof, running water, hot showers, outlets to charge phones, and a bunch of comfy mattresses. In short, heaven.

The most distinguishing feature of the house is the wall decorations. Almost every available bit of space on the walls and even the ceiling is covered with photos of smiling thru-hikers posing on Katahdin or Springer. It’s a common practice for thrus to mail out their summit photos to friends, family, and people who helped them out along the way. Thanks to Bob’s celebrity status on the trail, tons of people send him their photos. He’ll definitely make the Boys’ mailing list.

One day, when Bob Peoples was hiking, he was bitten by a venemous snake. After three days of fever, chills, and excruciating pain, the snake died.

-Friar

20131005-092524.jpg

20131005-092532.jpg

20131005-092604.jpg