Editor’s note: This is a reprint (with Jim’s permission) of an email from Jim Heaney sent during his “through-hike” of the Appalachian Trail.
I’ve wandered into this tiny little town (hikers joke that it’s “like Hot Springs, NC, except with TWO streets”), right in the middle of its big annual festival celebrating, well, me. And my compadres. My understanding of this event is that it actually started by the bicyclists—there are three or more major bisecting trails going through town, at least one a bike route—and we took over.
In any case, rumors have it that there will be 10,000 people showing up, and most of them will be hiking north with us for a week or so; camping expected to be difficult. I’m thinking of getting an early start on Sunday, but only Saturday night will tell how feasible that will be.
But, while in town, I’m thinking of buying a few small things (like a new backpack, sleeping bag, tent… one guys calls this the “Please take my money” hike), and of course eating like they’re about to stop making food tomorrow. I’m set up in Tent City, between the “somewhat quiet” section and the “don’t plan on sleeping” section.
Basically, things are going really well. I’m experiencing many of the aches and pains we all go through; have basically had shinsplints, arch pain, heel pain, knee pain in three or four places, toe soreness, metatarsel aches… all on each foot/leg, and each about twice, but never for more than a day in a row. The pain is moving around, and that’s all we can ask for. The day I slackpacked, I covered 25.8 miles; yesterday, 22.9 miles with a full (albeit food-light) pack.
However, we’ve completed walking the NC/Tenn border, and yesterday passed the 20% mark. Here, I’m about 459 miles into the hike. It will be about another 400+ miles until I get out of Virginia—theysay somehikers burn out because of all the mileage to get to the next state –but I have the reunion and some friend visits coming up, so I’m really looking forward to it.
News of fellow hikers: Captain America, who is a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef and was the guest chef at Elmer’s hostel in Hot Springs when I stayed there—made ricotta gnocchi with pesto, Hungarian mushroom soup, mocha poundcake as part of Elmer’s organic vegetarian menu, all FANTASTIC, for $8—actually never left Hot Springs; took a job there. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm burned in Erwin and are thinking of hiking a few sections. No Pepsi’s ankle is bothering him, but he’s planning to hike what he can just to hang out; soon, I’ll define the terms “blue-blazing” and “yellow-blazing” in this context. Grandpa Bear stopped having fun, and is thinking of coming to Trail Days on his Harley. Otherwise, we’re all still here.
If any of you have a vacation coming up and are looking for someplace to go, look into the Roan Highlands in NC/Tenn. If any of you have the Tennessee Eastman Hiking Club on your Christmas lists, though, please take them off; we otherwise despised their trail design.
Gotta go, my time is up. Happy Trail Days everyone!
Man a la Motha