Appalachian Trail Solo Thru-Hike Odyssey – Chapter 3

Looking down on New River, near Pearisburg, Virginia

I’m at mile 635 and taking a “near-o” day (partial mileage day) at Angel’s Rest Hostel in southern Virginia. Only 100 more miles and I’ll be at the 1/3 mark of my hike.

Last time I promised to describe some of my fellow hikers and hiking hangers-on. Folks, it is quite a colorful circus out here. Here are a few (aliases and first names only):

TOBY: Toby was made of wood. He was my first hiking stick on this hike. Most folks out here use expensive trekking poles. Although Tobe was wooden and he came at a bargain-basement price (he’d been orphaned alongside a stream), and he benefited me at the start, I noticed that as I lost weight his hefty girth began weighing me down. So two days ago I exchanged him for thinner, lighter Doctor Long Ghost. Long Ghost has been a vast improvement. Sorry, Toby. Maybe I’ll visit you one day in your roadside ditch.

Fat Toby, resting against the one-quarter mark

CARMEN (Ramblin’ Rose): Ramblin’ was the first thru-hiker I met, just north of Springer Mtn. Georgia. She’s a 20-something barmaid from Austin, Texas. She has dyed dreadlocks, facial jewelry, and a bubbly personality. She told me she likes the Grateful Dead, but when I asked her about several songs, she didn’t seem to know them. Maybe she just wants to fit an image? I don’t know, but I like Ramblin’, and named her after a Dead song due to her rosy personality. Ramblin’, don’t know if you’re still hiking, but I’m pulling for you.

GRAVY: I met Gravy at Lemon Gap, south of Hot Springs, North Carolina. In his late 60s, Gravy is a retired roofing co. owner from Gainesville-area, Florida. He’d initially planned merely to hike to Virginia, but later decided to do all 2,190 miles. Gravy was homeless for 6 months after all his belongings were stolen after getting out of the army, and we bonded after discussing why hikers are showered with so much “trail magic” from strangers, but the homeless are usually shunned. Why is this? I have several reasons, but I won’t conjecture. Last time I saw Gravy he was nursing a torn ankle ligament in Erwin, Tennessee after pulling two 21-mile days in a row. But he still planned to reach Maine. I think his trail name should be “Superman.”

Gravy, at cave south of Hot Springs

DUNGMAN and PADDLER: two more “old” geezers I met in the Smokies. They hike slightly faster than me, but they take more time off. We had some great conversations, and they don’t sprinkle their words constantly with “like” and “literally.” Last I saw them they were taking a “pleasure” hike southward, believe it or not, with Mrs. Dung, then continuing to Maine. Hell, I can’t even think south.

CRUSH: Crush and I hike at about the same pace. Actually, he’s faster, but hangs out at hostels, trail towns, and fully indulges in the A.T. experience. He’s from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, but wisened up and moved to Colorado. I like Crush. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a fan of The Band.

Clocks, Crush, Too Early, me (Omoo) on top of Max Patch Bald (photo by Pilgrim). They’re all, like, really young, dude. Literally.

MACGYVER: met him at a shelter nursing his back just three days ago, but we hit it off. From Pikeville and Lexington, Kentucky, he claims to have had more women and more prison terms than you can count. A former Forest Service employee, he recently dropped out of med school osteopathy due to racking up $100,000 in debt, and also because his spinal stenosis was making him suicidal. Mac is extremely smart, and realizes just what an a-hole fellow Kentuckian, Senator Mitch McConnell is. He also is an engineering whiz, having rigged a front pack to evenly distribute weight, and having discovered the nutritional values of nettle soup and sundry wild mushrooms. He carries a large machete, but only uses it on obtrusive maple seedlings. I kept a healthy distance from him on trail, however.

MacGyver and me at Rocky Gap, Virginia (graveled Rt. 60)

These are just a few of the backpackers I’ve met on this odyssey in the woods. Will try to profile some others later. Right now I need to consume more fat then crawl into a damp sleeping bag. Happy Trails! (Song by Dale Evans.)

– Omoo

P.S. Of the 50 or 60 hikers whom I’d given my trail name to, several days ago, at exactly the 1/4 mark, I finally met someone who knew that “Omoo” was a novel by Herman Melville. I was flabbergasted. He’s about 30, trail name Deep Roots, a former thru-hiker doing a southbound section. At a hostel a short time later, I read one of his journal entries, and his eloquence puts my writing to shame.

Yes, exactly at the 1/4 mark. The trail gods are indeed benevolent, and the stars are aligned.

(Dedicated to the memory of Faceplant.)

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Me and non-hiker, old friend Robert Campbelle at Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Bristol, Virginia. Robert, wife Susan, and Bridgit Bardog were so nice to host a weary, hungry hiker.

12 thoughts on “Appalachian Trail Solo Thru-Hike Odyssey – Chapter 3

  1. Great photos, Pete — especially of the 2 of us! I’ll have to try to get to the New River Gorge. I knew it was lovely, but had not seen a view a stunning as what you posted .

  2. This is fascinating Pete, thanks so much for the update! It’s good to know you are safe, too! Keep on, have a blast, and take care of yourself!

  3. Again, an enjoyable recounting of your adventures on the trail. It is also affirmation that the more people you meet, the more you see different perspectives and backgrounds. One note however, I hate getting sucker punched with political statements. It just seems out of place. Safe travel Peter, and continue to meet more interesting folks along the way, like, literally.

    • Thanks, Phil. Different perspectives is correct. My perspective on McConnell is obviously different from yours. Sorry you “hate” mine, and “sucker punch” is a strong term, but I’ll speak my mind. That being said, I still value your feedback!

      • Hi Peter: Please understand, I don’t “hate” your perspective. In fact, that is what makes dialogue productive. But what I truly object to is reading and enjoying your story for its own value, and then being hit with your statement as if it is fact. What is fact is that you agree that the Senator from KY is an a-hole. But that is not a fact, just an opinion. That said, I am neither agreeing or disagreeing with you. Instead, I am objecting to the disruption of your story to throw in your political opinion as a fact. I know this is splitting hairs, and you are no doubt running on fumes most days, so I give it a pass. The simile to this is attending a concert and half way through the event, the performer goes off on a political speech while we are held captive in our $120 seats. Anyway, I encourage you, as always, to speak your mind, and you know that I look forward to the discourse, like literally.

      • Phil, you make a good point. Not that I’d ever attend a Ted Nugent concert (!), but yeah, I’d be upset if he started quoting onstage from his so-called book “Kill it and Grill It.” So I apologize for the disruption of your enjoyment. Let’s amend it to “MacGyer and I both FEEL he’s an asshole.” Opinion, not fact, since humans can’t simultaneously be a body part that discharges excrement, as disgusting as those humans might be to other humans.

        Running on fumes? Actually more the fact I can’t as easily modify and edit my essays on these handheld toys!

      • Hi Peter!
        The more I think about it, the more I have to ask, “what the heck are we talking about politics in the middle of the most incredible walk of your life?” I mean really, it’s all a theatre. I am just in awe of your accomplishment. Who gives a rat’s butt about left right or middle? Right now, the most important life factors are water and solid footing.

      • Phil, one of the reasons I’m doing this hike is to clear my head and temporarily escape the madness. A president recently encouraged an insurrection against our Capitol and McConnell and his corrupt party looked the other way.

        Pass the ramen noodles, please, MacGyver.

  4. Great to catch up with your hike, Pete! So glad you got together with Robert (and Susan, and Bridget, Elliot, and Sonora).

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