The campfire smoke is still stuck in my hair, and that red Georgia clay is hiding underneath my fingernails. I find myself still waking up with the sun and lone bird call, tempted to turn in early at days' end. But hiker midnight <9PM> is left in the dust with these newfangled light bulbs and friends to catch up with. The victory lap will continue through the holiday as I still need to catch up with my new hometown Trail friends Bobwhite, Powder River, Happy Camper...
Reunion back in Baltimore.. at the end of our lunch, we all got into our respective motor vehicles and drove away instead of tying our shoes and walking south on the single-track.... this was a novel experience amongst our group, but how cool is it that I have 'trail friends' in my hometown?
(l to r) Powder River, Bobwhite, T-Mello, Happy Camper on Dec 22, 2011
it's a celebration on Springer Mountain on December 18
the "Bubs" <Rogebo, Marbo, and Pistol Pete> came down last Friday to meet me at Neel Gap where Pirate and Lumpy greeted us at the Walasi-Yi hiker center, the old stone-CCC-built hostel featuring the only breeze-way in a building through which the white blaze leads. The Bubs travelled 12 hours and 700 miles by rubber and asphalt on the same day I walked a largish 20 mile day from Helen, GA through the Mark Trail Wilderness and the Raven Cliffs Wilderness.
At this point I had been going since Hot Springs, NC without single day of rest. The final stretch helped me find consistent 16-18 mile walks each day. While I once lived the philosophy "don't let hiking get in the way of your hike" in the summer days of my walk, it was time to focus and find the rhythm to drive me home for Christmas jubilation. While rest days in town were joyful, the discipline of daily consistent excercise made the walking seem automatic and effortless.
back home with CousMike @ the start of my "24-hour couch challenge"
The family we had cultivated during the long, strange trip grew stronger. Teenie stepped in as an integral addition for the last leg. She had walked with all of us in Maine and New Hampshire, and then got off the trail to work a little and be at home with her man Dana in the Atlanta area. Then she found Bobwhite's phone number on her desk at home and decided to meet us at Cow Camp Gap, Virginia. Teenie and Bobwhite stayed ahead of us slackers for a good while. We <Eddie, Bogart, Tag>caught up to them in Damascus, VA and then fell behind once again until after Thanksgiving... When Coach's family had provided him with a personal turkey off-trail for yet another food challenge, Eddie and I rendered our own "TurDuckIn" at the best shelter on the trail... the old Red Barn at Overmountain pass. We didn't quite have all the ingredients, but stove top stuffing and turkey gravy served as a topping over our 'pigs in a turkey blanket.' The vegan Bogart stuck with his 'dusty bars' and healthy food.
Along top of the Smoky Mountains from Newfound Gap to Fontana Dam, foggy dream-like days led to identically designed stone shelters known as the Nantahala style with fireplace and transparent corrugated plastic roofing. Dusk blended with dawn as life in the clouds stagnated time and light with only space change as a constant. Then the weather turned foul, and I wasn't in the mood for walking in the wet. So I posted up in Mollie's Ridge shelter all day, knowing full well that I probably wouldn't catch up with the Bogart and Teenie unless I did some crazy miles or yellow blazed <see glossary for definition of yellow blaze ---- Trail Talk>.
A 175 day chapter in my life is complete. And it is sweet to be finished. My body is tired, it wants to sleep, but I'm still running on adrenaline from the journey. I've already applied for jobs at the grocery stores. Hmmm, maybe I want to be close to food resupply after starving in the wilderness for 6 months.
had one last picture on that disposable camera to document peak griz
I spent Christmas night at my sister's house, and practiced Math Skills with Moj my nephew who is in 2nd grade. T-Mello "So if I walked 3 miles per hour for 6 hours, how far did I walk?" Moj "Wow you walked 18 miles?" Good job Moj! He's always been a smart cookie.
The next morning I woke up and walked through the back yard and down the road towards the NCR trail. NCR is Baltimore County's premier "Rail Trail" providing opportunities for outdoor recreation. I walked about 7-8 miles south on the Northern Central Rail Trail to Monkton station. The "Natural Brothers" vegan deli was closed, and I didn't really feel like walking another 9 miles to the Light Rail commuter train, so I decided to try an experiment.... I tried Hitch-hiking in Maryland. This was an interesting study, as I positioned myself along the road crossing where the popular biking/hiking trail might be an appropriate location to examine the good will of motorists on the day after Christmas. The wait for a ride was the longest I had ever experienced in my life. I half expected this, remembering that I had to get down to that WholeFoods and put in a job app. But finally Dan Capozzi picked me up and dropped me off in Cockeysville, MD where I took the Light Rail from it's northern terminus.
So off I jumped from the train @ the Woodberry stop on the outskirts of Downtown Baltimore, and stopped by to see if anyone was stirring at cousin Peter's pad. Dylan lent me a vintage Raleigh bicycle which I rode southward along the final stretch of JonesFalls that sees daylight. Could I really live in a place where toxic water flows all around me after months of drinking straight from the soil source? Many questions stirred in my head, where to go from here, would it be time for a career change. Baltimore obviously lacks jobs in the way of trail building, a profession I have loved for 8 years. What the hell do I do next? There's a lead on a job in SC working on the "Palmetto Trail" with my buddies Speaks Little and Scout.
But I'm tempted to settle for living as a Baltimoron for a while. It is exciting to begin a new chapter, to turn the page.... but a bit overwhelming. Dark Star Orchestra is playing their annual new year's show tonight at the Rams Head Live venue downtown. The Baltimore Raven's NFL team better set the tone in Cincinatti on Sunday. A victory would promise a home playoff game for the murderous purple and black.
The Baltimore Ravens won their Christmas Eve home-game! I'm so glad I'm not stuck in a NASCAR bar outside of the Ravens network. Last week I got to go to my first Raven's game of 2011.... After the game I stepped out of Fielder's corner bar in Pigtown. Suddenly I heard "Ted!" I turned around just in time to see my head-banging truck-driving hollywood cousin Pete ride up the street in his buddy's car. Irish Abe and I had roosted pre-game in the Purple Sea with Captain Offense and the Barrett bros. I brought a WhitetaleDeer tenderloin maranadn in a ziplock bag and placed it on the grill. We met up with another friend of mine from high school and then walked towards the stadium. Looking for someone to give the rest of the cooked venison to, we walked during the "prime pan-handler's season" in search of the hungry and homeless... I met a man who looked like he could use it. "I want to visit the soup kitcken downtown, Our Daily Bread," I thought.... would be great to catch up with my friends down there and offer to volunteer in the future. The Jeffster aka Waldo and I used to go downtown to help serve the needy and less fortunate on Thursday mornings. To immerse in the spirit of caring for one another is good for the soul. After such a long time on trail having to take care of only myself, it sure would be nice to join forces with the charities once again. I now have a new understanding of what it means to be homeless and hungry.