Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Appalachian Trail: Day One

The start of our sojourn at Virginia State Road 670

Taran having dinner at the Trimbli shelter.

September 8, 2010. I flew across the country, first from Sacramento to Chicago O'Hara---then on to Charlotte, North Carolina---arriving at midnight. Taran, my 24 year old son, picked me up at the airport and then drove me the four hours to his home in Lebanon. A nice, contemporary cabin style house in the hills of southwestern Virginia.

I'm not much into flying. And it has been a year or two since I last darkened the doors of a plane. What is apparent is that nobody, and I mean nobody, talks to each other anymore. In this digital age, most people seriously stick there noses into their smart phones. And nobody smiles either. Flying has become a humorless business.

I wanted to be of good cheer, so I had a couple beers before taking my flight to Chicago. In Chicago, at O'Hara, the United Terminal had only one bar---and that was about the size of a closet. Nobody talked even at the bar.

So we awoke late that next morning (the day of the start of our hike). I'd decided to go light on food this trip---so we went to the store and bought a case of Ramon (chicken flavor) and about 15 packs of Tuna. We also bought a few trail bars and I had already brought along some organic trail mix in my pack. I still have it in my pack: this trail mix didn't have M and M's in it.

Trail Mix must have M and M's to be good!

My stroke of genius was to buy a few fresh steaks and a tolerable bottle of local Virginia wine for our first night's feast.

We still hadn't decided fully where to begin our sojourn. On our way to the trail head (Taran's wife giving us a ride) we stopped at a store and picked up a map of the Appy Trail. Talk about shoot from the hip! Plan a hike? to leave it to a whim!

We finally decided on a 56 mile route---set the auto's GPS to get us to the trail head---and finally got on our way around 6 pm.

Our goal was to start at Virginia State Road 670 and hike to Trimbli shelter. Easy enough and it only took us around an hour or so to get to the shelter. Of course, much of it was uphill.

For those unfamiliar with the Appy Trail, there are shelters located along the whole 2,100 mile sojourn. They seem to be spaced around a days walk apart. There you can sleep on a floor, off the ground, with complete smelly strangers. It makes the whole experience rather communistic and genteel. You just walk from shelter to shelter.

The Trimbli Shelter was the perfect one to stop at for my first experience of this. The photos above don't give it justice. The thing must date from the 30's; is made of stone---and even has a hearth in it.

And the Trimbli Shelter came complete with smelly strangers. Their Trail Names: Sub-Man (this guy spent years on a nuclear sub--waiting for the chance to blow up the world with Nukes); and "Pringles"--an Architect.

We pulled out our steaks and wine (and Jim Beam--plus a small bottle of Crown Royal Black). Sub-Man and Pringles were in ecstasy when I asked them to join us for wine and steak. Cooked the steak on my backpack stove and talked of our trail experiences.

Long trails are great equalizers. It is about the only thing left in our culture that is halfways egalitarian. People who have nothing in common outside of the trail become fast friends on the trail. Witness SubMan--who just gave up a job working the third shift at Walmart---and Pringles, the Architect. They met years ago on the trail--and now continue their friendship by hiking the trail now and then. Sub-Man actually Thru Hiked the thing in 2004. Pringles accompanied him at the start and the finish of that journey. My point is, I highly doubt these two guys would be friends if it wasn't for the Trail. They are just too different.

We went to bed and slept well on the floor of the shelter. Sub-Man joined us. We all snored really, really loud; drowning out the Tree Frogs which were louder than the noise of a freeway. A good noise though: give me Tree Frogs over Freeways anyday!

The end of the first day. Mileage: 3 miles.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Allan,
Great way to start. I think when people meet in places where everything they have in that moment has been carried on their backs is a great equalizer. Not much room for fancy diplomas, bank account books, and job titles when you are walking in the hills.

Allan Stellar said...

Robb: Amen!