Friday, May 15, 2015

Day 25: April Fools and Hot Springs!

April 1: During the night, Rise got up to pee. Normally, this would be an event not worth mentioning, but not this time. Oh, no… While getting up, Rise failed to wake up Rocky. This is normally a good thing—he gets up, pees, goes back to sleep without disturbing anyone’s sleep. That’s the best-case scenario, in fact. It didn’t work with me—I woke at his initial rustling and watched him leave the shelter, then return a minute or so later.

Upon doing his thing and returning to the shelter, Rocky finally woke up to see this “strange” man standing just outside of the shelter, towering high above the sleeping platform and way out of place and did what anyone would naturally do—he screamed! I wouldn’t say it was at the top of his lungs, but he definitely put some enthusiasm into it and was so unexpected, it visibly startled Rise who jumped in fright.

Rise was like, “What the hell?!” and I just started giggling since I had watched the whole thing go down and knew exactly what was happening. Rocky apologized saying that he had just woken up to see this “strange” man leaning over the shelter’s entrance in the dark of night not realizing it was Rise and it had frightened him.

I laughed and said, “You stole my April Fools joke! I was supposed to be the one screaming unexpectedly in the middle of the night!” I had, after all, joked just before going to sleep that I sometimes scream in the middle of the night due to bad dreams but not to worry, just poke me awake and everything will be fine. And now we have someone screaming in the middle of the night unexpectedly, but it wasn’t me!

In the end, we all got a good laugh out of the incident. Rise will probably be more careful about how much water he drinks before going to sleep in the future. ;o)

Rocky said he wanted to be on my website, so I asked him to do something interesting to make it worth my while and this was his pose. =) YOU MADE MY WEBSITE! (It’ll be several more months before he makes it into the Walking 4 Fun website since I need to finish the AT first before I start on that.)

When dawn arrived, we all woke and prepared for another day on the trail. All of us were planning to hike into Hot Springs to resupply and have a night in the town, and we were anxious to get there! Before leaving the shelter, however, I added an April Fools note to the register in the shelter:

Holy crap! That was the worst shelter experience ever! A family of 4 bears circled the shelter all night long. There was screaming, I’m not ashamed to say. Probably some brown pants, but I didn’t check for that. And when we went to sleep, there were 4 of us, but only 3 were left by morning. DO NOT SLEEP IN THIS SHELTER!!!

It was really so over-the-top, I expected everyone to see it as the joke that it was, but I particularly giggled about “not being ashamed to say” that there was “screaming” during the night because that part was actually true! Not because of bears circling the shelter, and it wasn’t me doing the screaming, but technically, that much was actually true.

The next several hours, I pondered what I would write in the Deer Park Mountain Shelter, the other shelter I’d pass before arriving in Hot Springs. And of course, I continued my April Fool register shenanigans writing:

The good news is that this might be the only shelter on the A.T. not infested with mice. The bad news, however, it’s because there’s a family of black rat snakes living under it. Sleep well, everyone! =)

I loved the way I phrased everything, giving people “good” news to counteract it with bad news that not only explains the good news, but would be so much worse that everyone would prefer the good news not to be true! And I could have written that there was a “snake” under the shelter, but no, it had to be a black rat snake because then I could throw in dreadful words like black and rat which sound so much worse than a mere snake. And not just one of them, but a whole family of them!

And this register entry wasn’t so over the top that it bordered on ridiculous. Someone might actually believe it! Of course, all they had to do was look under the shelter to see it wasn’t true. Well, to be fair, maybe it was true—I didn’t actually look under the shelter to check—but probably not!


During the final few miles into Hot Springs, I started thinking about all of the things I’d do once I got into town. The main thing was to resupply food for the next segment of the hike. Then… a shower. Definitely a shower. I could wash my clothes. And… you know, I had only left Gatlinburg something like four days earlier after two zero days. Sure, I was dirty, but not that dirty—only four days dirty. Really, the only thing I needed to do in Hot Springs was resupply.

And it was such a beautiful day for walking, I wanted to take full advantage of it. By the time I arrived in Hot Springs, I had decided to continue on. I stopped at the Dollar General store on my walk into town and bought the necessary food I’d need. I stopped at the outfitters mostly to just look around, but I did purchase a couple of Clif bars and fill up my water bottles.

Then I kept hiking, right through town. I crossed over the French Broad River, which was far lower and less energetic than the last time I saw it. (During my 2003 thru-hike, it was flooding and Amanda and I watched giant trees floating down river and banging into the foundations of the bridge hard enough to shake the entire bridge.)

The trail climbs rapidly once it leaves the French Broad River, and I drank through my water quickly in the heat of the day. Wow, it was remarkably warm! Especially considering it had been snowing less than a week earlier.

Late in the afternoon, the trail reached a small, concrete dam, perhaps 20 feet tall. It surprised me because I completely did not expect it nor did I recognize it. How could I not remember such a substantial landmark from my 2003 hike? The trail climbed up the left side of the dam which created a small pond—another completely unremembered landmark.

One thing with trekking poles… the can pick up a lot of leaves along the route!

A short ways later, the trail came out onto a gravel road and followed it a short ways leading past a sign describing the area as Mill Ridge and the fields in the area once being used to grow tobacco and hay. And I’m left scratching my head thinking, how the hell do I not remember ANY of this?!

When I left Hot Springs, I knew it would get dark long before I’d be able to make it to the next shelter, so I set up camp alongside the trail at Mill Ridge, just as it re-entered the woods. When I pulled out my AT guidebook, I noticed a line ahead that read:

Roundtop Ridge Trail west 3.5 miles to Hot Springs (former path of AT)

Ah-ha! That would explain why I didn’t remember any of this! Because I never hiked it! I bet the AT followed this old trail when I thru-hiked in 2003. I was finally glad to find a satisfactory explanation for not remember such obvious landmarks. Well, beside the “old age” explanation. =)


***** TIME LAPSE ******

I’m going to skip ahead about a week in my hiking because it has to do with some of my April Fools shenanigans of today and I wanted to keep it all together in one post.

I left Erwin, TN, after resupplying and at the first shelter out of town, I caught up with a group of four hikers who introduced themselves as Heavyweight, Superman, Avatar and Bostrich, and when I introduced myself as Green Tortuga, they all but jumped up, “So YOU’RE the Green Tortuga!”

Oh, they knew who I was… Which in itself isn’t surprising because my stamp in the shelter registers make my entries stand out in people’s heads, but they had another reason to remember me—and it was because of those April Fool register entries I wrote.

265 miles done, just 1914 miles to go! =)

They had planned to camp at that first shelter, the one with the “bear problems,” but after reading my register entry, they decided to push on to the next shelter not wanting to mess with any marauding bears during the night.

“You didn’t!” I exclaimed, unable to hide my giggles. “But then in the next shelter, I wrote about the snakes under the shelter! What you’d do then?!”

So the story came out that by the time they read the snake entry, it seemed a little far-fetched that two consecutive shelters would have such problems, and one of them had finally noted that the entries were dated April 1st and put two-and-two together and realized that I had completely made up the stories. Although they probably would have preferred to have made that connection before hiking over 9 miles to the next shelter!

They seemed to have a pretty good sense of humor about the whole event and could laugh about it now, although I later heard about one of them writing in a shelter register about “Tortuga blazing” to catch up to me and do who knows what for my prank. (For those not familiar with “blazing,” the AT is marked with white blazes painted on trees. A lot of side trails are marked with blue blazes—such as that old AT path that’s now a shortcut and blazed blue giving the term for people who take shortcuts “blue-blazers.” Those who hitchhike up the trail are “yellow-blazing” in honor of the yellow stripes in the middle of the road where you can pass cars. “Pink-blazing” is when someone alters their hike to catch up with a girl. You get the point… So “Tortuga-blazing” was essentially a play on words for someone trying to catch up with me!)

As it turns out, though, they did stay at the “snake-infested” shelter to learn that while it did not have a snake problem, it did get a visit by a skunk in the middle of the night! But when they tried to warn everyone about a skunk by the shelter, nobody believed them because of the phony snake story even though the skunk story was 100% true! The cascading effects of my snake joke had continued to reverberate!

For all I know, there are still people reading those register entries and thinking there’s a bear problem at that first shelter or a snake problem at the second one. Or not believing the skunk issue. Or whatever. It’s not like I was going back the next day to write “April Fools!” on the register after the joke was over…

But I better be careful on the trail. There might be more Tortuga-blazers behind me who might not find as much humor in my jokes as this group of guys did. =)


My henna tattoo from Gatlinburg is still following me around! If someone asked about, I’d joke about, “Moonshine tasting in Gatlinburg. I don’t want to talk about it.”


There might not be any snakes living under this shelter, but apparently there IS a real skunk living nearby! (Just to be clear, however, I never saw a skunk!)

It’s always a little surprising to find graves alongside the trail. I tell other hikers that they were “thru-hikers that didn’t make it.”

Hot Springs is getting close! I see it through the trees!

The trail literally runs right down the main street in Hot Springs, so the sidewalks are marked with these AT symbols.

There’s some spring starting to show up at these lower elevations!

Downtown Hot Springs isn’t all that exciting… Not a bad place, but definitely no New York City either!


The French Broad River—definitely a lot more calm and languid than during my 2003 thru-hike!

This is the bridge the AT crosses to get over the French Broad River.

Lover’s Leap

During my last thru-hike, the French Broad River was so high, I was told it covered the white blaze you see on the cliff. It was still lapping at the trail when I had passed it, but the day before the AT was completely impassible at this point. It’s definitely a lot drier and lower now!

Some rapids in the French Broad River.


The trail out of Hot Springs climbs high into the mountains on the edge of town. The views are great! But I worked up quite a sweat getting up here.


How did I not remember this towering wall of concrete on the trail?! Oh, maybe because the trail didn’t pass it the last time I hiked through! =)

The small pond formed by the dam.

Daffodils! (Or żonkil, if you want the Polish word for it.)

A short road walk along Mill Ridge.

I read this sign still thinking, “How do I not remember any of this?!”

Moonrise over the trees.


My campsite for the night. The trail is just inches to the left of my groundsheet.

The sunset would have been a lot nicer if all those stupid trees didn’t get in the way!


westmetromommy said...

You are a mean, mean pranker. I like it!

Honey Bear Clan said...

Ah, I see now from your url that's on the sticker in the logbook that you do have a website of hiking tips. Still think you need instructions on making a pack, though.

Amanda from Seattle said...

The most recent Backpacker magazine had an article about sewing your own pack...,basically what Ryan did.

Karolina said...

I see you keep on doing your Polisy homework! I did't expect to suddenly come accross the word żonkil in the middle od your blog! Nice :).