Monday, June 1, 2015

Day 32: Celebrity on the Trail!

April 8: Two zero days was enough for me, so today I got back on the trail. I shipped my laptop further up the trail to Damascus, Virginia, and hit the trail relatively early at around 9:00. My one hiccup was that I couldn’t find a way to fill up my water bottles! They were too long to fit under the spout in the sink in the bathroom, and I couldn’t find a faucet outside to fill it up with. Eventually, I just gave up. There was supposed to be water on the trail fairly close and I’d just fill up with the fresh stuff when I arrived at it.

I did weigh my fully-loaded pack on the scale in front of Uncle Johnny’s, and it weighed in at an excruciating 43 pounds. I knew it was heavy—it felt heavy, but that was because I had filled it with eight days of food. Maybe it was a good thing I hadn’t been able to fill up my water. =) Other hikers that morning had considerably lighter packs, but they had half the amount of food I did because they planned to get off trail to resupply much sooner than I did. Despite the weight of the pack, however, I knew it would only get lighter as I consumed the food. It would get better!

My pack was so full of food, I couldn’t fit it all inside of the pack! That green bag strapped on the outside is all of the food I wasn’t able to fit inside my pack.

And the official weigh-in: 42 pounds, 15 ounces.

The trail climbed steeply out of Erwin, crossed some railroad trails, and climbed some more eventually reaching the Curley Maple Shelter where I ran into four other thru-hikers taking a break. When I introduced myself as Green Tortuga, they suddenly grew agitated and excited. “Oh! You’re the Green Tortuga!”

I mentioned this incident before because these were the people who had read my April Fool register entries about bears attacking the shelter and snakes in the next shelter, and apparently I had made quite a name for myself with that stunt. This is when I finally heard about all the excitement my (joke) register entries had caused.

They were really quite funny, treating me like a celebrity, asking if it was okay to take photos of me as proof that they really met the great Tortuga. I said sure, but only after I twisted my hat around so the fabric that hangs over the back of my neck to prevent it from sunburns or bugs covered the front of my face.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d be seeing a lot more of these four guys in the future, and you’ll be reading a lot more about them in the future, so I’ll be describing them in much more detail than I usually do with most hikers.

The trail crossed the Nolichucky River on a bridge, which had these flowers on it.

Heavyweight, as it turned out, I had actually met earlier, although he had to remind me that it was at the Sassafras Gap Shelter just out of the NOC. He was the one who had climbed the tree to get a bear bag out of it, which might not sound like much—and I didn’t even mention it in my blog because I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of the incident—but he looked like one of those characters from Cirque du Soleil the way he scaled the thin tree while barefooted. It was a memorable thing to see, if not particularly interesting to blog about without the photos.

Anyhow, Heavyweight got his trailname because he’s a spindly stick-figure thin person and a sense of irony. He’s from Virginia and, I believe, 21 years young. I tend to think of him as the leader of the group, although there’s actually nothing in his actions that would suggest he’s actually leading the motley crew. The group doesn’t really feel like it has a leader, but since I met Heavyweight first, I tend to think of him as the leader.

Then there was Superman, who got his name because of a Superman pin he had on his pack. Later, he got a Superman shirt to wear so he’s readily identifiable from that giant S symbol on his chest. =) He was 22 years old, soon to turn 23 (tomorrow, in fact!), and is walking home to Maine. The others also told me that he’s allergic to “just about everything.” Which would actually work to my advantage later in the hike, but I’ll save that story until then… But he does have a lot of allergies from milk to turkey so he has to be careful about the foods he eats. He also does a handstand at the top of every mountain and has someone get a photo of it for him. I’m not sure what he’ll do with all of the photos, but he says the most difficult part of that is trying to decide which lumps on the trail actually count as an actual “mountain.” =)

Then we crossed some railroad tracks… (I’m not actually walking along the railroad tracks. I just stopped where the trail crossed the tracks and turned to the side to take this photo.)

Then there’s Bostrich, short for Baby Ostrich, and is a nickname he’d been called for years. He’s tall and skinny and probably looks a lot like what you would think of if I said to think about what a Middle-Eastern terrorist looks like. Which might sound racist, but he knows it because he said he’s always singled out for “extra screening” whenever he flies. He’s 29 and lives in New York City and spent several years living in Boston.

And finally, there was Avatar, who the others sometimes referred to as “Blueberry” for a blue poncho that he’d wear whenever it rained. He wasn’t wearing the poncho today because it wasn’t raining, but as time went on, his trailname would morph from Avatar to Blueberry. First he said it was only okay to call him Blueberry on rainy days and Avatar on sunny days. As I type this now, nearly a month later, pretty much nobody calls him Avatar anymore including himself. So although I met him as “Avatar,” I’ll call him Blueberry in my posts. (Or even as Mr. Blueberry, when I want to show respect.) He’s 20—the youngest of the bunch—and from Dahlonega, the closest “real” city to the start of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain. I’d asked him if he had literally walked from his front door to the start of the trail since it was so close and how cool would that be? But he hadn’t. He also lived for 5 years in Suches—the first trail town hikers can get to after starting the trail. Having lived in Suches and Dahlonega, he seemed like he must have been destined to thru-hike the trail his whole life! He’s currently in the military in the reserves, but somehow talked his commander into giving him enough time off to do a thru-hike.

The four of them, collectively, I started calling the Four Horsemen. I didn’t start calling them that for at least a week or so, but it seemed handy to give them a collective name since they were always hiking and camping together. Nobody else had, so I started calling them that in the shelter registers and the name seems to be sticking—others behind me are calling them the Four Horsemen now. =)

Looking back down at where the railroad crosses the Nolichucky River.

And that is your cast of characters who will be showing up quite frequently on my blog for at least a month or two because they’re still in the area as I type this now: Heavyweight, Superman, Bostrich and Blueberry—collectively known as the Four Horsemen. You’ll be seeing their names a lot in this blog. *nodding*

As for today, we talked for all of about 5 minutes at the shelter before they continued onwards and I lingered back snacking and reading the register. About an hour after I left the shelter, I took off my pack for another snack break and while putting it back on, I noticed snake on the hillside resting about three feet away from me. Yikes! I’d been sitting there for about five minutes completely oblivious to this rather long snake resting a mere three feet away. I wanted to tell the Four Horsemen about it, but I figured they wouldn’t believe me after my April Fools prank of writing that a family of black rat snakes lived under the shelter, so I got photos to prove that the snake really did exist. =)

The rest of the day’s hike was uneventful. I set up camp at the Cherry Gap Shelter, where the Four Horsemen also stopped for the night and I got to learn more about them including Heavyweight’s penchant for making campfires. Despite all of the wet wood from the rains the day before and during the night, by golly, he got a fire started with a little help from hand-sanitizer which they explained was quite flammable and great for helping to start fires. =) Go campfire!

Remember that henna tattoo from Gatlinburg? It’s still with me, but it’s starting to fade fast at this point.


Newt hiking the trail! Look at him moving!



This is the first photo I took of the Four Horsemen when I caught up with them at Beauty Spot. From left to right: Heavyweight, Superman, Bostrich and Blueberry.

This little fellow took a snack break with me unbeknownst to me until I was getting ready to leave!

He was several feet long too!

I found a letterbox that I had planted along the trail during my first thru-hike in 2003. The stamp is still there (it’s the black thing between the lizard and spider), but the ziplock bags the logbook was in is missing and the logbook soaked. And clearly, a few geocachers had found it and left behind some “prizes.” I didn’t have anything to replace the logbook and didn’t want to carry out the toys, so they’re still there if you want to help the box out!


I’m pretty sure that’s not how stiles are supposed to work! You aren’t supposed to be able to walk around them!


I would quickly learn that if I camped with the Four Horsemen, I was all but guaranteed to get a campfire out of the deal. =)


Anonymous said...

So that's where that Mystery VA letterbox is. Hmmmmmm........

Anonymous said...

Couldn't you fill your water bottles from the shower or bathtub? -Rose

Honey Bear Clan said...

When I read the title of your post, I wondered what famous actor you ran into on the trail. Maybe that was the intent.