Saturday, September 27, 2008
Outside the shop on a picnic bench are three older guys - typical section hikers: Overweight and carrying too much stuff - which is actually good, because they really offer to give me some of their food - for free. They have too much and don't want to carry it. You cannot believe how happy I was. These three guys are car dealers from California and it will always elude me how you can live in California and then come hiking on the East Coast... And on top of all that even teach me a new legal expression: Res ipse loquitor. It was a good day in the end.
The next day I encounter several bears - they always run away when they see me, but it is a little bit frightening to see how fast these teddies can crawl up a tree. I start wondering why I should even bother to hang my food. As it start getting dark and I come close to my potential camp site, I see two more bears - well, it is probably not a good idea to camp too close. I hike on and finally find a good camp site but now the major problem starts: I have to hang my food. I had tried the last couple of days resulting in a lot of frustation. It had always taken me almost hours and the last time the damn rope got stuck on a truck branch so I had to cut it! I slept with the food in my tent that night....
So now I stand there with the rope in my hand looking at a perfect tree that is far too tall cursing my father who has never taught me how to throw a stone with a rope attached over a tree branch... When I hear a noise behind me I first think it is a bear laughing itself to death at my ridiculous sight, but it is a female hiker. I confess my problem to her and it turns out she is a horticulturist specialising in trees. And in that profession she is quite fluent in throwing stones with ropes attached over tree branches. She even shows me a trick how to do it (swing the stone)and with her first try the rope is hanging where it is supposed to be! I am impressed - she is, too and is so happy that she hugs me and tells me about her local preacher who always says that you should help people in need - in my case a hiker with a bear problem. I slept very good that night.
|Donna & Gruevy plus parents|
|War correspondent Memorial|
|What is going on?|
I realise that this guy just has a weird sort of humor but it is astonishing what he is really worried about: "Well, I was just joking. It is just some good old boys trying out their toys. But this shooting is going on for more than 4 hours now - it must cost them a fortune in ammunition! They even have automatic weapons."
When I finally walk down the ridge - still wondering what automatic weapons are - I really do hear the shooting. And I realise what automatic weapons are... ratatata (this is the machine guns) bum bum bum (probably hand grenades). I know by now that Americans love to reenact civil war battles, but this sounds more like the battle for Stalingrad in WW II. Unfortunately, the AT heads straight towards the center of shooting. I am wondering now if the good old boys know where the damn AT is or if they try target shooting on thruhikers.... The shooting gets so loud and frightening that I consider (a) putting in ear plugs and (b) taking cover on the ground and start crawling.
In that moment two local guys turn up hiking up the trail towards me and greet me: "Hi, there is a little bit of shooting going on...." And smile and leave. As you have found out by now - I survived the shooting, but I am now wondering too how much ammunition these guys wasted...
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Next to Port Clinton I came across another "attraction": A Cabela's superstore! Cabela's is sort of an outdoor store but not exactly aimed towards hikers, but hunters, fishermen and car campers. And it is huge! You won't find any lightweight gear there, but lots of stuffed animals. Therefore I can truthfully say that I have seen a huge polar bear on the AT - in a Cabela's superstore. Another interesting sight there were Amish people in their traditional dresses shopping there. I would have loved to ask them for a ride back to the trail - but Amish are not allowed to own a car and therefore they were waiting for a lift by non-Amish friends just like me.
|Organic Steve's brother|
|Karl Meltzer's support vehicle|
Sunday, September 7, 2008
I spent most of the evening with earplugs because of the interstate noise and eventually went to sleep. I woke up at midnight because my arms and legs were itching so bad. There had not been that many mosquitoes lately so I was a little bit surprised about the itching. Then I switched on the light to check it out. And then I discovered about 10 bed bugs (= Wanzen) crawling all over me and the bed. I could not believe my eyes. First I thought I had brought an insect in myself but I discovered more and more bed bugs all over the place. When I killed them blood (my blood!) came splattering out. And then I discovered all these bug bites all over my body. This was about the most atrocious thing that ever happened to me on any trail.
|Life is easier in my tent!|
But now I want to talk about the good: Gingerbreadman, a long-distance hiker and triple crowner had offered to send me a food drop to Wind Gap, so I was very curious when I went to the post office. Getting an unexpected food drop is like Easter and Christmas in one day for a hiker. And it was really there: A nice package with a lot of nice stamps looking very exciting. I could hardly wait to open it. Inside were all the goodies a hiker needs: A variety of ziplock bags (especially the big one Gallon ones), all sorts of energy bars, drink mixes, nuts, potatoe chips and even a newspaper article to read. Gingerbreadman - you rock! Thank you so much - I really loved that package!
|Timber at the Gathering|
There are also other good things to report: The weather improved, there were blueberry bushes everywhere, resupply was easy and life was generally very good.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
|Bear Mountain zoo|
- Don't even try to do dishes. (I liked that one very much.)
- The first beer is free and any other beer is 25 cents. (Luckily that applied for sodas, too because I don't drink beer)
- Don't use any word with more than 3 syllables. (Luckily that rule was not enforced because I received some very interesting language lessons there).
- You have to spend 25 minutes to watch a video. This video is about Paul Potts, a guy I had never before heard of. Paul Potts is a completely uninteresting and unattractive British sales guy for cell phones who won a British TV talent show by singing a Puccini aria. The mayor's message is that you just have to believe in what you are doing and you will win. So now picture about 10 dirty stinking hikers sitting in the mayor's living room and listing to the Puccini aria out of Turandot "Nessum dorma".... It was just hilarious.
Another place that I had looked forward to a lot turned out to be a big disappointment: Graymoor Monastery. I had visions of a peaceful and scenic little monastery where I could get a bit of a spiritual rest. Instead Graymoor monastery turned out to be huge - and I could not even find a church. The hikers are not allowed inside the monastery buildings any more but have to camp on the ball field - and that field today was occupied by hundreds of Latinos celebrating mass and having a huge barbecue afterwards. Although the rather expensive food was nice I was very disappointed by the lack of spirituality of the whole place - and just hiked on after an extended lunch break.
By the way: In New York there even is an active train station called "Appalachian Trail". And at some point on the trail you have to cross a busy highway - hitching on it would get you into New York City that is only 40 miles away! Although a lot of hikers take a break here and do go into New York I personally could not stand the noise and stress of a big city during such a long hike - it was difficult enough to just get across the highway!