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Hiking is not an activity that involves speed. There are no adrenaline
rushes, no high-speed descents or stomach churning turns. I pursue
many outdoor sports, and the majority of them involve speed. I love
grinding up a mountain pass on my old dinged-up road bike, cresting
the top, and bombing back down the other side. Tucked tight and
leaning into the curves, with the wind whipping by and the rubber
gripping the road, grinning from ear to ear. It is an adrenaline rush.
Hiking, not so much.
While hiking lacks an adrenaline rush or speed, it makes up for it in
many ways. It is hard to compare it to other outdoor pursuits because
it is more of a lifestyle than a sport. The beauty of hiking is
leaving it all behind- the cell phone, the emails, the to-do lists.
When you are on the trail, you get into a different state of mind.
Instead of the constant stimulation of technology, you get a steady
stream of peacefulness that emanates from being out in nature. Your
only obligations are to sleep, eat, and walk.
One misperception about backpacking that I harbored was that it is a
very solitary activity. Don’t get me wrong, it can be solitary for
sure. But not in early April on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. It
was a moving, ever-changing community of kindred spirits.
Hillbilly and I set off. The weather was magnificent. Cool, breezy
mornings opened up into warm, sunny afternoons. As we gingerly stepped
over the rooty, rocky trail, we immediately started meeting other
After encountering several enthusiastic hikers as we headed north, we
stopped at Plumorchard Gap shelter for lunch. With a gurgling spring
for a water source nearby, the shelter was quite busy. Hikers sprawled
on the wooden platform, eating a variety of foods -peanut butter on
bagels, savory noodles, trail mix, and soaking in the midday sun.
Just as we were getting ready to leave, two guys approached. We can
hear them well before we can see them; the clang and bang of metal on
metal is unmistakable.
Two older men appear on the side trail, headed
to the shelter. The older of the two is Jay-Roy, a tall,
grandfatherly-type, whose aloof demeanor was that of “have to be
somewhere, might as well be here.” His friend was “Country”, a
wild-eyed, skinny man, wearing bright white tennis shoes, blue jean
shorts, and a cloth safari hat protruding a mop of stringy grey hair.
As they took off their external frame packs that looked like they
came from an army surplus store back in the ‘70’s, we could clearly
see what all the clangin’ and bangin’ was – pots and pans and metal
tools were hanging from their packs. Hillbilly chatted with them as
they snacked on crackers and had a smoke. We heard a loud whistling
and beeping and realized it was coming from Jay-Roy’s hearing aids.
“You talkin’ to aliens?” Hillbilly said to him with a grin.
“Heheheee….yea,” Jay-Roy chuckled, fiddling with his hearing aids.
Only Hillbilly could get away with saying something like this to a
We packed up and left the shelter, heading north to Muskrat Gap.
Little did we know that amongst Country’s metal accoutrements was a
large, menacing hatchet. Why did he need this? What would he use it
for? Country Boy and his hatchet were to become a legend on the trail.
Adam Rambin is an ESOL-teaching, kayaking, hiking, bass playing, Sasquatch-writing adventurer. And he has more writing adventures on the way. Stay tuned for the next exciting installment in Adam’s A.T. hiking saga!
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