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The Appalachian Trail hosts a vibrant community of hikers, backpackers, day-trippers, and tourists. Once hikers get to know one another and the community forms, there is a certain sense of keeping up with who is where and what is going on. Hence the rumor mill. The Rumor Mill, at least on the AT, is a strong and powerful tool. I suppose it’s society’s way of adding a little drama to an otherwise mundane existence.
Approaching a main highway crossing, Hillbilly and I encountered a group of backpackers who were having a lively discussion.
“Dude, I know it happened. I’ve seen the guy. He’s crazy!” a young guy said to his buddies. “He took out his hatchet and killed three people. Right there in the shelter!”
He had our attention, along with everyone else’s.
“Murdered them, in cold blood,” the hiker said in a sinister tone.
“Who are we talkin’ about?” Hillbilly said, joining the conversation, trying to figure out what was happening.
“Man, it’s this hiker, this short guy with long grey hair who is always wearing a hat,” he said.
“Awww, he didn’t kill anybody,” Hillbilly said knowingly, “We’ve heard that story. Lemme tell you what really happened.”
Hillbilly commenced to tell the story of how Country went berserk one night. About ten people were crammed into a three-sided wooden shelter that would comfortably fit six or eight hikers. This is common. Shelters on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and North Carolina are usually three-sided, wooden buildings with a roof and a raised floor for sleeping. They do vary in amenities, though. The more upscale ones have covered porches with picnic tables for cooking, eating, and general lounging. Some AT shelters have sleeping lofts to accommodate more than the standard six or eight hikers. The sleeping spots in shelters are first-come, first-serve, and with so many people on the trail, they fill up fast.
Now, imagine ten exhausted hikers sleeping on a wooden platform meant for six. There are going to be snorers. Many will shift in the night. Most will get up to use the privy. Oh yea, that’s another term for you lay-hikers. Privy means toilet in hiker-speak. And toilet is a loose use of the word. It is a hole in the ground with some form of seat. Hillbilly refuses to use a privy, preferring to find a nice, quiet spot in the woods to…err…. take care of business. There is usually a privy and a water source in the vicinity of a shelter.
Long story short, shelters can be loud places where it is difficult to sleep. This is situation in which we find Country. He is getting annoyed. The snoring doesn’t stop. He finally has enough, grabs his hatchet, and in the middle of the night, he slams the butt of his hatchet into the shelter several times- WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! Everyone wakes from a deep sleep, wild-eyed and startled. Country screams, “Stop snoring!” and huffs as he packs his gear and leaves.
As rough as Country was, he didn’t kill anyone, and as amusing as it was, we had to set the rumor mill straight.
Adam Rambin is an ESOL-teaching, kayaking, hiking, bass playing, Sasquatch-writing adventurer. He also too the picture above. 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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