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My hiking buddy Hillbilly never meets a stranger.
He eschews all formality and addresses everyone in the same laid back way.
He doesn’t like to brag,
but after a few days everyone starts to notice how helpful and
knowledgeable he can be. It got to the point where he would hold court
every afternoon at our shelter. We would all sit around, and shoot the
breeze, and people would nonchalantly ask him things about the trail,
gear, or what the best way was to do this or that. Hillbilly would always
have an answer and a joke.
 
Growing up in Wetumpka, Alabama as the son of German immigrants,
Hillbilly knew college wasn’t for him. Being mechanically inclined, he
decided to go to trade school and learned how to work on heating and
air systems. Living at home until he was nearly 30, Hillbilly had
it made. He raced road bikes, mountain bikes, and rode motorcycles. He
finally got married and moved out of his parents’ house and took a job
with TRANE HVAC in Atlanta.
 
Hillbilly has three main strengths. First of all, he is a mechanical
genius. He can fix anything. Miles from the house on a long mountain
bike ride one day, his rear wheel exploded. The metal rim had
literally peeled away from the wheel. Hillbilly didn’t
blink an eye. He stopped, took the wheel off, and in about five
minutes had repaired the wheel with zip ties and duct tape. “Well, I
guess we should head back,” he said. And we did.
 
His second strength is that he never meets a stranger. He is so much
fun to be around because he has crazy stories to tell and is always
laughing and joking. And for all his mechanical and gear knowledge, he
doesn’t go around giving unwarranted advice. I know several folks who just love to give advice. You mention something and they are all of a sudden telling you exactly how to do it ‘the right way.’
Once I was asking advice about a girl from my buddy Zak, and he said, “I could tell you what to know about her and spoil the surprise, or I can stay silent and let you discover for yourself what it is you seek.”  
Wisely spoken, sir.
 
While Hillbilly never meets a stranger, I am almost the opposite. I
believe that I blend in well with people and get along with everyone,
but that deep down I’m actually difficult to get to know. So he and I
make a good pair on the trail. His final strength, perhaps the most important, is that he knows himself. Yes, this sounds very Yoda-like but it’s true. He knows his limits. He knows his gear, his abilities, when to eat, drink, sleep. And he makes no apologies. My parents would often host parties where we would all hang out around the campfire, whoopin’ and hollerin’ down by the river. Hillbilly would be right there with us, having a great time. But then when he was done, he was done. Even if the night was young.
“Seeee ya!” he’d say and trot off, hop in his old Cushman truck and take off.

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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