Welcome back to you’re sporadically scheduled program, “A Hippie in the Woods”. On today’s episode, our young protagonist spends more time with fellow hikers Smoke and Toke, previously known as Candy Man and Drew. As supplies were running low the group decided to go into town. Leaving from Unicoi Gap, Hippie, Smoke, and Toke hitched a ride from Leo, Maddy, and Jack. Leo had a converted airport shuttle bus that him and Maddy planned to use for road trips. Jack, Maddy’s palmarinain, was the friendliest little guy. After stopping at a restaurant for some food, the guys walked the mile long town of Helen, GA. Helen is a very popular tourist destination and the whole town was constructed in a Bulgarian style. They met Maddy at an outdoor bar, where Hippie, who is under 21 at this time, accidentally ordered an alcoholic smoothie but was not carded. Maddy brought the boys back to Leo’s house. Leo the owner of a few properties in the town of Helen, has a picnic area in between two rivers, which made for excellent swimming. That night, Hippie took off from the group to try and beat the rain to camp. Arriving a few minutes after dark, he was able to set up before the heavy rain came down. Smoke and Toke were not as lucky. Smoke kept the whole shelter up that night with his chainsaw snoring. The Women, a group of recent graduates from a masters program for strong female scientist complained in the morning. With not many members of the group sleeping much the night before and a few longer days adding up, it was decided that they would take a 0 day, not hiking any miles. It almost drove Hippie mad to sit in one place that long, but with the addition of Fresh, who rolled both ankles, and Big Wood to the group, it seemed everyone needed the day off. Hippie realized that people and the company on trail is more important than miles.
Episode 2: Saying Goodbye
Following episode 1, the zero day saw the addition of three new faces to the group, Rocket man, Homework, and Teacup. There was also an older gentleman who exchanged a few pleasantries before going to sleep. The next day the large group of eight, Hippie, Smoke, Toke, Homework, Teacup, Rocket man, Big Wood, and Fresh, pushed into the town of Hiawassee. The day unfortunately involved a deadly encounter with a rattle snake, where Fresh unloaded six rounds into the snake. Hippie had second thoughts on the group he was hiking with. That night, homework and teacup finished their section hike and went home. The boys stayed in a cheap motel and were able to take showers and do laundry. After getting a shuttle back to Dicks Creek Gap, Hippie, Smoke, and Toke set off for the North Carolina border. Reaching the border, goodbyes were said, although it wasn’t quite a goodbye, rather a see you later. Hippie continued on, planning to catch the girls from the first three days, and spent the first night alone since starting. He realized friends may come and go but memories are forever.
Episode 3: Old Friends Bring Welcome Smiles
Leaving early the next morning, Hippie started moving fast. He planned over a 20 mile day to try and catch his friends. Arriving at Deep Gap, Hippie meet up with Slack Packer and his wife, an older couple living out of a van, doing a slack packing thru hike. He also met Cliffhanger, who was putting up big miles from day 1. Hiking with Cliff was a nice change of pace. He and Hippie were able to cruise through the morning and caught up to the girls around noon. Rejoined with old friends, Hippie, Cliff, Little Foot (Lily), Sriracha (Maddi), and Cholula (Savannah) set out to climb Albert mountain, which has been compared to the White Mountains. There Hippie met Jeff, who he later named Papa Bear, the older man who was at the shelter on his zero day. Crossing the 100 mile mark together and having dinner at the shelter was one of the best days on trail so far. Papa bear, in his mid 50s, has been one of the best people on the trail and treated the girls and Hippie to dinner on the next night. Unfortunately, his catalytic converter was stolen from his truck, but to return the trail magic, the group decided to cover the cost for Papa Bear that the insurance would not. It is fascinating how the trail knows no distinction between age or race.
Chicken man talked about an entity on the trail called “Pain”. He said you can either leave early and outrun the pain, or sleep in late and let it pass. I disagree, pain will be with you no matter how fast or where you go. Instead, I believe you can either allow that constant nagging to bother you and complain about it, or you can befriend it and realize that it will keep coming back day after day.
Pain is a funny thing. People fear it enough to make themselves sick and give them anxiety in anticipation of the pain. But it also brings people together. My group is a mix of different ages, races, political believes, upbringings, etc, but we all have one thing in common that brings us together every day, pain. I believe it is part of the reason people are so friendly on trial, because everyone goes through the same pain.