Today’s miles: 10.4
I had an eventful night last night – a couple of very close lightening strikes (light pink in color) and thunder. I crouched in the lightening position for about an hour, doing some form of praying. Then at 4 am, I was woken up by coyotes howling and barking back and forth in the calmed night. I could see the bright moon out.
This morning, I woke again to the bright light of a clear, cold morning on top of a mountain. There were beautiful sunrise clouds, and when I got up to take photos, I got very close to a coyote up on the hill before it ran away. By the time that I began hiking this morning, the fog had rolled back in, and I walked again on the misty trail - but through the really lovely and moss-laden forest - up and down ridges, to Rattlesnake Lodge, or rather the remnants of it, abandoned in the 1920s and then burnt down in a fire. The chimneys and some stone walls were standing, including a concrete wall of the swimming pool!
I started to run into dayhikers around the wreckage – 2 women with dogs, chatting, an older man who told me that coyotes on the east coast are 30% larger than on the west coast – evidently they interbred with wolves (he said “Sounds pretty smart to me!”) and then ran into three men and couple small children walking and the first thing one of the men asked was, “Are you okay?” That question always catches me off guard. Do I not look as though I am okay? Do I really already have that feral look in my eyes? Did my greasy hair become untethered while walking (likely)? Did I smear too much zinc oxide on my face, making me look pasty-white and scary? I said that I was doing well and one of the men proceeded to tell me that I should join their Craigslist Asheville hiking group (yippee?) because they’re going to do things like hike the MST and the 60s (peaks over 6,000 feet in NC) – they had a special acronym for that. I told them that I would consider, if I moved to Asheville. Then the last fellow was an energetic serious hiker-looking man who stopped and we talked for a long while. He’s training to hike Everest! His story, as he told it, was that he had retired at 47, 9 years ago, sold a company for buttloads of cash, and now does mountaineering and rock climbing full-time. Killaminjaro last year in Tanzania, and Nepal this year, for 2 months in March to June. We went our separate ways, sending respective words of encouragement for our upcoming journeys.
Soon after, I ran into David Peacock, a fellow with snowy hair out walking a leggy golden retriever (part Irish Setter?) with a lot of energy. We walked together to his car.
We drove the 6 miles “home” and I met Mary Katherine – a long term couchsurfer trying to get her South Korea teaching visa while in town – and Deanne, David’s tandembike co-rider and wife. I took a glorious shower, sat down to this weird meal of little lumps of prepared food that they order from a guy down the street every week (like weekly take-out?). The food was good – just strange to think about eating that way out of take-out containers! We talked for a long while, me and David and peripherally Mary Katherine, a meandering conversation that jumped from farming to biodynamic farming according to weird rituals and the cosmos involving hanging sheep inards stuffed with camomille blossoms in the sun, then making a tincture out of it to spread on the land! To soil rehab in India to the Appalachian Trail as a metaphor for life, to this trip and my goals for it and what I have learned so far.
Mary K and I ventured off to the thrift store where I found shorts and a t-shirt to wear in town. I am feeling good, my legs feeling strong. Mary K is interesting, she is trying to finish paying off her student loans by working nonstop in Korea, teaching ESL. And is going through a lot of cleaning, I think, right now. She had a buttload of film slides in the backseat from travels, headed for the dumpster. Photos! It’s so difficult for me to think about permanently purging that type of memory-device. She only kept some family photos, at a friend’s house in California. One of the joys of travel and backpacking is cramming everything into a backpack that you can carry and still be mobile with, and then just being in the moment, untethered by excess. It’s a glorious feeling, but to be totally unbound? By family or photographs or favorite sweaters/overalls? By that 20-degree sleeping bag? Now that is an overwhelming thought – it almost borders on agoraphobia – the fear of large, open spaces - fear if too much freedom, or not having an escape route or backup plan.