Los Hobos Journey To The Smokies

Continued from my last story @ https://swanhikes.com/2020/05/15/los-hobos-meet-on-the-a-t/

I left the shelter later than usual the next morning. I hiked half a day before I started getting a bad case of “Monkey Butt”. It had been raining quite a bit and when conditions are very moist and you are only bathing every few days, things can get uncomfortable. I found a shelter with a stream a long ways from the trail. It was so exciting that no one was near me, I ran as fast as I could to the stream, took my clothes off, and got in. Don’t worry, it was off trail and not a typical water source. Wet hiker is a smell unto it’s self. It is much worse than wet dog. When you add “Monkey Butt” into the mix, it is really no fun. Monkey butt develops from a wet environment, no air, and lots of friction. In the Infantry, all we really did was train with weapons and walk…A LOT. I remember some guys putting Vaseline on their butt cheeks to prevent it. Me personally, I just wait for it to happen, slap hand sanitizer or alcohol on it, baby powder, and march on. Other tactics include Desitin and Cortisone cream. The Cortisone cream trick I never learned until the A.T. The Wandering Kiltsman happens to be a former U.S. Navy Corpsman and taught that to me.

Shelters on the A.T. are typically like a 3 sided log cabin. Most of them have lofts, some are double-deckers, and sometimes there will be an original shelter from the days of the Civilian Conservation Corp. A few are made out of stone. This one is made from wood siding.

It was burning so bad. I made it to Wayah shelter which was empty. I rubbed 75% alcohol hand sanitizer on the raised, red, rash on my inner thighs and butt. I let out a whispered scream. “AAAAAHHHHHHHH SSSSSHHHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIII YEH! Phweeew.” I put my pants back on and started making lunch and doing my stretches. Shortly after, Merlin, the 17 year old exchange student showed up at the shelter. It was close enough timing that I felt relieved she was not 5 minutes earlier for that spectacle. I probably looked like a caricature of Jim Carey’s funny faces from the sting of the alcohol.

My new friends were ahead of and behind me on trail. I did not know we would become a tramily (trail + family), much less, that we would still be friends today. My plan was just to camp there in a spot near the shelter. My clothes and gear were soaked and my body was torn up. I only hiked 7 miles. Merlin seemed surprised that I wasn’t putting in more miles that day and was asking me how far I thought that she could go that day. I think she was concerned that I knew something about the trail that she didn’t, but it was just a bad day for me. I figured that if she was independent enough to be in a foreign country alone and hiking through the wilderness that if she had more information, she would make the decision that was best for herself. I showed her the weather forecast on my phone and the Guthook Guides app on my phone. (Guthooks is an app that many hikers use for navigation on long distance trails. Guthooks takes what is on a topographic map and makes it more user friendly and has lists of way-points and comments from other users about towns and water sources. It is an excellent resource!) Merlin had a topographic map. This fills me with hope for future generations. Not only did she have a topographic map, she was using it effectively. She spoke positively about her parents taking her hiking and kayaking. I think she must have good parents.

Merlin hiked on in search for the rest of the group. I stayed at the shelter and stretched for a long time. Yoga is something I have a passion for and had intended to do on the trail every day, but I ended up just spending about an hour a day stretching. The hiking was such a meditative/contemplative experience for me that I did not need to do much more than stretch. It was a walking meditation. I set my tent up there and decided that I would just catch up with everyone the next day. Several people came through with interesting stories and good tips. It is always a treat for me to meet people who have awesome outdoor stories.

Sleeping in the next morning was nice and something that I don’t do very often. That day I caught up with “The Band” AKA “The Tramily.” We hiked together for a while, then I got a burst of energy and hiked ahead as fast as I could to get to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. It was very exciting for me, but I was also exhausted, sore, and so far ahead of everyone else that I was anxious for a few hours waiting for them. I even walked back up the mountain in my camp shoes hoping to see them. The place was full so I went ahead and bought myself a room, but when the others arrived, they found a free place to camp called “Hobo Island”. For that story you should go to www.thewanderingkiltsman.com or check out his YouTube channel.

The hike out of the N.O.C. was what I call a “smoker”. It was rough. (The term “Smoker” comes from the Army. Drill Sergeants take recruits out to the “Smoke pit” and “P.T.” them to death through Up-Downs, Pushups, Squats, Flutter Kicks, etc. I spent 2 years in the U.S. Army Infantry, before I was discharged, due to disability. Thankfully, I have all my body parts, never had to kill anyone, and was able to begin my outdoors career in a place like the interior of Alaska, where I was stationed the whole time.) Crash and I hiked part of the way together and we met this older guy named “Pasta”. We were watching how he hiked and it seemed more efficient to us. We made it to Sassafras Gap Shelter. This is where people started following us from shelter to shelter for concerts. It was like being teleported into a folk music adventure. Merlin even treated everyone by singing in German at a couple of our “concerts”. The next night at Cable Gap Shelter, I pitched my tent beside it and the others camped inside the tiny shelter together. We stayed up all night playing music. One guy who was on a shorter camping trip walked up and acted as humble as a blade of grass and then blew us away on the guitar. It was a treat. The next day we hiked into the Fontana Dam parking lot. Moses, Merlin, and I jumped in the lake. They were scared we would get into trouble, but the people knew we were hikers and said we probably needed a bath.

L2R: Crash, Moses, Merlin, Squatch, Swan, The Wandering KIltsman

That afternoon, we said farewell to Merlin. We waited with her at the Fontana Village restaurant and went to the store to resupply. She really liked Snickers, so we all bought her some. I think one person bought her several Snickers. She gave me the biggest hug, like I was her big brother. Her host family picked her up and took her back to Georgia. I was a bit relieved. For a while I thought she might have been a run-a-way. I can say that she is not, though. She is back in Germany with her parents and in school. I am sure she is going to make an impact however she decides to spend her life.

The rest of us rented rooms together at Fontana Village. Moses and I split a room. Crash, Squatch, Kiltman, and Black Toe all split a room. It was nice to sleep at a resort, but something called “Z Days” was happening. It is a car club event for owners of Nissan Z’s. It was a whole bunch of people, who looked like their style was inspired by Jersey Shore, and enjoyed driving around in the mountains drunk. It seemed like some were going 50 mph in the parking lot with pedestrians. It was annoying. We still talk about it. We ended up renaming it “D Days”. I will let you figure out what the “D” stands for.

Next up: The Smokies! https://swanhikes.com/2020/05/27/los-hobos-in-the-smokies/

3 thoughts on “Los Hobos Journey To The Smokies

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