Twig Adventures

AT Day 79: Gollum vs Smeagol

Monday Oct 11th 2021, 0610-1830 
Dismal Falls to Jenkins Shelter, SOBO AT mm 1612.6
32 miles
6375 gain, 6215 loss

I packed a little faster than planned in the morning, so was ready before Mud. I’d also told him a later start time the night before, so it was my fault. Hiking with a buddy takes some adjustments to sync schedules. I wasn’t used to needing to convey my plans. I started walking slowly and was surprised to run into 2 hikers also walking in the dark. They were All There and Mr Bojangles, up early to go to a nearby store for breakfast. It’s nice to be seeing other hikers that are walking the same crazy hours and miles that I am.

I walked with them to a road junction, then waited just a few minutes for Mud to catch up. We decided to skip the store in favor of another that was 18 miles ahead. At our pace, it would make for a great stop for lunch. The morning passed by quickly as we conversed about a wide variety of topics. The trail was very good all day but without a whole lot of remarkable points. It was just a pleasant march through some lovely woods. We noted how much the leaves are starting to turn and fall onto the trail, yet the vistas from afar still look very green. We passed one fairy house on top a ridge…the trail has many mysteries.

We made it to the Brushy Mountain Outpost store just after 1 pm. Their supply was pretty limited but the real focus was their hot food. We both got BLTs and cheesy fries, mine also had chili. I almost couldn’t eat it all but then still got a small banana pudding ice cream cone, reasoning that it wouldn’t be much more. The ice cream flavor was delicious! The guy must have noted my emaciated state and loaded the cone with about 4 scoops. I consumed all of it but felt like I might burst after. It took a long time to feel comfortable walking in the afternoon. Luckily the trail was on an old road or railway bed that was graded and relatively flat. It ran alongside a ridge with nice views into the valley.

The day started off cloudy but by this time, the sun had come out and it was a gorgeous fall day. We went down to a gap where a nice creek flowed. I really wanted to go for a dunk but it was just a little too chilly for my tastes. I splashed my face with the cold water and carried on for a final little climb for the day. We amused each other with some NOBO / not NOBO trivia and then somehow got off on a tangent of LOTR storytelling, adapted for AT hiking. Mud did a hilarious rendition of the Smeagol vs Gollum inner turmoil, debating whether he was a civilized SOBO that cooks his food or a filthy NOBO that cold-soaks and eats raw fish. His Gollum voice was spot on and about had me rolling on the ground. The kid has a real knack for accents, impressions and sketch comedy. Given that he’s from Massachusetts, his Peter Griffen from Family Guy is the best.

Having my own live entertainment was a great change of pace for the day. We knocked out big miles but it all felt pretty easy. We got to a shelter just as it was becoming dark, finding it empty but with one tent nearby. Out of convenience, we took up residence in the shelter. I didn’t feel very hungry but cooked a dinner anyway. Just as I was about to go to bed, I noted a light coming from the trail. Wizard arrived at 8:30 pm followed shortly by Brian. All There and Mr Bojangles were thought to be just behind but must have stopped by the creek. I was impressed with all these guys pulling big days and walking in the dark. But then, I guess that’s what it takes to get to Springer this time of year. We got to get this done.

Wizard joined us in the shelter while Brian tented. It was quite the reunion for Mud and Brian… they’d last seen each other in the 100 mile wilderness and even summited Katahdin the same day. Mud had taken a side trail up the peak, carrying all his gear and 10 days of food (60 lbs). He was accidentally going back down the Abol Slide trail when they met. Mud was awe-struck by Brian…he was the most experienced hiker he’d ever talked to. Instead of making fun of his big pack (like most had done that day), Brian had given him words of encouragement and even suggested they’d be seeing each other down trail. Mud didn’t figure there was a chance he’d keep up, yet here we all were. It was a nice story…a reminder how far a little kindness and empathy can go…thousands of miles it turns out. And also plenty of fodder to tease Mud for having a man-crush over Brian. All in good fun.

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