Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hot Springs!

There are a lot of different types of people out here hiking the Appalachian Trail.  There are those out for just the day and those hiking for multiple days, doing sections of the trail.  I met a hiker, Gizmo, who considers himself a LASHER (long-ass section hiker), has done nearly half of the trail and was hiking from Springer through the Smokies this spring.  During this time of the year though, the majority of the people out here are thru-hikers, attempting to make it all the way to Katahdin in Maine.  I'm a NOBO, or northbounder, but I'll run into SOBOs as well later on.  There are also pretty legitimate HOBOs out here, too - people who were homeless before and will be homeless after hiking.  This one guy out here is nearly 30 and he said he's never paid rent in his adult life.  He hiked the PCT last year, is hiking the AT this year, and crashes on friends couches and cooks them meals in between.  There are a lot of these nomadic type people out here.

There are people who trained ridiculously hard before coming out here with p90x, shakedown section hikes, cross-country skiing, eating all of the right foods.  And there are also people who put on loads of weight and were complete couch potatoes, claiming they would lose weight out here anyways.  Some were in Boy Scouts and some have never set up a tent in their life.  There is a guy who weighed in at way over 300 lbs and already has lost 50 lbs and there is a guy who started out weighing 127 lbs and is afraid he won't exist by the end of this.  There are those who like to talk gear all night and those who like to smoke weed.  There is an 80-something year old named Cimarron and teenage kids hiking the trail.  Some people hike from shelter to shelter, usually about 5 to 7 miles, and some have already done 30-mile days.  There are a lot of different types of people.

But we all have the same goal - to reach Katahdin.  And we're all experiencing the same things - aches and pains, and rains, and hunger.  I've hiked 271 miles so far and I'm taking my second zero day so here in Hot Springs, NC - so named because of the natural mineral springs which I will be relaxing in later.  I was told yesterday by one of the employees at Elmers Inn that it used to be named Warm Springs, but that the name needed to be more appealing, kind of like Great Wraps instead of Good Wraps.  I made it out of the Smokies alive and experienced an incredible range of temperatures and weather.  It snowed on the first night and 3 days after I was hiking in snow and ice, I was sweating and swearing up steep mountains in 85 degrees.  I've lost about 10 pounds already, but I think it will start to level off a little bit.  At least I hope it will.  I'm feeling a lot stronger but the heat has been difficult.

I stayed at Standing Bear Farm Hostel three nights ago and it was such a cool, relaxed place.  The owner, Curtis, has a complex of buildings in his backyard - a bunkhouse, showerhouse, kitchen area, and a resupply shed.  It's all on the honor system - you write down what you take out of the shed and put your money in an envelope.  The next night I camped on top of Max Patch with about 20 others and saw an amazing sunset and sunrise.  Look up pictures of Max Patch if you get the chance - it's beautiful.  It's a big bald probably two football fields or more of green grass on top of a hill.  I hiked 19.8 miles to get into Hot Springs yesterday and I'm just resting up before heading back out tomorrow.

Standing Bear Hostel

Max Patch
 I feel like at this point in my trip I've got a pretty good sense for what to expect for the whole thing.  I've experienced bitter colds and scorching heat and hunger - oh man the hunger.  But I'm still out here and I'm still loving it.  I've met so many really great people, and this revolving community is so supportive.  We're all very different and I probably don't have much in common with a good number of people out here, but we are all hiking to Katahdin and that in itself makes us all pretty much the same.  Age doesn't matter. Druggies, hippies, hobos, rocket scientists, video game programmers, students, nurses, people in gap years or just retired - we're all the same.


  1. What an awesome commentary! Thanks for that, Michael.

  2. It was good to see some pictures of people, places that you wrote about, and you, too! Keep on keeping on, buddy!

  3. i wanna know how the "druggies" resupply.

  4. This is an awesome and humbling commentary. We are all so different and yet all so similar. Thank you for allowing us to come along with you in a virtual sense. I pray for your safety and perseverance and I revel in the wonderful gift of wisdom engendered and shared by your every step. Go Mike, Go!

  5. I just flew over nc, I think I saw you!

  6. Just recently learned that the daughter of a friend is also hiking the AT this year. her name is Julia, and she's about 40-50 miles ahead of you. She's got ankle issues, so she's moving rather slowly... maybe you'll see her before you finish!

  7. Me again -- with a p.s. from my last post -- Julia's trail name is Domino, and her friend is Whiskey! If you catch up, tell her Gary and I say hi!! Love you, Mom

  8. Mike!! It's Jon Michael, I've found your blog. What you're experiencing here sounds incredible! You're seeing such a beautiful side of the world, up close and personal. Open air, open fields, open sky, a vast expanse of Earth before you. I'm sure it has to be so enriching and so beautiful, on a scale that I can't even imagine. I have such admiration---and even envy--for you for doing something like this, it's really awesome.

    The people you met sound so fascinating! I'm sure they have such stories to tell (either directly or indirectly), I encourage you to seek them and share enriching experiences with them.

    I've got you on my google reader now, hope to be hearing more from you on this on this awesome adventure you're having, keep sharing with us.

    Best of luck on the trail bro, embrace the pain and hunger strikes with a beautiful resolve, open spirit, and a fresh smile on your face. It's all a miracle.