Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chapter 19: Mental Instability and other Maladies

Several things were insane that day: our twenty-mile ambitions, the steep initial climb out of the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and eventually my brain.

Bandito and I encountered Freeman almost as soon as we'd left the N.O.C. He told us that he had stealth camped with Merf the night before, and was now headed back to the road to get breakfast. Seemed sensible enough, although I thought backtracking under any circumstances was a tad excessive. We wished him luck and parted ways, not knowing if we'd ever see him again.

We eventually found Merf and her two companions still in camp, a little ways up the hill. We remarked approvingly at the skillful inconspicuousness of their tent sites, which were practically straddling the trail, and casually mentioned our plans for the day. Merf was duly impressed, subtly inquired as to whether she would be remembered in my will, and then asked for my preferences regarding flowers or charitable organizations. No, peonies, and Oxfam International were my answers, in case you were wondering.

The trail rises over three thousand feet in just a few miles after crossing the Nantahala River, and I was woefully unprepared for how difficult it suddenly became. I was soon exhausted and stumbling over every protruding root and pebble, and it wasn't even noon yet. And so began our epic battle of wills.

"You call yourself a mountain?" I growled. "You're nothing but an overgrown ant hill to me!"

I could hear Bandito huffing and puffing behind me as he struggled to keep up. Or maybe he was giggling. It was hard to tell.

"I've seen your brothers and sisters," I noted sagely, "and you're not so tough."

"You think you can kill me with your thirty degree inclines and lack of switchbacks, but I'm still going. You'll never defeat me!"

The mountain begged to differ. We continued going straight up.

"You think you're special, just because you're so big and hard?"

"That's what your ex-girlfriend said to me last night," said the mountain.

"Shut up!" I screamed, appalled at the mountain's startling lack of taste. "I-- I'm going to walk all over you by the time I'm done!"

I had the mountain there. It remained silent.

"You think you're tough," squealed Bandito, trying to get in on the act. "Well, have you heard of the CDT? It's tougher than you and I am so much better than you that I could go out there and hike it with ease!"

Poor Bandito. He was clearly losing it. I stopped to calm him down. "Don't," I cautioned, shaking my head. "Never taunt the mountain. And leave the psychotic rambling to me."

Bandito protested, and then explained, somewhat tangentially, that it was nearly impossible for him to hike when I was being ridiculous. Apparently I was making him laugh so hard he was having trouble breathing. I frowned, finding the insinuation mildly offensive. What was so funny, after all, about a man having an earnest if slightly abusive and one-sided discussion with a prominent geographical feature? But I forgave him, and promised to shut up for a little while. I think he was disappointed.

After what seemed like the longest four hours of my life, we finally reached the top of Cheoah Bald. That morning, I had considered camping at the summit, for it was said to offer magnificent views and would've only required an eight mile day. It was a good thing that we were moving on, then, because the place was so swamped with other hikers that there might not have been enough room for us had we wanted to stay.

Disgusted, we took a break. I sat down to contemplate death while Bandito was sociable and went around introducing himself to the others. The most memorable character there was an asian dude with dreadlocks, whose name was either Asian Dude or Asian Dreadlocks, or A.D. for short. I rolled my eyes. Anybody who used initials for their trail name was clearly an idiot.

"Hey, M.C., ready to go?" asked Bandito, wrenching me from my reverie. I was, and we left.

Five miles later we were at Stecoah Gap, sitting on a picnic table, taking another break. It had been a long day, and was already starting to get dark, but we still had a considerable ways to go. I did my best to appear as lost, forlorn and hungry as possible for the benefit of any benevolent passersby, then watched in increasing frustration as cars whizzed past on the road. Not a single person stopped to ask us if we were okay, if we wanted a sandwich, or to offer us sodas.

"Jerks!" I spat, glaring at their rapidly receding brake lights.

Another car sped by.


An elderly couple in a Buick slowed as they approached us, and then stopped. I watched them warily, waiting for them to get out of their car. They didn't, and after peering at us curiously for a few moments, hastily accelerated away.

"Jerks," I whispered, shaking my head, my rage bubbling.

Bandito laughed. He was forever amused by my foul moods. We left soon thereafter, as much as to get into camp as to lessen the possibility of me flipping out and killing someone.

We ended up night hiking for the first time. We passed a nice young couple camped below the Brown Fork Gap Shelter and told them we were headed on to Cable Gap. Sure, it was already dark, and the batteries in my old-school Mini MagLite were dying, but we'd already come this far. Why not keep going? The couple eyed us skeptically, like we were crazy people stalking the woods, stopping to talk to anyone that crossed our paths. I realized later that we probably looked like crazy people, and that we were stopping to talk to everyone that crossed our paths. I didn't find the thought particularly reassuring.

I could hardly see my feet in front of me by the time we made it into Cable Gap Shelter. My flashlight cast a feeble yellow glow that barely reached the ground, and it's pathetic appearance poking out of the dark was greeted by derisive snickers from the other campers. I let them laugh, then told them that we'd made it there from the N.O.C. in a single day. That shut them up.

I hardly remember erecting my tent on a tumble of leaf-covered roots on a rather precipitous slope overlooking a stream, but apparently I did. I do remember crawling into my sleeping bag that night and vowing to never do another twenty mile day. And vowing to never listen to Bandito again, about anything. Because all his ideas were stupid ideas that ended up with me hiking really far, which made me sad and angry and crazy.

And then I fell asleep, because the next thing I remember was wondering why that unicorn was staring at me.


  1. you WILL write a book

  2. i'd buy it.

  3. Little Brown said:
    Shit Lil' Dipper, he should dedicate it and just give it to you!

  4. Wow I googled my trailname plus the Appalachian Trail and I came across this blog.

    I don't remember meeeting you because I guess you were too busy crying about the NOC climb, but what I remember hearing about you on the trail is that you were quite the douchebag. That is not me saying that, of course, but that is what other people said about you on the trail, just so you know.

    You must be one them hikers that got taken over by the thru-hikers ego (when one thinks they are the shit for being a thru-hiker) or you got a big ego already that was fueled further by the thru-hikers ego. You can deny this all you want but you confirm it by the way you talk about people in cars that drive by you. They're jerks to you because in your narrow mind you're entitled to hospitality because you are a bad ass thru-hiker who deserves special treatment. Who calls people that are just driving by jerks?... only egocentric douchebags.

    So who am I? I am A.D. and calling me out as an idiot because of a bullshit thing like turning one of my stupid trail names into an acronym is pretty childish and neurotic. You didnt even take the time to even talk to me or know me and you deemed me as an idiot huh. I'm sorry but I don't like when people talk shit about me, so I have to say something about it. I hope talking shit about people you dont know adds to your awesome, epic, overly embellished thru-hike blog. Does it make your fast paced hike seem more interesting because you hiked so fast that you didnt get the chance to enjoy yourself or even to stop and smell the roses? How can you even be in a bad mood on top of Cheoah Bald? It's so beautiful up there and you accomplish a tough hike to get there, but no, you were too busy bitching in your own head and generalizing the personalities of people to stupid trail names. Trail names in general are pretty silly if you think about it but I guess they are serious thing to you.

    If you cant tell, you have got me really riled up. I'm still baffled to how someone can talk shit about someone they dont know... I'm dissapointed and shocked to find someone I dont even know from the trail talk badly about me like this.

    Yeah I will leave on this note:

    Anyone that hides behind the computer and that talks shit about someone they never met must CLEARLY be a fucking pussy. My eyes are rolling like a little bitch when I say that by the way. I wish you would of said something on Cheoah Bald in person. I would of knocked your ass out. If we ever cross paths in person again feel free to say that to my face or come to Baltimore City. I prefer to shit talk face to face but this will do for now because I am defending my name and you started the shit talking online like a little pussy bitch.

    Happy Trails M.C.

    -A.D. (also known as Andy/ Slide/ Ragged Time/ Squid Jerky/ Mooselookmeguntic/ Blind Boy Blue/ Fart Knocker/ Dingleberry/ Man of Many Names/ etc...)
    GA->ME 2010

    p.s. Go back to the woods and self-reflect instead of finding things to bitch about. You should find the root of your douchebaggery.

  5. I think you've slightly missed the point, A.D. Read this again:

    'Anybody who used initials for their trail name was clearly an idiot.

    "Hey, M.C., ready to go?" asked Bandito, wrenching me from my reverie. I was, and we left.'

    I was making fun of myself, not you. Sorry if you took offense. And the root of my douchebaggery is clearly my low self-esteem/small penis size. So I hope you don't punch me, if we ever do cross paths, although I'm not saying I don't deserve it. Nobody's perfect.

  6. Bahhh humbug! Making fun of me to make fun yourself... I get it. Clever and props to you for still making fun of yourself in your reply instead of yelling back at me. So, my sincere apologies for taking shit the wrong way.

    If we cross paths again I will not punch you.

    Happy trails.