Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chapter 32: The Legend Continues

There are two road crossings just before Little Laurel Shelter. The first is a typically remote and hazy rural highway, either NC208 or TN70 depending on which direction you're facing. The second is the barely paved, mostly gravel Log Cabin Road, which is hardly identifiable as a street at all except for that there aren't any trees growing on it.

Crossing Log Cabin Road the previous day, I had discovered an old red cooler lying in the weeds, half-full of murky rain water. Empty soda cans lay about, discarded, some crushed, others not, their logos scratched and weathered, the final, tragic remains of some forgotten trail magic. While it warmed the heart to think that someone had once cared enough to haul a cooler of sodas up the road, it was just as depressing to ponder what might have prevented them from coming to collect their garbage. Perhaps they had died of old age or heartbreak. Who could know?

Still, at some point, that cooler had been filled with ice, and those sodas had glistened with beads of condensation and sparkled in the sun like flecks of gold before the eyes of thirsty hikers. But that was long ago. Any joy this trail magic had brought had long since faded, much like the labels on the soda cans that now lay about, once magical, now just so much ugly garbage. What was it now? A cruel reminder of mortality? Of the fleeting, ephemeral transience of simple, uncorrupted pleasures? The pale reflection of man's misplaced priorities, the harshness of our ignorance and collective indifference, and a gross insult to mother nature? Or was it just litter? Whatever it was, I found it achingly depressing.

On a perhaps not completely unrelated note, the next day, I may have written the following in the registry at the Little Laurel Shelter:
Dear whomever left those two six packs of beer hanging in the notch of the tree back by the road,
You are an inconsiderate jerk! That is known as "littering," and it's disgusting and illegal. I'll have you know that I poured out your "beer" and am packing out the cans to atone for your gross and callous disrespect of the laws of man and of "nature." Also, please know that none of us appreciate you ruining our "nature" hikes by leaving your refuse lying all over the place. Kindly never do it again!
Major Chafage
It's possible that this was meant as much to bait and annoy the Party Group as it was a commentary on what I had seen, but it had the unintended effect of filling everyone hiking behind me with an inexplicable hatred. Apparently several people took what I wrote at face value, and assumed I had actually thrown out two six packs of beer. Finding such a notion offensively preposterous, or preposterously offensive, they proceeded to write extremely derogatory and vulgar things about me in the register, filling it with vile invective and very naughty language. Probably unwarranted. I believe I had simply become a convenient scapegoat for other people's failings. They were bitter that they had made the disastrous decision to thru-hike, and were now displacing their overwhelming self-hatred onto me. But I was okay with that. I could carry that burden.

I often wondered how many people I united over their shared animosity towards Major Chafage. How many people came together in rooting against me? How many people became friends only after one overheard the other saying, "Man, that Major Chafage is an unbelievable jerk"? Sadly, I will never know. Such are the costs of celebrity. Anyway, it seemed I was fated to continue enraging people, forging friendships, and bridging gaps between strangers for the next 1,887 miles. My legend continued.


Bandito and I had done 19 miles on our first day out of Hot Springs, a fairly substantial effort by our standards. Perhaps a little burnt out as a result, we were now headed towards the Flint Mountain Shelter, which was only another thirteen miles or so. It would be a languid, easy, relaxing day.

The last time we had seen Nature had been in Hot Springs, and she had been worrying about possibly having to take some time off the trail because of an injury. We knew she had to see a doctor, and didn't know how long that would take or what the prognosis would be, so we certainly weren't expect her to walk up just as we were finishing lunch. Yet that's exactly what happened. Even injured, she had caught up to us in less than forty eight hours. It was downright humiliating.

Sadly, Nature informed us she wouldn't be staying with us for very long. She had plans to stay with her friends, Homeless and Unemployed, for a couple nights, and was meeting them at Sam's Gap the next day. She wasn't sure when she'd be back, but we didn't doubt that we'd see her again. Not after her latest demonstration of uncanny stamina and speed.

We found the Flint Mountain Shelter packed. In addition to Nature, Bandito, Brian, Alyson and myself, there was Q-Tip and his brother Trinket, P-Nut, Tick Bite, Patch, Kashmir, Miller Time, the young woman section hiker from Brooklyn and her unruly dog, plus a few others too boring or inconsequential to remember. Except for the startling lack of pot smoke and rock music, we might have been at Woodstock.

The mood was boisterous, aided in no small part by Miller Time graciously handing out snack food to everyone who walked in. Bandito got a Snickers bar, Kashmir some salted peanuts, and myself a package of cheddar cheese flavored crackers. I don't think Miller Time liked me that much. Patch mentioned that his parents lived nearby, just off the trail, and that he was going home the next day for a party. Caught up in the spirit of fellowship, he spontaneously invited everyone at the shelter to join him.

The next day, his parents wouldn't know what hit them.


  1. Only, like, 1700 miles to Ramunto's.

  2. Little Brown said:
    There was also a hand painted sign at the Log Cabin Road trail crossing that said Hemlock Hollow Hostel .06 miles (west). The direction was correct but the distance was .6 miles. Only off by a matter of 90%!