From Franklin, North Carolina

Due to time constraints (the dryer cycle at Haven’s Budget Inn while I hang out in my rain pants and rain jacket), I’ll just supply another highlight reel of my hiking days.

Day 8: 13 miles to Dicks Creek Gap (Hiawassee, GA)- Originally we planned to hike 9.4 miles and then hike into Hiawassee in the morning, but when I strolled up to Deep Gap Shelter, I found a note Michael and Leah had left for me. The temptation of being so close to a shower had overwhelmed them, and come to think of it, it sounded pretty good to me too. Thus began the jogging. That last 3.6 miles had to be a record hiking time for me at an hour and twenty minutes. The shower was wonderful, but showers out here always are.

Day 9: 3.5 miles to Plumorchard Gap Shelter. The highlight of this day was my first successful hitch hiking experience. After getting clean, restocked on food, and filled with disgusting buffet food, the three of us stationed ourselves at the curb that a sweet lady in a store selling camping supplies and candles recommended. Frankly if she thought we’d get picked up, hitching was going to be fine. Indeed after about 6 minutes of projecting “I swear I don’t smell and I won’t kill you,” our rescuer arrived in the form of a local yoga instructor named Ki. She may have officially been 67 but she didn’t look a day over 55 and a very well preserved 55 at that. On top of chauffeuring us ten miles back to the trail, she bought us each a blizzard at Dairy Queen on the way out of town. People are truly good, though sometimes it takes stepping out of our autonomous, self-contained little worlds to remember that. There is something deeply vulnerable about stepping out your door with only a backpack and no backup plans, but only then can people surprise you.


I now have to admit to you that at this point, my blog post was interrupted by my most bizarre hitching experience of the trip. 50% of the blame goes to the young military guy who tried to help me get a ride. The other 50% goes to the grumpy old man who provided that ride. I was an ambivalent participant in the entire experience.

In Franklin, this young guy I had camped with told me that he had been offered a ride by an old thru hiker at 9:00am the following morning and I was welcome to join him for an easy lift back to the AT. It would be convenient not to have to hitch hike or pay for a shuttle, so I said that if I was awake and ready to go, I would take him up on the offer. Alas when the time came around, I was still working on washing my laundry. The older gentleman driving him offered to come back a little later to see if I still needed a ride. Thinking that was very thoughtful, I thanked him and insisted that I did not want to be an inconvenience.

Later as I was getting my things together, he drove up with Zach, a hiker coming off the trail and looking forward to a shower and his ride home. (Let’s just say, hiking wasn’t what Zach had expected.) I rushed out and said that, if the offer was still good, I would be packed up and ready to go in 15 minutes but that I didn’t want to hold him or ask him to go out of his way. “Sure. Hurry up.” Damn. Ok. Then, he asked if anyone else was riding with me.

Caitlin: “Umm no. I don’t know anyone else that is headed that way.”
Grumpy Old Man: “Well I don’t give rides to women alone.”
Caitlin’s Mind: “What? Are you afraid I’m going to rape you?”
Caitlin’s Mouth: “Oh well, thanks for the offer.”
Grumpy Old Man to Zach: “Hey son, want to go for another ride?”
Zach: “To where?”
Grumpy Old Man: “Winding Stair Gap.”
Poor Zach: “Are you going to bring me back?!”

Once that was settled, I got my bag together in a rush (giving up on this blog post for the moment) and came back to his car. As I went to the trunk that he had popped open, he said: “I just found out your not a thru hiker.”

Caitlin: “Who says I’m not?”
Grumpy Old Man: “She (indicating the hotel desk lady who had no idea what my plans were) did.”
Caitlin: “Well I’m out here for about a month. Is that a problem?” I rounded up for purposes of my argument. Grumpy Old Man: “I usually only give rides to thru hikers.”
Caitlin’s Mouth: “Ok well thanks anyway.”
Caitlin’s Mind: “Seriously? Just go away! I didn’t even ask for this ride.”
Grumpiest Man in the World: “I’ll make an exception…”

I realize that beggars can’t be choosers, but I wasn’t begging. I could get another ride in a few minutes…jerk. So I got into the passenger seat and Zach took the back.

At this point, my least favorite human turns to me and says “So where are we going?”
Caitlin: “Uhh… Winding Stair Gap is where I got off the trail.”
Grumpy Old Man: “Yeah, describe it to me.”
Caitlin: “Well there are stairs and trees and a hill. It’s west on 64. I don’t really know what to tell you.”
Grumpy Old Man: “Was there a pipe with water coming out?”
Caitlin: “Honestly, I didn’t really pay attention. I was kind of focused on getting lunch.”
Grumpy Old Man: “Ok well I have never seen that pipe without water coming out.” … Congratulations?!

We finally, finally get the car into motion. Then he stopped as we reached the exit to the parking lot, looks at me with the eyes of a DEA agent, and grumbles “If you’ve got any illicit substances on you, you can get out now!!” To which I replied “No sir.” No, I will not get out, you crazy person. I was starting to understand why he doesn’t give women rides alone, because I was considering murdering him at this point.

After all of this effort, I finally loosened him up on the drive by asking him about his thru hike. Then when I explained that I was doing another section at the end of the summer and asked what his favorite part of the trail was, he replied (and I kid you not): “Well I didn’t do the whole trail but…”

I was speechless.


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