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The New Era Paper
Sweet Home, Oregon
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August 1, 2012     The New Era Paper
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August 1, 2012
 

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Page 16 t JTnCCn. :1 et. ra - Au.qust 1. 2012 Memories of Appalachian Trail include some .es This year marks the 30th an- niversary of my brother Frank and my hike along the entire Appala- chian Trail. It winds more than 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine and took us about 5 months to complete. We were reminiscing the other day on the phone about some of the more humorous happenings along the trail and the following came up .... High in the Smokies The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of two nation- al parks along the AT, the other be- ing Shenandoah National Park. The Smokies straddle both North Carolina and Tennessee, with the AT following the spine of the park. Clingmans Dome, at 6,643 feet, is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail and the sec- ond highest point east of the Mis- sissippi (Mount Mitchell, at 6,684 feet in North Carolina being the highest). Most of the higher mountains on the AT were disappointing due to some sort of tower, roads, park- ing lots or buildings. This moun- tain had all the above. After a long, strenuous climb, there seemed to be a thousand screaming Homo sapiens walking the tar path from the parking lot to the 50-foot high cement monolith. We mingled about an hour- long enough to eat our lunch, run up the tower to snap a few shots and at- tempt to answer the many incred- ible questions posed upon us. I believe that every stupid question possible was asked. "Why don't you hitch-hike?" "You sleep in the woods at night?" "What about the animals?" "What do you do when it rains?" "Oh my Lord, you're walking all that way?" "You have six months of food in your pack now?" "Do you stop for haircuts?" "What do you do about wom- en?" One older lady approached our friend and put her foot up next to him on a low stone wall and told him (not asked, mind you) to tie her shoe. He was so dumbfounded that he didn't know what to say, so he began to tie it. "Oh not too tight honey," she said and plodded up the tar path toward the tower, without even a thank you. We heard others say that they didn't think they could make it all the way to the lookout, a whole 50 yards away. We figured it was time to move on. A dry county On Friday, May 7 (Day 22 on the Trail), we rolled out of our bags at 6:30 and headed north. The three of us 'paused for a rest at Daven- port Gap, the northern end of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and, without a doubt, one of the nicest 70-mile Sections on the whole AT. As we were taking l a break, some construction workers told us of a town about a mile down the dirt road off the ridge. We thought about how good a cold beer and a couple of Twinkles would taste and they assured us that the store would have every- thing we wanted. So we stashed the packs and took off down the moun- tain. Their mileage was accurate OUTDOORS Scott Staats for a change. Usually, locals would tell us, "Oh, it's just a mile down the road." Then it would turn out to be five miles or so. When we got to the store and asked if they had any beer. we were told it was a dry county and they can't sell alcohol. Our smiles quickly turned to frowns when we told them we walked all the way down the mountain from the Ap- palachian Trail. "Oh, you guys are thru-hikers? Sure we have beer." I guess they only sell beer to hikers and some locals. We stocked up on beer, hot dogs, cupcakes, candy bars. gra- nola bars and a loaf of bread. We got a ride back to the Trail from an old codger in a pickup. He pulled a bottle from a paper bag and offered us a nip of moonshine. I recall that a small sip burned all the way down to my toes. That guy must have had either a strong stomach or none at all. We had our Smoky Mountain celebration that night with a few other hikers. The three of us had six hot dogs apiece along with the rest of the munchies. We were burping hot dogs for the next couple of days. Look at that bleepin' chair We kept hearing about a big chair somewhere along the Trail in New York that was impossible to miss. Frank and I were getting a bit concerned, since we had only a few miles to go until we hit the Connecticut section and we hadn't seen it yet. We were hiking that day with Gene and George from New Hampshire (that was actually their trail name). They had that thick New England accent. You know, they don't pronounce Rs (fahhm for farm, bahhn for barn) but put them where they don't belong (Floridar). Suddenly we heard George Photo courtesy of Scott Staats Scott " brother Frank stands atop the giant chair along the Appalachian Trail, with Gene and George from New Hampshire below. yell out, "Look at that *#@!#*# chaihhhh!" We couldn't believe our eyes: there it stood, about 25 feet high. Frank climbed to the top to pose for a picture. I guess he didn't see the Keep Off sign. A long shot Most nights were spent sleep- ing on the hard ground. We had sleeping pads to soften our "beds" but we always kept our eyes and ears open for more comfortable sleeping arrangements. One of thbse occurred in Dal- ton. Mass., where we stayed at a community center free of charge. We swam in the pool, used the weight room, took a sauna, shot a little pool, played a bit of basket- ball and slept on comfy gym mats. I was kidding around with Frank and a few other thru-hikers and told them I could make a full- court basket and they just laughed. I got a little run and jumped to the line, swinging the ball underhand between my legs. About two or three seconds later there came the sound of a clean swish in the silent gym as the ball passed through the hoop. All of us stared in disbelief. They dared me to try it again, but I walked away batting 1.000. 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