One of my adventures while out on the Appalachian Trail involved hitch-hiking. I was standing outside of Troutdale, Virginia, on a Sunday afternoon in June. This town was little more than a convenience store/gas station, with a few houses and a church, with a very primitive hostel in the back. And, being on a Sunday, everything was closed. After hiking all day, and eating the last of my food for the day, I soon realized that I’d be hitching into the next town if I wanted something to eat for dinner and breakfast. I left my pack in the hostel (which was little more than a frame of a small building) and set out to get to the next town with a grocery store: Marion, Virginia.
After about an hour, I realized how desolate this road was. I had counted 3 cars within the hour, and none of them were headed in the right direction. So, when this rackety old car that seemed brought back from the dead one too many times comes pulling up, I had gotten to be a little desperate. Red flag numbers one and two were the two gentlemen sitting in the front seat - one shirtless, one mulleted, in the two-door vehicle. They asked me where I was headed, and told me to hop in. First things first, of course, was the offering of a beer out of the case they had sitting in between them in the front seat. I took it, and I believe my instincts were correct about that.
The boys started talking to me about the trail, and about themselves, and I soon learned that the younger of the two (25 years of age) is the older one’s (32 years of age) uncle, and that the older’s mother is the younger’s sister. Their dad apparently had 32 kids from 8 marriages, the elder’s mother being one of the first, and the driver being the last. I am having a hard time comprehending the math, but I’ll go with it. Nothing surprises me.
Then, the fun starts.
We start flying, and I mean, FLYING down the road at 80-100 mph (posted speed limit being 35-45 mph), passing cars, dodging cars, practically hitting cars…you name it. We then make it to Marion, and I get out to do a bit of grocery shopping…really not sure if I wanted to get back in the car. But, I did. It’s only a 15 minute ride, right?
So, I go back to the car, and the driver tells me to jump in, and after I jump in, he explains that some bitch just took off, and she owes him money, so he’s gonna catch her. With that, he peels off,starts fish-tailing all over the parking lot, where we almost hit 2 cars, and takes off down mainstreet, Marion. He’s swerving in and out of traffic, almost taking out everything in his way, and then catches up and practically runs the person off the road who he thinks owes him money…and it turns out that it’s not her. So we turn back to go to Troutdale. In the middle of the trip back, we pass a store that has a friend of his outside, so he slams his brakes, turns the car, does a 180 in the middle of the street, and rides over to chat w/ him for a bit. They start talking about getting some meth and going to the lake, and want to know what I’m doing later. I simply say that I have to get back.
So, they take off again…and start going into a story about how that friend had shot a guy in New York and gutted him because he stole some drugs from them and swallowed them. FANTASTIC. I then start wondering where I am going to be buried once they take care of me. I then start wondering if I’ll ever even make it out of the car. The guy gets to a road crossing, and turns down the wrong way…and this is when I start to panic. He pulls up to a house, and talks to someone outside for a minute (from the car), then takes back off and gets on the right street. The driver then starts telling me about his brief stay at the Marion Psychiatric Hospital, and how he isn’t cured, but doesn’t want to be locked up anymore. 2 beers down me, and I’m taking things just slightly better. My heart drops out of my throat once we pull back up into Troutdale, and up to the church hostel, where they both bid me farewell, and wish a safe travel upon me.
After this ride, I don’t think I’ll have any problems with the safety.
And this is why the balds are bald. Ranchers would bring their livestock up to the ridge lines of these mountains through North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia to let them graze, which essentially created an artificial treeline throughout many of these sloping mountain tops.
Here we are at one of the coolest shelters on the Appalachian Trail. Overmountain Shelter. It is a 2 story barn with an upstairs loft that is about 90% enclosed. Named, apparently, after the famous Overmountain Men - a group of Revolutionary soldiers from Western Appalachia, whose trail took them along this route to Virginia.
Happy Easter! Our Easter celebration on Sunday, April 11, 2004. An area Church group had set up at a road crossing not far from the base of Tray Mountain to hand out Easter goodies (fresh fruit and candy) to the passing hikers for Easter Sunday.