Woke up early this morning, unfortunately didn't get to go back to Bennett's Buffet or breakfast for 3 days in a row. Got prepped for the day what couldn't be prepped the night before (eventually I will come up with a good system).
First (free) shuttle out of NOC didn't run until 11am, and we didn't want to wait til that late, so we went to the inside of the Smokies park boundary and threw our thumbs up. Froot Loop, Blue, and Maine-iac got a lift after no time at all. Chris and I had to work harder. We smiled, waved, put on puppy dog faces, and were even about ready to walk back to the corner has station to buy a sharpie and grab sole cardboard out of the dumpster to make a sign. We thought "Clean, recently showered hikers to trail" might have done the trick, but just before we resorted to that, Patrick and Steve pulled up and gave us a ride about 15 miles from Gatlinburg to Newfound Gap. Nice guys, and it'd be cool to meet up with them further along the trail or possibly even come back to Tennessee to throw back some Smoky Mountain Brewery suds with them sometime in the future. (porter...Mmm).
Chris and I discussed meetup plans and he took off down the trail. He needed to do 15 or so miles today in order to meet up with his cousin in a few days. Instead of trying to keep up, I took it easier on the shin and did 12 to Peck Shelter. I started to book it when I heard thunder while hiking up on a ridge. Made it to the shelter in just enough time before it started pouring. Only other person there was a ridge runner.
Eventually, Froot Loop, Blue, Maine-iac, the YouTube sensation/phenomenon August, the two Indiana folks (Aimster and Scooter, German couple (Hungry Bear and Amber Cat), Smilin' Joe, and about 5 others or so came in thru the rain to stay the night.
Shin is still a little sore and stiff, but thanks to Ibuprofen (referred to on the trail as Vitamin I, came to the rescue. I'm not big on meds or drugs, but this 800mg Vitamin I did the trick! An attempt by some to give me a trail name based off this incident, is not currently being acknowledged by me.
Since I'm all over the place with my post today, I feel this is probably the best point to throw in that from this point forward, Chris Clemens will also be referred to by his new trail name of TARZAN. He got it because he has a tendency to tear through the woods with ridiculous speed and vigor (in spite of still having the heaviest pack out of the three of us I believe)! I think it's a good fit!
One thing I was thinking about briefly is that today was a big day back at my previous place of emolument, Quad/Graphics in Merced, CA. A big change, rolling out the full Smartools software suite to that plant. It has been up to this point, and I'm sure it will continue to be for a while, a huge effort. I hope that all goes well in that endeavor for all those who I know put in a lot of time and effort, both from Merced and various other locations company wide. It was somewhat of a sobering moment to think about how crazy things had been there for me (and I know others as well) leading up to this big change today, and how much my current life adventures differ from those times. The one thing that crossed my mind and stuck out is that back then, work life was full of SOP's (standard operating procedures) to be followed. Not to rip on them, as I think a lot of them were helpful and maybe even necessary, but now things have been made simpler and there is really only one thing that needs to be followed on a day to day basis. This thing is known as the "white blaze". White blazes are approximately 6" tall by 2" wide strokes of white paint that have been brushed onto trees along the AT and mark the trail all the way from Georgia to Maine. I've included a picture with this post for your viewing pleasure. This is all the direction that is really needed to find your way all 2,184 miles. In addition, I've learned that the following are good items to help along the way: "hike your own hike" (doing it for you and for whatever reasons you may be doing it), and truly enjoying what you are doing and everything around you.
Rain drops on the roof,
Snoring man in the shelter.
Hoping for a restful night,
And a tomorrow with better weather.