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[at-l] more trail days



First off, if you were able to make trail days, but decided not to bother,
bend over and grab your ankles.  Then have someone you trust to kick you
real hard there in the read.  Not hard enough so that you can't hike, mind you,
but hard enough to drive it home what a great weekend you missed.  And if you
weren't able to make it, you're excused, you just have to try harder for the
next at-l gathering.  :-)

And if you haven't seen the inside of the Abingdon Jail, you don't know what
you're missing.  Nice facilities.  The stereo was just a little too loud
though, but better musig would have helped that.

The rundown:
Kevin (Snail-No-More) and Diana (Raven) arrived at my place about 8:00 Tuesday
night.  We're all shaking with aniticipation of what was going to follow.
Snail needed to meet with a friend in town he hasn't seen since he left
bburg a few years ago, so we decided to head to Champs Cafe for a beer or
12.  "There will either be Blues or Jazz playing there," I say.  Of course,
I was COMPLETELY off the mark there and it was a bluegrass jam, which actually
was much better than listening to Contemporary Country.  Anyway, we split 2
pitchers and a MONDO nacho plate before heading home.  We got started on the
drive and made it to D by about 3:00 I guess.  We went to Mt. Rogers Outfitters
to inquire about a shuttle south.  Since it was Trail Days weekend, they were
WAY too busy, but said we could probably hitch a ride.

We took the truck to The Place and Snail met some of last years hikers he
thru hiked with.  While we're sitting there, a woman gets out of the bed
of a pickup and says, "You're Raen, right?  I'm on the list.  I recognized
your hair."  So we talk to Sue for a minute or so and she heads off to get
cleaned up.  After an hour or so of catching up, Snail is finally ready to 
head out of town.  We start walking for the road the guy at the outfitters
told us would be a good bet.  Sure is walking across the street and asks if
we've found a ride yet.  "Nope."  She just shakes her keys and says "come on."
SHWING.  (Thanks again Sue for the ride.  I'm sorry we didn't get to see you
again over the weekend to re-pay the kindness.)

So we drive the 20 some miles out of Damascus to the road crossing of the
AT and 91 which was 3.5 miles from the shelter we'd planned to stay at that
night.  While we're getting out of the woods, a guy walks up and says, "Well,
you must be Raven, so which one of you is Schuyler and which is Snail?"
It's Mike Henderson!!  Talk about timing!!!!!  So we gear up and walk the 3.5 
miles to the shelter which is full (of course) of past thru hikers and 
even Nater (Firebird) from the list is there.  So we set the tents up and 
go back down the hill to the shelter to eat dinner.  Ketchup and Peter Pan
have a "small cooking" fire built that melted a vienna sausage can.  We
dubbed it the smelting fire.  We sat around with Face, Trillium, Kethcup,
and Peter Pan, all of whom thru hiked last year.  Then there was Inspector
Clouseau and his dad.  He was finishing up his hike from last year.  Firebird
was there also.  Then through the course of the night, Kadiddle, Bones, Peg Leg
(it was her 21st bday), and Stoutheart (John Foley, also a lister) all showed
up.  

Someone was talking about rope and Mike asked if they had beans and a dog.
So all of the listers busted out laughing uncontrollably and the non-listers
were looking at us like we were crazy.  All the joy of being on the inside of 
an inside joke.  Ketchup asks what in the world is so funny and we tell him
about the list.  "I wanna be on the list, what's it take?"  "A computer and
a modem is about it."  "Oh, never mind."  People thought it was so cool that
we met over the 'net and were hiking together.

So anyway, after it starts to get dark, the rains come.  All night we had off
and on showers.  No one's tent leaked though, so all was dry in the morning.
We headed off for Abingdon Gap Shelter.  Mike was still walking around in his
sleeping bag (which was totally rockin) when we left, so we got a good half
hour jump on him.  While we're stopping to id some flowers, Stoutheart
catches up so he and Snail walk together at a much increased pace.  Raven and
I seemed to stick together just because we had similar paces.  Lots of good
flowers and sights along the trail.  Finally, Kadiddle and Bones catch up to 
us and stop ahead for a "medical" stop.   Bones had new boots and needed to 
treat some blisters.  So Raven and I decided to stop too.  hmm I'm a little
hungry, I'll have a granola bar.  munch munch.  hmm I REALLY hungry.  I'll
have a salami and cheese sandwhich.  munch munch.  hmm I still hungry.  A
Bagel and more cheese.  It turned into an hour long lunch break.  Raven
shared her candy bars and I shared my Edam cheese and gave Kadiddle and Bones
each a granola bar.  Mike caught up and had lunch with us too.  Kaddidle and 
Bones head on up the trail and Raven and I sat with Mike some more.

We finally get started moving again.  Mike passed us early on but we finally
caught up to him later.  As we're walking along, he says, "There's an old
un-maintained shelter around here somewhere."  Just then we turned a bend and
there it was.  We walked up to find a piece of paper attached to the frame
"Raven and Schuyler - This is NOT the Abingdon Gap Shelter.  It's 1.5 more
miles to go.  - Snail and Stoutheart.  PS bring the note."  Good thing too.
That morning Snail was toying with the idead of walking on to Damascus to 
get together with friends he hasn't seen since last year.  So we probably
would have thought that's what he did if the note hadn't been there and Mike
told us it wasn't the right shelter.  

So we hike the last 1.5 miles to the Abingdon Gap Shelter and Snail, 
Stoutheart, Kadiddle, and Bones are all there having lunch.  I finish the last 
of my water and pull out my 5 gallon water bag that I have with me.  I head
down the hill to get water for everyone.  I walk down.  and down.  and down.
and still further down.  The shelter said the water was only 300 yards, but it
felt a LOT more like between a quarter and half mile.  So anyway, I fill the
bag up with 4 gallons (couldn't get that last gallon in because of the lay 
of the stream), hoist the bag up on my shoulders like a sherpa and start up
the hill.  After five minutes, I've gone about 20 yards.  Snail comes walking
down the hill with Mike's Bamboo walking sticks.  So we put the bag's handle
through the sticks and head on up the hill.  I took all of the good natured
ribbing about needing so much water (I do drink a _LOT_ of water when I hike)
that I said, "Just call me Waterboy."  "ooooo sounds like a trail name to me!!"
"Yeah, waterboy it is."  "Uhhhh I don't know if I like that name so much,
how about Grateful Ed Zeppelin?"  "Nope, it's not up to you to like it when
you earn it.  Waterboy it is!!"  So Waterboy is my trail name.

Kadiddle is about to head out when she pulls out her Thermarest and says, "I
don't have an autograph book, but I usually have people sign my Thermarest,
Would you guys like to?"  "Sure."  So we all sign her Thermarest and I added
a little AT-L symbol and we made her an Honoray list member.  She just smiled
at us.  :-)  Over the next few hours, more and more hikers showed up.  Mike
slept in the shelter and the rest of us listers tented in the area.  

Trillium, Face, Ketchup, Peter Pan, and Firebird stopped in for lunch and 
decided to go on another 4 miles so they wouldn't have the whole 10 miles
to walk into Damascus.  Mike and I went for more water.  We took my bag and 
his 4 liter bag, so we brought back 6 gallons up the hill.  More water for
Waterboy.

As the afternoon wears on, it starts to get chilly, so Snail and I start to
gather wood for another fire.  There's lots of blowdowns up the hill just off
of the trail a bit, so we start dragging them down.  I've got a couple dead
trees in my arms and drop them.  Unfortunately, one of the branches was caught
on my wind pants and promptly pulled them all the way down to my ankles.
Everyone loved that.  :-)  Luckily, I had shorts on underneath, or I would have
been too much like Felix.  So we get the fire going and shared water with the 
others in the area.  The sprinkles start again, so we finally go to bed.

The next morning was _COLD_.  Ice was inside of the water bags and on the 
tents.  Snail got started before I even got out of my bag.  Oh, I forgot to
mention, the first night I got blisters.  Snail gave me some duct tape for
them, but I sweated that off during the day.  So Mike gave me some Lamb's 
wool for a pad and taped my heels with Atheletic tape.  Did the trick.  The
next day, my left heel didn't bother me at all and my right heel only a little.
Considering my right heel oozed blood all the day before, I was quite happy
to have just a little discomfort.  It was cold and windy for most of the hike
to the state line.  I had to stop and put my jacket on, so Raven and Mike
blew on past.  I finally caught them at the state line where they were waiting
for me.  We hiked the remaining 3.8 miles into town pretty much together
giving our favorite Simpsons and King of the Hill quotes.  

As we get to the edge of town, there's a HUGE sign saying Welcome to Damascus
so we're taking pictures of one another and a car pulls up.  A middle aged 
guy gets out and asks "You want one with all three of you in it?"  and takes
our picture for us.  What a town.  Mike asks if we want to party all weekend
or actually get some sleet at night.  We say both so we decide to set our
tents up by the pool and part down by the river since that's how it was
traditionally.  (more on that later)  So we set our tents up by the entrance
to the pool and head to Quincy's for lunch.  2 pizzas and 2 pitchers of beer
later and we all felt in great spirits and physically better.  My boots
didn't bother near as much as I was afraid they were.  I guess I'll just have
to "pre-treat" my heels before every trip.

We head back to The Place and met Felix.  He'd left Mrs Felix in the car with
the window cracked.  (She was actually sleeping, so we woke her up.)  Then 
He moved his truck over to the pool area and the rest of us went to Town Hall
where Raven sent that mail.  We met SkyGod there too.  Now's when things start
to get a little hazy and jumbled.  We didn't stick together the whole weekend,
but we did meet a ton of listers and made new friends.  Raven was given a new
Sweetwater filter by the Sweetwater reps.  Hers leaked a little.  I got a new
cartridge for my Scout that was hard to pump.  We both got our packs re-fitted
and shown the right way to adjust straps by the Gregory Rep.  (Which I thought
was _way_ cool since my pack was a Camp Trails External frame.)  That night
we watched Mike's slide show on his thru hike in 92.  

The impact of his show cannot be overemphasized.   Past thru hikers were teary
at the memories it brought.  Current thru hikers were teary at the realization
that those feelings he was conveying were the EXACT same ones they were going
through then and it made it easier.  And us future thru hikers were teary at
the prospect of going through the same thing.  We enjoyed the narative and the
musical score and recognizing shots taken along the trail from places we were
familiar with.  My favorite line (and Mike's too it turned out) was when he
mentioned the hikers that for one reason or another couldn't make it and had
to pull off he had thoughts of quitting.  "But every time I thought of ending
it, I pictured myself in a climate controlled office at a desk and said, 
'nope.'  No matter how hard or painful it was out here, I was still enjoying
it more than I would at a desk."  In case the 20 some times I mentioned it
didn't sink in, Mike, your show really inspired me more to the trail and
gave me more insight into what it felt like than I've ever had before.  Thanks
again.  It's already been mentioned, but Mike is planning to give his show
again for ALDHA, so make it there if you can!!

A bunch of us met for breakfast the next morning.  We went to Dot's.  We
walked inside and waited about 20 minutes before we found a place to sit.
It was CROUDED and a madhouse.  After an hour (Yes, it was a full hour) 
of waiting for a waitress, Mike leans over when she passed asking if we could
order some breakfast.  "Well, I can get your order, but we don't have anymore
breakfast."  It was like 9:30 in the morning.  So we give up there and
walked to Cowboys.  We waited in line about 20 minutes and got breakfast
there.  No more breakfast at 9:30.  Sheesh.  We understand that business
was boooming for trail Days, but that just showed complete lack of foresight.
Oh well, we did get fed.

That afternoon was the thru hiker parade and the only real downer of the 
weekend.  Apparently one of the hikers was a guy in a dress (oh no) and 
wasn't wearing any underwear.  The local law enforecement decided he was a
little TOO showy with himself and took him to Abingdon after the parade.
But after they booked him, they gave him a ride back to Damascus, so it wasn't
all that bad.

We watched Mike's slide show both Friday and Saturday nights.  After the
show on Saturday they had a contest to see who could guess the weight of
a MountainSmith Frostfire pack that was packed.  All during the day, people
would come by the booth and sign up.  The numbers ranged all over the place.
When I signed up, I think my guess was the lightest at the time at 35 and
Snail's was the heaviest at 55.  But we were early, so I'm sure the ends went
further.  So after the slide show, they weighed the pack.  34 pounds.  There's
a long pause while they search the list to see who gets the pack.  I figured
since I went over, I was out, but this wasn't the Price is Right.  "Who's
trail name is Waterboy?"  "YES YES YES YES YES"  Ijumped up and down for a 
second and it felt like I floated up to the front.  I couldn't belive it. 
Like everyone else who wins something big to them, I said, "I never win 
ANYTHING" so I guess I can't say that now.  The pack is the Mountainsmith
Frostfire 5 internal frame pack and is NICE.  Empty I don't feel it at all
with the hip belt attached.  They told me to pack it with gear and bring it
back to the booth the next day to get it custom fitted to me.  The rest of
that evening I was on cloud nine.  

I'm doing things out of order, but that's the way my mind is.  ;-)  Before
the slide show we went to the grocery store and bought pints of Ben and Jerry's
for dinner on the lawn in front of the slide show.  Then late that night,
after the slide show, at about midnight we decide we're hungy, so we're 
going to find someplace open and eat a real dinner.  Well, even with the
festival in town, everywhere had closed.  So we went back to the tents and
broke out my Whisperlight and cooked up 2 packages of Liptons Stoganoff
and made some tea.  We're sitting there shooting the breeze eating for a
while and then cleaned up.  By Now it's about 2:00 AM.  Just as we're about
to go to bed, "HOW Y'ALL DOING TONIGHT?!?!?!"  Some drunk LOUD local
walked right in the middle of our with his friends and wanted to talk.
Well, shout is a more correct term.  Anyway, we were afraid to walk away
and show him where our tents were (about 10 feet away at the time) but we
really didn't want o make him mad after he talked about all of his guns.
Finally about 3:00 he turns to his friend and they start talking about 
something so we looked at each other and all got up and walked over to a fire
about 30 yards away.  We sat there warming up waiting for the locals to leave
until 3:30 or 3:45.  They finally left and we got to bed about 4:00 I guess.
A LONG day.

Then the last day, we ate breakfast at the Emergency Medical Services
building.  They called it the EMS building but it sure wasn't Eastern
Mountain Sports!!  ;-)  We packed up, said our goodbyes to people we'd
meth thru the list and just plain met that weekend and headed to Mt Rogers
to do a day hike.  Oh, we decided to give Dave (The Fool) also a lister,
a ride too.  We hiked To Rodo. Gap from Massey Gap parking and came on
back to Blacksburg.  We watched the Simpsons and XFiles while eating hot dogs,
salads, and potato salads and chips.  Raven, Snail, and The Fool all finally
left this morning.  I pointed out that I'm having a cookout a week from today
and they would stay the week if they wanted to.  Tempting as it was, they
finally left my driveway about 11:30 this morning.

This weekend was a great one.  We met a LOT of listers so now I know who's
behind the keyboards.  The first night, I said to Raven and Mike, "you know,
you are nothing like the voices in my head."  That got a good laugh.  There
were a lot of good lines this weekend.  I would mention everyone we met, but I
don't want to accidently leave someone out so let's just say you know who
you are, you're a bigger part of my life now, and I love you all.  Geez this
is harder than I imagined.  When Raven, Snail, and The Fool left this morning
it was really hard to verbalize everything we were feeling, but thanks everyone
for making this one of my best weekends ever!!!  We'll have to get together
again and hopefully more of you that couldn't make it will be able to.


Waterboy Ga->Me '99 (hopefully)

-- 
S. Schuyler Stultz              Recognition Research Inc.
schuyler@rrinc.com              1872 Pratt Drive Suite 1200
(540) 231-6500                  Blacksburg, VA 24060
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