Damn, Sun.

I'm having one of those weeks. The one when you completely sweat all the way through every single item that you own, and the only dry article of clothing you have left is a tuxedo thong.

Ya know what I mean? No?

Thankfully, these weeks make for good reading.

Speaking of good reading (sorry, but what would a story of mine be without a tangent? Now we're in a tangent of a tangent, kinda like Inception, and based on looks, I'm Leo. Back to the original tangent) it would be an honor to find out if you, the reader, is currently at work killing time reading this. When I was an accountant and Bill Simmons would post a new column to his old website Grantland, I would leave my desk and pretend to take a shit so I could get away with reading a several thousand word column all in one sitting, or in this case, squatting. I consider allowing your legs to fall asleep in a faux-poop squat to read somebodies work the highest of honors. The more people reading this on the toilet, the warmer my heart.

Anyway, back to this past week.

After a three day convalescence, I made some future arrangements and got back on a consistent hiking schedule with hopes of good health.

It's been a slow process getting my trail legs back under me, but I believe I'm there now. I mean now, now, though. I say that because, this week was without a doubt the hardest week I've had since leaving Springer Mountain on March 21st.

Virginia has proven a difficult place to recondition. The weather has felt as if I've had a Dementor hovering above me. For you Muggles who don't understand that reference, first of all, do better. Secondly, I have another reference for you. It's been like an Energy Vampire from the book, Energy Bus. Go read that. Or carry on with your head in a hole.

So yeah, the weather. The temperature has been in the 90's, and the hiking has been up and down between 1000-4000 feet. Water has been scarce, and the mountain springs and creeks that do exist seem to have donated their contents into the air. 

When you set out for the day knowing there isn't water for 6 miles, you plan accordingly and fill up with water. Finding the source dry, with nothing for another 5 miles, is not only defeating, it's dangerous. 

My second day out, I woke up at 4 am to get some miles in before the sun came out. Without the aid of light, I broke my own previous world record of 37,000 spider webs walked through with a staggering 600,000+. It's the couple extra inches of neck I have that others don't. My jugular probably looks like the Nile River to them.

Webs aside, the plan worked, and I was able to approach the dreaded uphill by 10 am.

It was 4 miles of climbing, and 6.5 overall to camp. There wasn't any water until camp, and I was running really low. I climbed until I got dizzy, and sat. Then climbed until my muscles locked, and sat again. When I could hardly gain my breath and dry heaved once, I decided to break. Sitting on a slant sucks, you need to keep your muscles engaged to prevent sliding down, and that necessity caused a nice cramp in my hammy. Honest to God, after a couple winces, I laughed. A slight bit of masochism is good for the soul. 

A nice old man going downhill strolled past my corpse and donated some water, and warned me he saw half a dozen Rattlesnakes in the next 2 miles uphill. He emphasized slowing down (planned on it) and watching foot placement (as opposed to hiking blindfolded with your shoes tied together). He signed off by suggesting not picking the snakes up. I thought about informing the man I wasn't a 6 week old puppy intending to give the snakes a curious sniff, but instead, I made a joke about only handling my own trouser snake. He must have been severely dehydrated too, cause he didn't laugh.

Anyway. Like any situation where one says "can't get much worse than this", it did.

I caught up to a guy who couldn't get a rattlesnake to move, so he cut his damn head off. Seemed like an unfair trade, but I'd run out of my alotted complaints for the day, so I kept my thoughts to myself.

For the next hour, I hiked at a pace somewhere between roadkill and the lines at Disney World.

Just at the simultaneous end of my sanity and the climb, two military fighter jets fucking tore through the air. The first one rocked my ear drums like nothing I'd ever experienced, and in the two seconds it took to process the noise and realize it's source, a second jet ripped by. I want to portray this honestly and accurately, as eloquently as possible.

I bitched up. 

I hit the ground like it was Pearl Harbor. As I lay there wishing away a flash and mushroom cloud, I realized I could have landed crotch down on a Rattlesnake. A venomous snake bite to the schnitzel, in the summer heat, with no water to drink, on top of a mountain, alone, has to be the worst way to die, right?

On second thought, come back mushroom cloud.

That night, in a turn of fortune, I narrowly avoided a massive rain storm. The guy next to me, did not. I hung, dry, in my hammock with a bag of Peanut Butter M&M's and watched this guy set up his tarp in the downpour. Nature's television.

After he ducked the rain, he made White Chocolate Mocha Coffee and despite my general uselessness in his time of need, he made me some. We ended up talking book ideas for the next hour or two until the rain ended. His trail name is Slim Chance, which I'd guess are the odds he's dried out yet. Really nice guy. Oh, and he's a Vet. Thank you for your service.

I finally got my legs back in shape for a 20 mile day, I should mention, with the aid of some sprinkled in cloud cover.

The next couple of days were a blur of early mornings, clouds of bugs, soggy clothing, and hiking. I caught a hitch hike and stayed with two ladies and their daughter. In a hillbilly sort of serendipity, the property owner, Rose, found land in Roseland, Va, and bought it to escape the noise of society. She's an extremely talented artist who has traveled the world doing so. I worked around the property to cover my stay and food, which was lovely as well. Her college friend, Kirsten, just finished her school year and brought her niece, Sophie out to the woods for a little getaway. I tried to be a fly on the wall and let them enjoy their time together but all ended up having a great time together. We found a snake in her attic, so for all I know, she's burned the place down by now.

So now I'm in Waynesboro, Va. It's actually really nice. I walked 3 miles to the movie theater yesterday and saw the whole place. Half of downtown is abandoned, but that what happens when every third building around here is some sort of museum. Get over it, ya know? Put up a local business in the space that has Colonel Billingsly's wartime hideout/brothel/outhouse that housed a couple soldiers during a winter storm. Or not. What do I know.

Moving on. I want to say Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there. Cherish the time you have with yours!

Starting tomorrow, I am solo kayaking 125ish miles of the Shenandoah River that covers around 100 Appalachian Trail miles. I do not feel bad about substituting hiking miles with kayak miles. If anything, it makes the trek all the more interesting.

If you don't agree, refer to Tom Hank's knock knock joke from 'Catch Me If You Can'.

 

Next post will be after kayaking. See ya when I see ya.

 

PS: Future hopeful sightings. Reid, Janna, and Sienna Steigman. Taylor Marsh. Jesse and Lauren Hunter. Lori and Sam Turner. Lots of planning to do once I actually get on the river, I'll reach out to y'all soon!

 

2 Months In

Hey y'all. Thanks for opening.

My grandpa, Jimmy Taube, passed away recently. As I've reflected on memories over the past couple of days, I respected and admired him more than I realized. I sent a message through my  angelic Aunt Dede to him in his last couple of weeks to make him aware of the positive impact he had on me. I'm glad I did. He would have never known. He didn't do it for show, it's who he was.

From my first memory of him, I can see him treating my Nana like a queen. Always. Never missed a beat. It was the little things. He always held the door, tucked her chair in under her, and my favorite, he would hum throughout every meal just to reassure her how much he appreciated her efforts in the kitchen. It was all so smooth, subtle, and natural.

Working with kids, I've learned through first hand experience that children are sponges. They observe and absorb. I slip and drop an F bomb in practice, then Jonny Feltingoff says it (Sorry Sharon!).

Thankfully, Grandpa Jimmy set a better example. Women everywhere lamented the day my lovely Nana took him off the market. The consummate gentleman, gone. That's how I feel. Blessed for the chance to learn from him, but yearning for more.

I'm sitting in an incredible busy restaurant in the middle of a hiker festival. A place that, despite an abundance of enamoring traits, severely lacks contemporary manners. On the way in, I held the door for a group of ladies. They surveyed each other with slight grins, overzealously said thank you, and walked in ahead of me. With the door in one hand and a beer in the other, I smiled and poured a splash a beer from my cup in tribute to Jimmy.

Even in grungy hiker form, your legacy is carried on. It's an honor. 

IMG_0300.JPG

Onward!

First off. Minimal foot pain! It was those piece of shit Under Armour shoes that messed me up. I'm back in the boots and back in my groove. Thank you for your concerns!

So I left y'all in Damascus, VA where I left a good portion of my liver and a larger portion of my dignity on the karaoke stage.

My body was beat to hell, but thanks to a certain trail angel, I managed to carry on.

IMG_0459.JPG

Imagine a car, let's just say this car is tall and handsome with a set of legs that would make 1990 Julia Roberts put a pair of ratty sweatpants out of shame. This car also lights up the room with every smile and inappropriate anecdote.

Talking about a friend.

Now lets say this car runs on dirty, siphoned gasoline that's been resold and watered down 3-4 times, yet manages to drive dozens of miles in the rain or heat every single day.

One morning, the car awakes exhausted and unsure of the near future. Just as doubt creeps in, it see's an object flying through the sunrise. It blinks and squints. It can't be a dream, everything hurts. The car thinks its dying, and opens up its long arms, ready to meet it's maker.

IMG_0324.JPG

Nothing happens.

Turns out, the flying object was the spirit of a mother of three named Niki Rubin swooping in to deliver a resupply box of food. I open the box and got hit with a puff of euphoric mist.

This wasn't any euphoric mist though. It was non-GMO, cage free, grass fed, gluten free, organic euphoric mist from Whole Foods (or Fresh Market, dunno).

IMG_0309.JPG

There was a Pro-Bar called SuperFood Slam that is about fifteen energy packed foods held together by Fitness Fairy Dust. I could feel the engine's in my body activate. I flew through the mountains with a smile, waving to chipmunks and farting out butterflies.

Seriously though, I took a shit, buried it, and slept through a night of rain. The next morning, right where the poo grave stood, I saw a sunflower with strawberries and flax seeds hanging from it. Unbelievable!

Thank you for the amazing resupply Niki and Cole. I miss y'all.

IMG_0248.JPG
IMG_0466.JPG

After Damascus came the Grayson Highlands. The hills are bald, which means wind. They're also at 5,000 feet, which means said winds are frigid. Despite that, it was magical. There were wild ponies grazing and yes, frolicking, throughout the open fields. Mumbles, who was previously introduced, got some incredible photos of our time there.

IMG_0265.JPG

The following night, I hiked past the groups intended destination. After begrudgingly backtracking to find them, I ran into them hiking on. Knee-deep in frustration, it began to rain. We found a campsite and I started the painful process of hanging a hammock in the rain.

Delighted in how dry I managed to stay, I laid down in my promptly hung hammock and got situated. Five minutes in, a smile just creeped in under my offensive mustache as the tree I hung from snapped, dropping me into a mess of mud and wet leaves. The first, and most devastating thing I lost? A dry pair of butt cheeks. Like a kid in high school who just tripped at lunch and flipped his tray of food on himself, I sat there in shame and held a pity party for a brief period of time.

I quickly hopped up, wrapped everything important in my sleeping bag, and handed it off to Mumbles in the next tent over to keep dry. I untied all the stakes and searched for two new trees that weren't made of wet drywall. I'm only wearing puffy rain pants and a pair of Croc's, so I look like a pale, hungry, elongated Alladin without a vest. Just as I get my shelter hung and a glimmer of hope creeps in, I notice my hammock itself had been dropped during the transfer. It's soaked.

I saw red.

Before the adult in me could step in, I ripped my hiking poles from the mud and swung them through every branch in my general vicinity. I saw my boots and proceeded to spike them like Rob Gronkowski after a kilo of cocaine. 

With no more gear around me to ruin, I settled for a string of profanities thrown in all directions yet at nothing in particular.

Mind you, Beach Party, Mumbles, and Gnarwhal are all fifteen feet away in their tents. The embarrassment and shame settled in and I finished the setup. The next morning we laughed about it, with Mumbles admitting, "I almost invited you to crash in my tent but I was genuinely scared to at one point." Whoops.

IMG_0302.JPG

Per usual, trying times evolve into memorable experiences. The destination for the following night was the Partnership Shelter right outside of Marion, Va. I hung my hammock in the attic between two open windows and enjoyed the breeze all night.

Prior to, we hitched into town and resupplied. On our way back out, we began walking the wrong way. A Good Samaritan in a beautiful new Escalade informed us we were walking in the wrong direction. He offered a ride so we hopped in.

He, by the way, is Dr. Gates. He says his dad, who's dental practice he took over, is Dr. Gates, but we call him that anyway. He and his wife to go Bonnaroo every year and love the outdoor life. Woulda never guessed. The next day, I went to his office to thank him again for the ride, and he greeted me with a bag of free dental products to hand out to hikers. Despite what the news channels might say, people are fucking awesome. Don't lose faith y'all.

IMG_0306.JPG

So we returned to Partnership and it wasn't the glamorous paradise we left it. A famous hiker named "Grizzly Bear from Maine" had drank himself into a coma. I walked up to find him asleep in his own puke, in the damn shelter where people sleep. His name originated from his appearance. He's medium height, has a grey beard, and weighs in around 400 pounds of density. I tell you his stature to emphasize just how horrifying/humorous it was to see his entire bag of balls hanging from the bottom of his shorts. They shuddered and shook with each labored breath. Thanks Griz!

The next couple of days were fun. I've hiked with Gnarwhal, Mumbles, Beach Party, Kinda, and Murphy over the course of those days. If one of these fabled bears I've heard about actually appeared, I'd happily jump in front of them. I love 'em.

IMG_0316.JPG

So I'm at Trail Days now. It is like a Woodstock for hikers. I have been putting off any partying (beer doesn't count) until I finish this post, so it's time for me to join my friends.

We had to drive two hours (btw, that two hours of driving took me two damn weeks to hike!) to get to Damascus from where we got off Trail. The girls and I did 32 miles on our last day before our extended break, my longest day yet. Three days later, I'm still recovering.

IMG_0289.JPG

I'm going to answer some questions emailed to me and save the Trail Days experiences for the next post. Should be a shit-show. Hopefully my brains still intact and I can adequately relay the events.

Before I sign off, I want to make my readers aware of a podcast. It's called "On The Bus". You can find it on iTunes. I simply wanted to drop the name, I haven't listened yet, but I plan on reviewing it in my next post. I grew up competing against one of the hosts and I genuinely cannot wait to soak it all in during my next day in the Green Tunnel that is the Virginia section of the AT.

Please contact me at Colby.Wohlleb@gmail.com with any questions, suggestions, or comments! I do my best to respond to everything. If I don't, I simply missed it and apologize.

1) Do you carry toilet paper on you? How does that whole situation work? I carry toilet paper, yes. Imagine nature calling, in the woods, and not having it. Yikes. The process involves digging a hole and hanging one hand off a tree. There are privy's (outhouse's) at the shelters. Call me uppity, but something about sitting on an absurdly filthy toilet seat with the heat of other's fecal matter warming Route 66 between my bum and balls that scares me away from Privy usage. Quick funny story. I met a guy recently who equally hates privy's. He woke up one night in the pitch black of night and had to go. With bears roaming, I understood him wanting to use a sheltered toilet. He sat down, and just as he settled in and let it rip, snow started to fall. He knew because his privy didn't have a roof. He shat while it snowed right on his head. I laughed as I typed this.

IMG_0299.JPG

2) What's your trail name? Young Gandalf. Gandalf Gosling, Trail Magic Mike, Coach, Daddy G, Ken Spliffey Jr. Whatever you prefer.

3) Did your foot/ankle situation feel better on April 20th because it was... April 20th? Something about that particular day helped with the pain. If only there were medical research backing the benefits of an herb that grows naturally from God's green Earth to help with pain relief that didn't result in a life altering addiction to pills. Side note, my shin splint and tendinitis earned me a full prescription pain killer. Threw that out.

4) How much alone time do you get on the trail? Do you ever purposely walk ahead or fall behind? Personally, I require a couple hours of solitude a day. I hike alone almost every day. The clarity of mind is addicting. In the simplest of terms, when I'm hiking alone, I feel like my thought process has an endless landscape to pull from. There are no distractions, only inspirations. It's amazing.

IMG_0287.JPG

5) Do you miss "normal" life, or do you feel like you're in the groove and could continue on the trail forever? I love how normal is in quotations. I feel like I could continue forever. I miss my friends and family, but I see my brother happy and hustling and I know my mom loves where she is, so all is well. I've always wanted to step away and observe from a distance. This may sound arrogant, but t's relieving to know the gears still turn when I'm gone.

 

6) What's on your trail soundtrack? I listen to music that reminds me stuff. Ya know how a song will make you think back to where you were when you heard it or who you were with? I went through iTunes and compiled a playlist of songs like that. I hike to nostalgia. I would LOVE if my friends would read this and send me a song that reminds me of them. I'll have a piece of you out here.

 

7) Has the trail changed your book? More than I could have ever imagined. I have a running outline of things. During the spell I had with my foot injury and cold weather, I split my main character into 2 people I've always wanted to write about. The story line has changed. The mood has changed. It's a lot of fun to think about while you're moving along the Trail. Can't wait for some extended rest to crank out some words. 

IMG_0328.JPG
IMG_0326.JPG
IMG_0321.JPG

Mental Marathon

So. I've been gone awhile in terms of writing. I spent some time on some book improvements and then hit a really rough patch of hiking. All my writing is in hindsight. The times to write and rest have been scarce. Nonetheless, plenty to tell.

IMG_0271.JPG

I'll start two days after Easter. Two days after a nice little recharge spent with my fantastic mother. Two days after I switched my boots out for a pair of UnderArmor trail runners. Those two days could possibly be my last two days hiking in comfort.

The UnderArmor Trail-Ruiners

The UnderArmor Trail-Ruiners

Trail runners are to boots what Nike Free's are to basketball shoes. A lighter version made with less durability but increased comfort. My trail runners, however, wouldn't qualify under any of the previous descriptors. 

IMG_0299.JPG

The first day, my foot began to hurt. A section underneath the outside of my left ankle felt like it was pulling. Like something was wound too tight. It would light up whenever I pushed off my toes, especially during uphills. It really bothered me throughout the day and into the evening, as I've never felt pain in this particular area before. 

The next day, April 20th, it didn't hurt so bad.

The next day, we woke up early with the intention of doing some pretty big miles. A cloud developed amongst us and we hiked through fog and mist for about 10 straight miles. My foots on fire. It warms up after about an hour but locks up immediately during breaks.

We ascend through the clouds into sunlight and stopped for lunch with a few guys we see a fair bit.

First, is Stryder. He's coming from Washington, DC, where he spent a couple years working in politics. He's an extremely bright guy and a great conversation. We've spoken a fair bit about writing, including a really well written Trail testimonial he intended to use for a blog.

There's also a hiker named Pyro. He genuinely loves fire. He's an interesting kid. I like to talk to interesting people. He's not a big talker. Our relationship is complicated. One time, I asked a few too many questions while we were hiking together and honest to God, he ran away right in the middle of my query. He's the first and only person I've seen run while out here.

Then there's DeadEye. He's from Texas and makes sure you know it. He's built like a house and he has one of those faces that looks like he wants to punch you in yours at all times. During one convo, he finished up a story and before I could even formulate a negative thought about Texans, I felt his stare and saw his bottom lip curl under his top teeth to say "Fuck you". He's battling some injuries too.

Family Hiking together with their 1 year old daughter Ellie. Mom and Ellie's Trail names are "Kanga" & "Roo" 

Family Hiking together with their 1 year old daughter Ellie. Mom and Ellie's Trail names are "Kanga" & "Roo" 

The cloud wrapped us up again and we pushed on. Around mile 18 on the day, we stumbled upon what had to be a mirage. I looked off trail between a thin crease in the bushes and found a man standing at a grill. I walked through the crease and the aroma hit me, burgers and dogs. I looked left. A grown man dressed like a cowboy/pirate threw small sword at a dart board, missing tragically. He turned to me and said "Oi Oi", so I knew I wasn't dreaming, cause I could never make that shit up.

We stayed for 2 hours while it poured rain. Like a freshman in college counting his beers, I wrote down my food consumption. Burger, Hot Dog, 4 donuts, 2 bananas, several oatmeal raisin cookies, 1 Root Beer, 2 PBR's, and 3 bags of Dorito's. Thank you to Badger and his friends, he thru hiked last year and held a really impressive Trail Magic that must have fed 75 or so hikers, maybe more.

IMG_0054.JPG

From there we hiked 8 more miles into Erwin, TN. A 26 mile day and my longest day of the trip so far. I needed the miles. I had my first food casualty. A mouse chewed through my food bag and nibbled on a group of tortillas with peanut butter, snickers, and peanut butter m&m's all rolled into one. They were meant to be my lunches for the next 5 days. We resupplied in Erwin, and I left my next 4 days of lunches behind. 9 straight days of shitty lunches, gone.

I spent the next 3 days wet. It didn't necessarily rain the whole time, but there was no sun. I either walked through the cloud itself or under it and got the rain. Any idea just how horrid it is to put on a wet shirt that's been hanging in a 40 degree cloud all night? I'd rather shit in my hands and clap.

Avoiding the rain isn't always the worst. 

Avoiding the rain isn't always the worst. 

Hiking through all the mud really made my new injury flare up. Eventually, I couldn't push off my left toes at all, essentially shutting off any push off my calve (calf? Dunno, they both look wrong.) The cold wind and rain made my muscles even tighter, and before long, that front muscle over your shin that absolutely nobody knows the name of, yeah, that was now fried.

Good visibility

Good visibility

As I type this, I've already had an X-ray and a Dr. appointment. I have a mix of tendinitis and early arthritis from my surgery, and shin splints. Thankfully nothing is broken, it just hurts like hell.

The seven days leading into my stay at the cabin and our own Trail Magic, more on this later, was a mental marathon. I had to distract myself from the pain, but also get the mileage over with so I could get it looked at. I started to get lost in the dark recesses of my mind, places I didn't like to venture until recently.

My next post will feature regret, something I live with daily, but for now, let's visit a particularly unsavory time.

IMG_0187.JPG

My senior year in college, on senior night, somebody ran over one of our guys and he fell back into my knee. I'd just landed and my leg was locked straight. The impact caused it to buckle a little. No major ligament damage. It was a sprain, but the trainer wasn't sure about my meniscus.

Anyway, the last two weeks of basketball was torture. Every step hurt. I had to play with tape, a band, a brace, and a compression sleeve. All on one knee. I ran with such a pronounced limp, I remember my mom crying as she watched me grimace up and down the floor. That and my Coach, Jim Boone, who also doubles as a huge sack of shit, would not leave the injury alone. He made announcements during team meetings that after watching the injury on film, it was just a bruise and I needed to stop limping around. To get over myself. He made the team run all because it took the trainer close to an hour just to get my knee ready for practice. I hope Boone reads this during an afternoon walk. I hope the walk takes him by a park. I hope it rained heavily the night before and a group of kids playing baseball foul tip an extremely waterlogged ball and it plunks Jim right on the top of his head. 

IMG_0097.JPG

So, the whole point of that? Something I loved was now miserable. I dreaded getting to practice an hour early and still being late. It made me sick that I was the scapegoat despite discovering new limits of my own pain tolerance in each subsequent drill. I'd bottle it up and throw punches into my mattress or shower wall when I got home. I didn't dare think of quitting, but I hated basketball.

I've learned more than one thing from these people, but I like to label one major lesson from different male influences in my life. My brother, Casey, is a living example of work ethic. Coach Jeff Price had me as a baby, my freshman year. He also had me at my peak of arrogance, a D1 to D2 transfer. He taught me to "Shut up and get it done", something I needed to hear often.

Coach Charlton Young taught me how to be a professional/man off the court. How to present yourself. That there is a life after sports to not just prepare for, but handle with your chin up. He handled some real bullshit from me. Sorry Coach.

The lesson I hold to the utmost, I learned from my Dad. It's not just because it's him either. He not only taught me, but made me promise when he was sick to simply "Have Fun". Maybe that will explain my general demeanor and outlook on life to people.

I guess I can now label my lesson from ol' Boone. He taught me to endure.

For the first time in my life, I thought kindly of those two weeks. I used the experience to prevent feeling sorry for myself. So as I hike in pain, I know I'll be fine. It'll pass. So for that, thank you.

I still wanna go 3 rounds with you in the Octagon though you old puddle of dumpster juice.

IMG_0092.JPG

Notice I haven't mentioned much about my surroundings. I've spent the last 15 days in the most beautiful areas. Unfortunately, with a bum leg, you've really gotta keep your eyes glued to the path. A fall would be tragic. So while I remember the setting, my head first and foremost recalls the struggle.

IMG_0327.JPG

So we get to Roan Mountain, TN. My friend Lana, picked me up and bought me dinner and margaritas. Thank you!

IMG_0385.JPG

Beach Party and I got to the cabin and I posted a Facebook status asking for money to help with the Trail Magic. Within 3 hours, $393.23 were sent to me. Incredible. Seriously.

IMG_0151.JPG

Between the two days, we handed out hundreds of snacks and a couple hundred sodas, and beers. Beach Party supplied the tunes, Gnarwhal provided the vibes, and I took care of everything from greeter to lap dancer. Jack of all trades, right?

IMG_0399.JPG

The pictures tell the story best. Usually, hikers will stop for a snack and carry on with their plans for the day. We literally ruined hikers plans. People stayed for hours, and we made around four separate resupply runs to keep feeding hikers. We spent every penny sent in, including some of our own money.

IMG_0371.JPG

So now, I'm in a coffee shop in Damascus, VA. My fourth state. I'll be in VA for awhile, there are around five hundred trail miles in Virginia alone. I have some things to look forward to though! My cousin Megan is going to try and meet up. My lifelong homie Reid is meeting me up towards the DC area for some Off Trail adventures. Can't wait. Then I hope to stay with some college friends in Harper's Ferry. Some good times ahead.

I'm gonna go ahead and answer some of the most common questions I hear from home!

 Average Miles per day? I'm on day 45, and around Mile 469. So still averaging around 10 miles per day. I also lead the entire Trail in zero days with 13 or so, cause beer.

 How much weight have I lost? The day I left the cabin, I weighed in at 211. My last recorded weight, 6 days ago, was 185. So down 26ish lbs total.

 Have I seen a bear? Nope.

 What does a day's worth of food look like? I'll go through an average day. Breakfast - Pop Tart, Protein Bar, Trail Mix and/or Snickers Bar with a liter of Water with Mio in it. Snack - Candy Bar or Cliff Bar. Lunch - Pepperoni and cheese OR Peanut Butter in a tortilla, Beef Jerky, Protein Bar. Same Snack. Dinner - 2 packs of Ramen with pepperoni's cooked in and as much candy as possible after.

 Most days without a shower? 9. I average about 5-6 days between showers.

 How's my butt? Supple, but tight, like a young, Fight Club Brad Pitt.

That's it! Next post won't take so long. I've started writing each night now that I'm getting more comfortable with a routine. 

Also, if anybody would like to ask me anything at all, email me a question or two to Colby.wohlleb@gmail.com and I promise to answer 100% truthfully, despite the fact my mother and grandmother both read this. Could be fun.  

Cya when I cya!

Jones Falls

Jones Falls

Lake Watauga

Lake Watauga

Thought the Hardcore Cascades would have been a little more Hardcore.

Thought the Hardcore Cascades would have been a little more Hardcore.

Guy who hitched us has DEFINITELY killed people. 

Guy who hitched us has DEFINITELY killed people. 

IMG_0199.JPG
IMG_0194.JPG
IMG_0350.JPG
IMG_0302.JPG
Critter!!!! 

Critter!!!! 

IMG_0315.JPG

The Lazy Hiker

Welcome back. If you're reading this, I can assume a few things. You're a friend or family member feeling obligated, you like my writing, or you're secretly hoping Zeus sharted out more wind and hail on my parade. No matter what the reason, I appreciate you reading, so thanks again.

 

Onward.

 

Every hiker knows Franklin, NC. I learned in my time there that Franklin was originally where Ben Franklin attempted to secede from the Nation and begin his own state. He allegedly kidnapped and held close to 40 people locked in a church until he got his way. He didn't, and despite threats to burn the church, he let the people go. Out of shock and gratitude, they named the town after him. Also, I made that entire thing up. Who knows why its called Franklin.

 

Seriously though, knowing Franklin and it's local brewery, The Lazy Hiker, is in your general future makes hiking mountain after mountain with soggy, blistered, aching feet a stroll on the beach. 

 

I hiked the 40 miles into Franklin with two guys, Jordan and Noah, over three days. More on them, after this.

 

The first night after the first blog post, I had an encounter with a real piece of shit. Before his arrival, roughly 20 people peacefully shared one 10x10 shelter space at the fire pit or dinner table. Then a guy walks up with his phone on speaker phone discussing with his "broski" all the "beers and bitches" they planned on crushing. Strike 1.

 

He hangs the phone up and looks his extremely spherical head in every direction, perhaps sensing every persons disdainful looks. It's at this moment he starts to untie his TIMBERLAND BOOTS, all 10 pounds of them. He has my full attention. I'm looking around to see if anybody else is seeing this. The boot comes off. He's barefoot. I'm speechless and disgusted and curious and confused and immediately needed to speak with him. I'll try to transcribe. He looked exactly like the Ohio State Mascot, who also sucks, so from here forward he will be referred to as Brutus.

 

Me: "You're not wearing socks"

Brutus: "Ya I got holes in them so I figured it was like not having any. Thought it through and decided to throw them all out."

 

I make eye contact with five or six people, who also can't wait to hear more.

 

Me: "Well reasoned. They've gotta be hurting in those boots. Stay here." I walked to my tent and grabbed my extra pair of SmartWool socks and bring them back to him.

Me: "Here. You can have these. I'll buy more in town."

Brutus: "Ah man they're SmartWool, not DarnTough."

 

Didn't say thanks. Complained about the brand. Strike 2.

 

About an hour later, I'm getting water at a stream near the shelter and Brutus arrives. He walked 10 ten feet upstream and begins washing his feet with a bar of soap in the only source of water available, exclaiming to me over his heavy death metal rock music that the soap is "good for the environment." Mmmmmm, foot sweat and hemp soap, the cocktail of the mountains. Strike 3.

 

What's strike three get you from big bad Colby? A quick fist bump and reminder that he's the man. Moral of the story, some people just suck. Fortunately, he's been the only one so far.

 

Jordan AKA Beach Party is from Augusta, GA. Noah, or Narwahl, is from Asheville. They both came out here with guys who dropped out early. Beach Party's parents picked him up in Franklin for his brother's wedding. They bought us three an incredible BBQ lunch that served as my dinner as well. Narwahl's grandma picked him up to resolve a tent issue.

 

My original plan to enjoy a couple beers, sleep in a bed, and carry on hiking ended up in a 48 stay. It was hiker appreciation week. Before leaving, I ate 7 free meals, drank about 6 free beers, and even found a free place to crash the last night. Big Thank You's to the staff at Lazy Hiker. They handled our stench and hiker packs gracefully and made the experience that much better. All hikers reading must stop by!

 

Ok, so I haven't said much about the actual hiking. One foot in front of the other. Avoid the roots and slippery rocks. Stop to take in your surroundings. Hydrate often. That's pretty much it. The daily internal monologues are not only insightful, they are therapeutic. I've seen change in just 2 weeks. Who knows what the next 18-22 have to bring. I even have fingernails! It may sound boring, but each day brings its own hardships and beauty. 

 

Imagine the hiking days personified as an elementary school classroom. Some of the days are great. Some are just decent. One might even be smelly or itchy. I went to school with a kid that fit in his very own category. Great kid, super ugly, and rubbed his boogers on people. I hope puberty was good to him. Billy Bob Thornton said it best in Bad Santa when Thurman Murman pulled a candy corn from his Advent calendar, "Well they cant all be winners, can they?"

 

This week, I had a Greg day. The 12 mile hike along a ridge line at 5500 feet, his personality. Standing directly in the middle of a lightning cloud with metal hiking polls could be likened to his general appearance, slightly terrifying. The torrential downpour, his boogers. I love analogies. 

 

The 12 miles took me 3 hours, dumping me at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center). After some coercion, the bartenders decided to open the bar for us at 9 to watch the National Championship Game. They ended up throwing everyone out with 8 minutes left in the game. So I missed the ending and woke up with a hangover, thanks NOC!

 

The hike after the NOC included a 5 mile, 4500 foot ascent. Despite a belly full of beer and a glaring sun, we got 12 miles in, stopping only briefly. A massive storm was quickly sweeping in over us, so after a quick dinner, we went to bed at 8 pm, waking up at 3 am. We hit the Trail at 4 am and hiked another 11 miles to reach our destination by 10 am. 23 miles in 24 hours. Lots of numbers, sorry.

 

The rain started the exact moment we walked up to the shelter. The shelter looked like it were made of an old Linkin Log set, only covered in moss. I hung my hammock from the wooden supports and laid there while dozens of hikers passed through soaking wet. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy their displeasure a tiny bit before asking if they needed anything.

 

Finally, we're here in Fontana Dam, NC. There's legitimately hundreds of Honda and Volkswagen hatchbacks that race up and down this stretch of road called the Tail of the Dragon. Apparently, there are 318 turns over 11 miles. All these assholes bring their super loud exhaust pipes here and whip around the streets while hikers attempt to commute in via shuttle or their legs. It's like being stuck in a shitty Fast and The Furious movie.

 

Tonight, there's a massive party going on at the biggest shelter we've seen yet. Tomorrow we enter the Smokie Mountains that are currently getting a foot of snow. Should make for some beautiful pictures.

 

Thanks again for reading. I have a pretty crazy 8 days coming up and hope for some more stories to tell.

 

I'm sure I will. If I've learned anything, it's that the Trail provides.

The path to Nowhere

The path to Nowhere

Week One

Hello!

I'm currently cozied up on a couch at the Top of Georgia Hostel with my first cup of coffee since leaving civilization. It seems that moments of comfort like this will be my time to organize the madness inside this head of mine. I'd say expect a post every 7-10 days. Please feel free to leave any critiques, questions, or advice in the comment section. The more the merrier. I am totally new to this site, so be patient with me. I only had thirty minutes to set this entire thing up. I'll get better with it as I go. 

Anyway. The joys and terrors of Day 1.

The first half of the first day looked like a movie set. The forest was full of reds and greens. My head was swiveled back in forth in awe. Just before the first big uphill, I met a group of girls from SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design).

Day 1 Views

Day 1 Views

A big fan of the ladies, I joined them.

One of the girls, Effie, happened to be from Ft Lauderdale, a short 30 minute drive from my hometown, Boca Raton, FL. I haven't confirmed this yet, but I'm 99% sure she has some jungle cat in her lineage. She FLEW up the mountain. I kept up, and it only cost me all the cushion in my left knee. I met a couple more people in their group when they stopped for lunch, but pushed on by myself, stopping at Horse Gap, or how I know it, Dante's Lowest Layer of Hell.

After eating freeze dried mac and cheese, which is like pouring a glass of warm water in a bag of Doritos, I set up shop. I read for an hour in my hammock, massively struggling to find comfort, and the rain started. I decided to hang my food, despite the rain, because, well, Bears. Big mistake. HUGE.

I found a limb to hang the food, hung the food, then apparently entered a Nascar track. Dressed in Croc's, underwear, a headlamp, and a rain jacket, I listened as an eighty mph gust ripped through the valley. The gust hit my hammock and ripped all six stakes out of the ground. I covered the fifty feet between myself and the tent just in time to belly flop my body on top of the setup before it could fill with air and blow down the mountain. A couple of items flew out, but the real damage was all the rain that got inside.

At this point, I'm covered in mud from wrist to elbow, knee to toe, and completely drenched. My hiking mantra, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." turned to, "fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck....." as I scrambled to replant the stakes. At this point, grape size hail is falling. I tucked a towel inside my beanie to create a little helmet and kept working. For every 2 stakes in, 1 ripped out. It was slow progress, but after about an hour (8 pm), I had the stakes in and collected my lost items blown away.

The rain and wind continued for the next hour. The wind continued to rip through my setup, filling my hammock and turning me completely horizontal for a second or two before gravity retained control. Each time this happened, I would have to reapply my rain jacket and stick the stakes back in the wet, useless soil and get completely soaked again.

Oh, also, its 45 degrees.

Completely unsure if it would work, I decided to leave the tent altogether to fix the problem, risking another wind gust sweeping thousands of dollars worth of gear, not to mention my new home, to collect big rocks from a fireplace a couple hundred feet away. I built a wall of rocks about two feet tall on one side of my tent so that when the wind would hit, I would hit the wall before I could turnover, therefore stopping the stakes from ripping out.

During the back and forth, lightning strikes would light up the entire setting. It was impossibly intimidating. Like the lights flickering in a power outage, I would get three quick, half second glimpses of the storm. Leafless trees swayed back and forth. Small branches smacked my legs leaving small cuts. The rain looked completely parallel with the ground. The rain must have washed it away, cause I checked for shit in my drawers and found none.

Finally, at 11 pm, the rain and wind stopped, and I slept a solid 9 hours straight.

Like the piggy who's straw house gets blown down by the big bad wolf, I packed my shit and left. My left knee felt about as good as my night had gone, so that morning, I took my time ascending. During my climb, I met Paul. Paul happened to be part of the SCAD group as well, and he listened to my rambles for a few hours before we got to lunch. Paul and I hiked a majority of the next three days together. At one point, we even had a conversation about him dropping out of his last quarter of college to finish the AT. You're welcome to join anytime brotha!
 

My guy Paul

My guy Paul

At said lunch, I met Becky aka FBI aka Cindy-Lou-Who aka Bunz. I overzealously, as she would later joke with me, introduced myself. She was head to toe in black tights, hence the name FBI, and it was apparent from the second I met her she had enough personality to fill the mountain we stood on.  A characteristic I like to believe we shared. I tried to keep up with her pace and felt like a greyhound chasing the rabbit on the track, except the rabbit was a fantastic hindquarter in Lulu Lemon tights.

The next two nights, they took me in. They let me intrude on their school group and I couldn't be more thankful. Paul, Becky, Effie, Phil, A-A-Ron, Lindsay, Ryan, Sophie, Eliza, Lincoln (cya in Maine), George, Jackie, Jess, and Stephen. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I miss y'all already and hope to hear from the group soon!

Parts of the SCAD group. Waiting on more pics, Phil!!

Parts of the SCAD group. Waiting on more pics, Phil!!

The next two days were fairly uneventful. I met some new friends. Huggy Bear, Tim from Boston, Mr. Good Boy, his lady Isabella, and her twin Alexa.

We ran into some trail magic, burgers and a Coke, and they headed into town. I pushed on and got my first 20 mile day in order to earn a zero day where I stand now.

I am headed to a buffet in ten minutes, so my 9 million word update must come to an end.

I don't plan on being this wordy in the future, so hopefully this post doesn't scare you away from reading further posts. Honestly, it's once a week, deal with it.

Below will be some Dropbox locations in my near future. Coordinate with me before sending anything blindly. That way I'm not carrying 20 extra pounds of snacks. Every pound counts!

NOC Great Outpost
1138 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN37738

Hostel at Laughing Heart Lodge
289 NW HWY 25/70
Hot Springs, NC 28743

Trail Angels.

Trail Angels.